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The American Dream

November 23, 2009

If he had one regret in life, it was that he never had a chance to bat in the big leagues. “I would have liked to have had my chance to stare down a big league pitcher. Make’em think you knew something he didn’t. A chance to swing at the sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it.”

Those were the thoughts and words of Moonlight ‘Doc’ Graham in the movie “Field of Dreams”. The movie which premiered last year is about baseball, of course, not business. But many of the emotions depicted in this film are as relevant to the pursuit of the Great American Dream as to the fictional “Field of Dreams”.

Being your own boss, owning your own business is the Great American Dream. Hasn’t everyone, even those who have been successful in other fields, thought about what it would be like to be your own boss. To stare into the eye of the rest of the world and make’em think you knew something they didn’t.

In the movie, Moonlight Graham got that one chance at bat. He stared down at that pitcher with confidence, dug in the batter’s box and prepared to show the world what he could do. Boom! Before he knew it he was sitting flat on his butt having barely ducked a pitch that almost took his head off.

He hadn’t anticipated having to duck that first pitch in his Field of Dreams. It’s much the same when you’re trying to get started in the Great American Dream. It looks a lot easier as a spectator than it does as a participant. There aren’t many successful entrepreneurs that didn’t have to duck a few high hard ones when they were getting started.

Moonlight dusted himself off and dug in for a second try. Surely things would be different this time. Boom! Down he goes again.

Bewildered and with his confidence shaken just a bit, he looked for some advice from a veteran. “You got to dig in and keep looking for your pitch,” he was told.. “But remember to duck, just in case you get another one thrown at you.” Good advise, although not particularly reassuring.

I don’t think there’s any better advise for an entrepreneur about to start their own journey in pursuit of the Great American Dream. “Dig in and look for your opportunity, but be ready to duck. They’ll be more than a couple of times that you’ll have to get up, dust yourself off, and dig back in and get to work.”

A recession, competition, problem suppliers, troublesome employees, and shortages of capital are just a few of the “high hard ones” that have dusted off rookies in their first time at bat. If you’re going to be successful, you’ll have to have the courage to get up off your butt, dust yourself off, dig in and be ready to take another swing. If you’re going to survive, you’ll have to be smart enough to keep your eyes open for the high hard ones or you’re liable to get knocked out of the game before you’ve ever had a chance to see your opportunity.

Some rookies are lucky and get to see a good pitch right away. I recently visited a company that started in a garage with a twenty thousand dollar investment eighteen months ago. In their first year of business they grossed over three million dollars and had a pre tax profit in excess of eight hundred thousand. Then came the high hard ones.

They had rapidly expanded their staff when revenues began to slow to a trickle as a result of the recession and uncertainties surrounding the Gulf War. While opportunities were returning, they find themselves without the cash necessary to support their staff and grow their business.

They forgot to look out for the high hard ones. Now their challenge is to get up, dig back in, and learn from their mistakes.

For some it may be best to watch the game from the sidelines. But if you’re going to play in the big leagues, you’ve got to be prepared to get knocked down every now and then and to be tough enough to dig back in.

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