The term Ordinary Mastery sounds like a paradox. How can mastery be ordinary? We often see mastery as expertise; a high level of competency in a particular field; a rare skill refined from dedicated practice over many years. Mastery carries a certain gravity of authority and a calm reassuring personal character honed at the grindstone of committed and focused work.
So where does ‘ordinary’ come into it?
Mastery emerges from the ordinary. From the routine, repetitive, everyday practices we systematically adopt in pursuit of an ideal. In addition to mastery signifying outstanding accomplishments of skill, mastery is also an attitude. It’s the resilience of mind to push through the plateaus, to have faith in the process of boring, ordinary, repetitive practice even when it feels like no progress is being made. Mastery as an attitude is available to anyone who chooses it, even ‘ordinary’ people who have introspected their deeply held values to find a direction in life, and who are committed to a pursuit of excellence on the ordinary path of mastery.
‘Ordinary Mastery’ is an exploration of ideas, concepts, systems, thinking models, practices, tools, and techniques which may aid the traveller on their ordinary journey of mastery. We will humbly delve into the psychology and philosophy of mastery to uncover new insights, perspectives, and resources to help inspire, motivate and support us on our own personal paths of mastery.
About John Durrant
I wouldn’t claim to be a master at anything. I’m an ordinary bloke, a flawed and oft-times struggling human being, not a guru, not an expert, nothing special, I’m not some enlightened success merchant trying to guide you down a path I’ve already completed. However, I’ve always tried to follow a kind of ‘path of ordinary mastery’ in a number of areas in life which I’ve come to realise have served me well enough and given me food for thought worthy of sharing.
Now in my 50s, I’m benefiting from following the mastery path of health and fitness over the last 35 years, rarely missing a day I’ve endured the struggles of keeping to my routines, despite the many temptations and distractions I’ve managed to stick to the path, push through the plateaus, emerge with the fitness and energy levels beyond those half my age. Even at my lowest ebb, it has always been my commitment to ordinary training routines that have provided the foundational self-care to get me back on track. For three consecutive years, I’ve stuck to a cyclical plan of extended fasts of 5 to 7 days four times per year coinciding with the equinoxes and solstices. I’m a master at sticking with things I commit to.
I’ve also dedicated myself to a lifelong curiosity in human psychology and philosophical thinking, what makes us tick, how we can become better people in a world of exponential complexity, and what the heck does it all mean anyway? Again, I wouldn’t call myself a master. Still, I’ve approached my learning path with an attitude of mastery, applying the beginner’s mind to exploring new material and being willing to modify my view of the world in the light of new information. I’m supporting my learning journey with regular writing practice and speaking publicly whenever possible about my learning. I’m absorbing and adapting to the feedback with an attitude of mastery, although I’m far from being willing to call myself a master.
Another domain I’ve dedicated myself to with systematic practice over many years has been music. I’ve spent countless hours learning scales, theory, and technique on the guitar, as well as on other instruments - Piano, Drums and anything else I can use to create a pleasing noise. I’ve reached a level of competency and experience that I’m pleased with but am constantly striving to improve in a never-ending quest to be as good as I can be.
The systems I’ve applied to my health, to music and to my general learning have served me well, and with ‘Ordinary Mastery’ I am to create tools and insights in various media forms to both keep improving myself, as well as being useful to other ordinary people on the path of mastery. In time I hope to of one-to-one coaching sessions and group events to facilitate our progress on the journey.
We’re all winging it
Ultimately, even those we consider having attained the accolade of mastery in their field of endeavour will likely admit that they are winging it, still flawed, and still aspiring to reach their higher potential.
Beware anyone who makes a claim to mastery.