Participate versus owning

August 25, 2017


I moderated a panel last night for a group of students pursuing a career in management consulting. One of the panelists and I caught up afterwards and she asked if I was still heavily involved with the university. She then made the distinction between participating versus owning. In this case, both of us were participants - there was nothing to do in advance or following the event, simply show up and share our stories.


Participating requires minimal effort. These are the activities that you enjoy doing but is not what you get fired up about. As a participant, you have the benefit of experiencing the activity while having minimal day-to-day involvement. On the other hand, owning requires a significant amount of time, effort and resources deployed in a consistent and deliberate manner. Taking ownership requires commitment. These are the activities that you care deeply about - the things that get you out of bed every morning. And due to its significance, one cannot “own” too many things, otherwise you end up spreading yourself too thin (trust me, I have been there). For me, there are a lot of things I participate in, for example, sports, mentoring, coffee chats, ad hoc consulting, etc. However, there are a few things that I personally take ownership and responsibility of: The Canvas Series, key relationships (girlfriend, family, close friends), my health, and my job. 


What do you own and what do you enjoy participating in? Comment below! 




1) Take a look at your calendar or journal over the last 60 days - What did you do? 


2) When were you a participant versus an owner? 


3) For activities that you own - is this truly something you *need* to take ownership and responsibility of? 

(For 3 and 4, it helps if you have thought about what you are ultimately striving to achieve) 


4) DE-Prioritize — specifically, what activities do you own but is more suited to be a participant?


5) Allocate a block of time each week to do things as a participant - again, these are things you enjoy but cannot take ownership and fully commit into. For example, soccer on Wednesday nights or limiting to 1 coffee chat a week. 

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