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Crazy magician shares GREAT marketing and psychology tactics
Last Updated October 7th, 2013

A few weeks ago, I was browsing a book store – yes, I still do that – and I stumbled on this book called “Fooling Houdini” by Alex Stone.

The title grabbed me by throat and said, “Take me home.”

So I did.

As I started reading the book, I realized something: I needed to cancel everything else for the day and finish the book. It was that good.

And it got better.

While reading, I noticed I was taking a ton of notes – lessons about business, life, marketing, and psychology. And that’s when I decided, I’m going to get Alex Stone on my podcast if it kills me.

(I got your back :-D)

Luckily, he wasn’t too hard to track down, and today I’m PUMPED to share our discussion with you.

Fooling Houdini: What magicians, jugglers, and psychics can teach you about marketing

What can the world of magic teach you about becoming a better salesman and marketer? This deep dive discussion with Alex Stone, New York Times best-selling author of Fooling Houdini (affiliate) will reveal the answer.

More specifically, you’ll learn:

  • Why “experts” aren’t always right. And when they’re wrong, they’re REAL wrong.
  • The secret to becoming a master performer (as it relates to magicians, salesmen, communicators, and more).
  • Why jugglers drop the ball at least once (and how this helps you WOO your customers).
  • The psychological principle behind a multi-billion dollar industry – and how you can take advantage of it.
  • And much more.

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A short while into this podcast, we reveal a story about why experts aren’t always right. And when they’re wrong, they’re real wrong.

So, what I want you to do is this:

After you hear that story, tell me about a time when an expert was wrong in your life. It could have been a teacher, a family member, a boss, anything. What happened? Leave a comment.


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If you enjoy this series, please take a few seconds and leave an honest review. There are 322 reviews and with your help, we can hit 350. You see, I could sell discussions like this, but I choose to give them away for free. All I ask in return is a little review ;-).

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The transcript for this podcast is not available… yet. Please check back.

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48 comments Leave a comment

Yeah… Marketing is all about the MAGIC OF PERCEPTION.


Great interview Derek!
2 key insights that apply to business& marketing 100%:
1. Don’t do it for your ego. Create a positive experience; do what is best for your clients.
2. You can’t go to the next level without a mentor. A good mentor will show you the shortcuts and help you speed up the entire process.

For anyone looking for further reading – I highly recommend Napoleon Hill’s masterpiece “Think and Grow Rich”.


That blew my mind. I just bought the book. This is VERY true. The mind is everything. Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.

I like the part where it says that a beginner is open to ALL possibilities.


“If someone messes up you have to have a back up plan. But you have to understand how someone can mess up in the first place to have a back up plan in place.”

This is where the value of experience comes into play. Alex talked about drawing focus away from the “mess up”. Focus on benefits and stay away from the drawbacks.

Another great point: “Get people to do something you want them to do when they thought they had a free choice.”

Guiding people’s choices is an art. It takes time to hone.

Finally, “Controlling the way someone remembers an experience. ” He goes on to say, focus on key things that influence how someone sees an event in retrospect.

Win clients over to you by influencing their perspective.

All awesome psychological skills.

Thanks for the podcast. Great stuff.

Madeleine Kolb

The podcast was fascinating. I was particularly struck by the discussion of people ardently believing that what they think they saw is what really happened. A man I know who’s investigated a number of accidents says, “No one lies like an eyewitness.” But of course they don’t mean to lie.

This phenomenon causes a big problem with testimony of crime victims. A woman who is raped may identify the wrong person but is highly credible to a jury. Thank God the Innocense Project has ultimately cleared many such men but not until some has spent decades in prison.


Thanks so much for sharing this podcast! As a young adult, I really think content like this can boost and support my entry into the big wide world πŸ™‚


The most damaging “expert” who gave me horrendous advice was my job councilor in college. When I was in school I was stuck in the trap many face – the thought that without the right education or the right degree, I wouldn’t be able to make a living.

God forbid I leave school early to pursue my own business and freelance (despite the fact that countless multimillionaires have done just that). My councilor quoted some bogus statistic about how degree holders earn more than those who go without (even though that’s been disproven http://hechingerreport.org/content/elite-degrees-dont-necessarily-earn-more-study-finds_13051/).

Despite her advice I mentally told her stuff it and left. Now I’m making far more than my peers, in an industry I enjoy, where those who have only recently graduated are stuck blindly submitting their resumes through job sites like Indeed, wondering why no one gets back to them despite their shiny new qualification.

Honestly, it makes me sick. I feel sorry for those who haven’t received realistic advice and are forever stuck in the system. Some of them might break out of it, others may go their whole lives without really understanding. The world would be a far better place if crappy “advice” like hers didn’t get propagated.

Jim Wang

The last bit about the Barnum effect (in reading up on it more, turns out it’s known as the Forer effect too) is a great insight. I bought a book once about cold reads and it’s really just a psychology book disguised as a mind-reading/astrology/magic book.


Thanks for the podcast. So many great things to take away from this episode. I just bought his book and cannot thank you enough from all of the value you bring to each of your podcasts.


This podcast was so interesting. Lots of good info. Thanks a lot Derek.


Dont even get me started on ”Experts” The easiest place to find lame duck experts is … offline / Hotel Meeting MLM. Those suit wearing cheerleaders dont know a single thing about how this industry works. ALL of those who recruited me into their downline are STILL jumping from company to company. The last one was verbally abusive, coz I told him I was not doing the ”Friends & Family” chasing thing. He got rude and insulting, sure he was making around $8K at the time, but his downline fell apart, coz the duplicable system failed to duplicate him. A LARGER Majority of his team were not getting the results he was getting, and soon enough they left him. He soon went to join another deal and tried to recruit me into that one. LOL.


My whole current career path was launched by “experts” who were wrong. One of the many educators in one of my son’s many IEP meetings barked at us one day, saying about my son, “He may never read well and he is certainly not college material. YOU need to lower your expectations!” They laughed aloud when I said I thought my son was actually gifted. Another administrator said, “Give us some credit. We’ve got 60 years of educational experience between us.” They were convinced, based upon their long-term low expectations that my son was not smart and capable as a learner, and I was somehow unable to know my own child. They were WRONG. After eight years of homeschooling, my son scored at the 99th percentile on the Science portion of his college entrance exam. He had a composite score at the 95th percentile. He received two Honors-based Scholarships, and has been on the Dean’s List ever semester. Clearly, the “experts” were wrong. Thankfully, we were able to ignore the experts and go with our own knowledge of our son’s abilities. If we had listened to them, it would have been their self-fulfilling prophecy.. They would have been right because they weren’t serving him as the capable learner that he is. πŸ˜‰ So, yup.. When the experts are wrong, they are very wrong, and “blinded by their own expertise”. Excellent podcast, Derek.


    “ever semester” should be “every semester” at college. πŸ˜‰


      Great Testimonial Sandy. This is another reason to stop listening to others and start listening to the great expectations and desires that lie within. I applaude your courage and salute your son for accomplishing far more than what ”they” felt he could.

Pat Miller

Loved the big finish–the high note–reminding us that gathering information before our presentation, our sale, our pitch, will help the audience perceive that it is tailored to them. I’ve noticed that to be true in some talks I gave recently. Same session, presented three times on three days. The two that I talked with the audience and gathered info about were rated higher in the evals than the one I didn’t. Now I see the connection! You did a super job of guiding the interview–and now I’ll have to make room on my own calendar to read Fooling Houdini!


Awesome article and great interview. I got so much info from this it’s crazy! Thanks! πŸ™‚

-Eric Out-

Marsha from YesYesMarsha.com

When I worked as a radio host, I would often be told certain things – the most insulting (and surprisingly prevalent) was that you couldn’t have a woman doing a radio show straight after another woman. That no one wanted to hear two women in a row (but two men was fine).

Thankfully, I had a lot of chances to prove them wrong!

Loved this podcast, thank you. I talk a LOT in my work about the Recency Effect (wiki here: http://yym.ca/17bYuvM) and how the last thing you do colours everything. But I found it fascinating to learn about the most intense moment being important, and the stuff about how, if it’s perceived to be easy, people will want to pay less!

Finally, for anyone interested in this stuff & looking for further reading, Derren Brown’s book “Tricks Of The Mind” is a totally fascinating and easy read.

    claire stone

    Wow, can’t believe that something like that was ever considered valid!!! Super glad that you stuck it to them!


    I just wanted to say a huge “Good for you!!!” for not listening to that nonsense. πŸ™‚


Derek, maybe you could consider an “email me when the transcript is ready” link? I tend to forget to check back later and then realize when the next podcast comes out that I never read the last one. (For me – and probably not just me – listening takes too long. Reading is faster and more memorable.)


Fabulous interview and I’m intrigued now to go read the book!

Meantime, I totally agree that experts sometimes get blinded by their own expertise. I worked with a marketing guy some years ago, and he was brilliant – a real expert. But I don’t think he ever understood my business and hence his “advice” was off the shelf and not tailored to my offering. I guess it wasn’t necessarily “bad” or “wrong”. Just didn’t work for me!


Sometimes you just have to follow your own instincts.

I was asking many other artists about their experiences with copyright because I had a ton of work I wanted to get copyrighted. Shockingly, I came across hundreds of people who’s response were basically “oh lol, you don’t need to register your copyrights.” I can’t tell you how much that infuriated me, that they think that I don’t need to register copyrights for my business. And most of them were running a business!! Far longer than me!

I’m getting them copyrighted anyway because I did my own digging and found that yes, if you want to be able to hold water in court, you need to register the copyrights or else you’ll be more likely to be stuck (and pay lots of money out of your own pocket).

Sometimes I wonder if they said not to register because they secretly wanted to sabotage me. I was going to be a competitor afterall. That’s another thing, too, possible intentional sabotage could be behind the motivation as they would have something to gain or lose.


    * Waves church fan. *


      Huh? I’m confused.


        Apologies. * Waves church fan * means, “I co-sign,” or “I agree with you.” LOL


If you stumble, make it part of the dance!

Great lessons indeed. Thanks dude!


I enjoyed this episode and found a lot of takeaways. I’ve always had a big personality and believe that “fun” and “function” aren’t mutually exclusive. So I had “experts” at school and in business tell me I shouldn’t be so transparent, personable, or fun if I wanted to end up at the C-level.

Fast forward to now and I have my own business where I’m at the C-level and it’s a great time to be a transparent, communicative business owner. I got here by being good to people, working hard, creating great quality, and having fun. Hell, I got a paid gig by singing karaoke with some people.

    Derek Halpern

    Paid gig by singing karaoke? Awesome!


      Lol, yep! And also made several other business contacts at the same conference. Amazing how putting yourself out there in unexpected ways can build trust with people.


This podcast was so interesting! So many takeaways. I love the one about creating a great beginning, end as well as one big emotional moment (hopefully a good one) and that is what people really remember. This is a great way to keep clients happy even if problems come up during a project. (I work as an interior designer and sometimes the projects run for 10-12 months so this is very applicable). I am definitely going to get his book. I love the way psychology influences so much of how we do business.
Ramit Sethi also talked about experts in his book and I am now convinced that experts are not always so right (or valuable). Thanks Derek!

    Derek Halpern

    Except when it comes to me and ramit right? ;-D


Where do I begin?
– Doctors / specialists who misdiagnosed my being anemic.
– Former bosses who foolishly counted me down & out to not be anything beyond an Admin Assistant.
– Countless ineffective online marketing courses which I allowed to keep me trapped in what I now call The Eternal eCourse Zone, until I found the “sweet spot” to finally enjoy my own success.

The list goes on.

You ALWAYS come with the good stuff, Derek. As always, thank you!

    Derek Halpern

    A former boss actually said you’d never be anything other than an admin assistant?


      Yezzir. I kid you not.

      When I pressed the issue with my last boss of 5 yrs, he told me point blank: “Well, we’re not gonna create a position for you.” (Never mind he did that countless times for those from his type of background & of his persuasion.)

      Anyway, I responded: “Wrong answer.”

      I quit over a year later giving only 2 days notice (2/28/13 last day)… the night before Congress’ Sequestration. I took the whole event as a sign… as my “out.”

      Turns out, I’m all the better for it.

      Keep coming w/ the good stuff, Derek. You’re baddass, but you already know that.


      Hahaaa. Now youre here, not only getting faaaar better than an admin assistant, youre leading others to do the same if not more. Where is this ”Boss” as we speak? Being bossed around I suppose.


        Yup! You know it, Samuel. LOL!

Juliet C. Obodo

I seriously feel like you’re following me around because every week the topics of your podcasts relate to what ever is currently going on in my life. I recently tabled a project because a more seasoned blogger (an expert) told me that I was going about it the wrong way. That I can’t fast forward my way to the top or expect a certain level of success in a short amount of time. Luckily I was never a very good listener and I restarted my project and presented it to a major fashion site and they’re interested!

This reminds me that good advice may not be the best advice for me and my situation. Unless it’s coming from you of course.

Thank you so much for your podcasts!

    Derek Halpern

    Heh. Following you around? No…

Jacob Winkler

When I shared with an extremely prominent rabbi how a non-Jewish spiritual teacher prompted me to doubt the main tenets of the faith, he encouraged me to give my wife a divorce and go follow the teacher.

This hurt me deeply. I’m grateful that I didn’t listen. My wife and I are happily together. I eventually grew out of the spiritual teacher and now realize how much we have to figure out our own lives on our own. Other people can support us, but they can’t tell us what’s right for us.


    Sounds like sarcasm to me. And poor taste.


    I share your thoughts on this subject Jacob. I have stopped listening to Priests. Apart from the nationally known scandal that many of them have deliberately sparked, these people stand and want to force feed me information about a supreme being that they themselves know nothing about? What a joke.

    Derek Halpern

    Interesting that that was his first response.


Don’t get me started on Doctors!

I have had health issues all of my life, and just last year because aware of how very very little doctors know about how the human body works. What I came to realize is that Inflammation (which is when the body attacks itself) was the cause of most of my problems. The way inflammation is treated today – if at all – is simply painkillers. What happens is that the painkillers ALWAYS make the situation worse!

I have a friend who has Arthritis in her knees. After years of painkillers, which do all sorts of other kinds of damage, they are now talking about knee-replacement. NO ONE discussed/recommended therapy to get her to walk right (which would de-stress the joint), NO ONE tried to find out why the joint was inflamed. NO ONE suggested a change of diet or vitamin program. ANY of these would have probably made the situation better. ALL of them would probably have cured it!

And doctors are considered the ultimate experts today. And boy are they wrong.

Love your stuff Derek.

    Derek Halpern

    Sorry to hear this about doctors, and I’m glad you dig this. Interesting that you call doctors the experts of today. I also think its not about all doctors, and instead about individuals.


    Going to have to agree for the most part. There are definitely a lot of bad doctors out there (lazy?) and they do often just go the route of “oh just pop pills” which leave you with more symptoms than before. I hate it – a lot of people don’t realize what ill effects all this pill / drug taking has on the human body. Instead they blindly follow their doctor or use excuses of “well I’m getting older and this is just what happens.”

    Many things (read:not all, exceptions do apply) can be -cured- if someone just looked at the possibility of other options.

    I avoid doctors when I can. You get overcharged anyway. Every time I got the flu, my boss would insist I see the doctor. But I always got the same response for treating it so I stopped going because what was the point? Dish out a lot of money (that I don’t have) to get the same recommendation of treatments? I just get some Mucinex D, stay home and sleep (when I can), eat and drink and it always goes away after a few days.

    Down with blindly following doctors! They are human beings, too, and thus are susceptible to everything that makes us human, including laziness.

    There was a show that ran on the Discovery Health channel which followed a lot of cases where doctors were either ill-educated on the patient’s conditions or just flat out wrong. Their biggest message was basically get second opinions and keep searching for someone who will FIX the problem, not mask it.


    My parents and siblings are doctors (I was the only one who wanted to get into technology) and I know where you’re coming from.

    You’d be surprised by the amount of bad doctors out there, just hearing my family talk about their co workers was horrifying. A lot of people’s lives ruined because of negligence or just plain ignorance.

    However, stating that doctors don’t understand human body is short sighted. Vitamins won’t cure ear infections, nor herbal teas will cure some STDs.

      Jim Wang

      Only one doctor can graduate at the top of his or her class, right? Likewise, there will always be someone who is the absolute bottom… the question is which one did you get? πŸ™‚


        Just because a doctor didn’t graduate at the of his/her class doesn’t automatically means that it’s a bad doctor.

        But the point here is not whether a doctor is capable of doing his/her job or not, but to state that doctors don’t know the human body is just plain wrong.

        Eating right matters a lot, but you won’t treat infections with grass fed beef or homegrown apples.

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