Built On Trust

Insider Secrets

No matter what round of funding you’re looking for, there’s something that’s just as important as the facts & figures of your business: the trust between you and your investors.

Medium is the Message

Digital communications are phenomenal. It allows us to connect with anyone anywhere in the world at any time. We can fire off an email at 1am from our hotel room, and then get a reply 20 minutes later from someone suffering from equal parts insomnia & “inbox-itis.”

But, easy done is easy ignored.

Read More

Socratic Espionage

I know one thing; that I know nothing. ~Socrates

Socrates was a master at looking like an idiot while being the smartest person in the room. It’s an incredibly effective strategy, and there’s even a term for it: The Socratic Method. It’s the process of asking innocent questions that trap your target before they’re aware anything’s wrong.

Basically, it’s the skill of being stupid like a fox.

[vc_video ratio=”16-9″ align=”center” link=”https://youtu.be/y7QaXj-vnek”]

“Stupid like a fox,” is one of my favorite lines of all time, and it perfectly encapsulates the strategy we’re going to explore together.

In some ways, Homer is the epitome of the Socratic Method. He’s a bumbling idiot that everyone underestimates, yet everything seems to work out in his favor.

Over the years I’ve used the socratic method mixed with a healthy dose of human psychology to create something I call “Socratic Espionage.” It’s the closest you’ll get to being a master spy who can find out everything you need to know about someone, without them being able to stop themselves from sharing it.

Answers Without Questions

How many times have you been at a coffee shop, and overhear an incredibly personal conversation between two people? It’s amazing what people will share when they think nobody else is listening, isn’t it?

The instant they know you’re paying attention, though, they clam up. And, what would happen if you were bold enough to ask them a point blank question?

They’d tell you to get lost, right?

People hate telling you things. (Especially if they think it can be used against them!)

That’s why they won’t answer your questions. Information is power, and by refusing to answer you questions, they’re trying to maintain control of the situation.

Ask someone what their budget is for hiring speakers? Forget about it. They’re not going to tell you. They want you bid low because you’re desperate. They save money, and you miss out.

Need to know what the political landscape is in an office? Nobody’s going to take off the gloves and tell you what they really think of their manager. . . unless they’re an idiot. They don’t know where your loyalties lie, so they’re going to play it safe.

The more you appear to need something, the less willing people are to give it to you.

I wish it weren’t true, but it is. That’s just how things are. So how do we get around this?

Secret of Comedy

Humans laugh for only 2 reasons:

  1. They feel superior
  2. They feel surprised

That’s it. I’ve just ruined your ability to enjoy anything funny from now on. I don’t care what situation you propose, if it’s funny, it’s because it’s one or both of these things.

Socrates + Comedy = Success

People hate to tell you anything, but they love to feel superior.

More than that; they love to let you know they’re superior.

That’s the secret formula.

By using strategically incorrect statements (instead of fact-finding questions) you are going to by-pass your mark’s in-born hesitation to answer questions, and trigger their deep desire to demonstrate their superiority over you.

In Practice

Let’s say you’re trying to find out how your friendly competition has been getting so much work lately.

You could ask them, “What’s your marketing strategy?”

Since it’s a direct question, you’ll get a vague answer. No good.

Try this instead.

Say something like, “I’ve been using Facebook marketing, and it’s pretty much useless.” You’ve demonstrated you’re failing which allows him to feel superior.

He will respond with one of two possible answers:

  1. Are you kidding me? We’ve been using them for 8 months, and it’s like printing money!
  2. Oh man, I feel you on that. We sank thousands into Facebook ads, and never saw a penny come back.

Either way he’s told you a very valuable piece of information about his marketing strategy.

So who cares that he thinks you’re stupid?

They don’t know you’re stupid like a fox.


People Are Judging You

When I walk on stage, people are asking themselves 2 questions:

  1. Can I trust this person?
  2. Can I respect this person?

In life it’s no different.

Every person you meet is asking themselves those two questions about you in the first seconds of your conversation.

This article is how I, as a professional liar (ie: Mentalist), still get people to trust me despite them knowing I’m going to lie to them. You can apply these principles no matter how big or small your stage; whether it’s on national TV, Carnegie Hall, a boardroom, or a first date.

“An Honest Liar”

That’s one of my favorite sayings from my mentor, James Randi. There’s a 2014 documentary about him titled “An Honest Liar” and it’s an incredible dive into the life & myth of a showman.

So how do you get a room full of people to trust you when they know you’re going to lie to them? Tell them you’re going to lie to them. That’s the “honest” part.

Be up front with people about what you’re looking for. Own up to what you want out of life.

If you keep people guessing as to your intentions, they’re not going to trust you.

It also helps to love your audience.

My great friend David Hira is one of the best speakers in the business. He worked in the corporate world for years as an executive of a major company before going full-time with his speaking career.

He told me about a conversation he had with the daughter of an old-time magician named Thurston. She said her father would stand behind the curtain as people were arriving, and imagine every seat in the auditorium and tell each person who came to see him perform, “I love you!” Every single seat.

When he was done, they’d open the curtains and he’d step forward radiating his love for the audience. His audience would immediately feel the warmth in his smile as he genuinely loved his audience.

Here’s an excerpt from “How to Win Friends & Influence People” where Carnegie interviewed Thurston about this, too.

Thurston had a genuine interest in people. He told me that many magicians would look at the audience and say to themselves, “Well, there is a bunch of suckers out there, a bunch of hicks; I’ll fool them all right.” But Thurston’s method was totally different. He told me that every time he went on stage he said to himself: “I am grateful because these people come to see me, They make it possible for me to make my living in a very agreeable way. I’m going to give them the very best I possibly can.”

He declared he never stepped in front of the footlights without first saying to himself over and over: “I love my audience. I love my audience.” Ridiculous? Absurd? You are privileged to think anything you like. I am merely passing it on to you without comment as a recipe used by one of the most famous magicians of all time.

How could you not fall in love with someone who radiates that kind of love for you?

If you want people to trust you, you have to be warm and genuinely be interested in letting people past your defences.

“I don’t get no respect!”

Rodney Dangerfield was a comedian who used that catchphrase for decades. His act was one story after another about how the people in his life would walk all over him.

It’s absolutely hilarious. . . until it happens to you.

Respect is a function of how competent people think you are. Dangerfield’s character was a bumbling idiot, so it made sense that he’d get no respect.

Audiences want the performer to be competent.

There’s nothing more awkward than watching a magician bumbling his way through a routine. He lacks the skills, polish, and experience to do his job properly. It shows a lack of consideration & respect for his audience, so it’s no mystery why he would lose the respect of the crowd.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Ironically, however, in life off-stage too much focus on competence is actually hurtful. Too often people focus most of their energy on developing the work skills (competence) at the expense of the people skills (warmth & trust).

If people don’t trust you first, your skills will be seen as a threat.

Make sure you’re not missing the human element of the equation. That’s why the social butterflies seem to get all the promotions & opportunities even if they may not have your skills.

Learn how to connect with people first. Let them know who you are. Then they’ll care about what you can do.

Once you master that, you’ll make friends everywhere you go!

Never Blame the Audience

Everybody’s had a bad day at work. Usually that doesn’t involve a room of 2,000 people watching you have a bad day.

As an entertainer it’s easy to tell yourself that it was the crowd’s fault. They were too drunk. They were too busy texting. They were too this. Too that.

Whose fault is it?


One of the most valuable pieces of advice I got from a fellow performer is “never blame the audience.”

Anyone can do the easy shows. It takes a true professional to pull through a rough environment with a successful show.

How do you get to that level?

Never blame the audience.

Blaming the audience allows you to ignore what you did (or didn’t do) that you could have to have a successful performance. If you have an off night, ask yourself what you could have done to avoid whatever problem derailed you.

Did you focus on the one person texting and forget about the 1,999 who were having a good time? Did you give the mic to someone who was completely wasted?

You’re responsible.

As the performer, your job is to take control of the experience for the audience so they feel comfortable putting their attention in your hands. They have to feel secure in your leadership before they can relax enough to enjoy whatever you’re about to lead them through.

Your Company

I can’t tell you how many CEOs, owners, and upper management folks blame poor results on consumers, crappy sales people.

Everyone but themselves and their poor leadership.

Have an amazing product that you know will change lives, but nobody’s buying? It’s your fault.

It’s your job to find where the breakdown in communication is, and fix it.

It all boils down to communication.

Your focus is not on finding the solution. You’re busy blaming every one else which allows you to continue ignoring how your website is difficult to navigate. Your sales process feels like a scam. Your employees are checked out because you’ve shown them you don’t value them.

Whatever the issue, it’s your responsibility to find a solution, get the results you want, and move on.

How do you fix it?

Take an honest look at how you run your business, and that’s difficult to do. Sometimes you’re too close to a problem to find the solution.

(Or you don’t know you’re looking at the problem when you’re staring it in the face.)

That’s why it’s important to get an outsider’s perspective. (Good) performers have directors. They have a whole creative team to provide feedback. They probably have a mentor or coach, too.

Who is in your mastermind? Brain trust? Advisory board?

Find a team of high quality people who can help you take responsibility for how you’ve been doing things, and help you find better ways of doing them in the future.

It’s the only way things will get better is if you know better.

Then do better.

Remember. Never blame the audience. It’s on you.

Communicate Easier

People think if they had the power to read minds it would lead to easier communication.

The surprising thing is, there would be very little improvement from what you have already.

The assumption is you’d get a more accurate “truth” because you’d know exactly how people feel instead of what they tell you.

Over the years of my experience, however, I’ve found most people say exactly what they mean.

The words they speak, and the words I hear in their head are remarkably similar.

The only time that’s not the situation is when there’s coercion: either someone trying to lie to me, or I’m trying to lie to them.

Think about the times you’d lie to someone.

You might lie to keep a surprise birthday party, well, a surprise. You might lie to get something you want. You might lie to preserve your safety.

Everybody else is the same. Very few people are telling you premeditated lies non-stop.

The most common reason people have for lying is controlling an outcome: whether it’s preserving their safety, getting something they want (but haven’t earned), or preserve the illusion of trust when it’s been violated.

There’s a way to make sure people don’t lie to you though. Give everything away. Show them you can be trusted with the truth.

Choose to believe people when they tell you how they feel. Make them feel safe sharing thoughts, feelings, and ideas with you. Don’t criticizing them when they open up.

If you choose to believe people at face value, you might be surprised how honest people become.

So if you want the magical power of mind reading to learn when people are telling the truth, you can start by practicing telling the truth, yourself.