The greats of tomorrow are in the online communities of today. They might even be in yours.

Even though online communities have been around since the 1980s, we are only a generation or two deep into mainstream usage of online communities. Where when someone is really into a subject, they seek out others online who are similarly motivated and driven.

I’ve seen this over and over again. My time at SitePoint is an easy example. In a setting like this, people who are self-motivated and driven often gravitate toward one another. I met so many people who have gone on to do great things and be recognized as leaders. They’ve climbed the corporate ranks at high-profile companies, founded successful ones, written books and done amazing work. That community was about programming, web design and business, so those are the pursuits they excelled in.

The same is true for so many online communities. When you are passionate about something to the point where you want it to be your career, you want to find others on the same path. Online communities provide access that didn’t exist before, to people of all ages in all locations, as long as they have internet. Some reach their goals and some don’t. But for those artists and professionals, the community is part of the path.

It’s fun to think of your community in this light, and it is likely true for yours. The vast majority of subject matters have their greats. The next ESPN anchor may have posted on your sports forums. The next bestselling fiction author may be a member of your writing community. The next great breakthrough discovery may be made by a scientist who once asked for help in your science group.

When this happens, it’s worth celebrating. It’s inspirational and really helps drive home the power of online community – and of your community. It’s a “one of us” moment for your members, and it’s great to try to bring those people back when you can, if they’re willing.

Your community is many wonderful, different things to different people. One of the things it could be is a launching pad for the greats.