Dedicated Book Summary - Dedicated Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Dedicated summary

Pete Davis

The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing

4.4 (54 ratings)
22 mins

What is Dedicated about?

Dedicated (2021) makes the case for commitment in an age of infinite browsing. Based on the author’s Harvard Law School graduation speech, “A Counterculture of Commitment,” it explores how keeping our options open creates inner tension – and why commitment is the solution. 

Table of Contents

    summarized in 4 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 4

    Infinite Browsing Mode has its upsides, but it also comes with pain.

    Infinite Browsing Mode. Not committing to anything. Keeping our options open. It’s the defining characteristic of modern times.

    Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish philosopher, coined a great term for this: liquid modernity. As he saw it, in not wanting to commit to an identity, place, or community, we remain in a liquid state. And our world remains liquid as well. We can’t rely on having one job for life anymore; we can’t rely on groups, institutions, ideas, or causes. We can’t rely on them, and they can’t rely on us. Everything is liquid.

    You find yourself wondering whether all your “options” are really so great. Whether, maybe, it’s better to commit where you can – for instance, to meet your friends every Thursday, no matter what or who comes along?

    But before we get to the case against Infinite Browsing Mode, we should take a few moments to recognize its upsides.

    Consider its flexibility, for example. Our decisions are all less consequential because we can always change our minds about something and return to browsing mode. This flexibility – especially when we’re young – allows us to explore ourselves and find out who we really are and what we want to do.

    And then there’s authenticity. Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk and mystic, wrote about what he called the false self, the person you think you want to be – who you think will please your parents, or your partner, or the cool in-crowd you want to join. Browsing enables you to shake off that false self and find the authentic, real you.

    And browsing also gives us novelty. There’s no denying the rush of excitement when we try something new. These days, the ease of travel has afforded us more opportunities for novelty – the possibility to visit new lands, discover new cultures, and meet new people – than any time in the past. And the internet? Well, that just opened up a whole new world of novelty.

    The last decade even spawned two terms to describe this need for the new: YOLO and FOMO. YOLO, or “you only live once,” reminds us that we only have one life to soak up all the novelty that’s out there, while FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” haunts us if we don’t make the most of that one life.

    And this brings us to the downsides of Infinite Browsing Mode. When you’re passing the point of positive exploration, you’re likely to encounter paralysis, anomie, and shallowness.

    In The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwarz discusses how in our everyday lives we now need to choose the details of everything – what we eat, what we wear, even the color of the plastic box in which we store our leftovers. As a result of our infinite options, we become more and more dissatisfied with our choices, and less and less confident about committing to anything. Schwarz argues that without choices, our lives might become unbearable. Conversely, he says, too much choice “no longer liberates, but debilitates” us. Put simply, all these choices can paralyze our decision-making.

    In the 1890s, sociologist Émile Durkheim discovered that some people who died of suicide were experiencing a specific set of feelings, which he called anomie. These feelings stem from the despair that there are no laws or standards, leaving people with a lack of guidance for how to act or what to believe, as well as a lack of community. Infinite Browsing Mode can lead to similar feelings – we have no connections, and nobody sets expectations for us. Davis suggests that we can become “too chill” about our tasks, our projects, our jobs. And we might want our partner or our roommates to be chill, too. But, in reality, we need them to nudge us to wash the dishes or take out the trash. We need people who care about us and what we do. We need warmth, a sense of authentic community, expectations, and aspirations. These things give us meaning.

    When we commit to something, we might miss out on the latest novelty. But by failing to commit, we definitely miss out on the joy we’d feel from an experience we stick with and dedicate our attention to – whether that’s for ten years or just ten minutes. Ultimately, novelty can leave us with a sense of superficiality; we move quickly from one thing to another to distract ourselves from the shallowness. What we really need to do is move slowly and rediscover depth.

    The problem is that we want the pleasures of Infinite Browsing Mode – the flexibility, authenticity, and novelty – without the pains of paralysis, anomie, and shallowness. Of course, this tension isn’t anything new; it’s existed across all times, places, and cultures. What is new is the explosion of options over the twentieth and now the twenty-first century. One hundred years ago, much of our life was governed for us – where we lived, who we met, our communities, the variety of life that we encountered, perhaps even our jobs and who we married. Choices were limited. It wasn’t really possible to keep our options open.

    Now, we have the freedom to go anywhere and see anything. But we’ve found that liberation isn’t enough. We also need dedication. We need to be free – but free to do something. We may have been freed from our involuntary commitments, but we’re finding ourselves unable to make voluntary ones. We maintain our “liquid modernity” in everything we do: our jobs, our relationships, how we consume and move, and our behavior. We melt but fail to become solid again; we yearn for a more “solid life.”

    So the question is, what can we do about it – and how do we find a better balance?

    Want to see all full key ideas from Dedicated?

    Key ideas in Dedicated

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    About the Author

    Pete Davis is a civic advocate from Falls Church, Virginia. He’s the cofounder of the Democracy Policy Network, a state policy organization focused on raising up ideas that deepen American democracy and solidarity. In 2015, he cofounded Getaway, a company that provides simple, unplugged escapes to tiny cabins outside of major cities. His 2018 Harvard Law School graduation speech, “A Counterculture of Commitment,” has been viewed more than 30 million times.

    Who should read Dedicated?

    • Commitment shirkers and seekers
    • Anyone experiencing FOMO
    • YOLO thrill-seekers looking for a deeper connection

    Categories with Dedicated

    Books like Dedicated

    People ❤️ Blinkist
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    26 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 5,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial