Mastery in one’s career and consciousness growth simply 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 are willing to commit yourself to excellence, to surround yourself with things that represent this and miracles, your life will change. (When we speak of miracles, we speak of events or experiences in the real world which are beyond the ordinary.)
Its remarkable how much mediocrity we live with, surrounding ourselves with daily reminders that the average is the acceptable. Our world suffers from terminal normality. Take a moment to assess all the things around you that promote your being average. These are things that keep you powerless to go beyond a limit you arbitrarily set for yourself. The first step to mastery is the removal of everything in your environment that represents mediocrity, removing those things that are limiting. One way is to surround yourself with friends who ask more of you than you do. Didn’t some of your best teachers, coaches, parents, etc?
Another step on the path to mastery is the removal of resentment towards masters. Develop compassion for yourself so that you can be in the presence of masters and grow from the experience. Rather than comparing yourself and resenting people that 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 are all ordinary. But the master, rather than condemning himself for his ordinariness, will embrace it and use it as a foundation for building the extraordinary. Rather than using it as an excuse for inactivity,he will use it as a vehicle for connecting, which is essential in the process of attaining mastery. You must be able to correct yourself without invalidating or condemning yourself, to accept results and improve upon them. Correct, don’t protect. Correction is essential to power and mastery.
- Stewart Emery
Anne Smedinghoff’s Death Matters to Me
I saw myself in the news last week through the tragic story of Ann Smedinghoff, the young State Department diplomat who was raised in the Western Suburbs and killed by a suicide bomber yesterday. Ann’s fate could have easily been mine.
The similarities between Ann and me are striking. Like Ann, I decided to voluntarily work in Afghanistan, although in the private sector. While we never met on the expat scene or in a professional setting, our time in Kabul overlapped by five months. Ann had a fantastic sense of adventure, riding her bike across the US and from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, where my affinity is for climbing mountains. Had I ever met Ann, I believe the two of us – young, optimistic, high-achieving women raised in the Chicagoland area – would have quickly become friends.
Here’s where my story differs from Ann’s. I came home.
Fortunately, deaths of diplomats are uncommon, but no one can work in a war zone and come away unscathed. Ann’s untimely death forces us to look at the realities for everyone who goes to war – be it a volunteer doctor, a policy-driven diplomat or a dogged peace activist – and the challenges that face those who return.
The notorious lack of care and support for our returned military veterans is saddening and frustrating, but aid workers and other professionals who decide to work in a war zone to assist with an NGO’s mission or to rebuild in the private sector, don’t have access to even a fraction of the resources. Nearly everyone who goes into a war zone returns with many of the same needs, like access to affordable health care and counseling or assistance finding a job or returning to school, but only certain Americans who have been to war – those in the military or an official government role – have varying access to these benefits.
Like Ann, I’m not one to shy away from a challenge. Because I have the privilege, I’m determined to honor Ann’s spirit by rallying others to champion the rights, benefits and fair treatment of all Americans who are lucky enough to return home from war.