In the film “The Natural”, the character Roy Hobbs has a promising early career and then, through unfortunate circumstances out of his control, loses that career for a good chunk of what would be considered his “prime” only to return as a much older “rookie” in a world that on the surface seems to have passed him by. Quite the contrary happens when given the opportunity with the fictional New York Knights though. Hobbs goes on to single-handedly turn their team around from worst to first and rewrite the baseball record books as “the best hitter there ever was”. “The Natural” is easily in my personal list of top 5 movies of all time. There is a real beauty and poetry to the movie from the script and themes to the stunning visuals of baseball in its purest form. After I recently watched it for the countless time, a theme struck me about the movie that I thought was very relevant to an issue affecting millions of people these days – long term unemployment and ageism in hiring. I thought it would be relevant to, through some of the best quotes in the movie, show what lessons we all can learn about why the prevailing attitudes today really have us all with our heads up our collected……baseball mitts.
Iris Gaines: You know, I believe we have two lives.
Roy Hobbs: How… what do you mean?
Iris Gaines: The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.
Lesson: experience often breeds wisdom. Hobbs was a cocky young teen and didn’t appreciate his gifts or the realities of the world he was about to enter when it all got taken away. Through his experience he has learned valuable lessons, skills and – most importantly – proper perspective and appreciation for what he has today and what he had learned. A lot of the more senior workforce also has these traits, and organizations would be foolish not to recognize this. Older does not mean slower or less passionate or unable to adapt to change. Often times, the more senior folks I have worked with have imparted invaluable wisdom and experience when I was stuck. They can do this for your teams too. I am thankful to have worked with more senior folks through my career and consider a lot of my knowledge to be because of their intelligence and talents.
Roy Hobbs: Red, it took me sixteen years to get here. You play me, and I’ll give ya the best I got.
Red Blow: I believe ya.
Lesson: Hobbs was technically “unemployed” for a very long time. Like many people in the business world, it was out of his control. Highly skilled people get laid off too, but that doesn’t mean they were less dedicated or less valuable because their company went through a downsizing, bankruptcy, etc. There is always a bigger picture to people than just “gaps” on a resume – and often times it can be easily explained if given the opportunity to do so. Be open to giving these folks a shot. Much like Hobbs, if given the opportunity they will make the most out of it. Unemployed does not mean unmotivated or unskilled.
Pop Fisher: People don’t start playing ball at your age, they retire!
Lesson: Pop Fisher, the manager of the Knights, on the surface saw a 40 something Hobbs and thought what every other baseball manager would think if they saw a 40-ish year old rookie. But Pop had no choice but to give Hobbs a shot, and his whole team benefited from it. If you understand your biases (even if you fail to recognize them happening immediately) and judge them as candidates like any other resume you receive, you might actually discover great hires that will appreciate the opportunity and give you everything they have.
Pop Fisher: You know my mama wanted me to be a farmer.
Roy Hobbs: My dad wanted me to be a baseball player.
Pop Fisher: Well you’re better than any player I ever had. And you’re the best God damn hitter I ever saw. Suit up.
Lesson: That quote is awesome. Chills.
If you have never seen “The Natural”, make a point to watch it. Great acting, directing and the story is one of the best. Perhaps you might see the same lessons in the movie I did. Then, we can all get our heads out of our mitts.