Dogs barking, me calling, a car rolling by, none of it matters when Leon sees...a robin. He LOVES birds, especially robins. His world shifts the moment he sees one. I don't know how the physiology of dogs works, but I imagine his heart and mind slow down as his vision locks in on this bird who is in no way worried about a dog that will never catch it.
I don't imagine he'll catch many, if any birds in his lifetime, but I sure admire his pursuit and focus. He made me consider, what's my robin?
What's the thing that not only allows me to tune out distractions, but makes them unimportant? What's so worthy of my pursuit that my body has a physical yearning for my goal? What's my robin?
As I take time to more fully answer that question, I'll remind myself and you that we may not necessarily have something like that right now, but we can cultivate it. Sure, it'd be nice to have an innate "robin" like Leon does, and you could argue that humans have some innate "robins,” like movement and connection, but we won't have quite the automatic response that a hunting dog might have for their favorite bird.
What we can do, though, is aim to craft something we care more deeply about every day. In So Good They Can't Ignore You, Cal Newport argues for a craftsman mindset over a passion mindset:
“To summarize, I’ve presented two different ways people think about their working life. The first is the craftsman mindset, which focuses on what you can offer the world. The second is the passion mindset, which instead focuses on what the world can offer you. The craftsman mindset offers clarity, while the passion mindset offers a swamp of ambiguous and unanswerable questions… there’s something liberating about the craftsman mindset: It asks you to leave behind self-centered concerns about whether your job is ‘just right,’ and instead put your head down and plug away at getting really damn good. No one owes you a great career, it argues; you need to earn it—and the process won’t be easy.”
Getting really damn good at anything, even if it's not a passion, can be deeply satisfying, and aiming to serve others in what we do will always be worthwhile. Not everyone has a passion for what they do, or how they make a living, so learning to apply a craftsman mindset is key.
I contrast these to make the point that though Leon and some of us will have a clear passion, a clear "robin,” that most of us will have to craft our robin over time. What may now be just a (bird)seed may soon spread its wings into a “robin” we can't help but focus on and mightily pursue.
Writing started out as an unlikely seed for me, and though I don't always feel passion towards it, I enjoy working the craft.
What's your robin? And how can you create more time for it this week? Or better yet, today.