On Mastery

In my quest to get a grip on photography I often refer to a small passage by Stewart Emery. Its a simple passage and yet has so much profound meaning to it that I can say that my photographic skills evolved to what it is now by virtue of applying these simple steps.

Here’s the passage,

Mastery by Stewart Emery

Mastery in our careers (and in our lives!) requires that we constantly produce results beyond and out of the ordinary. Mastery is a product of consistently going beyond our limits. For most people, it starts with technical excellence in a chosen field and a commitment to that excellence. If you’re willing to commit yourself to excellence, to surround yourself with things that represent this excellence, your life will change. It’s remarkable how much mediocrity we live with, surrounding ourselves with daily reminders that average is somehow acceptable.


In fact, our world suffers from terminal normality. Take a moment to assess all the things around you that promote your being “average.”
These are the things that prevent you from going beyond the limits that you’ve arbitrarily set for yourself. The first step to mastery is the removal of everything in your environment that represents mediocrity, and one way to attain that objective is to surround yourself with people who ask more of you than you would ordinarily give of yourself. Didn’t your parents and some of your best teachers and coaches do exactly that?
Another step on the path to mastery is the removal of resentment toward the masters. Develop compassion for yourself so that you
can be in the presence of a master and grow from the experience. Rather than comparing yourself to (and resenting) people who have
mastery, remain open and receptive. Let the experience be like the planting of a seed within you that, with nourishment, will grow into
your own individual mastery.

You see, we’re all ordinary. But rather than condemning himself for his “ordinariness,” a master will embrace that ordinariness as a
foundation for building the extraordinary. Rather than relying on his ordinariness as an excuse for inactivity, he’ll use it instead as a
vehicle for correcting himself. It’s necessary to be able to correct yourself without invalidating or condemning yourself to
use the results of the correction process to improve upon other aspects of
your life. Correction is essential to power and mastery’.

Distilling the passage to its very essence we get these rules and keys: There are 4 steps to achieving mastery:

1. Removal of mediocrity and surrounding yourself with people who will demand more from you than you ask from yourself

2. Removal of resentment toward masters

3. Develop compassion for self

4. Be open and receptive

The key to applying these 4 steps is to first be committed to technical excellence and also to correct without invalidation yourself.

These steps will nourish you much like water nourishes seeds which will one day grow into your mastery tree.

You know you have achieved mastery when your produce results which are beyond limits and beyond the ordinary, much like a miracle.

The foundation of mastery is your own ordinariness.

Anyway, I have decided to cover these points one by one in the coming days and share with anyone who cares to read my journey towards mastery…… 

1 thought on “On Mastery

  1. Emery’s passage is good.

    Mastery is never accidental; it requires (preferably daily) practice. Practice of what?

    The key is not the relevant behavior, if any. It’s not the photography or the shooting of the ball or the skating drills. Some mastery (e.g., great thinking or mastery of a spiritual practice such as zazen) doesn’t require mastering any specific kind of behavior at all.

    The key is focusing past the point of self-forgetfulness. Mastery essentially involves detaching from one’s ego (self-concept, ego-I). That is difficult, which is why daily practice is always beneficial. Taking charge of one’s environment makes that easier.

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