If You Hear Me Using the Word “Opportunity” – Then You’re Obligated to Knock Me Upside the Head

I love Seth Godin.

I like his style (writing style, that is.)
I like his message.
I like that he never pulls any punches.
I like that every time I pick up a book written by him, I learn something that changes me.

I’m reading, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, and it’s just excellent.

The difficulty I’m having is deciding what to share today out of this marvelous book before I have to return it to the library.

Decisions. Decisions.

Finally, after thumbing through the book’s pages again, I decided to share the single theme that represents Godin’s overall message for everyone wanting to engage in their life, not just let it pass them by.

Godin astutely differentiates between the terms opportunity and obligation. People will say, “I couldn’t pass this opportunity by…” Godin says, “If you’re in the position to make a difference, you have the obligation to go for it.”

See the difference?

Most people (myself included) look around and assess whether or not they have what it takes to change something, right a wrong, correct a mistake, forge a different path, whatever…and sees these assets as opportunities to make a difference.

Godin disagrees. He strongly believes men and women who have what it takes (to accomplish any of the above) are thereby obligated to try to do so morally/ethically.

Here’s some of Godin’s thoughts on opportunities vs. obligations and how to tell the difference.

Not too far from us, a few blocks away, there are kids without enough to eat and without parents who care. A little farther away, hours by plane, are people unable to reach their goals because they live in a community that just doesn’t have the infrastructure to support them. A bit farther away are people being brutally persecuted by their governments. And the world is filled with people who can’t go to high school, never mind college, and who certainly can’t spend their time focused on whether or not they get a good parking space at work.

And so, the obligation; don’t settle.

To have all these advantages, all this momentum, all these opportunities and then settle for mediocre and then defend the status quo and then worry about corporate politics – what a waste.

Flynn Berry wrote that you should never use the word “opportunity.” It’s not an opportunity, it’s an obligation.

I don’t think we have any choice. I think we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game, and to play it better than anyone has any right to believe is possible.

The older I get, the more I feel compelled to act. Obligated.


Godin outlines the principle, Wesley conveys the plan.

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can. John Wesley


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