The MAGIC Formula – Insights from the Wedding Table, Part 2 – Ego

The MAGIC formula:


I have been working as a close-up magician for the last 25 years. I have entertained at thousands of events – hundreds of tables at weddings, corporate parties and significant birthdays.

At the same time, in the other half of my life, I have led and been a member of several teams. Recently, I have been interviewing many other team leaders about their experiences and challenges. Many thanks if you are one of them!

I have observed that many of the challenges facing a close-up magician approaching a table of guests are very similar to those facing team leaders. I have also realised that the MAGIC formula may be applied in both situations.

We have been around our imaginary wedding table and met all the characters. We have seen each personality’s unique challenges and how a magician might react in each case.

In the next few posts, I would like to make some general observations from working with the table as a whole to gain some valuable insights for team leaders.

Here Ego Again

An interesting thing happens when I approach a wedding table as a magician. I have to suppress my urges. That might sound a little alarming, but let me explain.

My instinct, when confronted by this diverse group of challenging personalities, is to bolster my self-worth and beef up my fragile ego. I feel the need to compete with Silverback Tarquin, Competitive Analyst Clint and Joker Jake. I want to get one-up on them. I long to look cool to Bored Ben the teenager and convert Timid Tina into a magic fan so that everyone likes me and I feel completely accepted.

If you are a team leader and are being particularly honest with yourself, those urges may seem a little familiar when it comes to your interactions with your team.

However, if we give in to these impulses we will not be serving our team in the best possible way. We always have a choice about how to react to any situation and we don’t have to follow our initial gut reactions.

But how do we make that choice, and how should we react instead?

Zero Sum Humbug

I have realised that I instinctively think that interactions with others are a zero-sum game in terms of status and self-worth. ie, that if they are lifted up, I am inevitably diminished. It’s survival of the fittest, and I need to be fittest. I am not sure where this Darwinian mindset has come from, but I have learned that, in most cases, it is a fallacy.

Instead, I have observed that putting others first does not mean that you won’t be first as well. The vast majority of the time, it just doesn’t work like that in relationships. The only exception might be if you are unfortunate enough to be dealing with a narcissist. However, in most cases, if you lift someone else up, you will end up being lifted as well. You are not going to lose out.

I watched a fascinating video about Bill Clinton on Tim Ferriss’ website. Whatever you think of his politics, his ability to focus eye contact on people and make them feel like the most important person in the room is legendary. And that ends up with both of them being lifted up.

Good Night Fight or Flight

Once we can acknowledge that social or work interactions are not automatically win-lose competitions, we can override the instinctive fight/ flight response. Our self-worth and our standing in the eyes of others will not be diminished if we concentrate on elevating others.

Increasingly I am coming to understand that our self-worth comes from our sense of who we are, rather than what do. And working out who we are is probably not best done in the middle of leading a team meeting or performing magic! Better to do it through reading, meditation, prayer, discussion and other reflective practices.

Purge the Urge

Can you take some time out to reflect on your interactions with your team? Are you instinctively viewing them as competitive situations?

Can you overcome your urges?

Help Please!

I am writing a book about using The MAGIC Formula to manage yourself, particularly if you work from home.

If you are a freelancer, self-employed, or work from home in another capacity, I would love to talk to you.

If you would like to help, please get in touch:

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