Magician Syndrome (Or, Remember to See Beyond the Trickery)

“Are you watching closely?”

The stage is dimly lit. Clouds of fog teem and swirl around the magician. He dons dark, mysterious garb. With a sly smile, he tilts his head and arches his right eyebrow.

The audience is deathly silent–eyes wide, breath short, waiting to witness what might come next.

Bang.

Poof.

The stage lights flash and the magician is gone.

For moments, the audience looks around, waiting. There’s no sign of the magician.

Five or six seconds pass, and a booming voice from the top balcony bellows out, “I’m sorry, were you expecting an Abracadabra?”

The audience turns and looks up to see it is he, the magician. They gasp and erupt in applause. They have seen something extraordinary. Something that challenges assumption. Something that seems impossible. Of course, it’s not really magic, but even so it is a feat–a sharp, quick-handed bit of trickery that not everyone could do themselves.

Magician syndrome is what happens when we, the onlookers, watch feats of “magic” and witness something remarkable–something unique, something special, something that not everybody can do.

For you, maybe witnessing the magic is more than enough–you feel satisfaction in being entertained. You’re having fun. You may tell a few friends about this show, or come back to see it again.

But, maybe you see the trick, and the stage, and the standing applause, and you can’t help but think, “This is what I want. This is my calling. I could do this. I want to show people something amazing. Something remarkable. Something magical. How could I do this, myself? How do I get to that place on stage?”

You see that feat of magic and how the audience reacts, and our brains connect the dots to assume that this magical feat, and the pageantry and the resulting applause, are the means by which we too can acquire our own success. Our own applause. Our own stage to stand upon, our own paying customers in the seats.

So we start to think about what kind of costumes we might wear. What pageantry and fog machine we’ll use. We’ll practice our Abracadabras. We dream of hearing that collective gasp. We can’t wait to see that standing ovation–it’ll mean we have done it. We will have succeeded. We will have won.

Magician Syndrome deceives you. It seduces you. It pulls your attention away from the genuine, hard-earned, behind-the-scenes work and unsexy practices and heartful forces that lead into “the show.”

All we in the audience see is the result. All we see is a snapshot. A sliver. A fraction. A piece of what’s gone into it.

Magician Syndrome happens because you’re being shown a trick. All that you’re experiencing is a result–you witness the “magic” and automatically think that this product, the show, the outcome, the one on-stage moment that causes gasps and applause is itself the key to giving us what we desire.

…even when we know full well that the trick is a farce. A deception. A lie.

If you’re dying to quit your day job or you’re aspiring to write the “next great American novel,” the chances are good that you’re suffering from Magician Syndrome.

If you dream of selling paintings from your one-bedroom apartment or want to start a blog that people pay to read, you might be stuck with Magician Syndrome. If you’re itching to start your life anew or you feel ready to discover your purpose in life, you may well be suffering from Magician Syndrome.

How do you know? Ask yourself if you ever find yourself wondering these questions in your head:

  • How could someone jet off on a ’round-the-world adventure and not go broke?
  • How does an ordinary guy start a blog, build a platform and leverage anonymous visitors from around the world into paying customers, clients and readers?
  • How does anyone who’s perennially unhappy, unmotivated, even depressed, turn things around and find inner peace?

If you’re on the “audience” side of the trick–witnessing the results you want from the crowd–it really can look like magic that you’re seeing. It’s because you’re only seeing the results. It’s because you’re only seeing the poof, the bang, the slight of hand.

You’re witnessing the show.

We know it can’t be “real” magic, so there must be some trick to it. Some secret method. Some closeted strategy. Some sneaky key that, if we can just figure out that one thing, we figure that we’ll be able to do the same, ourselves. We figure that we’ll be able to do the impossible. To be happy. To quit a job and not go broke. To travel the world like a modern-day adventurer.

From the outside looking in, it seems impossible. It seems like magic. But Magician Syndrome is simply our own self-deception. We see the result, and think that this result is actually the methodology. The life-long process. The ups and downs and sweat and tears of a practice to get better and better at what we desire. It’s not.

Think about how Olympic athletes are judged in their competitions.

They train every day for as long as they can remember. They dream and struggle for years. They aspire and fight, day after day. They build ability, they dedicate themselves with an unbelievable sense of determination, and they fail more times than not along the way.

Then, at long last, they’re on stage.

They have one moment to shine or falter. That’s the one time we see them. We call some champs and others chumps, all for fractions of seconds and microscopic mistakes.

How easy it is for us onlookers–from the audience–to forget just how much goes into the sliver of “magic” that we see when they stand upon the world’s stage.

Magician Syndrome is self-deception. The Magician isn’t to blame. His trick isn’t what tricks us. We trick ourselves.

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Because we really want to believe it.

We trick ourselves because we desperately wish to believe that there is indeed a “trick” that will give us what we want the most in this life, even if we don’t truly know what we want. We see the trick on stage and want to believe that a trick could trigger our own stage and applause, our debut best-selling book, our rise to fame and acclaim.

Sure, you’d love to reshape your life and start a successful business and become rich and move to Hawaii, like, tomorrow… right? What’s the worst that could happen? You’d be happy, successful, respected, revered and (not to mention) nicely tanned?

You could also try to get six-pack abs by buying an infomercial product that electrocutes your stomach muscles.

You could also send $50 to that Nigerian Price who keeps emailing you about his ousted father. Poor guy was really a great king, we’re told.

Or you could follow that Instagram account of “your favorite airline” who, for some reason, only just started a brand new social media account with a strange username and is promising the first 10,000 people a free round-trip flight to anywhere in the world–in exchange for your following them and telling all your friends about them.

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It’s all Magician Syndrome. Bang, poof. We know it can’t be true, but we buy into it anyways because we’re desperate to believe that it really can be that easy.

Just watch closely, and magic unfolds. Just add water, instant meal.

Your desires, rewarded. Your dreams, realized.

I’m writing this to you today to say that there is, indeed, another way.

There’s another way to aspire and desire, want and dream, without resorting to snap decisions and infomercial purchases that hinges upon trickery and self-deception.

You deserve more than that. You work too hard for that. You deserve so much more than to think that a single click, or one project you’ve been thinking about for years, or an extra bit of extravagant pageantry is going to suddenly reveal the promise land to you.

More people don’t say this–especially as entrepreneurs (like I am)–because it’s so unsexy to say it. It’s the most unsexy marketing angle or sales technique that you can think of to tell people, “Hey, you know that one thing you want the most? I’ll help you get it, but it takes a lot of hard work–so follow me, only if you’re ready for the fight of your life.”

Not exactly an easy sale to make, right?

So why do I do that with every piece of writing, product or service that I create? Why go out of my way to make a fuss about “what it really takes” to get what you want–to help you become more “unapologetically you”?

What I’ve learned as a writer is that the process–the practice, the inch-by-inch effort, the never-ending journey that we live–is the greatest reward. We find happiness and purpose and joy by sidelining the belief that one trick will get us to a place of happiness–that one book, that one idea, that one business concept, that one moment of “I quit!” will open the floodgates and reveal to us an Eden on Earth.

Change your perspective. Reverse the assumption that’s been drilled into us since we were kids that there’s a gate called “Happily Ever After” that we can discover, walk through, and, poof! We’re done. Finished. Happy and complete!

What if I told you that you can, indeed, walk through that gate every day? But that, when you do, you have to do it again tomorrow, and the next day? And that the location of the gate changes? That what you have to do to walk through it changes, too?

That’s what it means to make the journey your reward. It means paying close attention to yourself, your wants and needs and desires every day, week and month. As you do, you’re rewarded with awareness, understanding, peace of mind and the ability to fluidly respond as we change and grow. You can respond appropriately with a process, a practice, your own God-given ability and willpower and choice, day after day.

No matter how the wind or sea changes, you’ll always be able to sail through it.

That means that there’s not one strategy, process, product or service that will give you the rewards you desire.

There are many paths. Many methods. And not “one trick” to magically take you there.

And yet, in my experiences, I have come by some core elements that I fully believe will serve you throughout that journey of changing your life as you live it. Those elements include a community–supportive people who understand you on a deep, values level. It involves action and proud choices. It involves looking within and channeling your self-belief into efforts of service, giving and love.

I’m combining all of these elements to create a simple but effective support group that can help you maneuver along your way. It’s called The U Crew.

The U Crew will unite you with like-minded peers who are navigating the terrain of life, work and relationships to become more and more “unapologetically themselves.” This group will feature live question-and-answer sessions every month, and I’m hosting a free 1-hour sample call to field all of your questions in just one week.

Where are you struggling to live a life that’s more and more “unapologetically you”?

  • Is your career getting in the way?
  • Do you find fewer and fewer people understand who you are these days, because you’ve changed so much?
  • Or is it that elusive feeling of “knowing” where you want to go, at all?

Join me on March 10th. Register for the call here. You can submit your questions ahead of time, or ask them live on the call with me.

No poof. No Abracadabra.

Just the honest truth about what it takes to be as “unapologetically you” as you can be. And making your journey it’s own reward.

It starts with the first steps on Monday, March 10th. Let’s get walkin’.

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