Game-Changing Truths We Can Learn from Ping Pong Balls


One of the themes easily observable in the Facebook universe (and parallel universes like Twitter and Friendster…I’m just kidding, no one goes to Twitter anymore) is that of “hearing” versus “listening.”

As participants in online social networks, we are all tied to many dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions of other people. Our Facebook feeds represent the myriad thoughts and actions of more people than we can possibly attend to with any great detail. As a result, we experience a fire hose dousing of relational information making it hard to really listen to the person behind the witty comment, the shared link, the latest vacation pics, etc.

Roy Williams, in his little book on advertising called, Does Your Ad Dog Bite? , shares the following story. It’s as a perfect  illustration of the inherent challenges of trying to listen deeply to one another amongst all the relational noise.

The average American cannot say “no.” This is why he or she is average.

The temptation which defeats the average American is a thing called Overchoice, a deceiver which whispers, “You don’t have to choose. You can have it all.” Overchoice creates a world of too many options.

One of my senior associates, Jim Anderson, will graphically illustrate Overchoice by showing you five or six ping pong balls. He will ask you to catch each of these balls as he gently tosses them to you. Everyone catches the first ball easily. It is only when Jim tosses the rest of the balls together that people come up empty-handed. Instinctively attempting to catch all the balls, the average person will frantically flail the air and send ping-pong balls careening around the room. The only person that will catch a ball is that rare person who will focus on a single ball.

As Williams observes, when we have too many options—or, in this case of this morning’s blog, too much relational noise—we often lose focus and “drop the ball.” We simply cannot attend in much detail to a particular voice, a particular person, a particular heart.

Overchoice keeps our relationships average because it prevents us from focusing for very long on any one person and all the personality, experiences, gifts, losses, victories, and dreams that make up that person. And of course focus is absolutely essential to doing things well, whether it’s building a model boat or building an audience for your blog or building a lifelong relationship.

Happy Saturday and happy listening!


About jesserice

Speaker | Author | Digital Culture Expert | Sit-Down Comedian

Posted on May 28, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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