Matter of Perception – 3 examples of perception and their effect

Over the last decade or so, there have been a few moments of “Wow” when people disclose their perception of my situation. Which in turn makes me think of my own perception of others. I feel this is part of the reason that I am able to adjust and find common communication ground with so many different people. Let me share some of these stories, as well as summarize the thoughts so that you may benefit from the experience as well.

Moving – following the paycheck and opportuinity

While the crash of 2008 was unkind to many, it was brutal to my family. We started in Colorado, where the crash came a couple years early. We fled to New Mexico in search of work which we found and began to rebuild – only to have the crash follow us there a couple of years later. My wife, Heidi, endured the financial crisis twice with me and if you remember those times with any clarity, you’ll remember it was the automotive industry that truly got tagged. As a Service Manager in the crisis, we were greatly affected. This is when Von Ahnen Designs & PR got launched and eventually changed to Manana No Mas!

Throughout these crisis events, I clung to everything common in life. I grasped onto key people in my network and would not let go. Even when they didn’t call me back, I continued to call them, email them, and send them cards and letters. The church was a must for us. The bond of those small groups and corporate worship lent my family strength when normal mortal fortitude was not enough. Many of my clients were in the same battle of eking out some type of normalcy in a shrinking economy. My task was to build a PR firm out of nothing and find ways to add value to other businesses. It was working. The growth was slow, to my liking, but it was there – even in the months, we ran our home off a gas generator.

Training in the BIG LEAGUE! Got the Ducati contract!!

During this time, it was easy to be down on yourself, question your motives, tactics, relationships, decisions, and results. Then in 2013, a bigger break came my way. Our largest client, Ducati North America, offered a full-time position as their North American Training Manager over Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Manana No Mas! was in a growth state but the lure of steady income and corporate growth at that level was too appealing, so Heidi and I decided to move to California. The transition was rough as she stayed behind five-months to let the kids finish the school year. It was time to reach out to that network I leaned on for so many years and share the news.

The responses I received were nothing short of shocking – at least to me. One friend, a New Mexico resident that was heavily involved in church small groups and volunteering said he was inspired by my steadfastness, and faith in God to forge a path. He said he was blown away by my resolve, perseverance, and attitude as life pounded at my door, but kept going. This was a humbling experience for me because I see this man as a pillar of the community, a loving husband, and father and inspirational man in his own right. He has a prestigious position at a major corporation in the New Mexico market and while that company too endured many ups and downs, he weathered that storm and actually gained real estate while so many lost it. So when this man verbalizes that his inspiration comes partly from my handling of crisis – “Wow”.

Truck-borne picnics – creative parenting Ph.D. to my bride!

Another old friend from Colorado, which had also moved out of that state, responded in a way that brought me to tears. He said that my relationship with Heidi was an example for him and his bride. He said that our ability to stay connected as a couple through the rough patches was the inspiration he needed to maintain a positive relationship with his own wife.

I went home that day and shared these conversations with Heidi. For me, it was the missing pieces of the puzzle of my life. If my hardships and connection with others through those hardships helped lead other families to success through adversity, it was all worth it. Many if not all people wonder why something happens. People blurt out “oh well, everything happens for a reason.” But when life happens and your personal board of directors is there to call the play by play, it’s a humbling experience.

I’d like to switch it up a little now. In four, almost five years, things have changed. I built Ducati North America’s internal training program and became a Master Technician in the process. I consulted with Research and Development in Italy, delivered sales presentations in Italy, France, and Spain while building a database driven communication and training website for use in America. By all counts, it was a very successful run until I ran into someone I couldn’t let my ethics work alongside. I gave them access to everything I created, took myself out of the systems and gave them an illustrated printed guide on how to run everything I developed. Next stop… Suzuki Motor of America.

Ducati may be a prestige brand, but they are small. Suzuki took me from running a solo project to running a team. I also get to manage the Publications of the company as well. It took some time to acclimate to their internal culture, but now my influence is in high gear as we are currently launching new training sites, tech training curriculum, fixed operations courses and branching into Sales Training as well. I now have a team of five to manage, whereas at Ducati with just me, this type of change would take years not months.

Perception example three for this story:

Dealer project prior to Ducati – small steps

A member of a common group in Colorado came to visit recently. Remember that I haven’t lived in Colorado for over a decade now. In conversation with this person, they talked about members of this group going to COTA this year for Moto GP. She then said, “I can’t wait until your name comes up again this year, I can tell everyone I came to see you”. Well, this struck a nerve with both me and my wife. Why am I the topic of conversation with this group of people I haven’t been around for over a decade?

She went on to say that within this group, I am highly regarded. People remember me starting out from scratch – building websites in my basement, volunteering as the commentator at races, etc.  She went on to say that in their collective eyes, I am a man that sets my mind to a vision and chases after it. That I present myself as a person of focus and drive and have the success to back it up.

A successful launch to a Ducati career

I had to choke back the emotion a bit because I don’t feel that way at all. There are times that I feel like a lost, scared little boy in a huge warehouse with all the lights turned off. Sure I have dreams that become goals that become accomplishments – that’s what Manana No Mas! is all about. But there is also a lot of white-noise in-between those stages. By the way… many of the people in this group are my inspiration. There are business owners, lots of people with crazy education and security clearances with big houses and exotic vehicles. Our common thread in this group is that we love motorcycles and love the Lord.

So why did I share such a long piece this time? Why do I feel so strongly about my transparency in this piece? I did so because our perception of our surroundings helps calculate our tolerance for risk of failure. We are our own worst critics. For years I have been beating myself up for not growing fast enough, for not working hard enough, for not loving my family more intensely. Meanwhile, people on the outside, which I subconsciously may fear for judging me, are rooting for me and find inspiration in my path to success. Not only that, but people that were completely off my radar are tuned in to gain inspiration from my accomplishments and learn from my process.

Celebration as a family – 2017

Do not sell yourself short. When you struggle, it may not be your lesson to learn. Maybe someone watching you go through the struggle is the one meant to learn. When it all goes right, don’t be so quick to take all the credit. It might be that someone watching you needs to learn how to deal with success? Heidi is quick to tell me “It’s not always all about you”. She is right. We are all connected. Before you get all wrapped up in your perception of someone else and their accomplishments, give a thought to what their perception of you and yours is. Chances are you are on a much more equal playing field than you imagined.