Last weekend I volunteered to help with a First LEGO League tournament in my area. For those who don’t know, in LEGO League students from about 4-8th grade build robots out of LEGOs and try to perform certain tasks within a 2 1/2 minute time period. They also do a project where they investigate some issue and propose solutions, do a presentation on the design of their robot, and hold a discussion on the core values of the tournament and how they exemplify those values with their teams. The goal of the program is to get students excited about science and engineering, as well as instill good values in them.
This is a great event for the students, but what really struck me as I was leaving Saturday night after a long day was just the caliber of the other volunteers at this event. These were absolutely the most selfless, accomplished, charismatic, and thoughtful people you would care to meet. They also included many of the top leadership individuals of different organizations in my area. Just being with them really inspired me to be better and do more. This is in contrast to the people you often see who tend to demotivate you.
This isn’t the first time that I noticed this. I’ve also been to sponsor dinners for Boy Scouts, various science and engineering events for students, and even litter cleanups and band volunteer events and seen the same type of people there. The fact is, the best type of people support these events, and as your parents always told you, the people around you have a big influence on who you become.
In engineering and science, there are different technical societies. I am heavily involved in the aerospace society, but there are also societies for mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, physicists, chemists, and so on. Often when I ask why an individual hasn’t joined one of these societies, I get the response that they don’t really see what joining would have to offer and it wouldn’t be worth the $100 or so a year it would cost to join. This is probably true if you just joined and went to a meeting or two during the year.
The real payback comes when you volunteer to organize events, help with education programs, and do other things to help the society. This is because you’ll find other people in your company and in your industry volunteering as well like those I described above. These are people who will inspire you, serve as resources in getting your work done, and possibly be a contact for the next job or the next big project. These are exactly the people you will want to know if you want to become great in your career, rather than just languish in the middle ranks.
So find the society and groups linked to your career, as well as the local civic and public service organizations in your area, and join and get involved. I promise you’ll be blown away by some of the people you meet. It could lead to your next promotion or your next job. Even if it doesn’t, just getting involved with that crowd of people will inspire you to be better than you are, and that’s worth getting up early on a couple of Saturday mornings.
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