In his book, Awesome in Hours, Michael Unks tells the story of a friend who loved soccer but wasn’t great. But if you asked him who was the most valuable player on the team, he would say that he was. And it wasn’t because he was being falsely praised or given certificates for showing up.
This kid was quite aware of his soccer limitations. In fact, the only time he ever went on the field was when the good players needed a break. So while one of the stars sat catching his breath on the bench, Unks’s friend played his heart out for the few minutes he had.
He might not have been the best, but he still had a role to play. He had to hold his own for the amount of time that the star needed to feel refreshed and be ready to come back in. It would never win him an award, but he realized its importance: Exhausted stars can’t play at their best, and then teams lose.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t try to excel in their chosen fields. But it is a reminder that even if we don’t become the stars, we still have a vital role to play. As a person in a “support function’ at my college, I see how students go up to faculty at graduation and realize that they will never remember me with the same fondness and gratitude. But I also know that the library team helped them find sources, reviewed how to cite them, and even provided a spoon on the day that they were so behind they didn’t have time to eat anything other than soup out of the vending machine. We had a role in their success.
And that’s more than enough.