Career Profile: Performance Consultant
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Ed Tseng is an author, speaker, and performance consultant. In this Q&A, he discusses his career path and his role in the game.
Realizing that tennis was a path to enriching other peoples’ lives, Ed Tseng built on his experience as a coach to develop a consulting business. He started his academic career by pursuing a university degree in computer science. However, Ed’s passion for tennis and for helping others led him down a different career path. As a performance consultant, he helps sports professionals, business leaders, and performers achieve their full potential.
How did you choose this career path?
After I had left high school, I didn’t know what direction I wanted. My father said I should study computers. So I went to Rider College (now Rider University) in New Jersey. I started studying computers and liked it but didn’t love it and in two years, I failed out twice. After I had appealed the second time, they didn’t let me back in. I was at a major crossroads in my life. At the time it was the worst thing that ever happened but looking back, maybe it was the best. I did a lot of soul-searching about what I wanted to do. I realized I loved tennis and loved teaching the neighborhood kids tennis. Something inside me said, “If you don’t follow your passion, you’re going to regret it one day.” I reached out to the USTA in New Jersey and told them I want to teach tennis. I told them that I had no professional experience, but that I’d teach for free, just to learn from them. They mentored me for a few months, and then hired me full-time! I was making good money, which my parents were happy with, but they still felt that a degree was important. So I did some research and found the marketing and professional tennis management program at Ferris University. Once I got into the program, my grades skyrocketed. I went from being in school to really into school. After graduating, I taught at Princeton Racquet Club for about ten years. Then, in 2005, I was named Pro of the Year for USTA New Jersey. In 2007, I started my own company to specialize in the mental side of performance, as well as creating tennis programs. From there, I’ve written books and spoken all over the country. Now, I am happy, but not satisfied—I feel like I can help a lot of people, so I am constantly looking for ways to reach even more people.
What exactly does a Performance Consultant do?
Hmm, that’s a difficult one! It depends on the day and depends on the client. For example, this morning I did a one-on-one Skype call with a tennis player in Hong Kong. Then I did a phone session with a rower in New Jersey. Other days, I give lectures and work with clients in between. I also send content out daily to my email list. Being an owner, I have to oversee all aspects of the business. Some- times it’s paying bills or marketing, as well as working with clients or working on my next book. What I am doing is very different from traditional sports psychology and mental training. Instead of giving tools and techniques on how to make people more mentally tough,
I teach people how their minds work and as a byproduct, their performance improves. Another way to look at it is that I point people in the direction of where their experience comes from and so they can allow their bodies to be free to perform at the highest level. If you think about the “zone” where people perform at their best, it is when they’re just relaxed, not in their heads. A perfect example in tennis is when I get an email from someone, and they say “I’m great in practice, but in competition, I can’t even buy a point.” A byproduct of my teaching is that people perform in a competition like they perform in practice.
About my approach—I try to keep it simple. The training I got was from Sydney Banks. It relies on the three principles: mind, consciousness, and thought. These explain that our experience comes from the inside out, not the outside in. About 99.9% of the people in the world go their whole lives misunderstanding where their experience comes from. They blame the weather, their bank account, who gets elected president— things like that—for their feelings and well-being. In reality, we operate from the inside out. Our thinking determines what we feel. That’s true empowerment. It’s profound, but it’s simple. I worked with a tennis player recently. She was having panic attacks and worked with top sports psychologists. She said nothing helped her. She said I was her last hope. After a few sessions with me, she said, “Wow, this is so simple, how come no one else is teaching this?” People tend to complicate things, and that just creates more thinking.
When we’re at our best, our minds are free and clear, and we’re just doing it.
What’s the best part of the job?
I like the opportunity to teach people where their experience comes from. I’ve seen people overcome major obstacles. I worked with a hockey player. He suffered from anxiety for years. Therapy, medication—nothing was working. I did some sessions with him, and he turned into a different person. He said his parents didn’t recognize him! He was walking and talking differently. He said I changed his life. Whether it’s one person, or a group of people or an organization, just the opportunity to help people motivates me. Being a business owner means that it comes down to me. It’s easy to put things off. It’s easy to do things that are more enjoyable and to avoid things that are less enjoyable. The job is about keeping myself accountable and doing what needs to be done from a business standpoint.
Another challenge is that people often seek me out when they’re in a slump. That’s why I am educating people. It’s like CPR. You don’t learn CPR when someone is choking. You learn it beforehand so that you can use it when someone is choking. So I am trying to educate people on why learning about the mind is critical, and that you shouldn’t wait until you’re in a slump to learn about it. In fact, you can learn more and improve quicker before you do need it. It really is between the ears. That’s the beauty of what I do. I was working with Olympians this past summer, but I also work with CEOs, students, and performers in other areas outside of sports. It even helps me. Part of the reason I wanted to learn about this was to help myself. If you learn about how the mind works, all areas of your life improve.
What are some of the recent innovations you’ve seen in your field?
I feel very fortunate to live in the time that I do. I’ve created online courses, and I’ve worked with clients over Skype, which is great because now anyone in the world can be my client.
People can read my content, work with me and take my courses anywhere. There’s no geographical limit. When I wrote my first book, I had five Facebook friends. Then I said I’m going to use this as a marketing platform. Now I have nearly five thousand friends, all over the world. People see my work, and now they think of me when they want me to help them with their mental game or are looking for a speaker, things like that.
Can you share any advice for high school students?
One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever gotten, and that I have ever given, is to reach out to someone who is already successful at what you want to do. For example, when I wanted to be a professional speaker, I reached out to one of the world’s top professional speakers. They taught me in three months what it had taken them thirty years to learn. Pick their brain or ask to be mentored by them. Ask what they did to get where they are now. Find out what mistakes they made. Then you’ll have a game plan. Once you figure out what you want to do, even if you’re not sure, start reaching out to people and talk to them. Ask them, “What do you do daily? What are the pros and cons?” In fact, I do that to this day, and it’s amazing how many of them are willing to help.
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