It’s late January in the Windy City, and another snowstorm has struck Chicago. I lace up my running shoes, and head out the door without a second thought about the weather conditions. The work needs getting done.
As I’m trudging along the yet-to-be-plowed residential streets, I hear a series of claps coming together. I look around to find the source of applause, and I find a gentleman making eye contact with me between my facemask and winter hat, where my eyes are revealed. As we make eye contact, and as his applause continue he states: “that’s dedication.”
Although I was able to laugh and return a quick, “thank you” initially, this statement almost stopped me in my tracks soon after. While I appreciated the compliment, what took me back was the thought, “wow, I haven’t thought about dedication in a long time.”
In this moment, I realized I had crafted an unquestionable dedication to my sport. For months, quite possibly years, I never considered the level of commitment I channel into running. I live out the lifestyle, and it is who I am.
Now, I am not mentioning this story to you to flex my aerobic muscles or motivate you to be like me. I want to talk about the notion of dedication and how each of us can arrive at a place where we stop thinking about the craft and simply do.
Personally, the word “dedication” carries connotations of hustle culture, nose to the grindstone, working three jobs and supporting your family all at once. While all this is well and good in some capacities, this connotation of dedication observes the trait as an active process. From this perspective, we think of dedication as something we persistently and actively participate in. From this lens, we wake up every morning, jump out of bed, and say “I am going to stay dedicated to making money, building that side hustle, reading more books, and loving my family more than ever!”
Perhaps I am alone in this sentiment, but this is something I have never experienced. Rather, dedication is a passive process of flow, of doing, or participating within rather than observing from afar. I don’t wake up, stare into the blizzard, and tell myself “I must stay dedicated and brace this challenge.” I simply approach the blizzard like there is no other option, there is no question about what must get done. The thing must get done because that is who I am.
Thus, I want to share three mindset shifts that I attribute to my ability to craft an unquestionable dedication to running, and hopefully this can help you to build a dedication to craft that goes beyond discussion.
First, as my story illustrates, dedication has become a type of experiential knowledge rather than theoretical. I’ve come to think of dedication the way Laozi and the Daoists view the Way, which can be understood as their guiding metaphysical principle of life. In the “Daodejing,” Laozi writes, “The Dao that can be told is not the eternal Dao.”
To me, Laozi is saying, “don’t talk about the thing, just do the thing.” In the early stages of my running career, I loved to talk about how tough I was, how angry I got at competitors, how determined I was to win, but wasting time on this talk does nothing to make me the better racer. So, mindset shift number one is: stop talking about the thing, do the thing.
The second mindset shift that made me unquestionably dedicated to my craft is that I’ve cultivated a genuine love for the sport. Yes, there is a component of fortune or luck that I happened to find a sport that matches my genetic capabilities and personal interests, but even Olympian-caliber track athletes who were born ready to run do not always love running. There are days when it sucks, you flinch at the thought of getting out the door to run in that cold rain, wind, or snow, or you simply just don’t feel up for it.
Stoicism has helped me overcome this flinch a lot recently. As Seneca states, “The body should be treated more rigorously so it may not be disobedient to the mind.” If I’m unwilling to get out the door for a regular run, how will my mind be able to endure the loss of a loved one, a job rejection, or even the pain of pushing myself in a race?
By framing running as a practice in strengthening my armor for life’s challenges, I’ve learned to find love and purpose in the most mundane parts of the process.
Lastly, the third mindset change that has kept me dedicated to my craft is focusing on the environment I place myself in and how that will effect me. In our interview with Nic Aguirre on the Rise Productive podcast, Nic talked about the idea of pacing and leading in hypnotism. Pacing and leading stems from the idea of someone pacing up and down a room with anxiety. To help this panicked subject, the hypnotist begins walking with him at his pace, and begins slowing their pace down to a complete stop as the subject matches the hypnotist pace. As the subject slows down their physical speed, their mind, too, slows down to a place of calmness.
This subconscious process shows how we are wired to be products of our environment. The advice isn’t new, but surround yourself with people who want to make themselves better. Not only will you pick up their good habits, but you’ll also find introspection to find how you can better yourself at your craft.
I hope you all enjoyed this newsletter. It felt a bit braggadocious to share how I stay dedicated to my craft but I hope something resonated with you to help you realize how you can improve your craft, whatever that craft may be.
Have an awesome week!
❤️ My Weekly Favorites
- 🎙️ Making Sense with Sam Harris — Deep Time
- Sam Harris is an excellent podcast host and this conversation with Oliver Burkeman, author of 4,000 Weeks, is philosophical and meta-productivity.
- 🎵 alt-J — “Hard Drive Gold”
- 2022 has experieneced a new music drought thus far. Thankfully, alt-J is back.
✍️ Quote of the Week
“For me, [The Pathless Path] is also a gentle reminder to laugh when things feel out of control and trusting that an uncertain future is not a problem to be solved” - Paul Millerd
📽️ This Week's Videos
🎙️ This Week's Podcasts
- 84 - Mental Performance Coach Nic Aguirre on Subconscious Productivty Brain Hacks
- Being a Student of Life - Productive Brew 13
- Craft Unquestionable Dedication - Productive Brew 14