The Reality Of Perception

Sunday January 22nd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

There’s a very interesting video on the internet about a world class violinist by the name of Joshua Bell who played a very difficult piece of music on a super expensive violin that was worth $3.5 million in a train station in New York. No passers by recognized him. He got $31 in donations in an hour‘s playing, while tickets to his shows average $100 each.

I remember seeing the video when it first came out, but someone sent it to me again this week and I was reminded of how important perception is – especially in the entertainment game. Talent has never mattered, and the video drove that point home hard. It’s not that a talented person will never make it, it’s just that talent is not the one and only requirement.

It’s not just about talent either. Joe Paterno of Penn State died today of lung cancer, and his perception was that of being revered for decades as a pillar of virtue and a worthy role model for his players to emulate. When the scandal broke about long time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly having sex with boys on campus, Paterno’s image was stained.

By all I’ve read and heard, JoePa did absolutely nothing to protect the victims of one of the most horrific crimes I can imagine. Even though he eventually got fired as a coach, he still had the blind worship and support of a large number of football fans in Pennsylvania.

They couldn’t imagine getting rid of the living legend, even if what he did was about as wrong as it gets. He was perceived as an icon, and the truth didn’t matter. There are other examples too numerous to count, as well as hypothetical situations. What if someone like Hitler or Bin Laden had helped little old ladies across the street? Would it redeem them?

Of course not. Their perception was that of being evil, and deservedly so. They had way too much bad energy attached to their names to let one little good thing sway the opinion in the other direction. Reputation can go a long way in how the public views somebody.

Brett Favre is a shining example of how someone’s public perception can change from icon to ex con in a short period of time. He was the king of Wisconsin for at least a dozen years, and when he left his fans were up in arms. Then, when he pulled his little Viqueens stunt, he turned to the dark side faster than Darth Vader’s cape. His perception changed.

Perception isn’t always reality, but it might as well be. Ozzy Osbourne may have bitten the head off of a bat, and maybe he didn’t. Does it matter? Everyone has heard that story. Did Richard Gere and a gerbil ever hook up for a well publicized weekend rendezvous?

Again, it’s not important if it actually happened or not. A lot of people THINK it did, so that’s all that’s necessary. That gerbil could pass a lie detector test and it wouldn’t change a thing in the public’s mind. The perception is there that it happened, good luck changing that. I was thinking today about what my perception is, and I’m not really sure. I hope I’m perceived as a good person, and I try to be one. Unfortunately, that’s not all that important as far as business goes. ‘Nice’ won’t get a person paid. It’s the ability to sell some tickets.

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