Seven years ago, I was in university in Australia studying for a bachelor of law and commerce—of course, fulfilling the Asian prophecy. It’s a five-year degree, and four and a half years into the degree, I came home and told my parents the following, and just imagine you were there. I told them, “Mom and Dad, I love you, very much, and I have something to tell you. I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time. I love you very much—remember this. Mom, Dad, I’d like to quit university.” My mom was very soft; she just cried. My dad, well, Dad loved Bruce Lee! I remember him sitting on the couch, and he stood up and said, “What in the hell did you say, boy?” I said, “Dad, don’t—just relax. There’s one more thing I need to tell you. Remember that investment property you bought in 2001 that you said was for me for motivational purposes? Well, it’s available, and I’d like to sell that investment property and invest $100,000 of that money to start a business on the Internet to teach magic tricks.” I just wanted to make sure that all of us were on the same page at this point! I just told a 60-year-old Vietnamese man, who’s been through the war, and who was in a boat for two weeks to Australia to give his son an education, that his son wants to be Harry Potter!
So you know when you’re so angry you don’t know what to do with yourself? Dad just picked Mom up, and they both just walked into the kitchen. At this point, as a young man, I did the deduction, and I deduced—what? This is where I die—the knives are in the kitchen. I’m a fairly calm person, and I don’t normally freak out. Then, I heard them whisper. And that’s when my mind and imagination went wild. What were they saying in there? Dad was consoling my mom, and I imagined Dad was saying to her, “Don’t worry, honey, don’t worry. We kill this boy tonight! And, maybe later, we make another one tonight.”
Just to have an idea what it was like to be me during that period, my brother has always been a straight A student at university. And now he’s in university studying medicine, so, for a long time, my father felt like he only had one son. My dad is the oldest of seven brothers, and he was the one who made the decision to flee Vietnam to make a new home for his unborn children. That’s the kind of man my dad is. And he came out and said something that completely blew me away. He said, “Boy, I did not risk my life, I did not risk the lives of all your uncles, all your aunties, and, most importantly, your mother and your grandparents—I did not risk everybody’s lives to find us a new home to force you to do something you do not want to do. Son, I found us a new home; I took all the sacrifices to allow you to do what you want. And if it’s magic . . .” He paused for a very long time. “. . . then OK.” And the most beautiful words he said was this: “Son, in this life promise me one thing. You jump as high as you possibly can, and for as long as I’m alive, I will forever be your net.”
And I tested the theory, obviously! I begin with this story because I am fully aware that I would not be where I am today, I would not have achieved the things I’ve achieved, if it wasn’t for my family supporting me. I wanted to bring attention before I begin to how important family is. My father has this philosophy that he has embedded in me all my life. He said to me, “Son, the fact that you are alive is ridiculous! Don’t even talk about the war, the scary bullets flying in Iraq! Son, here’s the thing: If your mother and I did not meet, you would not be here—you would not exist, boy! Let’s take it further. If your grandparents on both sides never met, you wouldn’t exist. Let’s it take back about 50,000 generations. If a caveman ate a poisonous fruit and died, that is our entire bloodline eliminated from this Earth. We wouldn’t be here. The fact that you are alive is ridiculous. It took millions of years of a series of events for you to exist. Millions of years, and now you’re here—for 86, 87 years on average. When you compare the two, you’re alive for one minute, and you’ve already lived for 20 seconds of it. What will you do with the 40 seconds you have left? You need to jump as high as you can in life.” That was my father.
And my mother has one lesson as well. My mom, bless her heart, I love her, said, “Son, there is nothing amazing about you.” Not a motivational speaker, obviously! “So, Son, there is nothing amazing about you; nothing amazing at all. The only thing that is amazing are the lessons that have made you who you are. And, Son, when you get on the stage as a speaker, please always remember this—never forget it for a second: Never ever put yourself on a pedestal. But always put the lessons that have made you who you are on the pedestal. Because if you can learn them, so can everybody else.” She keeps me real.
Now I would like to share with you three of the most powerful lessons in my life that have allowed me to innovate an industry that hasn’t been innovated for a long time—the world of magic—but also three lessons that have completely changed my life, professionally and personally. And I know that if you carry these messages and lessons with you, they can change yours as well. The only difference with me is that, as a speaker, I carry my magic as my metaphor. And now I would like to begin.
Oh, you must be thinking, Vinh, did you sell that investment property? Did your dad let you sell it? What happened? The answer is yes, we did; it was the best day of my life. And when we sold it, that was the beginning of my journey—to build the online business that teaches magic tricks. I am so proud that I stand before you now, with an online business that teaches magic tricks! We just taught more than 39,000 students from all over the world, and we actually won the SA Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in Australia. So Dad’s got two sons again! Back in the game! On this journey, I have learned so much that I want to share with you.
The first lesson is what I call “perspective.” I need somebody who has not experienced close-up magic before. If you have not experienced close-up magic before, please raise your hand so that I can see you. This is a very simple game. It’s called “Which Hand Is the Tissue In?” So I have this tissue, and I put this behind my back, and I want to ask you, Jody, which hand is the tissue in? [she points to left hand] Let’s try this again—which hand is it in? [she guesses correctly again] Good—stick with the gut! So let’s try it again. [he throws tissue behind her, but she doesn’t see it] We’ll try this again, Jody—don’t take your eyes off this. [she sees it goes into his right hand] Good! Now you’re even! This is the tiebreaker. [he tosses that one behind her; she picks his left hand] What! It’s gone! This is crazy, isn’t it? The craziest thing you’ve ever seen. Jody, I just want to show you what happened. If you’d just look behind you [two tissues are behind her chair], you can see that I threw it over your head!
It’s a childishly simple trick, but I appreciate it. Here’s the thing. Why did I perform this? People always ask me, “Vinh, what is magic? What is it?” It is very simple. What is magic? Magic is just a problem that you cannot solve. That’s all that it is. So, for Jody, what was the problem that she could not solve? She thought, Where did the tissue go? This guy’s bloody amazing! She had no idea where the tissue went; she couldn’t figure it out for the life of her. We could have done it 10 more times, and she still wouldn’t know. She could not solve the problem. However, every single one of you in this room could. Why? Perspective! You had a different perspective. You see, as an entrepreneur, and in my life personally, every single time I encounter a problem and the reason I cannot solve the problem is because I’ve fallen victim to a silo mentality. I’ve started to look at the problem only from one perspective—my own perspective—and I think to myself that there’s no way to solve this. Had I asked somebody else and gotten a completely fresh perspective, I would have realized that the solution is this clear. And then you get upset because the solution is so simple. But here’s the thing: Perspective is power. Collaboration is power. People will see things within your industry you cannot see yourself. Collaboration is not only within our own industry. Collaboration is something that is so critical, we collaborate outside our own industry. That’s where innovation comes from. As a speaker, I really want to prove the points I speak about. I don’t want to just say them; I want to prove them to you. So I wanted all of you to experience a silo mentality. I’ve created a video—it took me three months. I want you to watch this video and tell me if you can solve the problem—or the trick. See if you can solve this:
[video playing] What you are about to witness is one of the oldest psychological illusions in the world. Before we go any further, I want you to make sure that every single card here [he fans out the cards on a table] is, in actual fact, different. That is the first thing I want you to notice. The second thing is that the backs are all actually blue. [he flips the cards the other way to illustrate] The interesting thing about the color blue is the psychological implications it actually has on the human mind. If you were actually here, I’d get you to cut the cards and you could pick a card at random. But because you’re not, let’s just go with a random card here. [he stops and picks a card—it’s the four of spades] Let’s say that’s your chosen card. Remember that card. It’s actually very important that you do remember that card, because if you don’t, this next bit actually won’t make sense. Look, I do understand that is actually not your card, but I want you to pretend that you can visualize your card in that deck. The funny thing is, it becomes your card. [he waves the deck around and the ten of spades is visible, then as he waives the deck, the visible card becomes the four of spades] Now, did you see that change? Did you see it? Not that change—this change here. [he fans out the entire deck and every single card is the four of spades] Because if you didn’t see this change, chances are you didn’t see this change. [he flips the deck over and all the backs are red] Every single card becomes red—every single one. And this right here is one of the oldest psychological illusions in the world.
Right! So now, what do you think? “Why did he not do it live? Why did he do it on a video? Is he a good magician?” Yes, yes, he is! You see, here’s the thing. The reason I showed you the video is for a very specific reason. If I had shown it to you live, you would have had 2,000 different perspectives on what I do. Of course, you can solve that problem. By seeing the video, you are locked into one perspective—the perspective of my cameraman. You could only see what he was showing you. You had a silo mentality. So what I did on the day of the filming is that I put another camera in the corner to film the exact same thing to give you a perspective of the exact same thing. So now I’m going to show you the exact same thing from a different perspective, and see if you can solve it now! I think you’ll find this even more intriguing than the first! [video]
Did you see the guy do this? [puts both hands in the air to say yes] Yeah, it took 38 takes to get it right . . . yes—seven hours later! How many of you could solve the problem? Did you see me switch out the cards? You solved the problem! But what’s even more fascinating is, we got a fresh perspective. You started to see all the changes that were happening around me that we don’t seem to notice with our silo mentality. But with a new perspective, all of a sudden we see these changes.
Do you know what these changes represent? Opportunity. As we go through our lives with a silo mentality, not only can we not solve the problems we encounter, we don’t see all the wonderful opportunities that exist all around us within arm’s reach. Collaboration of many perspectives is power. The only reason why I am where I am, and I’ve done all I have done, is because I continually collaborated with others in different industries besides my own. If I only collaborated with magicians, I wouldn’t be here. I have to collaborate with people in the online business area, psychologists, linguists—all these different people gave me fresh perspectives, and they could see things I couldn’t see myself. Perspective is power. I have a mentor in the UK who teaches me a lot about magic. He said to me, “Vinh, in life, this is what problems look like. There is no apparent order; it just looks like chaos. You have a problem, and this is what it looks like! Then, you show someone else, who has a different perspective, and they look at the same thing and, among chaos, they see patterns and they see order. What’s fascinating is that when you learn from their perspective, and when you hear what they have to say, you will go back to your own problem, and you will now begin to see order among chaos—wisdom. If you’re going to jump as high as you can in life—which is a duty, not a choice—you need to gather as many different perspectives as you can and never fall victim to a silo mentality, no matter what state of your journey you are on in your life.” Perspective is power.
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.