What a career in magic can teach us about business
Running a business can mean pulling a rabbit out of your hat at times. Illusionist Cosentino reveals there’s more to learn from this showbiz niche in his MYOB Partner Connect 2018 keynote address.
Recently, hundreds of bookkeepers and accountants took part in Partner Connect 2018 at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena.
Attendees come to the event to learn, be inspired and be entertained. While I was initially skeptical of one keynote in particular, Australian illusionist Cosentino certainly delivered. Billed as one of Partner Connect’s headline acts, he captivated the audience with his magic acts mixed in with savvy business advice and stories of his own life lessons.
The scene was set when, the stage wreathed in smoke, Cosentino emerged to transfix the crowd with his act.
Creativity, the grind and setting up for success
Cosentino’s love for magic began when he was a child, and how that passion later shaped into a career.
A “very shy, introverted” child with low self-esteem, Cosentino was diagnosed as having learning difficulties at age 12.
And then, a moment of serendipity. Around this time, the young Cosentino read The Encyclopedia of Magic and a promising path emerged, while he also improved his underdeveloped reading and writing skills.
“But it also gave me something else – I could do magic, and that was something nobody else my age could do.” His signature trick at the time, Cosentino said, conveniently made his father’s cash disappear.
“We all know that kids can make money disappear,” said the magician, tongue in cheek.
But this brought Cosentino to his next point. Creativity is crucial to his business and he sees the ability to maintain a child-like perspective helps foster it.
“A trick is achieved through sleight of hand, dexterity. And you know that – but a child does not,” said Cosentino. “As adults, we become conditioned. We put up ceilings and boundaries.”
“My job is to make the impossible possible, so I can’t come from a limited place. And that doesn’t just apply to coming up with ideas, but it applies to my business as well.”
Honing talent takes time and self-awareness
Accepting his own individuality was another key lesson Cosentino learnt the hard way, and it stemmed from being forced to develop a heightened sense of awareness.
“Once I’d put together a showreel, I pitched it to the networks, agents and producers,” he said. For a long time he was rewarded with nothing but rejections.
“I was running around trying to please everyone, but eventually I said ‘enough is enough, I need to be who I want to be’… ”
At this point, a slide appears on the screen behind Cosentino with a quote on it:
Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but that gets boring – so I go back to being me.
This quote takes up a whole wall of his office, he told the audience.
“I’d come to understand what my true value was,” he explained. “My uniqueness; that was my stock.
“Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence … emotions lead to habits, which in turn create behaviours. As a magician it’s unbelievably important.”
Cosentino says being self-aware allows you to become more aware of the unspoken signals of others. Cue audience participation.
A volunteer is singled out from the audience. They’re to choose (not reveal) a card. Cosentino then asked them to intentionally lie when answering his questions. The volunteer’s instinctive behaviour when under pressure, combined with his skill in reading them, meant he quickly divined the card they’d picked.
“Understanding this, I began going into the networks to pitch my show or my books, standing in front of producers and talking. I realised it’s the same thing.”
The importance of misdirection
The third and final section of Cosentino’s keynote focused on his journey towards being a “household name”, which occurred as a result of his role in 2011’s Australia’s Got Talent, where he came runner up.
“In other words: I lost,” he said. “But I used it as leverage to develop my career. Now I was going back to the same people with the same act, the same concepts, but their perception had changed.”
That was the trigger to Cosentino’s rise to fame. He used it to explain a key concept in magic that is matches many business situations as well: the concept of misdirection.
“For a magician, misdirection is fundamental. In essence, it’s about diverting the audience’s attention – it’s attention management,” he said.
Cosentino, true to his style, demonstrated the three types of misdirection with a trick, revealing to the audience how it works. He then summarised the three types of misdirection with real business examples, detailed below.
The three types of misdirection:
“When you’re selling an empty house, you hire in the furniture to make it look like a home. That’s an example of physical misdirection.”
“Think about the meat and poultry industry and how far removed the place where the meat is raised is from the place it’s sold. It’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Many kids think meat actually comes from the supermarket.”
“A good example is a fast-food chain. You drive through, you order and then drive to the next window where you pay. Then you drive to the next window and collect your food … why don’t you just order, pay and collect at the one window? There’s a time lapse – a time misdirection – which makes you think you’re getting your food quicker.”
Cosentino’s unique blend of magic and business lessons made for an inspired keynote at this year’s Partner Connect. In presenting it he reminded us that, while there’s no business like show business, the fundamentals of hard work and savvy strategy still apply.
Don’t want to miss out on another great MYOB event like this? Accountants and bookkeepers can stay in the know, and gain other great benefits, by joining our Partner Program. Learn more about the Partner Program via the MySuccess website.