Magicians are often asked, “How’d you do that?” Many people assume it has something to do with subtle misdirection—a little smoke here or a perfectly placed mirror there—but the real answer may surprise you, and it’s a secret I stumbled upon quite by accident.
Though the seeds of this discovery were planted much earlier, perhaps the best place to begin is when I was invited to audition for the first season of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. I had been preparing my whole life for that moment, so when the big day came, I packed my best magic act, drove to Union Station, hopped the train to Grand Central, and walked to the audition. When I arrived, the line to get in wrapped around the block, so I patiently fell in line and waited.
And waited some more.
But I never got inside.
They didn’t have enough time to see everyone that day, so they told us to come back the following morning—but I knew I wouldn’t be back the next day. I didn’t even have to think twice about it, because I had something more important to do—and looking back at my journals from that time period, I can understand why the decision was such an easy one to make.
The Hope of Relationships
Just weeks earlier, in an entry dated February 24, 2006, I wrote a note that said how I didn’t think I would ever marry, but that if I ever did it would have to be with someone like Stephanie Parker—someone who I care for and who cares about me, someone who lights up my soul and inspires me to be who I am meant to be.
And isn’t that the greatest hope of any high-value relationship? Mutual support to stand by and lean on each other in both high tide and low tide.
Stephanie and I had been dear friends for years, and though we were nothing more, just having her in my life—indeed, just knowing she was around—was empowering enough to make me a better person. And so I simply carried on, discovering, learning, and growing into who I might be if only I bet on myself.
So what gives? If I was truly betting on myself, why would I abandon the audition? Why would I give up on perhaps the most important opportunity of my career?
Real & Lasting Happiness
One of my favorite pieces of magic to perform is to fold a $1 bill four times, and then unfold it to reveal that it’s been transformed into a $100 bill. What I appreciate about this is it always succeeds in grabbing everyone's attention—and just when I have their full attention, I reveal its true meaning:
“Achieving dreams creates temporary happiness, yet never leads to real and lasting happiness—for all glory is fleeting. Eventually, everything moves on and everything changes.”
And with that, the $100 bill is transformed back into a $1 bill. This may have the appearance of tragedy, but in truth it offers hope:
“True and lasting happiness is not found in what we achieve, but rather in the moments in between, in the people we meet along the way, and how we make each other feel.”
I think of Stephanie when I say these words, and the profound care, support, and belief she had in me. At the time, I was 22 years old, but even then I was able to discern what was most important, and it wasn’t a magic show.
It wasn’t a career.
It wasn’t the prospect of fame and fortune.
What really matters most are the people we choose to travel through life with.
That’s why I knew I couldn’t go back to the audition the next day, because I had something more important to take care of: I had promised Stephanie I would drive her to the airport.
Sure, she could have gotten anyone to drive her—but I wanted to do it. And of course I didn’t tell her about the audition; she would have insisted that I go—but I wanted to be there for her. She was more important.
And how do you show others they are important? How do you show others you care for and value them? It’s really quite simple: You show up.
The Real Secret of Magic
Conan O’Brien once suggested that “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
And that’s the point of this story: to share a fortunate happy turn of events as a result of consistently showing up.
The following year, after sacrificing the audition in favor of something greater—and after years of showing up—I became engaged to be married with Stephanie.
Stephanie! The one who makes my heart flutter and soul sing.
My best friend! I asked, and she said yes.
There is much more to this story, yet there is value in ending here, to sit and reflect on these ideas:
Know what you want from life, show up everyday, ask for it, and invite the right people to join you—to stand by and lean on each other in both high tide and low tide.
Magicians are often asked, “How’d you do that?” Many people assume it has something to do with subtle misdirection—a little smoke here or a perfectly placed mirror there—but the real secret of magic is really quite simple: It’s done together.
Who are the important people in your life? How are you showing up for them?
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.