Every one of us has heard the Latin phrase “Carpe Diem” – Seize the Day.  It’s a great tagline for someone who’s interested in turning up the heat for a day – maybe a week – when things are going good.  It also makes for a great t-shirt.   That’s it.  What’s better is seizing responsibility.  Many people will seize the day but few will seize responsibility.  The reason?  Seizing the day has a set period of time associated with it: “I’ll turn up the heat on this project and deliver a great sales presentation next Tuesday.”  Seizing over the short-term is something you can measure, you can see, you can wrap your mind around.  It’s a definable period with a measurable horizon.

Seizing responsibility, on the other, hand requires you to throw out the definable timeline.  Your timeline, if you need to have one, is measured by the number of days in your life.  When your days are up, your responsibilities are over.  A touch morbid, but true.  You seize every day on every thing you touch.  It’s an indefinable period with an immeasurable horizon (hopefully).

Regardless of profession, line of work, or social station what the world needs is engineers and people who seize responsibility.  In fact, the people you work for and with want you to seize responsibility.  The people that work for you want you to seize responsibility.  The guy who cut you off at the on ramp or the waitress at iHop want you to seize responsibility.  When you seize it, you close the gaps that allow excuses to stand in the way of you doing what you do best.  When you seize it, you establish the most solid foundation possible to build the other critical character attributes and skills you need to deliver your art to the world.

Steve Jobs was fond of saying “we’re here to put a dent in the universe”.  Those who are putting dents in the universe are committed, focused, and have seized responsibility.  They are the people who have established the solid foundation on which all of their other character attributes and skills have been, are being, and will be built.  And they are the people we willingly follow. 


Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leader, civil engineer, and author.  He’s an accomplished professional specializing in A/E/C work internationally and author of The Engineer Leader, a recognized blog on leadership and life success for engineers and professionals. 

Check out his e-Book on Critical Thinking Skills, Getting it Right at The Engineer Leader blog.    

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