Chapter 18Communicate Like a Magician

Magic confounds us, entertains us, and, amazingly, gets us to focus on the wrong thing. When I think about you taking on the role of a focus manager, your responsibility is similar to the role of a magician, yet different.

You must get people to focus on the right thing.

As I was contemplating the successful communication techniques I’ve acquired and taught over the years that get—and hold—people’s attention, magic came to mind: the art of conceiving a trick, planning, rehearsing, adjusting, and refining for days, weeks, and even months to get it just right.

There’s something magical about a magician.

I once stumbled upon an episode of This American Life (Podcast 619, “The Magic Show”), and this insight came to life—effective communicators are akin to magicians. As I listened to host Ira Glass reflect on his fond memories of learning techniques as a childhood magician, I was mesmerized by the parallels to focused communication.

My mind raced to understand the connections.

“When you bought a trick, they took you to this special table in the back room and sat you down. And taught it to you one on one,” Glass recalled. “As I remember it, this was done with kindness, with helpful tips—how to tilt your hand, how to turn your body, when to pause for effect. It was exciting being taken seriously by these men. Sharing those secrets.”1

Whether it’s hiding a coin, reading cards, or making the Statue of Liberty disappear, magic is the mastery of focus ...

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