When people find out I’m a graduate student, they often say something to the effect, “You must sit around all day thinking big thoughts.” It occurs to me that the opposite is true. Amateurs think big thoughts; professionals think little thoughts. An amateur has the luxury of thinking primarily about the most important, highest level questions. In economics, say, an amateur can opine without data about what has caused a recession or what will fix it, but it is the professional economist or financier who spends days crunching the numbers.

Of course, this idea shouldn’t be taken too far. Professionals do eventually put those little thoughts into big thoughts, which then guide them as they think more little thoughts. Amateurs often spend a great deal of energy in getting the details right: just talk to any Civil War re-enactor. But I think that the general principle holds true.

Just a little thought I had.