Let me start out by saying that “Field of Dreams” is, truly, one of my favorite movies and it is the only one that makes me cry every.single.time, no matter how many times I watch it and know it by heart.
So why am I saying that this is the last movie an entrepreneur should watch? Well, sometimes things that are too beautiful can be, to put it gently, misinterpreted: not always a pretty smile means somebody is ready to fall in love with us or, more prosaically, that a bag of marshmallows is the right choice for our healthy snack.
“Field of Dreams” is one of these things: it gives you such a sense of hopefulness and optimism that it can easily lead you to believe that if you build a baseball field in the middle of a corn cropland, players from the 1920’s will show up to play while people will flock from all over the country to watch them. And that’s not always the case.
That’s pretty much how the story goes: a novice Iowa entrepreneur, farmer (named Ray Kinsella and played by Kevin Costner) is struggling to make ends meet with his crops as he starts hearing voices in the corn fields saying “If you build it he will come”. He discovers that the voice wants him to build a baseball field in the middle of his land so “he” (still not clear who this is) can come, no matter if this means destroying a good part of his crops and putting an already ailing business at risk. Nonetheless, he does exactly that and after many long and empty nights “Shoeless” Joe Jackson appears on the field – a player banned from baseball with other Black Sox team members in 1919 for fixing games and losing on purpose the World Series (oh, by the way, the film takes place in 1989). He asks Ray if he can play and if he can bring other friends with him, before disappearing back in the crops. From that moment Ray and his family – wife and daughter – watch these players from the ‘20’s play ball every night while the farm and the business gently roll toward bankruptcy.
But Ray knows that “they will come”, people from all around the country will come to his field, pay the ticket and enjoy the innocence, freshness and joy of a baseball game, just like the old times. And so he goes on with his quest, drawing in a quite uncooperative writer called Terence Mann, meeting at different ages always the same Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, a doctor who played one game for the New York Giants in 1922 but never had a turn at bat, and finally playing catch with the young version of his father, with whom he separated very badly as a teenager while shouting to his face that his hero, that “Shoeless” Joe that started all this, was just a crook.
And in the end, the people came.
“If you (just) build it, they will (not) come”
Awesome story, eh? And what’s truly fascinating, for me at least, is the unshakable faith Ray has in his vision and dream. He really knows and deeply believes that “If you build it, they will come”.
Still, this is one of the most dangerous convictions an entrepreneur can hold: it happens too many times that they have a supernatural belief that the world is waiting for the product or solution he is about to release, while people rush to his doors asking for more and more and begging him to take their money while he just sits there and sips margaritas.
That is simply not true. Basing a business on this idea is the perfect recipe for disaster: we live in an age where everybody can “build it”, often more cheaply and efficiently than us, and this means that we need to find a market and a marketing strategy for our solution before even thinking about producing it. We are not in a magic cornfield in Iowa, we live in a very competitive environment and so only extremely well thought-out plans have a decent chance of surviving.
But this is a great movie for entrepreneurs.
This being said, “Field of Dreams” is an awesome movie for entrepreneurs. Apart from being a fantastic piece of art and a truly touching emotional journey it has some moments that resonate deeply with the mind and soul of somebody struggling everyday to make the vision of his business come true.
For example, Ray Kinsella hears voices and dreams about building a baseball field in his corn. Supernatural forces aside, how would you call this other than an obsession? Well, it turns out that being obsessed with a problem, a project or an idea is a major force behind a lot of successful entrepreneurs: Walt Disney used to say that “I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I have ever known” and the obsession over even the smallest details by Sir Alex Ferguson is legendary. Obsession always trumps motivation and so let’s seek it, let’s embrace it, let’s make it part of our daily routine.
Ray knows that he can’t do all this alone and so he travels to Boston (from Iowa!) to meet Terence Mann, the only man who can help him build his “field of dreams”. But, at the beginning, he is not very cooperative and so he stalks him, drags him, begs him and finally takes him to the baseball game where they both share the same vision – and at that point they become partners. That’s a lesson for everybody: when we know we need help we have to be ready to go the distance and do everything we can to find that person that will give us the right advice, introduce us in the right network, guide us with his experience and wisdom. Even if we have to (gently) stalk him a little bit.
If you don’t build it they will never come
Finally, for an aspiring entrepreneur there’s just one thing worse than believing that “if you build it they will come”: never build anything. Too many projects go rusty in the mind of their creators because they are afraid to give them the energy they require or because they are not confident enough to present them to the public.
Dreaming with your feet on the ground is often the best solution: listen to your inspiration, then try to do some market research. Is your business idea innovative or someone has already thought it before? Are people really waiting for your product?
Finally are you ready to accept criticism from people that don’t recognize the goodness of your vision and to use them to improve yourself?
If the answers are in your favor, you will have a stronger basis to build your projects. Of course, none of us have the confidence to achieve success, but if we do not try the only certain thing is to have another one secret dream missed.
Life is too short to let good ideas go to waste: when the voice calls you have to listen, mow your crops and build your field of dreams – or “they” may never come.