The title of today’s post is based on a short story by W.P. Kinsella. He is most famous for writing a book that later became the movie “Field of Dreams.” In the short story, a college baseball player who had a very disappointing season gets invited to join a summer league team in a small town in Iowa. He is hoping to use this opportunity to turn his career around. The townspeople are extremely supportive of the team and show up to practices in droves. Yet the regular season never starts. The reason is that all of the players in the Dixon Cornbelt League have a reputation for being great in practice, but choking in game situations. So they give in to their fear of failure and just never compete.
Education is about learning and demonstrating what you know to the faculty who are evaluating you. But in a sense, this is still practice—a competition to land a starting job on the team. To quote Herbert Spencer, professional schools believe that “the great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” In other words, if you don’t do anything with the knowledge you have obtained, it is not worth much. Just getting great grades in school won’t make you a success in life. It will make you an underachiever.
As you transition from college freshmen to the world of business, you need to hone your professional skills, take stock of where you are relative to the competition and work on what you need to do to get better. You need to be able to turn your knowledge into business deliverables that are superior to what other people can produce and effectively communicate the virtues of your work to others so that you can land that job, contract or consulting project you want. Whether you like it or not, you are in a race to realize your dreams.
We in the UCF College of Business believe in the virtues of competition. Competition makes us stronger. It challenges us to become our best through focus and consistent effort. It is also the best way to benchmark our progress as people and institutions. That is why we encourage our students to take part in national and regional student competitions that test their ability to deliver high-quality products and services against students from places like Arizona, BYU, Clemson and Penn State to name just a few.
And know that UCF students have fared well, impressed the competition and used their success to further their careers. We have competed with distinction at Harvard’s International Business Model Competition, brought home hardware from the National Collegiate Sales Competition, and hold one of the largest social entrepreneurship service learning initiatives in the world.
So find an opportunity, compete for a spot on one of our student teams this year, and show future employers what Knights can do. Unless of course summers in Iowa surrounded by corn appeal to you. If so, you are at the wrong school!
Paul Jarley, Ph.D., is the dean of the UCF College of Business Administration. He blogs every week at http://www.bus.ucf.edu/dean. This post appeared on May 13, 2013. Follow him on Twitter @pauljarley