Which is more important—to be the scoring leader on the basketball team or to be the kind of player your teammates and coaches will miss when you graduate?
Of course, it’s great if you can be both. But if given the choice, I think it’s better to be the kind of player who will be missed. If you’re the leading scorer, but you’re not a great leader, you care more about your stats than you do about the team’s record, and you always take the shot before making a great pass, nobody’s going to miss you when you’re gone. But if you show up early to practice, bring a great attitude every day, fire up the team, and still find a way to average 9 assists a game even though you come off the bench, you’re making a great impact on your team. And they’re going to miss you.
I mention this because it’s a mistake to think the only way to stand out is to always be the best—to lead the team in scoring, be the president of the student body, or set the curve in calculus. It’s great if you can do those things, but first, work hard enough to be missed later, whether or not you’ve got the talent to be the best. Your attitude, the way you treat other people, the energy you bring to the work, those traits make you valuable whether or not you’re the MVP, president or curve buster.
Before you worry about being the best, work hard to be missed. Neither goal is easy. But the latter often pays off more than the former does.