Today I have an extract from Reframe the Day: Embracing the Craft of Life, One Day at a Time.
The author is donating all profits from book sales to the Covid-19 response efforts of Direct Relief.
First of all, here’s the book info
Requests and to-dos bombard your phone and inbox, day and night. Information and distractions claw at your time and attention. You’re always busy, always searching for the finish line … or at least the pause button. Life feels like an endless series of “what’s nexts”—what’s the next meeting, task, obligation, goal, achievement?
Adam M. Lowenstein emerged from the nonstop, striving-obsessed world of American politics convinced that everyone, no matter who you are or what you do, has the power to build more fulfilling days. You don’t have to undertake a radical transformation. You don’t have to quit your job or move halfway around the world.
You can simply tweak how you approach each day. Find meaning in your daily burdens and commitments. Resist the allure of busyness. Make more time for what matters to you (and feel less guilty when you do).
In Reframe the Day, Lowenstein offers ten tips, tactics, and techniques for nudging your days in a more fulfilling direction. Combining concrete advice with tools for self-reflection, Reframe the Day shows you how to reframe the way you see and spend your days and, over time, reshape your life.
The toy maker LEGO nearly collapsed in the early 2000s. In Brick by Brick, a book chronicling the company’s struggles and subsequent revitalization, David Robertson and Bill Breen describe how LEGO conducted countless focus groups to better understand the types of toys that engaged children. Among their observations was that children are driven by “the notion of mastery.” As Robertson and Breen write, “whether it was flipping skateboarding tricks or obsessing over the design and history of warplanes, kids demonstrated an innate desire to dig into a discipline and conquer it.”
Putting aside the fact that no one who’s actually used a skateboard would dare utter the phrase “flipping skateboarding tricks,” Robertson and Breen capture a core human yearning to master a craft that endures well beyond childhood. The authors frame this example as an instance of kids building social capital among their peers, but it’s also an example of human beings building fulfilling lives. For whatever reason, we are wired to enjoy mastering a craft. It’s satisfying and rewarding to take on new challenges, develop expertise, and push our brains in search of mastery.
Mastery doesn’t mean perfection. When it comes to LEGOs, it’s not really about the finished product but the act of building and creating. In your case, it’s not about attaining a certain job title or status. It’s about working and striving for noticeable, tangible improvements, even if that’s in how efficiently you stock a shelf or how clearly and succinctly you write a memo. That process starts by choosing to view your work not as something to check off, but something to focus on and experience in the present.
You can find satisfaction in your day-to-day responsibilities by doing them as intentionally and with as much focus as possible. Work, for you, might be writing, managing people, or running. It might be painting, sweeping floors, or teaching. It might be a Saturday’s worth of errands. You could be spending your time stuck in traffic or waiting for a doctor’s appointment or applying for jobs or buying groceries or emptying your inbox. No matter what you’re doing, you can reframe how you view your work by looking at it as a craft, rather than a series of burdensome tasks.
And you can take pride in what you’re doing. As writer Joshua Wolf Shenk recounts in Lincoln’s Melancholy, during the American Civil War a Union general asked President Abraham Lincoln for command of a larger regiment. The general was leading a mere 3,000 men, Shenk writes, and “felt humiliated.” But Lincoln declined his request, imparting some sage advice. “Act well your part,” Lincoln told the general. “There all the honor lies.”
The point is not that you should simply accept your lot in life or stay in your lane. It’s not that you shouldn’t be ambitious or pursue work that you find more enjoyable and fulfilling. Rather, it’s that, at this moment, whatever your work is, however mundane or meaningless it may feel, there is honor and dignity in doing it with focus, care, and pride. Lincoln’s comment reminds us that we each have the power to look at our work from a different perspective—as a craft, say, rather than simply a series of obligations.
About the Author
Adam M. Lowenstein is the author of the new book, Reframe the Day: Embracing the Craft of Life, One Day at a Time. He spent eight years working in American government and politics, most recently as a speechwriter and strategic communications advisor in the U.S. Senate. Today, Adam lives in London with his partner, Erin, and writes frequently about politics, work, and life. Visit his website, see his latest work, and subscribe to his newsletter, “Reframe Your Inbox,” at https://www.adaml.blog