Mastery Is Magic: Vinh Giang

Author: Barbara Palmer       

One of the reasons that magicians get addicted to magic is because of the reactions it generates, according to Vinh Giang, the Australia-born son of Vietnamese refugees, and a one-time accounting student who quit school to create Encyclopedia of Magic, an online teaching platform. Giang teaches and speaks around the world, using magic as a metaphor for breaking through our illusions, and will talk about problem-solving and the power of perspective on Jan. 9 at 2018 Convening Leaders.

“As a magician, when you perform a great piece of magic, it creates an incredible moment of astonishment that can stick with an audience member for a lifetime,” Giang said. “As a result of this addiction, I attempted to replicate these same reactions in other areas of my life.” 

When Giang was establishing his speaking career, “I wanted to use magic as my metaphor —  which may sound sexy now,”Giang said. “But when I started, many people resisted it and really thought the idea was stupid. I still remember the first few conferences I pitched. The reply was, ‘Vinh, we are a multibillion-dollar business. You’re a magician. No thanks, mate.’ It was crushing. But the resistance meant that I was on to something. It means it’s something that really hasn’t been done before. I’ve learned to be excited by unexplored territory as opposed to being scared.”

What is so special about how magic creates experiences of awe, and how does that relate to business?

We live in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to rise above the noise. One of the great things about being a speaker is that we get to work with dozens of different industries every year and as a result we get a rounded view on what’s happening out there in the marketplace. More than ever, average has become the new fail. The only way to combat the commoditization that’s happening in every industry is with experiences that stand out.

But standing out is scary, because the very nature of standing out means you are on your own — and being a alone is scary. Now, the irony is that the only way to create something that will cause others to stand in line for is the willingness to create something that no one will stand in line for. Don’t forget that if we continue to look to our competitors for what we need to do, we will forever move towards market norms. The question still remains how do we create these experiences of awe?

The answer lies hidden in a quote by Penn & Teller’s Raymond Joseph Teller: “Magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else would reasonably expect.”

So, how do we create this unique experience? Mastery. When you look at how often people are changing jobs in today’s job climate, you start to see the problem. No one is spending enough time building mastery and without mastery, one cannot create astonishing experiences.

Why do you think you are so motivated to share your knowledge and contribute?

One: I love learning. My dad always used this metaphor which pretty much gamified learning for me. When I was in my mid 20s, I was half a million dollars in debt and felt incredibly depressed. I still remember what my dad said to me: “Do you know why you lost? Do you know why you are in this situation?” I really wasn’t in the mood so I said to my dad, “Why don’t you tell me, Dad? Why?”He replies, “It’s because you don’t have enough soldiers in your army” This really pissed me off, “Dad, don’t do this Confucius crap. Just tell me straight.”

So he says something that changed my life: “Every time you read a book, the author now stands behind you in an army that’s willing to fight for any cause you want. Look behind you right now  — you barely have 50 soldiers. The battle you are in requires an army of a least 500.” He gave me his credit card with a $2,000 limit —  it was the only card he had that my mum didn’t have access to. He looks at me sternly and says, “Take this, and build your damned army, boy.” I was out of debt by 29.

Two: As I started to make money as an entrepreneur, it felt great. It’s awesome being able to build wealth in the bank, but something was missing. As I got older I started to realize there’s another really important bank account that needed topping up — the fulfillment bank. I started to starve for fulfillment and nothing brings me a greater sense of fulfillment than sharing. Now, I’m going to go full hippie on you — the more I started to give, the more abundance I started to experience. I started to get emails, messages, tweets, and direct messages on all my social media platforms. It’s amazing waking up each morning to messages from others around the world sharing how you’ve made an impact on their lives. In summation — when you live for others, others will live for you.

How do you make a keynote in front of thousands of people original and interactive?

Magic is never the same. Even if I perform the same trick, it’s always different. Why? Because the audience is different. Audience participation is what makes my keynote experience original. If everything is always the same, I would get bored.  And if I get bored my audience will get bored.

What keeps it fresh on my end is that I know that even though I’ve performed this trick 300 times, it’s my first time performing it for this particular audience. And each and every audience I perform for, it creates a different experience.

What is the relationship between magic and trust?  Magic is associated with tricks, but yet it is such a universal experience to love magic.

 Isn’t it crazy how magicians deceived you and then you love them? The reason for this strange phenomena is because magicians are honest about how dishonest they are. We tell you upfront we are going to fool you and then we proceed to fool you. Honestly is the underlying reason behind this beautiful relationship between the magician and his or her audience.


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