Davis’s work seems to be descended from a number of philosophical thinkers, from Robert Putnam, Jedediah Purdy, Ralph Nader, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Davis’s case, which he’s been making since his law school graduation speech (viewed over 30 million times), advocates towards commitment and away from a culture of infinite browsing. His feeling is that the education system has moved away from attachment to advancement, fraying the bonds of society and has led to things like shareholder value above all else. The idea of early adulthood experimentation and leaving one’s options open has become a life case, abandoning traditions and everyday heroes for fandom. I started this book wondering when Davis would reference Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice. The answer, for those who are wondering, is page 30. The internet has been a laboratory to make this thesis more relevant than ever. Davis argues for a return to commitment, distinguishing between realizing you are wrong about something and continually second guessing yourself. Davis also does a good job showing this is not just a problem of the wealthy and privileged, and taking some of this direction could lead to a happier and more meaningful life and society. There are certainly arguments that counterpoint Davis’s thesis, but I like that Dedicated argues from a perspective of decency and civic engagement.— Daniel Goldin
A profoundly inspiring and transformative argument that purposeful commitment and civil engagement can be a powerful force in today’s age of restlessness and indecision.
Most of us have had this experience: browsing through countless options on Netflix, unable to commit to watching any given movie—and losing so much time skimming reviews and considering trailers that it’s too late to watch anything at all. In a book inspired by an idea first articulated in a viral commencement address, Pete Davis argues that this is the defining characteristic of the moment: keeping our options open. We are stuck in “Infinite Browsing Mode”—swiping through endless dating profiles without committing to a single partner, jumping from place to place searching for the next big thing, and refusing to make any decision that might close us off from an even better choice we imagine is just around the corner. This culture of restlessness and indecision, Davis argues, is causing tension in the lives of young people today: We want to keep our options open, and yet we yearn for the purpose, community, and depth that can only come from making deep commitments.
In Dedicated, Davis examines this quagmire, as well as the counterculture of committers who have made it to the other side. He shares what we can learn from the “long-haul heroes” who courageously commit themselves to particular places, professions, and causes—who relinquish the false freedom of an open future in exchange for the deep fulfillment of true dedication. Weaving together examples from history, personal stories, and applied psychology, Davis’s “insightful without being preachy…guide to commitment should be on everyone’s reading list” (Booklist, starred review).
About the Author
Pete Davis is a civic advocate from Falls Church, Virginia. He works on projects aimed at deepening American democracy and solidarity. Pete is the cofounder of the Democracy Policy Network, a state policy organization focused on raising up ideas that deepen democracy. In 2015, he cofounded Getaway, a company that provides simple, unplugged escapes to tiny cabins outside of major cities. His Harvard Law School graduation speech, “A Counterculture of Commitment,” has been viewed more than 30 million times.
“Well-versed in the current zeitgeist, Davis is insightful without being preachy, and his wise guide to commitment should be on everyone’s reading list." —Booklist (starred review)
“A celebration of caring and community within our often bloodless digital world . . . Davis makes a persuasive case for dedication as ‘an alternative path of life.’” —Kirkus Reviews
“A manifesto for deeper civic engagement to create a path toward a more robust democracy.” —The Progressive
"If you have ever struggled to cross the Rubicon and commit to an endeavor that would foreclose other options, then this book is for you. Pete Davis provides a provocative countercultural thesis for our time, explaining why resolve and stamina are in such short supply and how we can, in an era of infinite browsing, learn to be dedicated." —Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and founder and CEO of Character Lab
"Pete Davis is one of America’s most creative and inspiring young writers—sparkling with enthusiasm, yet profound beyond his years. In Dedicated he challenges his peers to change America and themselves for the better by committing themselves to something greater than self. It’s a sermon, all right, but it’s far too lively to be just a sermon. And those of us a bit older could learn a thing or two by eavesdropping." —Robert D. Putnam, Research Professor, Harvard Kennedy School, and author of Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again
“Pete Davis’s Dedicated is a magisterial book on the moral Counterculture of Commitment in our shallow culture of money and fear. His depth of wisdom and scope of knowledge are astonishing. And his powerful vision of decency and democracy are compelling.” —Cornel West, Harvard University
"The most countercultural act you can do today may be committing to something for a long period of time, maybe forever. That's the word that married couples tend to balk on these days—not 'love,' 'honor' or even 'obey,' but 'forever' or 'all my life.' In his provocative new book Pete Davis shows us why commitment is so difficult for people today, but why it is also not only beneficial, but necessary, if we are ever to accomplish anything of value or live lives of depth." —James Martin, SJ, author of Learning to Pray
“This is a brilliant book about one of the defining predicaments of our time: the temptation to keep our options open. Pete Davis is the fresh voice of wisdom that our culture desperately needs—Dedicated is required reading for the 21st century pursuit of happiness and success.” —Adam Grant, New York Times–bestselling author of Think Again and Originals, and host of the TED podcast "WorkLife"
“An engaging exploration of how to restore meaning and purpose and the satisfactions of enduring commitment in an era of short attention spans and infinite choice. In this greatly expanded version of a 2018 Harvard commencement speech, Pete Davis challenges his generation—and all of us—to reconnect to the institutions and relationships that truly matter—and will build a better world." —Drew Gilpin Faust, President Emerita of Harvard University, and author of This Republic of Suffering
"In a society of endless possibilities, I’ve long felt there was something radical about commitment. Instead of letting that insight take the form of a passing thought, Pete Davis devoted himself to exploring the same intuition, and the result is a thoughtful, original, erudite, and inspiring manifesto. We can scroll through life and stay in the shallows, or limit our options and connect on a deeper more satisfying level. Devoting your attention to the wisdom in these pages is a good way to begin.” —Astra Taylor, documentary filmmaker and author of Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone
“My dad used to say, ‘If it’s worth doing, it's worth doing right.' It was his take on the importance of dedication. Most everything that matters requires dedication: day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out. At the end of every effort you want to be able to look back and feel the kind of satisfaction that can’t come from staying on the sidelines. Pete Davis’s Dedicated is a book that speaks to me and shares important messages and values that can be helpful to anyone who is facing a challenge or simply looking to excel in what’s important to you.” —Cal Ripken Jr., Hall of Fame shortstop and third baseman
"This is the book we need right now, more than ever. There's no useful forward motion without enrollment, and that requires commitment. Pete Davis knows that it's up to each of us to choose to matter." —Seth Godin, author of This is Marketing