Why Did He Build It

“If you build it, he will come”

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams is one of my favorite fantasy flicks because it shows the power of having a vision and stepping out on faith.

I’m not alone either; the famous line “If you build it, he will come” seems to be the battle cry of entrepreneurs everywhere, including this writer, much to my chagrin. It’s as if we thought once we manifest this ‘vision,’ people will come from all points to buy or buy into what we were selling.

EXCEPT many of us misquote the famous line to say, “If you build it, THEY will come.”    Unfortunately, that simple word substitution of ‘they’ for ‘he’ leaves many of us disillusioned.  Once we’ve published our great American novel  and no one comes to buy it, we are left standing with our palms facing up, shoulders hunched, wondering, “what happened?”    Yes, even I had a Question Mark replace the eyes, nose, and lips on my face for a moment.   I’ve since recovered and would like to set the record straight to get other creative entrepreneurs back on “the field.”

“If you build it, he will come” demonstrates a common thread between all of the ‘dreamers’ in the film.   Beginning with Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), the first to hear the summons, White Sox Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), Dodger Archie “Moonlight” Graham (Burt Lancaster), and Pulitzer winning novelist Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones); they are all fueled by passion, purpose, and love for their vocations.  Ray Kinsella’s purpose isn’t revealed right away – even to him, but that doesn’t stop him from building the field so one man can play the game again.

Without making this story any longer, Ray Kinsella aside, each man was at the apex of his career until he ‘fell from grace’ or faded away.  Yet during their meteoric rise, each knew ‘why’ they did ‘what they did, and I suspect that was the key to their success.

Knowing ‘why’ you do something reminds me of the actor asking the director, “What is my motivation?”  When you know “Why” you do something, it will make it easy for you to connect with your audience.

Start with Why” Author and Communications strategist Simon Sinek believes that knowing the ‘Why’ of what you do, inspires others to follow.  In his popular Ted Talk, Sinek says, “people don’t buy ‘What’ you do; they buy ‘Why’ you do it.” He cites a few behavioral terms such as his own “Golden Circle” strategy and the “Diffusion of Innovations,” which offer sound support to his theory.  Around time code 15:22 in the Ted presentation, Sinek cites his example of Dr. King’s role in the Civil Rights movement. You can then understand the power of knowing ‘Why’ you do something is probably the most important aspect of your undertaking.

Oddly enough, as toddlers, we knew the “Why” was important, but our incessant questioning of Why probably wore out our parents.  They then wore out our bottoms.   So we stopped asking Why even of ourselves.

Now back to the “Field of Dreams.”  Why did Ray Kinsella do it?

Here’s my take, Kinsella was inspired to build a baseball field to give him a chance to play catch with his father.  Building ‘the field’ also gave his father a chance to play baseball with the beloved baseball players of his youth.

Others did come just as Terrance Mann predicted.   Mann, a pioneer in the civil rights and anti-war movement, also inspired millions in their youth.  When he became a recluse, he took a piece of them with him.  Now with his return, he told his followers he would be at the farm.  They came – to experience the magic and passion of their youth too.  Did “They” come because Ray built a baseball field? “No.”  They came because of “Why” Ray built the field.  They to wanted to partake in a place where Ray and others had returned to the innocence of youth.

Know the ‘Why,’ and you will know how to reach your market. You already know what they need, because you needed it too.

Copyright  (c) 2010  MH

UPDATE: An interesting tidbit I picked up in the Wikipedia article - people continue to come to the actual “Field to the tune of 65,000 visitors of the year. The owners, Don and Becky Lansing, didn't charge an entrance or parking fee. They sold souvenirs.   According to a USA Today article (May 19, 2010) - Lansing has put the Field of Dreams up for sale.