FF Daily #388: A culture of dedication

June 3, 2021: Pete Davis on committing our time; The costs of Covid; Why people choke under pressure; Live with intention

Founding Fuel

[Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash]

Good morning,

A book that we’re still waiting to get our hands on is Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing by Pete Davis. While it hit the shelves in North America, it hasn’t hit the shores here yet. But we’ve been waiting a long while for it. Davis got our attention in 2018 when he delivered a commencement address to graduate students at Harvard University on the idea of dedication. 

“I love that the word dedicate has two meanings—first, it means to make something holy; second, it means to stick at something for a long time. I don’t think this is a coincidence: We do something holy when we choose to commit to something. And, in the most dedicated people I have met here, I have witnessed how that pursuit of holiness comes with a side effect of immense joy.

“We may have come here to help keep our options open, but I leave believing that the most radical act we can take is to make a commitment to a particular thing… to a place, to a profession, to a cause, to a community, to a person. To show our love for something by working at it for a long time—to close doors and forgo options for its sake.

“We often assume that some acute and looming threat—be it a foreign invader or a domestic demagogue—will be our downfall. But if we were to end, that end is just as likely to come from something far less dramatic: our failure to sustain the work.

“It is not only the bomb or the bully that should keep us up at night—it is also the garden untilled and the newcomer unwelcomed, the neighbour unhoused and the prisoner unheard, the voice of the public unheeded and the long-simmering calamity unhalted and the dream of equal justice unrealized.

“But we need not be afraid, for we have in our possession the antidote to our dread—our time, free to be dedicated to the slow but necessary work of turning visions into projects, values into practices, and strangers into neighbours.”

May we urge you to dedicate a few minutes of your time to hear him speak on the counterculture of committment

Stay safe and have a good day.

In this issue

  • The costs of Covid 
  • Why people choke under pressure
  • [Quote] Live with Intention

The cost of Covid

The kind of costs the pandemic is extracting out of people is now beginning to make itself apparent. More Indians have become poorer, reports IndiaSpend. “Jobs have been hit harder since the lockdowns of 2021, put in place to control the second wave of Covid-19. May has shown double-digit unemployment figures, said Mahesh Vyas, chief executive officer of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy(CMIE), a think-tank. ‘More than 97% of India's population became poorer compared to where they were in terms of income,’ he said. Its effect on the informal sector, which had barely recovered from the effect of the first lockdown in 2020, has been debilitating.” 

[By India Water Portal (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), from Flickr]

“Even migrant workers will generally prefer that their ration cards be used by their families at home rather than for themselves.”

~ Jean Dreze

Large swathes of India are bearing the brunt because this is a double whammy. There is the cost of medical treatment to be borne as well when the disease hits. “Across the country, many may have successfully beaten the virus, but their lives have been upended by the loans they have to repay courtesy of huge Covid-19 medical bills. They have dipped into years of savings, sold jewellery, mortgaged property, and borrowed from friends to clear the medical bills,” says a report in The Indian Express.

In April last year, Hindustan Times attempted to examine the costs involved in treating people afflicted by Covid-19. “Though it varies from patient to patient, depending upon the load of virus, related ailments, age and other factors… on an average, treatment of a normal Covid-19 carrier, without ventilators or other life-saving equipment, costs between Rs 20,000 and 25,000 daily… That means a 14-day treatment of a patient costs between Rs 2,80,000 to 3,50,000.” 

Governments across various states have stepped in since then and have placed price caps on treatment protocols. But the second wave has taken its toll.

Dig deeper

Why people choke under pressure

A common narrative we hear often is how people are under pressure. And when under pressure, they choke. Not because they don’t know how to perform the job. But in spite of knowing how to perform their job well. So, just why do people choke? This is a theme Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist and author of Choke has researched much.

“The ability to get used to what it will feel like can make the difference in whether we choke or thrive.”

“Think about a situation where you're shuffling down the stairs. What would happen if I asked you to think about what you're doing with your knee while you're doing that? There's a good chance you'd fall on your face. We as humans only have the ability to pay attention to so much at once, which is why, by the way, it's not a good idea to drive and talk on the cell phone. And under pressure, when we're concerned about performing at our best, we can try and control aspects of what we're doing that should be left outside conscious control. The end result is that we mess up.”

When the pressure is on, we're often concerned with performing at our best, and as a result we try and control what we're doing to force the best performance. The end result is that we actually screw up. 

There is much she has to share about how not to choke. “Researchers have shown that simply jotting down your thoughts and worries before a stressful event can help to download them from your mind—make them less likely to pop up in the moment… Journaling, or getting those thoughts down on paper, makes it less likely they'll pop up and distract you in the moment. The end result is that you can perform your best when it matters most.” 

She makes the point that how we use social media really matters as well. That is why, it is important to know “What happens in our heads really matters, and knowing this, we can learn how to prepare ourselves and others for success, not just on the playing field but in the boardroom and in the classroom as well.”

Dig deeper

Still curious?

In 2020, many congratulated state governments for being bold in withdrawing constitutional protections of Indian workers, apparently to attract foreign investors. They’re missing the facts on the ground. What will convince them to open their hearts to the plight of millions of citizens? Read Arun Maira's essay, The used and discarded workers of India

Live with Intention

Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard.
Practice wellness.
Play with abandon.
Laugh.
Choose with no regret.
Appreciate your friends.
Continue to learn.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.

Mary Anne Radmacher

What’s helping you get through these tough times? Send us the song, poem, quote that is your balm now. And we will share it through this newsletter.

And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there.

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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