Find a way to contribute

A friend of mine who went to graduate school to earn an MBA at Columbia recalled how ill-equipped he felt for the heavy load of finance courses. And this mathematical discrepancy between him and many of his peers was never more apparent than during the study groups that formed. Those who came from finance and accounting backgrounds could run numerical circles around him, and he didn’t want the group to feel like he was benefiting without contributing.

So he brought snacks. Lots of them.

At every group meeting, he’d inevitably show up with all of the group’s favorites. When they’d struggle with an assignment around capital budgeting and initial cash outlay, he’d chime in, “Who wants Oreos?” to the delight of the sleep-deprived group.

And he kept getting invited back. For two years, he was warmly welcomed. And his contributions were always appreciated regardless of their nutritional value.

The message here is not to seek the easy way out and let other people do the work. But making an impact sometimes means finding a way to do so even when you’re not the strongest member, whether it’s with an MBA study group or the JV cross country team.

You’ll be appreciated, and you’ll keep getting invited back, when you find a way to contribute.