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Perception V Reality

In his book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, the late Dale Carnegie tells the story of Two Gun Crowley.  This is a man who was sent to the electric chair for shooting dead a officer.  Crowley said of himself ‘Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one – one that would do nobody any harm.’


It was a gentle reminder by a new friend of mine, that people’s perception is their reality.  We were discussing an acuity he has about how people see him.  So entrenched was he in his belief, that his percipience could well be marred.  However, the constant repetition of his perception further in-grains his belief and further encourages others to accept this as the truth.

It doesn’t take much to build a reputation that you don’t want but a lot of effort to build a reputation that you do.  It is worth recognising that people will trust whatever good you say about yourself when and only when it is backed up by appropriate actions.  This is where Two Gun Crowley messed up.  Whereas, your own self-deprecation may be believed and taken as the truth if you repeat it enough.

Moreover, people are happy to take the word of others, gossip, even tittle-tattle when the stories are colourful.  Plus they might add their own embellishments for good measure.

Reputation – it is a perception thing, and it’s the owners reality:  watch closely now


  1. PLEASE READ to the end AND THINK Perception, Taste and People’s Priorities

    Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning; a man with a violin plays six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people passed through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

    4 minutes later:

    The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

    6 minutes:

    A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his
    watch and started to walk again.

    10 minutes:

    A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid
    stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the
    child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was
    repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced
    their children to move on quickly.

    45 minutes:

    The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a
    short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.
    The man collected a total of $32.

    1 hour:

    He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded,
    nor was there any recognition.

    No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest
    musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever
    written, with a violin valued at $3.5 million dollars. Two days before,
    Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston where the price of seats averaged

    This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was
    organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about
    perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a
    commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do
    we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

    One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do
    not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the
    world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most
    beautiful instruments ever made…

    what else are we missing?


  2. Both the article and the initial comment remind of something I wrote on my own blog last year about my perception of people that live on the streets and the assumptions I make about them. We all perceive things differently, according to our own experiences of the world and in accordance with our personal values and ethos, this then is judgement, when we perceive something or someone, we are judging them.

    It is hard not to judge as it’s almost an essential part of the human condition for if we cannot judge, we cannot know whether we are in danger or not, so in a sense judgement and judging others is a natural part of our very basic need for survival (read Maslow!). And yet ….. there is something that tugs at my mind, suggesting that this is too simplistic and a ready excuse I can offer myself. As for that blog post of mine, well you can read it here:


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