by Heath Ladd, PT

Corn fields in the middle of a Tennessee summer—they’re hot, arguably hotter than a woman scorned. Regardless, this is where I found myself 25 years ago, hand sprayer in tote, and younger brother by my side. Our mission: total eradication of Johnson grass. I’m fairly certain there was a spray rig made for this mission, but this approach, although much quicker and easier, would have left my brother and me at home to eat Little Debbie oatmeal pies and fight all day (which my mom let us do—she just made us go outside so we wouldn’t break anything). So there we stood as we watched that blue truck drive away with only the promise of “I’ll be back later.”

So I pumped, I sprayed, I cussed, I sweated, I thought about how much harder I was working than my brother, I imagined how good an oatmeal cream pie would be, I thought about how good drinking milk straight from the jug would be with that said pie—-then I repeated those steps for what seemed to be a full day. Based on my internal timer, that blue truck returned 10 hours later (3-4 hours using an actual timer). I’m convinced the producers of Castaway stole this scene from me for later use because the parallels are far more than coincidental. We had been rescued.

Approximately a week later, we returned to that same field with the general (my dad) for inspection—the weed cemetery I was hoping to find was there, as withering, brown, and yellow weeds littered the field. No more hand held sprayers, no more rhabdomyolysis in my triceps from pumping all day—I had passed the test.


It’s important to sit and reflect on stories from your past, such as this, because you can use them to draw analogies to both personal and professional life. Based on my experience and observation, individuals who excel in their chosen field continually challenge and place themselves in uncomfortable situations—they live in the corn field. The physical therapy profession is no different—top clinicians have similar characteristics:

  • They go beyond in terms of professional development, personal development, and service.

  • They choose their team based on potential for growth and not short term financial gain.

  • They remain humble but have a quiet confidence based on the challenges they have overcome.

  • They create fun—have you ever noticed how something becomes fun when you’re good?

  • They cultivate growth not only for themselves—but for their team as well.

  • They drive change in their chosen field by continually blazing a less traveled path.

I’m hot, I’m tired, I talk to myself, I want an oatmeal cream pie the size of my last patient’s gluteus maximus—but I wouldn’t have it any other way than being in this corn field with a team who has chosen to be there with me. I’m so proud to be a part of this corn-loving family. Silver and black is a beautiful thing. #teamdynamix