Tag Archives: magic

Follow the magic leader

28 Jul

Dan Trommater is not your ordinary miracle worker.

I happen to have met a couple of real life magicians recently and found myself fascinated by their craft and curious that I could apply image principles to what they do and how they do it. Last week I wrote about James Alan, Magician, and how his clothing dictates what kind and how much magic he can perform. We also found that because James practices traditional magic, he makes his image match his profession.

This week, I will again discuss modern magic in ways that you didn’t expect, and I will again draw parallels between a magician’s magic and the magic of  image, but this time, our magician is not a traditional type.

Dan Trommater is doing something completely unlikely with his magic combining it with leadership training to help managers and leaders become more effective in their jobs at organizations who want a unique approach to leadership.

Freeing beliefs and assumptions

I met Dan at a business networking group a couple of months ago and I was fascinated by what he does and how he does it, wondering what a mix of magic and business would look like. The more I talked to Dan, the more I understood where he was coming from and found that what he does and what I do have many things in common.

First, our occupations represent the liberation of thought, belief, and assumption.

Magic, according to Dan, is a tool used to “involve audiences in a friendly, fun, and supportive environment that transforms them into 5-year olds by engaging their sense of wonder. ”

Doesn’t that sound nice? Tell me more, Dan!

“I like to open my keynotes with a magic trick that messes with the way the human mind thinks it understands the universe,” he says, “A member of the audience is invited to sign their name on their $20 bill which I make disappear. Next, they open a box that has been in full view the entire time and inside the box is a lime. We cut the lime open and inside of the fruit is the signed dollar bill!”

This is a trick that Dan performs in order to challenge the assumptions of the group. He asks the flabbergasted audience to write out their theories about how he possibly could have transported the bill to the inside of the lime. Members of the group then share their theories, showing that there is more than one way to look at things, and that there is more than one solution to the puzzle. (In fact, throughout Dan’s career he’s used at least  ten different ways to get the bill in the lime, so he really believes in this exercise.) This type of exercise forces people to question their assumptions about what they understand to be “right” and opens them to other possibilities – this is where the magic happens.

Dan punctuates presentations with magic to lead the audience in the shared experience of wonder and gives them a glimpse into their child-like selves. His tricks challenge assumptions of his audience and they are able to experience reality in a new way, and this is really cool. I say that because I do the same thing with image work.

Altering the image challenges men’s assumptions about themselves, as they are able to experience themselves on several new levels. If a guy continuously wears shirts that are cut too generously, for example, he may assume that all shirts feel sloppy to wear, but when he gets into a flattering and properly fitted shirt,  his assumption about fit and the experience of clothing has changed because he has experienced clothing in a way he didn’t know was possible. His world view has been altered for the better, and this is magical for me.

Magical leadership

When looking for commonalities between magic and leadership, Dan saw that both were about engagement and vision.

“Magicians and leaders must address a diverse group and form connections throughout that group, align them to a clear, common goal, and influence them in such a way that the end goal is reached for everyone’s benefit,” Dan says.

In his leadership speaking presentation, “Think Like a Magician – Achieve the Impossible” , “you’ll learn how magicians are able to turn the impossible into reality and you’ll gain valuable tools for harnessing the potential within yourself and your organization.” And that’s what it’s all about, dear readers – enhancing what is already there (but so often buried) and harnessing the potential of oneself. With this, comes the magic of confidence which can move a man to unbelievable levels!

People like people with confidence; confidence makes us feel safe somehow. I think that confidence is the most appealing characteristic of them all (what do you think?). Some of you will have worked for people who were good leaders and some will have worked for people who were not so good leaders. What was the difference? Confidence. Confident leaders know who they are, they know what they see, and can communicate their vision to the people they influence. (If leaders were not confident, would they be leaders at all?)

I have seen my clients reach the goals they set out to achieve at the start of our work because they have seen themselves from a different angle and their confidence shines through. A new angle and a fresh perspective can change what a guy sees in the mirror, in his psyche, and how people are struck by him. It can be quite amazing.


Reality is subjective and one of the reasons that I like Dan is that he understands this. He understands it so much that he works it into his act.

Everyone sees and experiences the world differently and each reality is unique. With 6 billion people on the planet, that’s a lot of perspectives, but no matter how empathetic we may be, we can really only see things through the lens of our own perspective. Dan sees unchallenged perspectives as “baggage” that can keep us closed by colouring our decisions and clouding our realities (i.e. barriers, often self-inflicted but in place due to outside forces), so he tries to open it up during his presentations and loosen preconceived notions with magic to spark our sense of wonder and possibilities.

In this video, Dan illustrates the power of perspective, whereby the audience experiences the magic “trick” of cutting a length of rope and then restores it, while Brian, the stage volunteer, experiences the “magic” of the rope miraculously reconnected by magic dust:

Brian’s sense of disbelief is suspended from his perspective on the stage because he sees the trick from the front end; the rope seems to be actually restored by magic and as any 5-year old would be, he is delighted by this. On the back-end, Dan is actually showing the audience how the trick works by showing the concealed bits of rope to be cut without going near the long piece. It seems that not everything is what it seems.

And this brings me back to the theatre, the place of illusion, where we think not in terms of what something is, but what it could be. As a theatre designer, I must be able to see the potential of something when I look at it (like how shot polyester can look like linen on stage) and apply this to my work as an image consultant when I consider men. Because I can see what could be, it is my job to shift the client’s perspective so that he is comfortable seeing himself from a new and non-judgemental perspective, allowing him to experience himself, clothing, and colour on a whole new level.

Image work is truly magical in this way because it gives a guy the opportunity to see himself in a way that he has never been seen before, giving him a chance to appreciate himself and feel good about projecting a natural increased confidence.

Challenging perspectives through magic or through image work opens people to new and sometimes unthinkable possibilities, paving the way to liberation through unguarded wonder and the suspension of assumption. When we are open to change and open to learning so that we can become our best, that is our magic moment – grab it!

The magic suit

21 Jul

Here is a question for you: when was the last time you thought about magic and who did you think of? Harry Houdini locking himself in a milk can full of water? Gentle Doug Henning’s colourful clothing and wild Styx hair? Perhaps the handsome David Copperfield making large objects disappear?

I happen to have met a couple of real life magicians recently and found myself fascinated by their craft and curious that I could apply image principles to what they do and what they wear for their jobs. For the next two weeks, I will be discussing modern magic in ways that you didn’t expect, in ways to delight and amaze you, and before your very eyes, dear reader, I will draw parallels between what a magician does and what I do as an image consultant, for we both work magic!

James Alan, Magician

James Alan, Magician

Magic and the performance of magic is older than we commonly think it is. Although its roots go back thousands of years to shamanistic practices, what we currently think of as a “magic show” dates back at least to the 1800s, and has gone through many incarnations. Today, there are illusionists, mentalists, sleight-of-hand entertainers, and impossibilists, but a few are true to the original tradition and uphold the practice of old-fashioned magic. Toronto-based  James Alan is one of these magicians. He practices old school magic, modernizing timeless classic tricks for current audiences, and pays homage to the respectful dress of the magician and the magician’s tools.

I met James at a Pride party last month and he wowed all of us with card and coin tricks. I don’t like to be fooled but there was something so astounding about what he was doing that I was floored – i.e. I was told to pick a card from the deck, shuffle it back in, and then found the same card tucked into a book of matches James had given me several minutes before I had chosen the card. Other party-goers were also in awe except for Jonathan who needed further proof.

“You want to impress me?” he leaned in to ask, “Pull the 10 of hearts out of my underwear.”

“Stand up,” James responded confidently (much to Jonathan’s delight).

Laughing, Jonathan obeyed.

“Unzip your fly,” James commanded (much to Jonathan’s delight).

“He showed me both hands which were empty, and then he “went to work” on my fly. Out came his hand, and folded up in his hand was the 10 of Hearts!” Jonathan explained, “Hilarious!”

When wardrobe is part of the show

A magic show is very theatrical and requires special garments and props to do it properly. To illustrate the importance of functionality in a magician’s wardrobe, James told me about being a guest performer at a Victorian séance in St. Cameron, Ontario at the end of  this month, where he will carry 4 lemons and a bottle of champagne on his person without looking stuffed or fat and make it look natural. The magician is much like an actor this way, integrating his wardrobe/costume (with all of the props stuffed in) into his stage act and make like nothing about him is different. Imagine how much you would have to be aware of to pull that off.

James believes in the self-fulfilling prophecy in his dress and chooses to dress like a gentleman in fine Hugo Boss suits and quality Allen Edmonds shoes, dressing at a level just above what his audience is wearing in an effort to show respect to his audience, his craft, and also to draw respect from the crowd.


His wardrobe must be about fashion and function, and the more pieces he’s got on, the more magic he can perform. Adding a third piece to a suit raises not only James’ confidence but the magic bar: with more places to stash props, James can perform longer with more tricks. Also, he has some pocket modifications done on his new suits and has a secret extra pocket sewn in somewhere to contain extra magic wonders.

“Part of being a magician means having what you need at your fingertips,” James explains, “so I try not to work with bags or cases when I perform – everything I work with is on me, waiting to be used in my show. That’s where the functional advantage of wearing a suit really comes in.”

James also believes that wearing a proper suit gives a better show. I agree with this because I know what wearing a suit can do to boost a guy’s confidence. Also, The Temptations and all of your favourite Motown acts agree that “you play better in your suit – neat, dignified.” (Shout out to Roddy Doyle for this Joey “The Lips” Fagan line in The Commitments.)

Business casual

James sees dressing at a level just above his audience as advantageous, making him stand apart and look more professional. I know that in the business world, we’re quickly moving from formal wardrobes to business casual dressing which has its good and bad points, but there is no doubt that spiffing up draws good attention and makes an excellent impression on people. (I always feel nice around well dressed people, don’t you?)

Even though we’ve been moving into the casual-for-business realm for going on 20 years, I think that many men are still confused by the “business casual” concept and some tell me that they long for the ease of a stylish suit. A casual wardrobe also impacts James, making his magic shows shorter because when he loses pieces, he loses pockets, and the fewer pockets, the fewer magical hiding places, dig?

Prop substance

James is not only dressing well for what he’s doing, but uses unusual and substantial props in his act (what I think of as wardrobe accessories). He showed me the coins he uses in his act – real silver dollars from the 1870s, silk hankies, lengths of soft Italian rope, and decorative silver cups. James pulled a heavy and elegant platinum and resin pen from his inside pocket, explaining that accessories were just as important as the clothing they’re worn with.

And with that, I have a confession. James whipped out his gorgeous writing instrument while I sat sweating in the heavy heat of July, scribbling notes with a plastic mechanical pencil that I’ve had since university. The contrast shouted at me and I knew that my cheap pencil could be considered an “image breaker”, but I knew it and owned it. I like writing with a pencil and I like writing with that pencil, so I write with it, speaking of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Complex simplicity

“What is simple to an audience is complex to me,” James says.

When we talked about his suits, I delighted to know that he works this idea into his wardrobe by wearing tone-on-tone striped suits “for the sake of irony,” he calls it, “what appears simple is actually complicated.”

Sounds familiar.

In my business, what might seem like an easy change on the outside has a lot of very complex preparation behind it. I take time to learn about my client and put into practice the principles of dressing, balance, proportion, and colour, influenced by the client’s lifestyle and personality (the research) before we shop and tailor (the transformation). (The research paper comes a little later in the form of personalized image/dressing notes.)

James and I know about the power of clothing and work suitable and workable wardrobes that reflect the occasion or the task at hand into our acts, so we’re both practical this way. We work behind the scenes and we’re technical, we understand that the parts of the performance and the parts of the image are equally important and all work together to dazzle and amaze!

So what I want you to understand is that behind all magic is a whole lot of work. The trick is making it look effortless.