Don't Fall for Stars

See beyond the obvious with wisdom and courage. Don’t fall for stars. Fall for truths.

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

Roger “Verbal” Kint is a fictional character and the main antagonist in the 1995 film The Usual Suspects. Kint is intellectually disabled, walks with a limp, is not physically impressive, and portrayed as a tag-along follower yet the leader of the group of men that are engaged in high crime. The plot of the movie spotlights law enforcement interrogating Roger “Verbal” Kint about the whereabouts of a dangerous con-man named Keyser Söze. Kint answers the detective questions half-heartedly when pressed for more information while the investigators remind him that he is weak and stupid.  

By the end of the movie, the detectives finally realize that Roger “Verbal” Kint was indeed Keyser Söze and that he was not weak nor stupid. The investigators let perception control behavior, which then affected their decision making.   

Today is early National Signing Day in College Football, where stars, not facts, perceive many young men’s talent. The team with the most five-star players will win the perception contest review tonight in the media. Yet everything is not accurate. Four years from now, some young man that wasn’t a five-star prospect and overlooked will go in the first round of the NFL Draft. By the way, LSU’s recent Heisman Trophy Winner Joe Burrow was just a three-star recruit coming out of Athens High School in The Plains, Ohio.

We, as coaches, leaders, educators, and parents, must refrain from allowing perception to enter our life. It’s hard to combat perception because we live in a noisy world filled with more perception than reality. Perception can destroy any leader’s ability to make excellent decisions. We might perceive a person as not talented or recognize another team as weak. We might perceive that something might be difficult or easy. Falling into the trap of perception can hinder the hiring process. We perceive a person is an exceptional coach and leader and responsible for another team’s success before arriving. Yet, when working with him or her, we realize that belief wasn’t necessarily true.  

So, how exactly do you untangle perception from reality? 

  1. Believe nothing you hear. Nothing. Make people define their reality. For example, if someone claims, John Doe is smart because he went to Princeton University. Ask the person to give you five examples of Doe’s intelligence? Make them define their statement with facts, not a repeated opinion.

  2. Take the contrarian approach. Never assume anything. Always work backward, making the events decide. 

  3. Carefully evaluate the “person,” telling you the perception. Educate the people around you not to be gullible, or believe everything from start to finish. Make curiosity royalty, not lazy takes. 

We all must fight perceptions every single day. We cannot allow false facts to hinder our decision-making talents. See beyond the obvious with wisdom and courage. Don’t fall for stars. Fall for truths.


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