In 1981 Donna and Herman Ostry bought a farm in the small town of Bruno, Nebraska, about 60 miles outside of Omaha. The farm came with a big barn that had been built back in the 1920s and also had a nice little creek that flowed through their property. The creek was both a blessing and a problem for the Ostrys. It was great to have readily available water for their farm animals but it also flooded a lot during heavy rains. The barn floor seemed to always be wet and muddy, and then in 1988 they had a huge flood where the water rose about 30 inches up the side of the barn walls.
The Ostrys desperately needed to move the barn to higher ground, but the cost to contract with a company that has both the capability and equipment to move a barn of this size was prohibitive. One night, sitting around the dinner table, Herman Ostry commented that if he had enough people he could pick the barn up and move it to higher ground. Everyone laughed off the comment as silly … everyone except his son Mike.
I wonder if “young” Mike knew that people scoffed at the idea of traveling 30 miles per hour on a railroad car. People actually thought that traveling that fast would stop the circulation of the blood. I wonder if “young” Mike knew that Eli Whitney was laughed at when he showed his first cotton gin, that Thomas Edison had to install his electric light free of charge in an office building before anyone would look at it, that Westinghouse was considered a fool for suggesting you could stop a train with wind, or that Samuel Morse had to plead before 10 Congresses before they would even look at his telegraph (which revolutionized communication). Maybe “young” Mike just thought … WHY NOT … and then he set out to figure out a way to make his Dad’s statement a reality.
Young, inexperienced, doesn’t-know-any-better Mike did some calculations and figured out that the barn weighed about 17,000 pounds. He then figured out that he could design a steel grid system that he could place under the barn that would weigh another 3,000 pounds. So, the total weight that would need to be lifted was 10 tons. When you think of that amount of weight to be moved, you usually think of a giant crane … not a whole bunch of people. But “young” Mike figured if he could gather up about 350 people, they would all need to only be able to lift approximately 50 pounds each.
Mike presented his calculations to his dad, and they both thought it would work. Mike and his dad got a little lucky on the timing when they presented their idea to their small town. Nebraska was getting ready to celebrate its centennial, and the town of Bruno had put together a committee of townspeople to decide on different things to do for the celebration. Mike and his dad convinced the town to make the barn moving a part of the celebration. The word got out and over 4,000 people from 11 states witnessed the event. Here is the YouTube link to the actual event: http://youtu.be/o83W0gj_CRE
A little before 11 a.m. on July 30th, 1988, in front of the local television cameras, 344 people moved the barn 143 feet up a gentle slope to its new foundation. All in all, it took 3 minutes to move the barn. So, the next time somebody hits you with an idea that you think is silly or maybe even impossible … think again, and never discount the POWER of TEAMWORK.
Relive this idea again in your head. Someone in a meeting says, “Let’s move a 17,000-pound barn 143 feet up a slope, and do it in less than 3 minutes, using no machinery.” Now, that idea sounds pretty nuts, ridiculous, stupid, impossible and far-fetched to me. But a need, a desire, a creative mind, a well-designed plan and a giant team, all working together, made it happen.
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Robert Stevenson is a highly sought after, internationally known speaker. He is the author of the best-selling books How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys and 52 Essential Habits for Success. Robert is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and is a former All-American Athlete. He started his first business at 24 and has owned several companies. Robert has international sales experience dealing in over 20 countries and his client list reads like a Who’s Who in Business. He has shared the podium with such renowned names as Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, former President George H.W. Bush, Anthony Robbins and Steven Covey. www.robertstevenson.org.