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I won’t tell you too much about this; I do need the element of surprise on my side. Hello, lovely to meet you. Thank you for joining me. And what is your name? Ruth, would you mind standing just here? Face me. Ruth, I’m going to give you an opportunity to win 50 cents Australian. Yes, it’s even worth less than what it is here. I do apologize; it’s actually against my culture, values, and beliefs just to give money away. It’s rather difficult. Ruth, I’d like you to hold the coin behind your back like this, if you don’t mind. In a moment, you’re going to play “Which Hand Is the Coin In?” with me. Don’t make your decision yet. This is about influence, so don’t let me influence you. Listen to what I have to say first.
Ruth, in a moment, I want you to put the coin in the hand that feels right to you—your choice. And in the hand that’s left, just leave that one empty if you like. Please bring your hands forward. Don’t put the coin in your pocket, or I won’t get it. It’s interesting to see what this game is. Ruth is up here, a little bit distracted, a little bit nervous as well. She’s not thinking about what I’m saying. Did you hear what I said? Put the coin in the hand that feels right, and leave the hand that’s left empty. And Ruth, being up here, does exactly what I’d like her to do. So, hands behind your back one more time. I will tell you this: Everybody who goes right first always changes to the left. I guess they just do what feels right! So I don’t know what Ruth is thinking right now—perhaps that this is a bluff, or what if it’s a double bluff? And then we think to ourselves, Is it one of those legendary triple bluffs that you never hear about? But what happens is we don’t really know what a triple bluff is, so we default to what we would normally do, which is to put it in the right hand. OK, bring your hands forward. Right hand again. OK, two out of four. Hands behind your back again. So Ruth, there are two choices left. Just know that you can’t get this wrong, you can just get this left. So bring your hands forward, and make your hands really tight once you make your choice. Face the audience please. I want to show the audience what this looks like from my point of view. So now Ruth, you can either cross your left hand over your right or your right hand over your left. [She chooses left over right.] OK, this is interesting. Let me explain. See this top hand? It’s not very obvious, but you see this bottom hand here? That bottom hand is what we call in society “the guilty hand” because we have something we want to hide away, underneath. And the bottom hand has the coin, right. And now for the last one. Discretely make your choice, and be sure nobody saw you put the coin in your hand. Bring you hands forward and face the audience. See, this last one is not about linguistic influence or squeezing the left hand harder—or the right. It’s not about that. It’s about visual influence. There’s a big “left” on screen that becomes a burning desire; we just want to do it. So would you open your left hand. And it is!
Ruth, you’re doing so well. This means you’re ready for the experiment. Please join me over here. If I could get you to look at a die over here. It has choices from one to six. In a moment, I want you to turn it to a number that’s right for you, obviously. I think there’s a four there, but not the right one for you. Just turn it to the right one. So just turn the die to any number you like. Cover it and there should be a number that just feels right to you. And when you turn it to the right one, just say yes out loud. “Yes.” Are you sure? “Yes.” So this is the number she has to pick. [Vinh draws a big 2 on a piece of paper and shows the audience.] I don’t want her to see this, but she has to pick this. She won’t know why, but she will. So Ruth, in a very loud voice please tell me what number you picked, and please be honest. “2.” Yes, of course it was 2!
I want all of you to experience influence. The reason I did this is that I wanted you to experience how real influence is. It’s one of the most powerful things in life, so I want all of you to experience the same. So please hold out your right hand, palm down. Then turn your hand face up, palm up. Put all your fingers together and bend your arm 90 degrees. And this next part, please do as quickly as you can, but please don’t hurt yourselves. Take your finger and point to your cheek. [He points to his own chin.] Turn to the person next to you and say, “That’s your chin, not your cheek!” What? I saw some of you actually start to point to your cheek and then say, What? Friends, this is what we call visual influence. Ninety-five percent of the world falls for it. Influence is real.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned about influence came in two parts. Very early on in my journey, a man named David Greeks shared this with me:
Vinh, you always talk to me about how your dad tells you to jump as high as you can; you’re always wanting me to jump higher. One lesson I want to teach you about influence, Vinh. It’s completely changed my life. Vinh, for you to do the things you do in a small city that we live in—in South Australia in Adelaide—for you to do this, you cannot afford to have one negative person in your life. Not one. Because what you’re about to do, no one has done before. And for one person to weigh in with a little bit of doubt will scare you, and you will not go on the journey.
Just think about that. You see, as a magician, for me to play this influence game with Ruth—to get the coin trick right four times in a row took about eight months of learning it. It’s rather depressing if you think about it. You do a lot of work, and it’s just for 50/50. And one out of six. The interesting thing is, to learn the linguistics, to learn the words, to learn the tonality, squeezing the left hand or the right hand at the right time, it’s an awful lot of work. But I believe the influence by a magician is quite fun and entertaining, and it’s good for you.
But negative people, when they open the door and walk into your life or your office, do they have to say anything to affect the way we feel? They say nothing, yet they affect the way we feel, the way we think, and the way we operate—and the way we ultimately live. It wasn’t until I got rid of all these negative people in my life, who said it could not be done, that my life changed.
I was in a relationship many years ago with a lady, and the first time I met her father, it was amazing. I came to their house and had dinner with him, and he said to me, “Vinh, I’m very happy to hear you’re doing commerce and law, and I just want to let you know that when you finish your degree, you should get your CPA, become an accountant, and become a partner with KPMG. Not Deloite; I like KPMG better.” I thought, Oh my goodness, I haven’t told him about my dream to do magic, to teach tricks. I loved this girl. I loved her so much. So I waited until we her and I were alone in the room, and I said, “Yes, of course I’ll do that.” But then I said, “You know about my dream. You’re going to tell him, right? You’re going to back me up?” And she said, “Sorry, please listen to Daddy.”
For five years I loved her, and I sacrificed my dreams. It was the most painful five years of my life. I never went on the journey. I never tried, never even took the first step. Because in that world, in that environment I was in, they said to me, “It cannot be done, Vinh. If I cannot touch, feel, taste, or eat the business, it’s not real. Online is not real.” I said “What? It is! Have you googled it?” It blew my mind. But they didn’t believe it. So I was influenced by that. I never began my dream, never even started. That environment said to me my whole life, “It cannot be done; it’s impossible; it’s not real; be realistic; it’s stupid.” And then, the best day of my life was when I left her. So good. And when I left, I joined an entrepreneurial society in Australia. I said three words: This is how. This blew my mind.
You cannot afford to have one negative person. They hold you back. And the second part of this lesson is what I truly adore. My mentor said to me,
Now you know the power of influence. People, every single day, every single second, are influencing your life. This is why this next statement is true: You are the direct reflection of the top five people you spend time with. That is who you are. If ever for a second we lose sight of who we are, we line up the top five people in our lives and that is us. That is who we are.
My mentor also shared with me,
There will come a time in your life when you won’t feel inspired. You’ll wake up and you won’t feel motivated, you won’t feel a sense of growth or progress, and when that happens, don’t be alarmed. Don’t be afraid. Just remember what I say now. When that happens, you’ve successfully become the average of the five people you spend time with. That is all.
And he was right. That happened to me. There was a morning when I woke up, and I didn’t feel motivated about what I do. So because I knew this, I changed one person I was spending time with. Every single time I felt this feeling, I have brought somebody into my life that gave me a spark, a spark that lights a fire. You need to bring people in that immensely inspire you, immensely motivate you, or have a skillset you do not have that you wish to acquire. Because having them in your top five will influence you in ways that you cannot even understand. I do this all the time in my life. I will share two stories with you.
First, this gentleman, Mathew Michalewicz, grew up in Poland and came to America to build his dream in San Diego. He was only 25. He built a company called NuTech Solutions. He exited that company at the very ripe age of 26 or 27—$25 million plus. Then he came to Australia to build his next business, to South Australia, the smallest city. When he came there, everyone in LA said it could not be done. There is no money there; it cannot be done; he could not do it. And he said very quietly, “Where everybody thinks it’s impossible, that’s where the greatest opportunities lie. In all the other cities—let’s look at them as goldmines—too many miners. In Adelaide, there is gold there, but no one’s mining. That’s where I’ll go.” Within 10 years, he built a company called SolveIT Software and exited it in excess of $2 million. I knew that having him in my top five would significantly raise my income. Yes, but there’s more to it than that. I wanted to learn. How can you be so brave? How can you have so much courage and self-belief? How can you have all this determination and inspiration? How? I wanted him to influence my values and beliefs as well.
So I tried calling and emailing. That didn’t work. I tried it for six months. I stalked him on Twitter to see which coffee place he went to and tried to get the bar person to call me when he was there. None of that worked out. But I didn’t give up. So I did the last thing I knew how to do. I bought 1,000 of his books. And it’s really strange because after that we became really good friends. I sent him this photo and said, “Matthew, please, I believe what you believe. I just want one hour with you. Please, just have lunch with me,” and I sent him the photo. [visual] About a week later, I got a phone call, and he said, “Vinh, you cheeky bastard, Thursday, 2 p.m., one hour.” We’ve become best friends. Just eight weeks ago, he took me to Poland for four weeks to recalibrate my goals for 2016. He has completely changed my life. He has not only changed my attributes, my characteristics, he’s changed my values and beliefs within myself. He has taught me how to be brave and how to have courage.
You are the direct reflection of the top five people you spend time with. You get to choose who you want to become in the future by choosing who you want to spend time with today. It is completely your choice. And I continue to do this. This was two years ago.
This next man is by far one of the most amazing people I’ve watched online. Do you know who Gary Vaynerchuk is? OK, maybe I just love him. This man is a destructor, he is an entrepreneur, and I know he is the next target. I want him to become my friend; he just doesn’t know it yet. I’ve been trying to reach out to this guy, trying to be creative the last 12 months. I got married last Saturday. And on the day I got married, he sent me a video that nearly ruined my marriage. He sent me this video: “Vinh, it’s Gary Vaynerchuk. Congrats on your big day, my man. Really big day, Congrats!” He knows I exist! I was more excited about that. I was so excited! I’m very aware that the people you spend time with speak to who you are. He was able to scale a company from 30 people to 600 people in a period of 18 months. I’ve got businesses in Australia I really want to scale. I need this man to become my best friend. Again, he just doesn’t know it yet. I’ll see you very soon, Gary. We shall have coffee together. Again, please remember this: You are the reflection of the top five people you spend time with. You get to choose who you want to become by deciding who you spend time with today.
The last thing I want to share with you is something that’s very close to my heart. I need somebody who is very good with long words. Do you mind giving me a hand with this? So Nick, I have three classic books here: The Shining by Stephen King, The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown; and Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. I need for you to make a choice. Harry Potter. Thank you, Nick. A very cultured man. What I need for you to do now is something very specific, so listen to my instructions very carefully. In a moment, I’m going to ask you to open that book to a completely random page. Random is very key. So do that now, Nick. Open the book to a random page and lift the book up toward yourself so nobody can see. So Nick, you see two pages there. I need for you look for a nice, long, interesting word. Please don’t give the names of the characters. Don’t just look at the first long word you see, look at all the long words. You can change your mind as many time as you like, and choose a word, and just stick with one. Don’t say it out loud; just keep it in your head. And once you have one, and you stick with it, close the book. Please say the word a few times in your head and put the book down. And say the word continually in your head as I talk to the audience. In 1907, a magician performed this in the United Kingdom, and he made the world believe that psychic powers are real. I’m a magician, and the biggest skeptic you will probably ever meet, and I don’t believe that. But I wanted to perform what he performed. How did he get the world to believe in that? I thought, That’s crazy! So this is what he did.
Nick, just stand here. You have the word in your head, just the word, and I want you to think of the first letter. Just the first letter. Don’t say it; just think of it. I want you to believe that you do have psychic powers. So pretend that you do, just imagine. I want you to hold one hand up like this, and in a moment I’m going to want you to send the first letter to everybody here in the audience. So just kind of look. Maybe use both hands, it’s better for reception. Begin over there, and just scan over the audience. Just guess a letter as we do this. Guess the letter in your head.
In a moment, when Nick names the letter, just that letter, please stand so we can count you. In a room with 2,000 people, statistically speaking, at least 50 percent of you should get this correct. So hold the mike, and in a very loud voice, name the first letter. What was it? “T.” Everyone who thought of T stand— 1, 2, 3, . . .30, so a slightly below average room.
So try this with me. Nick, face me. Now think of the second letter. I know this is going to sound weird, but let’s just go with it. Look into my palm, and lock your gaze here. Good. I want you to pretend you can see the second letter here in my palm. Be sure it’s in lower case, not upper caps. So you can see the second letter there, and as I walk closer to you, you can see it getting bigger and bolder and clearer. It’s open. It’s an “n.” No, it’s an “h.” Now for the second part, you’re not allowed to use your fingers. You have to think to yourself, How many syllables are in this word? Don’t use your fingers. Just say yes out loud. It takes about one second per syllable. It took you four seconds or so, I’d say it’s either three, four, or five syllables. If you have to name a number three, four, or five—not necessarily syllables, just name a number—three, four, or five. “Three.” You just gave me the number of syllables in the word. The last thing I’m going to ask you to do is, can you balance with your eyes closed? I’m going to squeeze your shoulder in a moment, and when I do, I need you to say the word in your head without moving your lips, over and over and over again. Starting now. Keep thinking of the word over and over and over, louder and louder, until you think you’re screaming. Was that weird? Close your eyes just for a second as I show what I’ve written down here to the audience. It has to be this. [Vinh holds up the pad showing the word Thunderstruck.] If I get this wrong, it’s obviously Nick’s fault. So in a very loud voice, you can choose any long word you want to. It wasn’t the first word you went for, was it? No, it wasn’t. So now, loud, what was the word? “Thunderstruck.” Yes! Nick, you’re amazing!
In 2012, I wanted to perform this more than anything in my life. And I remember taking a newspaper extract—there were four sentences—to all my magic buddies, and I said, “Guys, this is the best thing ever. We have to do this. We have to!” And they looked at me and said, “Vinh, the average book has 100,000 words, man. That’s impossible. Dude! You’re an idiot!”
Obviously, I removed them from my top five. We have this sick need to be right, me and my friends, so I saw that as a perfect opportunity to drill them about intelligence. I said, “Duh, you’re wrong, obviously. Impossible implies zero out of 100,000; one out of 100,000 technically speaking means highly improbable. You’re the idiots.” We’re still friends, but I never like any of their posts. I don’t care how cool it is, I never like them. From that conversation, I learned one of the most valuable lessons in my life. All those magicians, my magic buddies, who believed this could not be done, they never tried. Why try something if you believe it’s impossible? Why try? I was foolish enough to believe that it could be done. I hope I stay foolish forever, for the rest of my life. Because I was foolish, I found a way. Because I was on a journey, I found a way.
I’d like to share with you how this was done. The reason I’m sharing this with you is because I know there will, too, come a time when you will embark on a journey that appears to be impossible. But when you do embark on that journey, and it appears to be impossible, please think of me and this very moment. Because people always ask magicians, How do you create the impossible? How? Sometimes innovation can feel like it’s impossible. How do you approach that? I’ll share with you how you do it.
The first step to creating something truly impossible is you must believe with your heart and soul that it can be done. You have to have absolute conviction—no doubt at all, not even an ounce. And when you really believe that it can be done, and you really believe this with intensity, you take the first step. Why? Because our beliefs dictate our actions in life. So you take the first step. You believe it can be done. Only when you take the first step can you see the second step. You cannot see the second step from step zero. You have to be on the journey, and you have to be on step one to see the second step. You can see it now.
Do you remember what I said right at the beginning? I said, “Open the book to a random page.” Random, random, random. What does random mean? It means somewhere in the middle. Not in the first 25 percent, not in the last 25 percent, but somewhere in the middle. Double meaning. Take a second step. It’s not one page in 100,000; it’s one in 50,000. That’s much easier, of course. And you get stuck on this step for a year, and it very quickly turns into a year and a half, and then two years. And you think to yourself, Why are you so crazy to stay on this journey? Why are you so crazy? It’s because I believe in it. And when you believe in something—think about this for a second—when you believe in someone, or something, do you ever give in? No, you don’t. No matter how tough the journey gets, you continue the journey. You don’t give in. And then you collaborate with someone who isn’t in your industry who has a different perspective and who influences you in a different way, and that person shows you something that’s been in front of you the entire time.
The second thing I said was, “Pick a long word, not a short word.” What does that mean? A long word is a word with more than six letters. Anything with less than six letters, next to long words, looks visually short. So out of 50 percent that’s left, what if I removed every single word in here that has less than six letters? I remove 90 percent of the 50 percent that was there. It’s not one out of 50,000, it’s one out of 5,000.
The next two steps will blow your mind. But I’m not going to share them. How this trick is done is not important. It is not. The most important thing is that first step, the very first step. Far too often in our lives, we look at a challenge that is before us and before we even accept that challenge, we label that challenge as being impossible. Before we even try and take that first step, we label it as being too hard, can’t do it.
As a magician, I understand a thing or two about illusions. And I can tell you now, with absolute certainty, that the biggest illusion you will ever experience in your life is not a piece of magic that I perform. The biggest illusion that you experience in your life isn’t even from David Copperfield, and he’s amazing. The biggest illusion you’ll ever experience is when you tell yourself something cannot be done. It is not real; you create that. I know what you’re thinking: How does he have the audacity to stand up here and tell me that anything is possible in life? He is 29. I’ll prove it. It was an exercise a mentor did with me that changed my mind about this. Please stand and face a partner for me. You can go with threes if you like. As you face your partner, have a good look at them, and then turn your back so you can no longer see them. See how good your memory is. With your backs turned, I want you to change 33 things about the way you look. Now. Just kidding! I want you to change one thing, as discretely as you can. And face your partner. See if you can see it. Good. Turn your backs again. Now listen. With your backs turned, your next challenge, if your partner didn’t notice what you changed, I want you to be a little bit more dramatic this time. Please keep clothes on. Just change one more thing, but please be a little more dramatic. Perfect, and face your partners. Very good. Have a seat.
Here’s the thing. When my mentor, Matthew, in Australia, showed me this, he said, “Vinh, I’ve just proved to you that anything can be achieved.” I said, “What?” This man’s crazy. He said, “Vinh, right at the start, when I asked you and your team to change 33 things about your appearance, how were you feeling?” I said, “Well Matthew, I felt like it was highly improbable.” And he said, “No, Vinh, you’re wrong.” So how did you feel? I’ve seen people give in, give up. There was a mental block; you didn’t take the first step. You made an assumption. You assumed that it was highly improbable. Then he said to me, “Vinh, when I asked you to change one thing about your appearance, how did you feel?” I said, “It’s easy.” I think all of you just didn’t even think. There was no mental block. You just took the first step. You changed one thing. You even had fun. Then I asked you to change one more thing. How did you feel? Yes, I can do this. You don’t even think. We just do.
See, if I had the time and wanted to bore you all to death, I could have asked you to change one more thing, and one more thing, and you would have changed 33 things about your appearance. Challenges moving forward will always appear impossible. But it’s not real. As long as you take things one step at a time, you never fall victim to a silo mentality. You always ensure you protect your environment—the top five. You bring in the best and only the highest quality of people, and you ensure that you have strong beliefs, that you believe it can be done. And where do our beliefs come from? This is where it comes full circle now. Our beliefs come from the top five people we spend time with. That’s where they come from. If you have self-limiting beliefs, change the five top people you spend time with, and your beliefs change with them.
The most impossible thing is not to innovate. The most impossible thing is not to achieve all the dreams you desire. It’s not. It’s highly probable you will do these things. You just have to be able to bear failure at least 50 to 100 times. It’s been done. If you’re willing to do this, you will find a way to do things differently.
Please remember: perspective, influence, and beliefs. I’ll leave you with one last quote from Steve Jobs. Best company in the world. I give them money every six months, and they give me an iPad in return. Fantastic. Steve has a beautiful quote: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” There are people here who are crazy enough to believe you can change the world and achieve all the dreams you desire. If you are crazy enough to believe this, then you are the people who will. Good luck, my friends.
Vinh Giang is a businessperson and entrepreneur from Los Angeles, California. While in his 20s, he started an online business with two good friends who left their careers to pursue their dream of building a successful business. Their online platform, Encyclopedia of Magic, now teaches magic to almost 50,000 students around the world.