Master Magician David Blaine — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Master Magician David Blaine — Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss".


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Intro (00:00)

I'm Tim Ferriss, author, entrepreneur, angel investor, and now TV host. I've spent my entire adult life asking questions, then scouring the globe to find the answers. On this show, I'll share the secrets of pioneers who have faced their own fears. We'll dig into the hard times, big mistakes, tough decisions, and how they got through it all. The goal isn't to be fearless. The goal is to learn to fear less. Welcome to Fearless. I'm your host, Tim Ferriss. On this stage, we'll be deconstructing world-class performers of all different types to uncover the specific tactics and strategies they've used to overcome doubt, tackle their hardest decisions, and ultimately succeed on their own terms. Let's take a look at my guest by the numbers. Seventeen minutes, four seconds. His world record-setting breath hold. If you can believe that. It's true. In four days, how long he survived without food in a plexiglass box. Sixty-three hours, 42 minutes, and 15 seconds, the amount of time he spent encased in a block of ice. For nearly 20 years, he has risked his life for your entertainment. Please welcome to the stage world-renowned illusionist and endurance artist, David Blaine. David, I have wanted to have this conversation for years now. Yeah, I'm excited. Yeah, we're going to have fun tonight. I thought one way we could start is with a video that maybe does not represent the most fun but I think is a good video nonetheless. Awesome. This is as close as I come to doing a magic trick. You're doing good. Here we go. Work on the next set of cuffs. Come behind. There's a little bit of air in one. You guys, get ready. There are some bubbles. Get ready. Go, go. Go. The divers are in. Just relax, relax. We got you, David. You're all right. You're all right. The divers are in the sphere. You're okay, David. Just relax. We've got you. Come on up. You're okay. You're okay. Watch the panic in Mandy Ray Crookshank. I've got David out of the bubble. So that is a terrifying video. What happened in that particular situation?

Early Life And Influences

Oxygen deprivation (02:39)

Why did things go sideways? In training, when I'd worked on that, the record was, I believe at the time, was nine minutes. And I'd never gotten up to nine minutes. I got to seven minutes and 47 seconds dry. No oxygen, just breath-holding. And I figured if I starve myself, I'm in the sphere, my metabolism, everything slows down, I would be able to miraculously hold my breath much longer. And it did the opposite effect. So when it came time to do the stunt, I had handcuffs on, I was strapped at the bottom, and I just started to convulse. They jumped in to get me, and you can't see in the video, and I was like, "No!" Like, I held my finger up to stop them because I thought I could keep going, but I'm blacking out. Luckily, they did jump in because he had to take these things off to pull my head above the water. Seems like one of the main dangers of any type of breath-hold training is you feel fine until you're not, right? I mean, with some of it. Right, but when you black out-- see, I learned that Navy SEALs as part of the training, what they do is they make the SEALs comfortable with blacking out underwater. So what they do is they strap them to 45-pound plates and make them walk the bottom of a pool, and they walk until they black out underwater. And then they get pulled to the top, and they're brought back, and they're fine, but that makes everybody not afraid of drowning. You have no fear because you've already blacked out underwater. You've already experienced the worst case scenario. At TEDMED, where you gave a great presentation, it's been a hugely popular talk, but what I remember personally was with a small group sitting in the audience and having you train people. So check this out, guys. Or maybe I'm making this number up.

Stunted by fear (04:20)

Maybe 15 people in the audience. You got up to almost five minutes, I think. I got to 333. I remember very specifically, but there were people in the audience that got past five, and these were people completely untrained. My breath-hold record for me was around 45 seconds. I have lung issues, and I got to three minutes and 33 seconds, and there were other people who just kept trucking. And that was maybe 15 or 20 minutes of exercises. Yeah, 20 minutes total. That was scarier than any of the stunts that I've ever done. Talking. At that conference. Oh, talking at the conference. Yeah. The stunts are easy, but I was in front of like 500 of my favorite people, you being one of them. And I had never given a public talk where I wasn't doing magic. So just to stand there and have to talk in front of everybody that I respect so much, I was like three days, three nights, no sleep. So that was its own stunt. So, I mean, it's all relative, right, guys? I mean, he's not afraid of that, but he's afraid to talk in front of 500 people.

Being born with a hindrance (05:15)

So whatever your fears might be, kind of puts it in perspective. What was your childhood like? How would you describe your childhood, early childhood? I grew up in Brooklyn with a single mother, and we didn't have much. She worked multiple jobs, but she was so incredible because she allowed me to dream, imagine. Yeah, there she--you see? And also, do you see I have leg braces on? Oh, yeah. So I was born with my feet turned in, and so I couldn't run fast, and I couldn't swim fast. So at the age of five, I was on the YMCA swim team, and that's where I started to learn to hold my breath because in order to keep up or even be faster than the other kids, I learned how to swim without breathing. So all the other kids had to learn how to do this, and I would just swim straight across, and that's where I started to develop an ability to hold my breath. Wow. But so back to my mom, yeah. So she was just--I could ask for nothing more amazing. She was the best gift that I could have had as a child, and she'd walk me through the park all the time, and even if I was late for school--like, one time I was walking through the park, and I was late, and she was walking me before she had to go to work. And I was like, "Mom, look, there's King Kong." And instead of her saying, "No, no, we're late. Let's go," she said, "Where?" You know, she engaged, right? So we walked all the way over, and it was just a log, you know, a tree that was down. But the idea that she let me imagine and believe and didn't want to stifle that, that's what made her so incredible.

How David Blaine Got Into Magic (06:48)

How were you introduced to magic or magic tricks? When I was about 5 years old, my mother gave me a deck of cards, and I would carry it everywhere that I went. It just--it was like a treasure to me. And I would go to the library and wait for my mother to finish work and pick me up, and one of the librarians one day walked me through a simple book of magic, self-working stuff. And when my mother came and I did it to her and she went crazy, I became obsessed with doing magic and getting her reaction and then getting her friends' reactions. I never did it for the other kids because they would have been really difficult. Brutal. Yeah, so I was lucky. I just did it to my mother's friends. That's a tough crowd. Did you want to be a magician from that point onward? What did you think you were going to be when you were little? What did your mom think you were going to be? When I was 5, I said to my mom, "I'm going to be a magician one day," and she went, "That's amazing!" I'm sick. So I believe it. So you stuck to the script.

Mike Tyson: The One Thing He Said That Stuck (07:51)

Yeah, stuck to it. How has she affected how you live your life today? I mean, I think part of it, she was so brave. She got sick when I was a teenager and fought cancer, and she fought without a complaint. She was very tough, but the way she approached suffering and death was almost like she was so graceful about it that I was curious. The suffering that she endured and how she found so much beauty out of it, I think that was one of the-- sort of planted the seed to what is there on this other side of enduring things that are-- And not viewing it as just a bad thing. And were you--you were with her when she passed? Yeah, she died in my arm. I can't even imagine. I remember at that moment I felt like my body was like one big twig, and it was like-- snapped, and I became really afraid to connect like that to anybody else. How did--besides the--you know, putting the armor on or not wanting to necessarily connect in that way, did anything else change? I think also at that point that's when I became fearless, because at that point I felt like I had nothing to lose. So when I was 19 or 20 or something like that, I was at the airport and my bag was missing, and I saw a whole bunch of identical bags coming out, and there was all these guys dressed in identical jumpers, and I was like, "I think you guys have one of my bags," because I have the exact same bag. It was a Tumi bag. They said, "Go ask him." Knock on the window, and it was a limousine, a white limo parked out front with tinted windows, and I knock on the window, and the thing rolls down, and Mike Tyson's there with his fist up. He's like, "You got a problem?" And I was like, "Holy shit. "No, Mike, you're like my favorite person," and I grew up, da-da-da, you know, so he says, "Jump in." So I jump in the limo with him, and we drive to the hotel he's staying at, and I'm doing magic to him, and it's amazing, and along the way he says to me, he says, "You know, I wasn't supposed to be the heavyweight champ." He's like, "I didn't have-- I wasn't tall enough. "I didn't have long arms," he's like, "But I had nothing to lose, and when you have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain," and I was kind of like-- that was like another, like, great piece of information from Mike Tyson. So you--I mean, these types of encounters just blow my mind, because if I look at, like, your chronology, so at 18, I think it was, and I don't know if this was a milestone or not, but you--I believe this is when you jumped a turnstile, got in some trouble for that.

Turning the Tables on Turnstiles (10:23)

- Yeah. - Can you tell people about this? - I was doing magic in restaurants, and it started as a waiter where I would do magic, and then I--people wanted to come back and just see me doing magic, so I started walking up and down Park Avenue and trying to get different fancy restaurants to hire--not hire me, let me do magic to the people that were dining, and then they would tip me. As I started doing that, I started getting hired by wealthy New Yorkers to do their parties and things like that. One night, I was--I jumped over a turnstile, and that's when Giuliani was sweeping everybody, so I got locked up, but as I was going there, I kept breaking out of the cuffs for the cops, so they liked it. - Cops love that, by the way. I'm doing this. - They actually do. - Oh, do they? - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - So I have to pause. So you're like, "Hey, guys, these aren't working." I'll be like, "How do they respond to that?" - Yeah, no, no, they're all good. I don't--they know that I'm not really a threat, but, you know, so it's gonna-- anyways-- - They know they just have to go through the motions. - Yeah, so I get put in central booking, and central booking is crazy. It's like everybody's in and out of Rikers, so it's like a tough room, and you're being moved from one cell to another, and there's, like, 40 guys in there, and I'm like, "Oh, man, I'm gonna get my ass kicked." So the four biggest guys are sitting on the ground playing spades, so I walk up to them and grab the deck of cards from them, and I'm like, "Let me show you something." Like, you know, they're ready to kill me. - Yeah. - And I start doing magic, and then what happened was they started to go crazy, and these are the toughest guys in the cell, so then the whole cell is around me, you know, 30 guys or 20-some guys all going crazy, and then the guards come in, and everybody was reacting to me doing-- like, they were all going crazy again, and I was like, "Whoa." So these people on Park Avenue, these super powerful people, and then in prison, these guys, the reactions are so amazing and so similar. I want to show that.

Meet Francis Menolli, A Leading Street Magician (12:34)

So that became the impetus for the first TV show, which was called "Street Magic." You know the guys that do three-card money, right? - Right. - All right. This is that game for you right now. - Not for me, Brian. - No, no, no, no money. No money. It's just pretend. Instead of three cards, you-- Hold your fingers like this, so hold your fingers like this. Look, watch. This card, right? Remember diamonds. Forget ace, just diamonds. Hold it parallel. What card do you have? - What? - What card is that? - Can I look at it? - Yeah, but name it. - Name it. What is it? - Ace of diamonds. Diamonds, just diamonds. Look, show it to them. - Make sure it's all right. - Bingo, bango. - All right, show it to them, too. - Bingo, bango. Bingo, bango. Cool, man. Hold it like this. Look. Lower, lower, lower. Watch. This one, same thing. Just remember hearts. - Forget ace, just hearts. - Right, right. Watch this switch. Ready? See, I switched it. Look, I'll do it again. See it switch back. Just switch twice so quickly and see it. - Sorry. - Get it off my shoe, huh? - Sorry. Sorry. - It's not a switch. Yeah, it switched twice. Look, I'll do it so so you can see it. Look, here's the move. See how the borders line up? - Don't put it on the bottom. - Look, I'm teaching you. I'm teaching you right now. That's how I do it. Hold it tight. That'll make it impossible now. 'Cause you know the move. I have diamonds. Ready? Without looking at it, what would you bet on? Hearts or diamonds? All right, but pretend bet. Would you bet hearts here or hearts here? Or could I impress you if the heart was on top, if the diamond was on bottom? - The heart's on top because you had hearts. - Turn your hand over. - Nope. - Go ahead. Turn your hand over. I ain't got crowns, y'all. I'm not telling you this. Everybody thinks they're so different, but really there's also generalities among people. So you can really kind of look at a group and you can estimate which person's gonna react a certain way. And you get better and better at it the more you do it. - Now, I heard-- - It's kind of like what psychics do. Like psychics basically, when you walk in, they profile you right away, and they've done it so many times that they can kind of cold read what you do, where you're from, what you're looking for, whether you're skeptical, whether you're not. So it's like you just learn to read people. - Read the cues. - Yeah. What are some lines or approaches that you use when you just cold approach somebody? There was a magician named Harvey Cohen that I used to love. He taught me so much. And he would approach people when he would do magic, and he would say-- he was very fumbly with the cards. But while he was fumbling cards, he was secretly like loading cards in your pocket and doing all this stuff. So he'd kind of approach with this non-approach. It wasn't like, "Look, I'm a magician. I'm gonna amaze you." It was almost like he couldn't hold the cards, so you'd be like hoping that he was gonna succeed. And then at the end, when you thought everything had gone wrong and there's two cards in your pocket and one on the-- you know, "Ah!" So it was like-- The approach that I always liked to do magic is the opposite of what a magician would do, 'cause I always imagined if somebody could really do magic, they wouldn't really have big pattern. They would kind of be fumbling.

Astonishing Five Random ADVICE Points for Success. 1. (15:18)

They'd say, "Look at this thing," and then just do something. - Right. So that was always the approach. It was simple. Simple and understated, I think, is the best approach. At what point did you go to acting school? You did go to acting school. Yeah, with Brian Cowan, who's amazing. I learned so much from him. He was incredible. How did you decide to go to acting school? Well, you know, there's a famous quote that Orson Welles said, but it's from "ROBERT HIDDEN," where he says, "A magician is just an actor playing the part of a magician." So at that time, I was a close-up magician. There was really no-- There was no business in it. There was no way to make a living at it. So I figured I would study acting and take it seriously and maybe apply it to magic and see what happens. And it was a really valuable year, because what you learn in acting school is living truthfully in a given imaginary circumstance. So it's interesting, because when you apply that to magic, it's like instead of these are just tricks, you kind of like almost believe what you're seeing on some level. Not believe it, like, "Ah, how did I do that?" But you kind of play into that, as opposed to the silly pattern and the silly trick. And I feel like the magic comes to life that way. You know, it makes a performance more interesting. One of the best things Brian taught me there-- He was an early mentor to me. One of the quotes that his dad gave to him is, "Always surround yourself with people that will inspire you or help you grow."

Dr. Ali Carrars HOW-TO Series (16:39)

And that was just a great piece of advice. And I took that very seriously and pursued people that I looked up to or that I admired and tried to learn things from them, since I didn't have really a father figure or anything like that. Did you look for father figures throughout that adolescent period, or was it more surrounding yourself with peers?

Firsts (16:59)

No, well, I mean, early on I would read about all the people I looked up to. And that was kind of like my college, was finding people that did things that I was really amazed by and then learning as much as I could. And then what I started doing is I started finding all the books on Nobel Prize winners, and then in literature specifically. And then I would read what books they recommended, and then I would read the books that they recommended. And then on the back of that book, it would be what this book was influenced by. So I started going through lots of that stuff. The original hyperlinks, bibliographies. Yeah, yeah. When did you start fasting and why? I've been obsessed with fasting since I was a kid, but I think it started when my mother gave me Siddhartha to read the Hermann Hesse book. And I read it when I was 11 years old, and in it he fasts and he stands and he does these things where he sees the world in a different way and he realizes that he can control his body and with his mind. So that was the beginning of the seed of the curiosity. And then loving the way you feel when you fast. Like colors change, the blues become vibrant, you notice the sky, you become more emotional. So I took everything away, and it was incredible. So the fasting, so Siddhartha is one of my favorite books. Really? Absolutely. And I remember-- Have you guys read that? It's a short read. It's amazing. It's an article. It's amazing. And I remember at least in two instances, so he's trying to court this noble woman, I think she is, and he's also trying to get a job with a merchant at one point. And they ask him because he's effectively at least acting the part of monk at the time. They say, "Well, what can you give? What can you do?" And he says, "I can think, I can wait, and I can fast."

Fasting (18:54)

And he talks about the value of not being beholden to food. And he says, "For instance, if you asked me to work for you right now and I needed food, I'd have to say yes to whatever you offer me. Because since I can fast, I can think about it more rationally." But I've done seven and ten day fasts. I've never gone as far as you have. But it's incredible when you click over from carbohydrate dependent to pulling on your fat stress. I mean, cognitively, everything changes. It's very, very interesting. It's hard to go--like, you can't go back to how it was before in terms of viewing food and so on. Yeah, that's true. It's totally different. Looking back over your stunts, all the magic, the endurance feats, which ended up being more dangerous than you expected or scarier than expected? Probably the 44 days with the water fast in London in a box because I think I went into mild organ failure and I dropped a 33% BMI, which was well documented, but it was the recovery on that. I think to this day, it's still screwed up my metabolism and my weight goes up and down really fast, and it did real damage. That's the vitamin deficiency, so the pigment leaves. David Blaine, who has been there 44 days, no food, only water. I lost 60 pounds in 44 days. The Plexiglas diet. Not recommended. Not recommended. Your dietician will not have this on the multiple choice options. What did your refeeding look like after that? Well, that was a really interesting part. So after I did the 44 days, I was rushed to the hospital where I stayed for, I think, two weeks. When they started refeeding me, I think my phosphate levels jumped out of control, and I almost went into shock and died, and that was the refeeding syndrome. We published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine about the refeeding syndrome, which is because most hunger strikers in the past, they do it in their very anti-government, anti-sus-- you know, it's for a statement, whereas I just did it as a performance piece, and therefore I was willing to give all my blood and all my urine to doctors and let them use it as research. So it actually became useful in the sense that there was a real documented study of the prolonged effects of fasting. Forty-four days. Or starvation, technically, yeah. Were there any of your performances on the flip side that you thought were going to be very difficult or very scary that were easier than expected for you for whatever reason? Nope.

Close-up (21:43)

What does magic mean to you? Because you do so much more than illusion and magic mean. You really have sort of a full-stack performer kit at your disposal. But what does magic mean to you? For me, it's just a beautiful performance art. Like, it's something where-- and it's also like you learn a really difficult skill, it defies logic, and then you have an immediate reaction to it. So it's something you can do almost anywhere, anytime. And it's also a constant pursuit of information, but information that isn't readily available. So it's like you have to dig up history. You read about a guy that had done something from 100 years ago. He died, took his secrets to the grave. So you spend years trying to understand how he did it, and it's trial and error, practice, repetition.

Practices And Techniques

Human Aquarium (22:31)

And then finally, all of a sudden, you're able to do these things that you had only read about. Like, one was called the Human Aquarium, which is about a guy that could convert his body into an aquarium where he could store creatures. Another was--yeah, I'm not kidding. This is a rich-- Yeah, another was a magician. So he'd like put a sturgeon in his mouth and regurgitate it? Well, anything, yeah. Anything that could live in water and land. But then you also find there's another guy that was the human dragon, and he could drink kerosene. It would float on top of a gallon of water in his stomach and then he would blow fireballs out of his mouth, igniting a huge fire, and then just when he thought that was the end, he'd use a gallon of water that was stored in his stomach and put out the fire. But of course one time he did it wrong and died, so... and took his secrets to the grave, so, you know. Inadvertently, right? Yeah, but so I see the footage and I'm like, "I want to do that." So I spent like 20 years trying to figure it out. And I couldn't because there was nobody... nobody had the secrets. So I was like, "Oh, man, maybe this isn't such a smart idea to do." So we're going to pull up this video involving an ice pick. You can see how complex and how dangerous to take an object and put it through your hand is. And especially where David is doing it, there's a whole complex of arteries there. You want me to pull it out? Yeah. Gnarly. Look at that. Oh. Nothing. Just a hole. No blood. Nothing. Just a hole. There's not any blood on this thing either. Nothing. Explain that one, Dr. Rubin. Okay. I don't think that deserves applause. I think that deserves like, "You're out of your mind." Condemnation. Off the stage.

Drill through arms skeleton footage (24:48)

But ironically, before I leave, I brought another thing similar that I have an x-ray of that I'll show you that I recently learned. So I'll show it to you before I go. Which is a little crazier than this one, I think. The only way that I can even begin to approach talking about that is let's assume that it's totally real. Like you actually figured out how to put that through your hand. That's the only place I can go with it.

Self-Talk (25:11)

What is your self-talk when you're practicing that? Well, I mean, Houdini used to do this thing where he'd push pins through his face and then pull them all out while razor blades were not threaded. But there are ways to do things that are real that you would assume it can't be done because you would assume that you're going to bleed. But there's a way to-- And I started with acupuncture needles just trying to see if you could go straight through. I had x-rays taken, MRs, the whole thing so I could know where all the blood vessels and everything lie. And then I found a sweet spot and just started slowly figuring out how to go through the hand. Is there any particular trick or stunt that has obsessed you for a long time that you have not yet been able to figure out? Yeah, the craziest one. I've been obsessed with the idea of sleep deprivation. Yeah, no, but when you do sleep deprivation, like the Native Americans would do it and you get this really incredible hallucination. -The request. -Yeah. So it's like-- I've done like five and a half days with no sleep and for me, hallucinations start to really kick in at like 55 hours if I'm standing up the whole time and it's a really rough environment. And even though it's scary, it's also like you're having these dreams and these nightmares but you're awake. But the North Koreans used it as an ultimate form of torture on the Americans when they were hostages and many of those hostages came back tweaked for life. So it's like there is-- what is the breaking point? The risk-benefit analysis may not be in your favor. So I remember at one point-- it's one of my favorite parks in New York City, Bryant Park. Was that where you were on top? Yeah. I was going to stand on this pillar for a day and a half with no food, no water, and nothing to catch me if I fell. My legs are numb, my back is numb, but at the end of this hour I'm going to jump. I'm going to jump straight down and hopefully I'll survive. I remember reading at one point that-- talking about hallucinations-- the buildings became like wolf heads or something. Yeah, animal heads, yeah. Animal heads. And you look back and you see the shapes of just normal buildings and you suddenly think, wow, that looks like a lion. So I was up there for like 36 hours, but I started hallucinating at like hour 30, but just light hallucinations. So I started looking at the buildings that were behind me that were perfectly flat. I started looking at them and I was like, wow, I didn't know those buildings were lion heads. That's a little isn't it? Yeah, that's light. So the people below that were working on the thing and the people at ABC suddenly decided that there's no way I was going to hit my targets. They built this huge thing of boxes. It was enormous, which pissed me off.

Lessons from Hallucinations (28:12)

I ended up jumping and hitting the mark, but that was during mild hallucinations. Have you ever learned anything from your hallucinations? I'm very curious. I'm not trying to imply that you have to have. Yeah, yeah, for sure. I'm just curious because I'm in my mind comparing it to, say, some descriptions of the psychedelic experience. No, yeah, also you have that as well, but one of the things that I did learn is out of anything that I did that was extremely difficult, when your brain starts to go, like when you start to lose control of your mind, there is nothing as horrific imaginable. So it's like I never understood when somebody has mental illness. I never understood how severe that is, but it's like when I go through those things and it's like all of a sudden the world becomes scary because you don't have control anymore and I learn that now anybody that I meet that has any kind of mental illness in any way, I'm extremely compassionate. Not just compassionate, but I'm like, "Yeah, this is the craziest thing ever." When that starts to set in, have you developed any strategies to cope with it? Well, that's interesting because basically what happens is your brain is trying to trick you. So the brain knows that you need sleep so the brain can recover and your immune system--everything is built. So what happens is when you're staying awake, even if you have people helping you, your brain is coming at you with your biggest fears, and anything that is your weakness, your brain is trying to say this is happening to you and you need to go to sleep. Otherwise, this is going to get worse and worse. So you start seeing blemishes appearing, but they're not there. You see your hand change into spider webs. Everything that would freak you out so you would decide, "I can't do this anymore," is going.

Biggest Fears (30:11)

So you have to do it often enough and have a very sensitive, careful team around you that are guiding you almost that teach you how to override what your brain is trying to tell you to do. That's wild. Yeah, it's pretty wild. Also trained skill. Do you have any fears? What are you afraid of or what makes you anxious? Anything? Well, first of all, I used to be horrified of insects. I would see a cockroach, "Aah!" But I think I learned that from my mother because she was really afraid of bugs. But then I went to Botswana, Africa, and I was sleeping in this little tent with these hippos circling the tent all night. You're there by yourself, and you're in this little tent filled with spiders and all these bugs. They become like your good friends because these hippos could chomp you in half in one second. You're mentioning something that I think is really worth underscoring because it seems to have come up a couple times, which is if you're afraid of something, you can try to think your way out of it, or you can just expose yourself to it and sort of inoculate yourself with these small doses. If someone, for instance, Cato, was considered the perfect stoic, and he cared how people judged him at one point. He was very concerned with how other people felt about him, so he started wearing odd-colored clothing and so on so that he would get ridiculed. He did it on purpose so that he could practice not caring about being embarrassed about things unless they were truly important. They started practicing poverty, a similar idea. Even, you take Seneca or some of these other famous stoics, and they would take a certain period of time and eat the cheapest of food, sleep on a hard floor. Sleep on bare floors. Exactly. So that they would know, is this the condition I so feared is what they would ask themselves. I want to pull up some audience questions from Twitter. This is @tykoe. What are somewhat average things that you can't do despite all attempts? Dance. Karaoke. Karaoke, God, yeah, that's a tough one. Not much. I always do nothing but a hound dog. I don't know why. It's like my default. I'm like, I can't do karaoke, but that's my go-to. It's like wearing the odd clothes. So you can be a stoic. We should just go out and karaoke until we're-- I'm horrible at the hard people. I'd be hard watching, at least I am. The next question is somewhat related to what we were just talking about. What is your secret reserve of strength when you feel that your body or mind can't push through? That's a really good question. So what I do is a lot of it is based on numbers. And I run it across the board. So it's like if I'm going to run a 10K, I make sure that I get not just to the 6.2, but I'll go always further, like maybe to 7, or I'll pick a number that's important. And then I have these superstitions that if I don't get to this number, something terrible is going to happen. So by committing to this almost superstition that's based on numbers, you can use the halfway mark, like, okay, I'm going to get to 22 days of a fast, but I know I have 44 days. So first I reach the 22-day mark, and then I start counting backwards. I already did half, so now I can pretend I'm starting fresh, so I have 22 days to go. So let me get through another 11 days. And it's basically just breaking it down in little chunks, but making sure that you get to that finish line. Didn't you do something or have a very similar superstition when you were a kid in school, like your school bus? You had to do certain things, like pull a leaf off a tree or something terrible would happen. Yeah, yeah, it would stop, and there would be a leaf that was just out of reach when you jump, and I'd just keep jumping and jumping, and then I'd have to put something down until I got that, just little things. But it's weird, because when I, for me, it was almost like training, because I'd set a goal that was very difficult, and then I just wouldn't quit until I got it. And part of it was the superstition of doing this ridiculous thing that has no meaning, but just not quitting until it's done. This one's from Facebook. This is Patrick Makuka Zagambo. I like this question. I have 90 days to practice to perform a close-up magic event. What skills should I focus on to maximize my results in such a small time frame? I mean, the way I do it is not the way others do it, but what I like to do is I like to commit to something and put myself in the hot seat, because I already committed to doing something that I'm not ready for. Like your thing, when you did a week to get ready to do something, so you're all in because you have no choice. So even just when I do certain big magic stunts or feats, I announce them before I do them, and then I work diligently to get there. So I would say find a few things that you really like, work on them, research them, learn how to do them, and they're going to be very messy. Keep working until you start to figure out how to do it among friends and family. Just let me try this. Try it. Try it over and over. And then go out maybe to a friend's party or wherever you are and try it over and over and over and over.

The Power of Accountability (35:50)

And after you fail a few hundred times, you might start to become okay at it. Yeah. And I find also with a lot of these questions like this, I think you made a great point. People are looking for more information or some type of particular way of training, but what they really need is just social accountability and the incentive, right? So if you publicly announce it, you will figure out how to make it work. You're committed to it. I have a buddy, A.J. Jacobs. He lives in New York. He's a writer for Esquire, a really good guy. He couldn't lose weight despite all of his attempts, and he wasn't obese. He described his physique as a python that swallowed a goat, just kind of like middle-aged paunch. Like in The Little Prince. Yeah, and he wanted to fix it. And he had all the diet books. He just wasn't doing it. So he's a Jewish guy. He wrote a check. I believe it was to the American Nazi party for like $1,000. He gave it to either one of his best friends or his wife and said, "If I don't lose like 20 pounds by the end of next month, I want you to mail this in," in which case his name would be on the record, like public records having donated to this organization. Lo and behold, he lost the weight. So I think the accountability is such a huge part of it. What are you learning right now, Josh Anderson on Facebook? What am I learning currently? So what I'm working on is I'm trying to figure out how to put together a stage show because I've never really conquered that and haven't done it in a way that I feel is right yet. So I've been working, just getting up on like little comedy stages and trying out different things and the idea of being able to do something in an intimate room and then also in a bigger room, that's my goal. So that's the thing I'm working on diligently and I'm most consumed with right now. And it's a big learning curve. You need to do thousands of shows before you really figure out what you're doing. So it's hard to get that time and space necessary, but that's my big goal. Working on your material. Yeah, figuring out how to work it, yeah. I remember watching a comedian in the documentary with Jerry Seinfeld and also another up-and-comer. It was so sobering and reassuring to watch because you see Seinfeld, who's one of the biggest stars in the world at that point, and then he goes back to work on new material as a stand-up and you just see him bomb. You see him bomb in these little venues and he just forgets his lines and he just sits there on stage and he's like, "Wait a minute," trying to remember his lines.

Concepts Of Success And Goals

Defining Success (38:17)

It's just excruciating, but it's reassuring in the sense that you're like, "Okay, this guy, it's not like he just wakes up in the morning with a finished one-hour set." No. You just have to put in the time to hone it and refine it. So when you think of the word or hear the word "successful," who's the first person who comes to mind for you? My mother. She was a schoolteacher and she came from a very powerful family, left her family, moved to Brooklyn, decided to do social work and teach and things like that. She was really incredible and really cared about doing and helping and giving. So to me, that's the greatest thing you can do. So she was, in that regard, extremely successful. What's success to you personally? When you give as much as you--you know, I think Bill Gates is a great example because he's made so much money, but he basically figured out that he can figure out how to give it better than most institutions can, so he directs his money outward. So it's not like I want to have so much. It's like I want to amass this amount so that I can give it to the right places. I think that's really important, and for me personally, it's like one of my favorite stories around Thanksgiving. Whenever I can, I go to BAMC, which is the Brooke Army Medical Center, and I go into the burn unit there where all the kids that are burnt from the war and just terrible tragedies. So every year that I would go, I'd try to get everybody that I can, and one year there was a kid named Victor who was 21 and a really handsome kid that got blown up in a Humvee, and when he was rushed to the hospital, he had basically been burnt exactly on half of his face and the top of his head, but half of his face was completely burnt. The other half was perfect, and he wouldn't go out. He wouldn't interact with the other people. He stayed in his room. He was more angry that he was suddenly burnt on half his face than the actual losing the fingers, losing the ears, all that stuff. And I asked the nurse, "Have I done it?" She said, "Yeah, but there's one kid, but he won't see anybody. He won't even talk to the nurses. He won't meet with the therapists." Nothing. I said, "Bring me to him." She said, "No, no, no. He won't see anybody." I said, "Just bring me to him." So she asked his mother, who was standing in the room with him all the time, dying inside, and the mother's like, "Sure. I mean, my son's not going to talk to him, but sure." I walk in and he's like stone face. He won't even look at me. And I grab his hand, which people don't touch him like that, like nothing's wrong. So I grab his hand, "Let me show you something. Hold your hand out." And I start doing magic to him. And all of a sudden, because I'm not treating him like he was disfigured, suddenly I see him interested. Then I keep going and he cracks a little smile. And I see his mother, when that happens, bawling in the corner, but holding it in. So I'm like fighting my hardest not to cry. Anyway, I could completely finish doing magic to the guy. I put my hat on his head, which you should not do because it's open wounds. And I leave the hospital content that now I've done magic to everybody, including the guy that didn't want to see me. And then I decide to come back the next morning, the day after Thanksgiving, and the mother comes out and she's bawling. And she says to me, when she sees me, she's like, "Right when you left, my son let the nurses put him in a wheelchair, and he went out with the other guys and he started his physical therapy." So it was like just that little bit of like being, treating him like there was nothing dis-- And so I came back the next year and he had had all this, so he looked really good. He had all this reconstructive surgery and it was in Texas. And I took him out for dinner and then to a strip club. We had the time of our lives. It was amazing.

The Ultimate Magical Goal (43:01)

Wow. All right. It's hard to follow that up with just about anything. But what is your, if you have one, your end goal with magic? What keeps driving you? I think the ultimate goal is just I always want to just bring magic to the people. You know, just bring magic in a good way or in a new way or in a different way. So that's the end goal. Yeah, maybe we should try something in here. Yeah, we could try something in here. You guys want to try something live? All right. So how should we begin? Can I take the x-ray? So one of the new things that I've been working on might be hard to see, but I'll let you hold this up. So this is an x-ray. Can you all make it out somewhat? Can you all see what that is? See, yeah, there's a sword that I recently learned how to push all the way inside, like a sword swallower basically. And I learned it to work on one new trick. So if I could, yeah, good. So here's my little, now you guys are seeing this when it's brand new. So, and this is much bigger than the one in the picture. The one in the picture is actually pretty thin. And the esophagus is very, very thin. So I'm going to try to push this down inside. And lots of people assume when sword swallowers do what they do that it's a trick, but it's really not. I recently learned that in studying this. I don't know if I'm going to succeed, but we'll try. You've got to come closer, though, to make sure it's real. Okay. Yeah, that's real.

Sword Swallowing (45:34)

I'm not going to have him try it yet. I'm going to give Tim a week to learn it. Let me give this. It might have some food and stuff. No, I'm just kidding. Should we try this one other thing? I'll let Tim help. So there's something else I've been working on, which is a strength thing. Just because you're the closest, do you want to help with this? Do you mind, you'll have to jump up on stage? I'll give it here. So one of the things I've been obsessed with is just feats of strength. But Tim, can you mix the deck? Shuffle it up. Not very good. Let him shuffle, too. You agree that they're all shuffled, there's no order, nothing like that, yes? Tim, I'm going to give you a quarter of the deck.

Magic Feat (46:49)

A terret and a half? Yeah, a terret and a half, exactly. Oh, God, here we go. All together, so it's one neat rip. Make it neat all together. Oh, my God. I'm going to mess this up. No, but put them like this, flat, and then rip it so it's one unit. Otherwise you're ripping one card at a time. That's the only way I can do it. So it's difficult. It's difficult. So I'm going to teach you the technique right now. So the idea is this. So, see, I pinch here, and then, and it's almost like pretty simple. See? That was very cool. But, okay, you know what? Which half do you want? This one. Okay, so take that. And now do this for me. Pick up a bunch of cards, put them on bottom. Yep, and put them on the bottom. Good. And do it again. Pick up a bunch, put them on bottom. Great. Now, every time you do that, the top and the bottom card and the middle cards, everything is going to change. Understood? So every time you do it, the order changes, yep. But this time, I want you to do it behind your back. So behind your back, I want you to cut the deck, complete the cut, and then keep them behind your back.

Behind The Scenes Magic

Behind the Scenes Magic (48:14)

Good? And they're slippery. Don't let them spill. And take either the top piece or the bottom piece and put it in your, hide it in your pocket. Either the top or the bottom, it's up to you. And we don't need the rest of the big pile. Good. So here's the idea. Can I give you these? Yes. So just to show you that they are shuffled, you did mix everything up, correct? Yes. Yes? I'm going to have you just choose one from inside. Okay, actually we'll do a few. So here, you just reach in and pull, pull, one or two, one is fine. Now let me just say something. Most people would go for the obvious card, like the ace of spades, or even the king. You didn't do that. You shifted. You went to a card that was not obvious. What card was it? The nine? The seven of spades. So when you chose, you had the choice, and you shifted around and pulled one. But behind your back, you didn't know what you chose. You just pulled the card without looking and hid it in your pocket. Correct? So you have half of a card in your pocket, and there's another half of a card in your hand. You want me to take it out? Sure. Let everybody see. Put them together. See if they fit. David Blaine, everybody. If you had a huge billboard that could put anything on it, something short, meaning get a message out to the world, what would you put on it? I mean, it's the last thing that my mother said to me is, "God is love." What does that mean to you? Well, to me, it means love is the ultimate God, so loving everything and everybody and not being filled with hate or animosity or fear and trying to find love, to me, that's the ultimate in life. David Blaine, you're amazing. Guys, give it up for David Blaine. Thank you, guys.

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