Game, Set, Hope

Failing isn’t always a bad thing. When we fail, we learn. If you’re Ed Tseng, failing points you toward your true passion.

Tseng, a tennis pro and life coach who operates Tseng Performance/Tennis Solutions in Lawrenceville, says he failed out of college twice before realizing he was on the wrong path. “Failing was the best thing that could have happened to me,” Tseng says.

Tseng will be part of TEDxPrincetonLibrary, a one-day conference on how life experiences can guide your professional career, on Wednesday, June 1, from 1 to 9 p.m. at Princeton Public Library. Cost: $40. Visit .

The event features several speakers, each of whom will speak briefly on a one-word theme, such as “wonder,” “change,” becoming” and “seek.” Tseng’s word is “hope.”

“I use it as an acronym,” he says. “Hold On: Possibilities Exist.”

Other speakers include software developer Todd Reichert; chef Chris Albrecht of the Momo restaurant group; author and journalist Ethan Casey; Marie Eusebe, founder and CEO of Community2Community, a nonprofit for Haiti relief; Robert Kurzban, a psychology professor at Penn; Todd Shea, CEO of SHINE Humanity, a nonprofit for sustainable healthcare; professional juggler Jen Slaw; philanthropist Dale Caldwell; and former Latin teacher Andromeda Yelton.

TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) is a nonprofit organization that started in California 25 years ago as a four-day conference dedicated to unearthing good ideas. It is a program of localized, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience in 18 minutes. The “x” denotes any independently organized TED event.

When Tseng graduated from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School, his parents wanted him to attend college to work with computers, so he did. His father was a computer programmer, Tseng says, and in 1991 that field wasn’t saturated like it is today. So, he enrolled at Rider College and failed out twice in two-and-a-half years. That’s when he started down a new path.

In 1994 Tseng enrolled at Ferris State University in Michigan, which had a major in marketing and professional tennis management. “It was perfect for me,” Tseng says. His grades did a 180. “All I had to do was change the hardware,” he says. “I still had the same software.”

With no experience as a tennis coach, Tseng decided to find the top tennis pros in New Jersey to mentor him. In 1997, after graduating from Ferris State, he became a tennis pro for 10 years at the Princeton Racquet Club. In 2007 he started his own company. He now specializes in the mental side of coaching, not just on the court, but in everyday life.

Tseng switched to the mental side of sports because he was intrigued by it. He sought out and was mentored by Rob Gilbert, a sports psychologist at Montclair State University. He also studied with Jim Loehr at the Human Performance Institute in Florida. After that, he just started talking to people — schools, sports teams, working professionals. The next logical step? Writing a book.

“Game. Set. Life.” was published in 2008. Instead of seeking out a literary agent, Tseng self-published the book. “I thought of John Grisham selling his first book out of the trunk of his car,” he says. “I knew the material so I decided to market it on my own.”

“Game. Set. Life.” has been on Amazon’s Top 10 in Sports Psychology and featured at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Tseng is also co-author of the forthcoming “Success Simplified” with Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and “The Pinstripe Principles — Mental Toughness Lessons From The World’s Greatest Team,” about the success principles of the New York Yankees.

For Tseng, success principles boil down to hope. Hope, he says, has to exist whether you’re an athlete, business professional, or student. The mindset of “I can’t” or “I’m not good” doesn’t accomplish anything. “You shouldn’t give up on your dreams,” Tseng says. “You have to be persistent and realize other options exist.”

With the current economic state, Tseng says it is important to stay positive because it is a “great opportunity for great ideas.” Entrepreneurs are born out of economic downturns — General Motors and IBM to name a couple.

Tseng says we like to tell ourselves the greatest joke –– the one where we aren’t good enough or we can’t do something. “But it’s not funny at all, is it?” he asks. “If we tell ourselves the same thing every day, we start to believe it. But there’s a difference between ‘I can’t do it’ and ‘I can’t do it yet.’”

So, what do you do to get out of a slump? Tseng says you have to be motivated, purposeful, and focused on the present. Sometimes thinking too far into the future makes us doubtful. And yet you can’t stay stuck in the past either.

“It’s easy to get out of the present moment,” he says. “You can’t think about how you may have failed in the past. You have to learn from the past, set goals for the future, and stay in the present.”

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be get stuck in a certain career because your family wants it for you — as is evidenced in Tseng’s own life. While his father was a computer programmer and his late mother studied medicine in China before coming to the United States, this had no bearing on Tseng’s passions. He was determined to be a tennis pro and made it happen. The worst thing you can do, he says, is something you don’t love. “You have to tell yourself anything is possible.”

Tseng loves his career so much, he often wakes at 3 a.m. and starts writing. His father used to tell him to work hard to get ahead. “Now he tells me not to work so hard,” he says with a laugh.

“When you hit bottom, you bounce back up,” Tseng says. “Everyone fails. What matters it what you do with it.”

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