In Pursuit of Magic

Would You Know It When You Find It?

For me, there is very little difference between magic and art. To me, the ultimate act of magic is to create something from nothing: It’s like when the stage magician pulls the rabbit from the hat. ~Alan Moore

The rabbit was in the hat the whole time.

Not so magical, now, huh?

There’s a weird thing that happens when someone learns a magic trick, and it happens in an instant. This precise moment can teach us a lot about our businesses, relationships, and life in general.

The Situation

Imagine you’re at a magic show and something happens that really, truly, affects you. It turns your whole world upside down, and you can’t seem to let it go.

You know there’s a trick to it, but you can’t possibly imagine how that could be.

You leave the show, and you’re still thinking of it for days afterward. It’s like a fishhook in your mind that keeps digging in deeper and deeper.

Eventually you decide you’ve had enough, and you’re going to find out how it works even if it kills you.

You drive to one of the few remaining magic shops, and tell your story to the guy behind the counter.

“Yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about,” he says. “You probably don’t actually want to know how it works. It’s kind of advanced, but if you really want it, I’m not going to say no. It’s in this 5 page pamphlet and it explains everything. That’ll be $200.”

The Decision

It’s a lot of money for a single trick, but considering how big an impact it had on you, $200 is actually kinda cheap to finally know.

“Now, once a secret’s told, the secret is sold. There’s no returning the secret, so there’s no returning your money. Got it?”

You nod and swipe your card. He hands you the pamphlet.

30 seconds later you look up from the pages and say, “It’s just mirrors?”

“It’s just mirrors.”

And then it happens. This peculiar moment. Something snaps:

“That’ll never fool anybody!”

Before you dismiss this scenario as being too far fetched, let me tell you from personal experience, it happened all. the. time.

I worked at a magic shop in Universal Studios for a little over a year. This was before Harry Potter world was built, and we enjoyed a monopoly on the magic business at the park for a glorious year and a half.

People would see a magic trick demonstrated, have their mind blown, buy the trick, and come back later saying this would never fool anybody.

All the time.

They’re fooled so badly that they’re willing to spend good money to learn how it works, so they can do it themselves, and immediately discount the method.

What In The World Is Going On?!

Methods are too simple.

I think it really boils down to that.

When we look at people our industry who have achieved so much, we feel compelled to figure out what it is that they’re doing different. We give everything to know what they know. We go to seminars. We attend workshops. We go on retreats.

And they share their secrets.

Except; there are no secrets. They’re guarding empty vaults.

We keep thinking there has to be something else because the answers are too simple. But, that’s what makes them a genius solution. The answers are so painfully obvious, people ignore them.

When you truly wrap you mind around this little truth, it’ll blow your world apart. It’s often the simplest methods that get the most results. Stop trying to make things too complicated!

In the world of magic it’s almost always string, mirrors, or sleight of hand.

In the world of business it’s almost always great customer service, providing value, and follow-up.

Stop chasing secrets and start practicing your basics, and you’ll be light years ahead of everyone who is chasing the next big secret.

Let them believe in fairytales while you work your magic.

You Charge How Much?!

Back when I was getting my speaking business off the ground, I also made ends meet as a graphic designer. One day I was on the phone with a client, and I made a costly mistake.

Client: Could we try a different font on the site?
Me: Sure! *couple clicks* Refresh the page.
Client: Whoa, that’s amazing! *Does mental math. I’m paying him HOW MUCH, and he’s doing all this with a couple clicks?! That’s crazy! He’s robbing me! I need to make a million changes so I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

And the project dragged on for months.

Now, I accept 100% responsibility for my part in that dance! I did a poor job of managing expectations, setting up guidelines early on about acceptable number of revisions, etc. But, I do want to address the idea that “You can do this quickly, therefore you should charge me less for it.”

It’s a common mindset with people; especially people who trade their time for dollars. What they don’t realize yet, is it’s the very fact that it happens quickly that makes it so valuable!

You wouldn’t get on a plane and say,

Because you’re getting me to New York in a couple hours, I should pay less than if I took this trip in a Greyhound!

That’s absurd! The world is simple: you either spend time, or money. You can’t save both.

Nowadays I help my clients understand whether it’s for a performance, a consulting session, or training engagement, I charge a premium because of the fact that I can help them get the results they want FAST.

I might be on stage for only an hour, but I can connect with that audience in a way that nobody else can. People who see me speak literally can’t forget what they’ve seen me do, and that’s valuable to a company! I weave their message into my demonstrations and now the audience is fundamentally connected on an emotional level that nobody else in the world can help them feel, like I can.

Picasso’s Lesson

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Think about a doctor performing surgery. He’s not getting paid thousands of dollars for the hour he’s in the operating room. He’s getting paid for the decade he spent learning how to get you healthy in an hour. That’s what Picasso was talking about. He could make a couple pen strokes and it’s worth $50,000 because he’s the person who dedicated his life to being PICASSO.

Wages vs. Value

What we’re really talking about is the difference between getting paid for doing something versus receiving fair compensation for the results you can provide for your client.

In your business, you absolutely have to focus on how valuable the results you help your clients get, and help them get there quickly that will help you charge what you’re worth. If, instead, you focus on what you’re doing (the actions you’re going to take), then you’re talking about trading time for dollars, and people want to get as many hours out of you as they can for your wages.


Same Wavelength

When you’re negotiating that big business deal, there’s an essential element you absolutely must have: trust.

Each side in the negotiation has to believe, to the core, that the other person/team will follow through on what they say they’re going to do. Sure, you might have a contract, but in reality it’s just ink on a page; what’s really important is the relationship between the two sides doing business together.

Sometimes you immediately trust someone, and you may not know why. You’ll feel like you’re “on the same page,” “of the same mind,” or “on the same wavelength.” These are all ways of saying you both have rapport.

Reflected Empathy

Rapport is the feeling that you both “get it.” You both understand each other fully.

Rapport is essentially “reflected empathy.” You’ve put yourself in the other person’s headspace, see the world through their eyes, and communicate that understanding through your verbal & non-verbal communication.

Missing the Mark

Most “body language experts” (scare quotes used on purpose) will tell you if you want to establish rapport with someone, that you should mirror their body language. If they cross their arms, you should cross your arms. If they lean against the wall, you should lean against the wall.

You can usually tell who blindly follows this advice because they’re so obvious about it.

Their attempt to come across as trustworthy winds up backfiring. It goes wrong because they lack empathy. This results in a robotic mimicking of the other person’s actions, and it weirds us out just like a human-like android does.

(To understand exactly why this is so unsettling to us, look into the uncanny valley.)

Shortcut to Empathy

If the shortcut to rapport is empathy, then the shortcut to empathy is listening.

So few people are excellent listeners that if you can even pay the smallest amount of attention to someone, they’ll feel like the most important person in the world.

Magic Formula

Genuinely listen, consider what the other person says, cultivate an empathetic understanding of their position, reflect that viewpoint, and they’ll feel like you understand them.

Instant rapport!

This will come across in your tone of voice, the words you use (similar to theirs), your posture, amount of personal space, and so on.

And remember, in order to get something, you first have to give something.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. ~Ernest Hemingway 

How About You?

Have you ever experienced instant rapport with someone? Felt like you’d been friends forever? I’d love for you to tell me about it. What was it like? How do you think you build rapport with people? Let me know on Facebook.

Success Will Destroy You

When I first started performing, I didn’t trust the audience. I would finish a routine where I predicted the future, moved objects with my mind, or influenced someone’s choices, and people would clap like crazy. It’s amazing stuff, and it’s no wonder people would applaud!

But I didn’t believe it.

I thought they were bored, disappointed, or just clapping because that’s what’s expected of them.

Maybe they were, who knows?

Point is, I’m not psychic so I have no real idea what they were thinking.

What was really going on was I was dealing with my own impostor syndrome, and feeling like I wasn’t worth the positive attention I was getting.

Eventually I figured out that nobody has to clap if they don’t want to. They seemed to be doing it on their own volition because they genuinely wanted to show their appreciation.

I’d made it past the hurdle of self doubt without tripping.

Since I passed that test, life tries to destroy me using a different approach: success.

After shows people love to come up and shake my hand. They want me to sign autographs. They tell me how much they love my show (& by extension me).

Basically every single person I talk to afterwards has nice things to say.

It’s an illusion.

What I’m experiencing is the result of a self-selecting process. Turns out, the only people who are willing to stand in line to talk to me are the people who liked what I did. If someone isn’t a fan, they won’t waste their time; they’ll just walk out. This creates a situation after shows where I’m only encountering people who like what I do.

This can destroy me.

It gives me a false sense that there’s no need to improve. There’s no need to continue working on my craft. There’s no need to put in more effort.

That’s a lie.

Success requires constant struggle. Constant improvement. Constant reevaluation of choices.

Moral of the Story

Don’t believe your own hype. Thank people for the kindness they show you, but don’t make your choices based on the opinions of others.

Stay grounded, and don’t lose your drive.

Self Defense

When most people think about self defense, they usually think about screaming “NO!” as loudly as they can, stomping the instep, kneeing the groin, and running towards a well lit area with lots of people.

So what does self defense have to do with a mind reading blog giving business advice?

A lot, actually.

Self defense is a lot more than a weekend course on how to scratch someone’s eyes out. It’s a whole approach to keeping yourself safe from:

  • strangers
  • family
  • friends
  • yourself

That last one throws a lot of people for a loop. They forget that you can often be your own worst enemy.

Case in point: how do you talk to yourself? If someone said the exact same things you say about yourself, would you let them stay in your life for very long? Probably not, right?

How much negative news coverage to you consume on a daily basis? How does that make you feel?

Sure, you justify it by telling yourself, “I have to stay up on what’s going on in the world” but what has it done to your mental well-being to allow that much negativity into your mind? How could it not affect you?

How much gossiping do you allow? Do you let other people share gossip with you? Do you talk about people who aren’t in the room? What kind of trustworthy relationships you can build when people know you’ll talk about people behind their back?

What do you do every day to make sure you spend time focusing on the good in the world? Do you read? Do you meditate? Do you call your friends to ask how they’re doing without turning it into your personal therapy & complaining session?

How do you spend your mornings? Do you listen to audiobooks so you can be exposed to interesting concepts? Or do you listen to shockjock radio full of commercials trying to sell you on a hollow dream of happiness available for 4 easy payments of 19.99?

What you allow in your mind is a choice. You have control over your thoughts.

You can install your own mental ad blocker, of sorts.

Maybe I should say you [can] have control over your thoughts. Because if you can’t manage the quality of your internal state, how do you expect to manage your external state which has infinitely more moving parts?

Self defense starts with you.

Need some help with that? Give me a call. Let’s chat.

Trapped In The Mirror Dimension

Your thoughts aren’t real.

You might feel that statement is so painfully obvious that it doesn’t need saying. Before you click away, let me explain why the problems you’re having right now are a direct result of you believing they are.

Trust me, I’m a mind reader. I know what I’m talking about.

Have you ever been mad at yourself for being mad? Are you depressed that you’re depressed all the time? Are you anxious about being anxious? What the hell is going on?

This kind of meta-worry is a byproduct of our incredible ability to think. Thinking is an abstract process in a dimension that’s not real.

It’s like looking at a mirror.

You can see it. It’s right there. Every detail is reflected perfectly for you to see. But, when you reach out to touch it, and all you feel is the smooth glass surface.

Same goes with your thoughts. You can see them. You know they’re there. But you can never touch them.

When we reflect on our problems, we’re holding a mirror up to a mirror. The result is an infinite tunnel of reflections. Each image is another abstracted reflection of a reflection of a reflection and so on down the rabbit hole forever.

This is exactly what’s happening in your mind when you worry about worrying. Or get sad about being sad.

How Do You Escape?

When you’re trapped in a mirror dimension, everything is backwards.

When you’re trapped in your mind, the solution is almost always the opposite of what you think you should do.

This why your pursuit of happiness is making you miserable. This is why chasing wealth is making your poor. This is why your need for acceptance is making you lonely. This is why your pursuit of achieving enlightenment is just making you miserable.

Seems like the faster you run towards happiness, the faster you become miserable.

You’re trapped in a way of thinking that is completely backwards. You’re inside the mirror.

The only way out is to see your thoughts for what they are: abstract non-entities. They’re conjured apparitions without weight or form.

Your thoughts aren’t real.

You believe they’re real, so you take action in the physical world that leads to the complete opposite effect than you intended.

Your continued refusal to accept this fact is the direct result of you believing your thoughts are more real than the world you live in.

The harder you fight reality, the more pain you experience from your delusions. That’s why the sages throughout history have said that your reality is simply a mirror of your inner state. You eventually realize you’re the one hitting yourself. You don’t see the world as it is, you see the world as you are.

Let Go or be Dragged

When I first heard that Zen proverb, “Let go or be dragged” I couldn’t stop laughing. It immediately brought to mind two experiences that taught me that lesson with painful clarity.

Story 1

My grandpa has been a tinkerer for as long as I can remember. When I was much younger I was the go-to guinea pig beta tester for his many of his inventions.

I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina which means there were a lot of 1) trees, and 2) mountains. This is a perfect recipe for a zipline: a cable strung at an incline between two trees with a pulley attached to a handle.

Grandpa decided to make our own, so he looped one end of a cable around a tree at the top of a hill & used a “come-a-long” at the other end (about 60 feet away) to get the cable guitar-string-tight. He grabbed a pulley from his shop and we were ready for our first run in under 10 minutes from idea to execution.

Grandpa hoisted me up where I could grab the broom stick we were using as our impromptu handle. Since I was so young it seemed like the cable was a mile off the ground, but thinking back now it couldn’t have been more than 6 feet.

It was still enough to be terrifying and I loved it.

I pushed off, and gravity did the rest. Quickly.

Turns out, if there’s no slack, you wind up going much faster than your 5 year old brain could ever think possible. Almost immediately I was going too fast and I wanted to abort mission.

Here are the two best options my panic-stricken brain could come up with.

Option A: Let go, plummet to my inevitable doom, and suffer the consequences.

Option B: I could hold on and ride this thing out.

Since I’m writing this article, you know which one I went with. Option B.

The problem with Option B is that I still have 40 more feet to go even faster.

Before I realized Option B was a VERY BAD IDEA, I hit the end of the zipline. My feet flew forward in a whip-like fashion an instant before my hands were ripped from the broomstick by the merciless gods of Momentum and Inertia. I continued my forward trajectory, only now I was perfectly horizontal: arms and legs in a textbook spread eagle posture, and I was staring straight forward (which due to my new orientation was directly at the clouds & sky above).

The next thing I remember is Grandpa standing over me asking if I was ok.

Evidently when I landed the back of my head hit the ground with enough force to knock me out for a couple seconds.

Even with the prospect of massive head trauma, nothing was hurt more than my pride, so I said I was fine.

(This is one of many times I’d be rendered unconscious before the age of 8. For those of you wondering how I got to be so strange, maybe you just got your answer.)

Story 2

For this one we’re at the same place, but the season has changed. It’s winter, and we’re treated to a rare surprise for North Carolina: snow.

My brother and I are going down the hill on big plastic saucers while my Mom is at the bottom of the hill to catch us.

We’ve worn a clear path in the snow, and halfway down my next slide I get an overwhelming urge to lean hard to the left. Who knows why. Whatever the reason for doing it, I’ve just veered way off course and there’s no way Mom’s going to get to me in time.

Instead of the flat spot at the bottom where I had been going, I was now heading straight towards the porch which was exactly at head level.


Here, again, is a situation where I instantly regretted my decision.

Here were my two options.

Option A: Roll off the saucer, get snow in my suit, be cold & wet, and have to go inside.

Option B: Freeze up, hold on to the saucer for dear life, neglect to put my hands up, and slam my face into the the porch at full speed knocking out teeth as well as rendering me completely non-responsive.

I went with Option B.

If you ask Mom about it, she’ll tell you my face smashing into the porch is the worst sound she’s ever heard. Kind of like a wet watermelon sound if you dropped it on concrete.

She scrambled to get me out from under there, and I’m pretty sure they took me to the hospital. Not too clear on what happens after the moment of impact.

“In The Grip Of Fear”

I used to think that saying was talking about fear as a type of entity getting a hold on you. Nowadays, however, I think more about what we do when we’re terrified.

Fear makes us hold on.

We seem to be completely unable to let go of exactly that which inevitably results in our greatest pain & suffering.

In both instances if I’d simply let go as soon as I realized I should, the outcomes would have been much less traumatic. Instead, I refused to let go, and suffered for it.

My question to you: What are you holding onto that’s hurting you the most? What do you refuse to let go of because of fear? A new year is right around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to free yourself from all that pain you’re causing yourself.

Don’t know how? I can help you avoid doing it the hard way like me.

Let’s talk.


Asking Permission for Greatness

“Who did Michael Jordan ask to be great?”

That’s the question that stopped the conversation.

(We were in Chicago, so I figured it would hit home.)

I had just wrapped a workshop, and a woman came up to pick my brain. She was listing off reasons why she wasn’t working on her life’s mission, but at the heart of it she was asking for permission to start.

The scary part is, nobody can give it to you; you have to give yourself permission to succeed.

“Let me bounce this idea off you.”

This is a common question I get after workshops or when people find out I’m a consultant.

It seems like it’s an easy question, but really, it’s another form of asking permission.

Basically, they’re asking this dude they’re meeting for the first time to validate their idea in order for them to feel comfortable enough to move forward.

The reality is, if a single stranger’s opinion is going to make or break your success, you have deeper work to do than asking me what I think.

Why do we do that?

When we’re kids, we’re told to ask permission for everything.

“Can I go to the restroom?”

“Can I stay the night with Erik?”

“Can we get a puppy?”

Then you turn 18, and BOOM everything changes. Some people, though, never stop asking permission to be alive. They’re looking for someone else to validate their place in the universe.

They’ve forgotten that billions of years have conspired to put just the right conditions together to make sure you are alive to enjoy this ride we call life.

You’re the person in charge of giving yourself the permission to win. The universe created you. You’re here. Make it count.

It’s your choice.

The people who have made the most amazing lives for themselves don’t ask permission to be great. It’s less “who will let me?” and more “who is going to be foolish enough to try and stop me?”

That’s how committed to your own success you have to be. You have to be willing to stand in your place in the universe, and make it count.

Now, if you choose to forge ahead and create your own path to success, I’m here to encourage and support you to the best of my abilities. If you choose not to, and stay in the grind, that’s cool too.

But it’s up to you to make the choice.

The Magic of a Simple Business

Here’s something super cool about my life: Steve Martin and I are on the same career trajectory.

Sure, he’s 30 years ahead of me, but I’m close on his heels.

Little known fact about him is he got his start working at a magic shop in Disneyland in California.

One of my favorite weird jobs I’ve had over the years was selling magic at Universal Studios in Orlando.

There are other overlaps, but this is the one that matters today.

The one I worked at was an old-school magic shop, and we sold the hell out of floating cards, disappearing coins, magic playing cards, and all manner of gags.

This was before Harry Potter World, and all that jazz. No, we were telling people on a once in a lifetime vacation that they should wait to ride Jaws and come inside to see some magic, instead.

And they did.

We would pack them into our tiny demonstration room and then we’d start our spiel show. It was a well rehearsed, carefully choreographed 15 minute demonstration of magic tricks that were easy to do, but would amaze anyone.

Our small audience of soon-to-be buyers would “oohhhh” and “ahhhhhh.” They would think about all the ways they could finally impress that girl they’ve loved since 3rd grade.

We would perform miracle after miracle, all the while reassuring them that anyone (over 6 years old) could do what we were doing.

People had a hard time accepting that it really could be easy to do. “Because,” they thought, “if it were actually that easy to do, it would be that easy to figure it out.

We’d wrap up the demonstration and direct them to the counter where they could buy everything they saw us do (and more!).

They would fork over hundreds of dollars, and if it was a slow day we’d even teach them a trick or two.

We’d swear them to secrecy, take the trick out of the box, and then show them how it works.

They’d get a strange look on their face as their brain caught up to reality and then say:

But, that wouldn’t fool anybody!

How strange!

2 minutes earlier, they were completely baffled with no plausible explanation how such a miracle could even be possible. 2 minutes later they’ve seen the step-by-step process, and they’re convinced it would never work.

Why is that?

It was too simple

And that’s the biggest secret of all.

Success is simple. It really is.

We want it to be difficult. We want it to be a struggle. We want to convince ourselves that hard work is the only way to get ahead in life.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can get results that look completely impossible (to someone on the outside) with methods that are remarkably easy.

The trick is knowing how it all fits together.

When I do my consulting work with clients, I’m often reminded of those people in the magic shop who are adamant that “This will never work!”

I get it. It’s too simple. You want it to be a miracle. You want to impress the world with how clever you are. You want to be a champion!

Well, let your results do that. There are easier ways of getting through life than telling everyone it can’t be done.

Don’t interrupt those of us who are doing it.