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What Business Leaders Can Learn from Field of Dreams

Appian Contributor
June 30, 2015

So, yesterday marked 110 years since Archibald "Moonlight" Graham made famous by Burt Lancaster in 1989 film, Fieldof Dreams played in his only Major League baseball game.

If you ever saw the movie, there is no doubt you remember Lancaster's character, Graham, who sacrificed his only shot to play baseball once again in a heroic effort to save a life.

Seeing this news yesterday reminded me of a post from a short time ago. Here is that post again, slightly edited, but still quite relevant for today's leaders.

I hope you enjoy reading it!

Zach Messler

"Do you realize what this land is worth?"Field of Dreams

"Over $2200 an acre."

"Then you must realize we cannot keep a useless baseball diamond in the middle of rich farmland."

It's as true in your personal life as it is in your work: To achieve consistent success, you must be aware. Aware of the situation. Aware of potentially unusual circumstances. Aware of the details on which any particular decision could hinge.

Case in point:AFI's 28th most inspiring film of the past 100 years.

Field of Dreams is the story of Ray Kinsella, who hears a voice in his Iowa cornfield "If you build it, he will come," and goes on a journey which includes self-reflection, the kidnapping of a famous author, and even construction of a baseball field in the middle of his farm...all to exorcise his demons and find peace.

Is Ray nuts? On the surface, you bet! Who does this sort of thing?

Constructing a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield is (rightfully) considered insane.Ray is on the verge of losing his farm: he's not producing enough crops. Predictably, few understand. Brother-in-law Mark, a real estate developer, wants to help Ray, based on his focus on the financial reality.

"Ray...sell now, my partners'll give you a more than a fair price, and you walk away with a nest egg."

But the real story is what Mark does not see. On the Field of Dreams, in the middle of the Iowa corn, baseball players from a bygone era including "Shoeless Joe" Jackson and others, famous and relatively inconsequential hit, catch, and throw. It's quite the scene. Just ask Terrence Mann:

"Ray. People will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn into your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door, as innocent as children, longing for the pastÖ."

But to the unaware, like Mark, there is an empty baseball diamond in the middle of what should be a lush cornfield. It's infuriating to Mark, who wants to help his sister and her family and has no clue that this incredible baseball fantasy is real:

"Ray...when the bank opens in the morning they will foreclose. You're broke Ray. You sell now or you'll lose it all...Ray. You will lose everything. You will be evicted!"

With more awareness,it's a very different story.

"Of course, we won't mind if you look around," you'll say, "It's only twenty dollars per person." And they'll pass over the money without even thinking about it, for it is money they have and peace they lack...The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces...Ohhh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."

And once Mark gets the awareness he needs, his entire demeanor changes. He has context, and, as a result, a better grasp of the complete picture and the unique circumstances facing Ray:

"Where did all of these baseball players come from?"

It's not just fantasy in the movies.

Context Awareness of your specific circumstance, issues, successes, and failures is crucial to make the most informed business decisions. No matter your role at your organization, more awareness leads to increased knowledge and more informed action.

And the end-result? Positive impact. If you build awareness, it will come.

Zach Messler