Perception vs. Reality, An Article by Ryan Segelke, CEO & CO-Founder, HAT

A Message from the Owners

I had an interaction recently that I want to share with you all – one that I think is relevant to any student who is part of a tennis team or adult who is part of a business team. At the local coffee shop, there is a regular who I come across nearly every time that I walk through the doors. She seems to be consistently in a bad mood and anti-social; every time I try to get her to smile by going out of my way to hold the door for her, she actually seems slightly more annoyed (I like a challenge – so I engage in a game called “can I make this person smile?”). One morning my “perceived” notion about her got even worse when she scolded the barista for not getting her coffee right.

Being engaged in this challenge/game of trying to get this grumpy woman to smile, I decided one day that I was just going to start talking with her in order to get to know her better. We were both standing in line, and I sparked a conversation. To my surprise, she engaged with me! I asked her, “How has your week been?” She replied, “Terrible”. Instead of stopping there and simply re-confirming my “perceived” opinion about her, I asked, “Why?” Over the next 10 minutes, I learned that she is a recent divorcee going through financial troubles and that she works at a hospice where she has to deal with terminally ill patients on a daily basis. At the end of the conversation, she thanked me for listening and we parted ways with a brief hug. Wait – what? I also found out that she is a tennis enthusiast and is interested in helping students in need to enjoy this great game! That’s not at all what I expected to happen when we started our conversation. I was expecting her to not respond to me at all or cuss me out for bothering her.

So what lessons did I learn here? It’s three-fold. I think it’s extremely easy and takes very little effort to look, point at, and judge others rather than take the time to really understand them on a deeper level (what’s really going on here?). When you do take the time to get to know someone on a deeper level, you will find out that the person is not anything similar to who you “perceived” them to be.

Secondly, when we are judging others, we are missing opportunities to improve ourselves and we are wasting our energy on things that we cannot control. Was it bettering me to judge this woman who I knew nothing about every time that I entered the local coffee shop? Couldn’t that energy have been better spent elsewhere to enhance my life or someone else’s who I care about? The answer is: absolutely! It is my experience that those individuals who are more concerned about why everyone else is not living up to their standards are actually the ones who are not happy and not achieving what they want. Those that are achieving great things don’t have time to waste on aimless rhetoric; they are too busy pursuing their own goals.

Lastly, life is all about relationships. Taking time to truly get to know people will no doubt get you closer to what you want in life. I realize that there are specific personalities (lone wolf types) who will fight this notion. For them, no one does things as good as they do, and they actually find working with others to be a nuisance. However, it is my experience that this specific personality type is ALWAYS underachieving because they ALWAYS end up being the bottle neck or reason for lack of growth within a group. It takes trust, a team, and strong relationships to make things move in a powerful and successful direction.

So, this week when you come across that person who rubs you the wrong way, engage them in a conversation. I bet you find out that they are not at all what you “perceived” them to be! And make sure to let me know how it goes.

By: Ryan Segelke
Grand Slam Level Coach, CEO and
CO-Founder of High Altitude Tennis Academy

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