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"I got into it"

Mon, Jul  6, 2009 - By Pete Vordenberg

A few notes on getting into it, courage, the origin of the word amateur and dismissing sound advice...

I was listening to the radio today, which is something I do a lot when I drive.  Today I was struck by an interview with David McCullough a Pulitzer Prize winning historical author.  I will post a link to the interview because I will only paraphrase a few comments that I found striking.

Before he became an historical author David McCullough used to work with a group of men much older than him.  On lunch break they would all discuss the books they wanted to write… on this Mr. McCullough said (paraphrasing): I’m not going to wind up an old guy still talking about what I was going to do, I’m going to do it… And when I got into it I knew this is what I wanted to do, this is how I want to spend my life.  I decided to quit my job and devote all my time and effort to my own work.  In many ways it was the toughest decision of my life and many people warned me that it was a big mistake that I would regret, but in many ways it was the easiest decision of my life because I knew it was what I wanted to do.  I had to do it.

Later when asked what he has learned about human nature he said (paraphrased): Courage again and again matters, the individual matters, great events will turn on a single individual.

And finally, he doesn’t consider himself an historian, though he is widely considered one of our top historians.  Instead he considers himself an amateur in the old sense of the word.  The old sense of the word is “lover of”.  Again paraphrasing:  I love it, it is what I love to do… I am writing to find out, to learn.  If I knew the whole story and there were no surprises, well then I wouldn’t want to write the book.

Again paraphrasing:  If you are motivated and compelled by desire… You have to do it.  And you have to do it, by doing it. You can’t sit around and wait for the muse, or hypothesizing, you have to sit down and do the work.

I considered posting these notes with no additional commentary, but I should be more clear.  I was struck by this because for the most part we got into this sport for the love of it and while a few of us do make money at it we are really still in it for the love of the sport, the people in the sport, to learn, and to find out.

But more striking to me was that we are all warned off of our dreams, we are all given the advice of the safe route – many, many times we are told to do the rational thing.  And this is very sound advice too, to be safe.  But, at the risk of being irresponsible, let me encourage you to dismiss that advice utterly and follow that thing you love with everything you can muster.  You might fail.  But I will put forward here that if you throw everything into it even if you do fail, you will be many things but not a failure.

To hear the interview click here.

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