You wouldn't think that one of the most interesting lessons I've learned in college thus far has come from the dining hall.
But it has.
Living on campus means that, three times a day, I-like most freshmen-am faced with a perplexing conundrum: where to sit in the dining hall. We stand, tray in one hand, drink in other, scanning the dining room for the most advantageous seat.
There are two mistakes the inexperienced diners can make when selecting their table.
The first is to select a packed table, with one lone seat beckoning to the inexperienced freshman. It seems perfect. Diners are talking and laughing and generally having a great time. But beware the lone seductress. Take a nice, long look at that happy table as you turn to grab a Coke, because when you come back, it will be empty. You were too late for the party. Everyone has already eaten and is off to study, attend class, or watch football.
After making that mistake several times, freshmen (me included) usually will attempt the other extreme. "If I sit at a table FULL of people, they all leave," you think. "AHA! I shall put my new reasoning powers I gained in logic class to solve this problem." Instead of bellying up at a packed table, you sit alone, waiting for the crowd to come and join YOU. But no one comes. Sure, you may pick up one or two stragglers who can't find a place to sit, but you'll never achieve the party status of other tables.
The secret to a fantastic mealtime is to pick a table with a handful of people from a wide variety of social circles. Sit, back, relax, and enjoy your french fries as you watch your table fill up and achieve Par-T status.
The lessons learned carry over well into social trends. Jump on the bandwagon when it's popular, and you're too late. It's bloated with hangers-on and has a limited lifespan. The party won't be on for much longer. On the other hand, however, if you're alone, the party will never start. The secret, whether it's a business idea, social trend, fad, or idea, is to get on board when a small but diverse presence has been created.