Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Perception is reality.

Today the thermometer in Iowa topped out around 90 degrees... in early May!  In my opinion this is wonderful, despite the sweaty shirt and sticky air. Others may despise this unseasonal heat. The funny thing is, it is still 90 degrees. Like it or not, the temp, like many other things, is not going to change.

As I gave my final exam in marketing research, I looked across the room of students who I've known now for three years. "Perception is reality when you are a marketer." I would tell them over and over. This past weekend it occurred to me that I have been forgetting, or at least ignoring, that fact.  While out at a restaurant to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this past week, a previous graduate came up, sat at our table and after small chit-chat, she turned to my wife. She matter of factly stated that I had a big impact on her and that she still uses what I taught her years ago. Now I don't think that I am special in this regard, but what is special is the impact that we can and do have on others. What I taught her was important. Yet, more significantly, her perception of me and how/what I taught impacted her in a positive way. That is very important.

This is wild and scary. Scary because we don't realize the full impact we have on others. Wild because we just found out the full impact we can have on others! 

I know that I am toeing a line here. We are taught (rightfully so) to not worry about what others think of you. I whole-heartedly agree. Don't worry, but be aware of the impact you have, or can have.  I am not suggesting to create a false identity of yourself to others. In fact I triple-dog dare you to try and keep up a facade without losing your mind.  What I am suggesting is to let your true self flow and know that you are a model for others. If you are 'Midwestern Modest' it will be easier to flow when you realize that others' perception of you is most likely higher than your perception of yourself. Coming full circle, people's perception of you will be higher when you are flowing.  Here is a simple case-in-point. I had the honor of coaching a wonderful young freshman basketball player who was the epitome of modest and humble. She often wouldn't play up to her potential because of this. One day in practice I inserted a 1-on-1 competition. She hit an early shot over an upperclassman, and she slowly became a different person. She drove hard, attempted and completed difficult turn around jump shots over much more veteran players. Every possession was more impressive than the last. She dominated! This young gal at this moment forgot who she thought she was supposed to be, and became her true self.  She let it flow. Everyone around her became better because she found her zone, and she obviously benefited as well.

I realize some may read this with hesitancy. If they let it all hang out, they are at risk. They are open to ridicule or alienating some people around them. Here is what I say to that: There may be others who are not your people, but guess what, not everyone is your people.  If you cater to everyone, your impact will be marginalized. You'll be coaching to the bottom of the class and your results will be marginal. Coach to the top and you will hit your zone, flow, be at the top of your game and make the biggest impact on those around you.

So here is my advice to all my players out there, my future lil' player (who is now 4 weeks out!) and anyone else interested in making a positive impact in your world. Confidently put your best foot forward, do it with gusto, and do it now. The people in the world you are meant to lead will perceive it like you mean it and your impact on them will be great.


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