How I Made $9,000 an Hour #ClickBait

The internet is absolutely chock full of gurus, consultants, mavens, and thought leaders who are more than eager to tell you exactly how they made some ungodly amount of money. . .

For the low low price $99 (that’s $500 off the regular asking price!), of course.

This is not that kind of story.

The story I’m about to tell you is a peek behind their curtain, and all about how (if you do the math right) I made $9,000 an hour for a project.

Penn&Teller Fool Us

A couple years ago I had the absolute pleasure of working with the Penn&Teller crew for their show “Fool Us.” It’s a magic show where magicians try to fool P&T. If successful, the magician is awarded bragging rights in the magic community, and a big-ass trophy with an even bigger “FU” prominently featured on it, too.

Magicians & audience members see it as a contest of skill & a battle of wits between P&T and the contestant.

Really clever people realize P&T love magic with all their heart, and they figured out a dynamic for a show that will get people to watch. But, in reality, it’s a clever platform to share the work of some of the finest magicians in the world.

And they asked me to be on the show.

My segment was going to be 8 minutes. Even better? They were going to pay me $1,200+travel for the opportunity.

Like I said, P&T love magic and it shows. Most people would try to get you to show up for free. Not P&T.

The Math

If we take 60 minutes and divide by 8 you get 7.5. Multiply 7.5 by 1,200 and you get 9,000.

$9,000 for an hour’s worth of work.

But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice I wasn’t working for an hour. I was working for 8 minutes.

Gold star for you.

The Truth

What’s funny, however, is I was working for 4 days to make that 8 minutes look as good as it could possibly look. I flew in a couple days early. I talked with the producers. I talked with my props guy in Vegas. I talked with the show director. I talked with my creative consultant. I talked with wardrobe. I went to rehearsals. I filmed B-Roll.

It was exhausting. Fun, but exhausting.

More Truth

I wasn’t also getting paid to be in Vegas to film the show. I was getting paid to not be anywhere else in the world. Saying yes to the show meant having to say no to any other opportunity that happened at the same time.

I turned down a couple shows that pay better money for a single day’s work (instead of 4) that were in conflict with the show because I valued the opportunity to add a clip of me on a national TV show to my promo reel.

Final Reveal

Numbers don’t lie, but people do. Any time someone’s bragging about how much money they’re making, you don’t know how much they’re actually making.

You don’t know how much it cost them to bring in that much money.

Who cares if you’re making $1,000,000 if it takes $3,000,000 to do it?

You don’t know what it’s costing their personal relationships. You don’t know what it’s costing their mental & physical health. You flat out don’t know.

All you see are the numbers, so be wary of people who shout the promise of an immediate payday that’s too good to be true.

It probably is.

What Happened?

Turns out, even though I went through the whole filming process my segment never made it to air. I got a very nice letter from the producers informing me that my segment wouldn’t be included in this year’s season, so won’t you please apply for next year.

And that’s a lesson all itself; it’s not done until it airs.

But, hey. I got to meet Alyson Hannigan!

(and I still got paid.)

Marginal vs Full Cost

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: That was the curious incident.”

That’s an excerpt from Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s “Silver Blaze,” a Sherlock Holmes novel, and it highlights a particularly curious hiccup in how our brains work: we’re exceptionally bad at noticing what’s not there.

In the story, detectives search everywhere for clues. They dust for fingerprints, look for fibers, etc. They’re looking for the presence of evidence.

Sherlock is the genius because he identifies the absence of a clue; thereby making it the most important clue of all. The dog’s silence means it recognized whoever was committing the crime.

What this costs you

Every time you’re making a choice, you’re evaluating what it is going to cost. There’s the marginal (or face value) cost, and full cost.

Here’s how it plays out, and trips you up.

Consider you’re starting a business, but you don’t have a big budget so you get free business cards from VistaPrint.

At face value it’s very low cost. There are no dollars involved.

You hand them out to prospective clients who you’re perfectly suited to work with. They have a huge budget, want the service you’re providing, and you guys would do amazing work together.

They look at your card and see the watermark on the back.

Get your free business cards from VistaPrint, too!

They’re considering putting you in charge of a massive project involving a lot of money, and you’re showing them you’re not willing to invest in the essentials.

They never offer you the job.

You won’t know why. The phone just won’t ring.

The dog’s not barking.

You’re paying the full price of your decision, but you’ll never see it.

Every choice you make is paid for in full whether you know it or not.

Every time you choose to do it the cheap way instead of the right way, you wind up paying more.

“If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it”. ~Henry Ford


When I talk with potential clients who would rather do it on their own, I see that they’re signing up to pay twice for results they’re not going to get. They think, “Boy, that’s expensive! I bet I could do it myself!” Cut to 3 years later and they’ve missed out on all the payoff from investing in themselves compounded by 3 years. (You’re not just farther behind: You’re farther behind multiplied by how far you could have gotten with what you learned in those 3 years.)

Penny smart and a pound foolish.

Every time you consider investing in yourself, it’s difficult to identify the costs you’re not going to see. Trust the people who have been where you are & can tell you. They’re desperately trying to save you from making a costly mistake trying to avoid a marginal expense.

You can’t afford not to.

The Cost of Saying Yes

Why Saying No Really Matters

Most of my life has been lived as an adventure. “Whatever makes for a better story” has been my go-to mantra for as long as I can remember.

And I let it destroy my life.

Opportunity Cost

When we talk about decision making, there’s a lot of ink spent on deciding between two possible outcomes. When you choose one path, it’s at the cost of the opportunity to pursue the other path.

They’re both abstract.

But something we don’t talk about much is how you’re often not making a choice between 2 hypothetical outcomes. Sometimes you’re making a choice between how things are right now, and how they could be.

The opportunity to have what you want is at the cost of everything you have already.

Radical Honesty Time

Not many people know I used to be married.

Past tense.

We met when we both worked at Disney World, so we were both heavily under the “Happily Ever After” magic spell of the happiest place on Earth.

After several years of marriage, there was an opportunity to be with someone who wasn’t my wife.

I said yes.

The cost of that opportunity was the marriage, my friendships with her whole family, the stability of 2 incomes, all the wedding gifts, the trust of my friends, and I could go on for a lot longer outlining what that single choice cost me.

Point being, when you’re making a choice, it’s not always between two possible outcomes. It’s often between a possible outcome and how things actually are right now.

Negative to a Positive

My example happens to be negative, but it doesn’t always have to be. I wanted to share that story because it outlines how I’ve learned some of these lessons the hard way; I’m not perfect.

But the question stays the same.

What are you saying yes to that’s costing you everything?

There are things you’re saying yes to right now that are at the expense of having the opportunity to have everything you’ve ever wanted. It’s up to you to find out what those are, and learn how to say no.

Unlimited Power

When you say no, you’re not just deciding against something; you’re saying yes to what you truly want.

If you want success, you’re going to have to say no to a lot of things you might enjoy. Otherwise, your life quickly fills up with obligations, things, people, and time wasters that aren’t moving you closer to where you want to be.

Same Coin

So you can see, saying yes & no are 2 sides of the same coin. When you say yes to something, you’re saying no to everything else. When you say no to something you’re saying yes to everything else.

Choosing what you say yes & no to is the single act that dictates how your life plays out. It can be saying yes or no to jobs, houses, relationships, hobbies, etc. It can be anything.

And it all costs you dearly.

That’s why success and failure cost everything you have.