Four Levels of Empowerment

  1. Someone will show me what to do.
  2. I can make the rules work for me.
  3. I can get an exception to the rules.
  4. I can change the rules.

Sometimes I want to ask my students, “Which are you?” or “Which do you want to be?” But the one time I tried something of the kind, it didn’t go over all that well.

Even so, they’re probably good questions in many situations.

Apologies for sounding like Seth Godin.

Incidentally, there’s arguably a fifth level of empowerment — “I can destroy the system” — but that’s either a special case of #4, or out of scope for the law-abiding. And I suppose there’s a zeroth level too, something on the order of “I’ll sit here alone and starve,”1 which could be clinical depression. OK, that was less Godin-like.


  1. Not to be confused with “I’ll just sit here alone in the dark,” which is the answer to the question “How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb?” and is probably an example of level 2. []
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