In hind sight I was stupid. I should have known better. Chelsea, St John’s Wood or Peckham – it doesn’t matter anymore. If you give them an opportunity, they’ll take it. And they had. Which left me standing on the street opposite The American School in St John’s Wood, the allegedly upmarket and crime free microcosm of London, with half of my driver’s side window on the road in tiny pieces. Continue reading “Job Jokes & Burglary” »
On Thursday I arrived in Paris. Staying at the Hilton Hotel was of course the basis for more jokes than it should have been. But that was where the fun and childish silliness ended on this particular trip. Because alongside the obligatory sightseeing and posh lunches, the city of love was under stress, as divided as Britain by Brexit. Continue reading “From Paris With… Anxiety” »
Are you an iPhone person or an Android person?
According to psychologists at Lancaster University, your choice of handset is telling of other factors of your personality. Continue reading “What Your Phone Says About Your Personality” »
One of the most common questions I ever get asked about what I do is this one: “What is Mind-Hacking?”
Mind-hacking is a term I coined to describe a collection of methods and techniques that I use to create the illusion of mind reading in my performances.
Mind hacking techniques can be broadly divided into two categories: leading and reading, though there are miscellaneous techniques that go beyond these categories.
Reading is about inferring conclusions based on observable subconscious behaviours like voice tone & body language.
Common examples of stunts achieved using these skills include deducing whether somebody is lying or telling the truth; and simple mind reading tricks where there are a finite number of outcomes. ie. a thought of playing card or a number rolled on a dice.
In some cases it’s possible to intelligently guess seemingly large amounts of information about people. Others are closed books.
Leading is about psychologically nudging a participant into doing exactly what I want them to do, hopefully without them knowing that they were… well… lead into doing it. When this is done successfully it feels to them like they made their own decisions. Until they realise that I have seemingly predicted what they were going to do.
Does Mind Hacking Work On Everybody?
The simple answer is no. But that’s not to say that if it doesn’t work today it will never work. It depends on your psychological state at the time. Does asking for a favour always work? No. Sometimes people are more open than other times. And how open they are depends on a whole host of factors.
Does Mind Hacking Give Me Super Human Abilities In The Real World?
When people see me do these types of things, the common next question is whether I can use these skills and techniques to give myself an unfair advantage in the real world. And the answer is… sometimes.
My skills are primarily used for entertainment purposes only. A performance situation is a lot more controlled than a real world situation and for that reason alone, mind-hacking in real world situations is much more difficult and you can never be sure of the outcome. Do I try it sometimes? Of course I do. But my success rates vary wildly depending on environment, subject, time of day and a lot of other factors outside of my control.
It could be anything from reading a woman’s body language to tell whether she likes me (not all that useful to me since I got into a relationship) all the way up to borderline unethical tricks like trying to get a waitress to give me things from the menu for free.
Change is inevitable. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s unwanted.
After the enormous change of moving to London and getting into a relationship and a new career, I now find myself ‘just living my life’. And I’ve got into a comfortable rut – the kind of rut you get into in your early thirties as you start to, dare I say it, settle down. And part of being in that comfortable rut, for me, was the occasional weekend Lebanese grill from my local in St John’s Wood, Kamil’s.
I had ordered from Kamil’s several times in fairly quick succession. And my order was always the same: Humus, a food I have grown to love in recent months; grilled Halloumi, and the Lebanese classic, Shish Touk, for main which consists of grilled chicken pieces with rice or chips and salad. I find that ordering the same thing multiple times is a good way to get the managers to remember you. And before long, we were on first name terms exchanging pleasantries at the lift when the delivery man comes to deliver to the flat.
And those pleasantries, however small, however polite, however normal, I had believed, perhaps naively, meant something. Not much, but something. We were, I thought, on however mild terms, friends. Well… Maybe friends is a bit strong. But we were certainly more than just strangers. We were at that level of relationship which, if I saw Mr Kamil walking down the street, would warrant a wave or a “man-nod”.
So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be a bit erked when I rang this evening to order with salivating enthusiasm, my three course Lebanese meal, to find that I can’t have it. Because Kamil’s has closed down. It isn’t Kamil’s anymore. In the space of the 10 days I’ve been in Belgium, Kamil’s has been sold. And it’s now called The Cedar, so explained the guy who picked up the call.
In the words of Verbal Kint, “Like that… It’s gone.” No warning. No goodbyes. Just gone. Change is inevitable. The irony was that Kamil’s prices were nice round numbers. So actually, change was almost never necessary. A twenty always sorted it.
Now, just to be clear, while the lack of Lebanese grilled chicken, humus and freshly baked flat bread this evening is mildly annoying, it is not that which annoys me. After all, there are other Lebanese restaurants in the area. They may be more expensive, but they’re there. What I’m offended by is that the business that had become a regular part of my life just disappears without a word.
Ten days? You can’t sell a business in ten days. Which means that the last time I saw Mr Kamil, he knew that this was going to happen and I think it would have been only right that he inform me, given that I was a regular customer.
But it seems that what I would call common courtesy is firstly not common, and second not widely practised.
The same thing happened with my dentist:
I phoned up one day because I suddenly realised it had been a while since my last check-up, and I find that the practise has in fact closed down and the dentist has moved away. That’s a dentist that I had been going to since I was born. Thirty years! And again, I was not informed. Why not? It’s polite to let your regulars know what’s going on, isn’t it?
I wouldn’t dream of packing up any business without a courtesy e-mail to my mailing list, explaining what was going to happen. I guess I value my customer relationships more than some people do. I really would not want to offend anyone.
And now? Life goes on. Tonight will go on. Better Call Saul on Netflix. Just without the Lebanese.
I was deeply saddened today to hear of the death of magician Paul Daniels.
Paul was nothing short of a legend, in the truest purest sense of the word and without question one of the greatest magicians of all time. He inspired an entire generation of magicians including myself, who was immediately intrigued by magic when I saw him on television as a young boy.
After The Paul Daniels Magic Show was abruptly axed by the BBC in 1994, it became unfashionable to be a Paul Daniels fan because of his so-called cheesy and dated image. But fashion is fickle while Paul’s magic and performance style were masterful and timeless. His record breaking career has informed almost every working magician in the UK today.
Even his fame was enduring. During last year’s tour, when I spoke to older audiences, even twenty years after going off the air, Paul Daniels was still the first magician that came to mind for most.
I met Paul at one of his shows in Hoxton, South London, only four months before news of his illness hit the Internet one otherwise unremarkable Saturday morning in mid February.
As we entered the theatre, an unassuming old man a little shorter than me, was wandering around humming and periodically throwing an orange in the air. It was Paul, who hadn’t aged a day since I last saw him on television some years earlier.
While showing a touch of frailty, Paul still had all his faculties and was still performing. I was shocked to discover a few days later that he was 77. You would never have known it.
Paul’s approach to professionalism was unparalleled. While he called himself a ‘silly conjuror’ rather than a serious magician, behind all the jokes and laughter was a man who took his act extremely seriously. It had been considered and honed over years – exactly as magic should be.
Paul did what all great entertainers do – in the words of Judy Dench, “Take the job seriously but not yourself.”
Despite his rock star status, he was a very down to Earth guy, easy to talk to, and gave advice openly and with Northern bluntness. He encouraged me. He gave me advice about performing magic on television and about being a professional magician, which I was honoured to receive and will always be thankful for.
When I heard news of his diagnosis, it blind sided me. I thought back to when we had met only four months earlier. It occurred to me that it was likely that he already had the tumour. Not a pleasant thought.
Death comes to us all. It is one of the few inevitabilities of life. Paul’s death has reminded me that life is precious and it’s important that we do, as Paul did, the things we want in life. Paul had said that since he was eleven years old the only thing he had ever wanted to be was a professional magician.
While originally training as an accountant before working in his family’s grocery shop and later setting up a shop of his own, Paul eventually got his wish and leaves behind him an enviable legacy that has genuinely affected the entire world.
How many of us can say that?
It was the middle of August and the height of the British summer in 2006. The sun was out and the smell of freshly cut grass filled the air. I was standing in line to enter the exam room for the first of five exams I had to re-sit in order to progress to the third year of the pharmacy degree I was reluctantly studying for.
A couple of months back when I had received my final results, you could have cut the stress with a knife. Five repeats in a week? Two on the same day!? And I had to pass all of them. Was this even possible? Failure would result in having to repeat a year and my parents finding out that I’d lied to them and actually had five repeats and not three.
I didn’t see exams as fair or even a particularly good way of testing knowledge. It was all nonsense. What difference would it make whether I knew biochemical reaction pathways anyway? It had nothing to do with being a pharmacist. (Six years later, I know as fact that it did indeed have nothing to do with being a pharmacist). It was all jumping through hoops. Learning for the sake of learning. But hey, there’s no point fighting a system like that one. You won’t win. In the paraphrased words of Russell Crowe in Gladiator, “I am required to learn. So I learn. That is enough.”
But now I was at ease. While some of my comrades had spent weeks cramming for this exam, trying to painstakingly reproduce chemical pathway diagrams from memory, I had spent a little over an hour reading it just before the exam. The unfair thing? I knew it better than most of them did.
Why? I had found and mastered little known techniques that allowed me to flash memorise information relatively quickly.
In this post I share tricks and techniques that I used during my own education and now in my magic act, to learn things and commit to memory facts that I had little or no passion for. If you master these techniques, there will be no need to write on your hand again. They are almost like cheating, yet completely legal to use in any exam.
I hate it when I’m told, “There is no easy way.”
From The Outset
These methods may seem a bit cumbersome at first but I assure you that if you practise them and really get them down, it becomes easy from then on. Since I have mastered these techniques, I have never failed an exam in my life.
The Basic Mnemonic Method
The basic method involves associating facts with existing well known sequences like letters or numbers.
The Numbers Method
So for the numbers method, we take the numbers 1 to 10 and we consider them as words, rather than numbers. We then match with each word, a visual anchor. If this isn’t making any sense, it will in a minute:
ONE = BUN
TWO = BLUE
FOUR = DOOR
FIVE = HIVE
SIX = BRICKS
SEVEN = HEAVEN
NINE = WINE
TEN = HEN
You can use these or you can think of your own. Ultimately, once you’ve done that, you now have a list of visual anchors which, because of the numbers they rhyme with, go in a specific order.
Now, you create mental images incorporating the fact or piece of information you need to remember, with the visual anchor from the mnemonic list above.
The Alphabet Method
The alphabet method is an expanding mnemonic device which uses the same principle as the numbers method, with the notable improvement of being able to memorise 26 items instead of just 10.
Same method applies
[I shall sooner or later upload a video demonstrating the alphabet method]
The House Method
This is more difficult but still only intermediate level difficulty. It’s harder to teach because I can’t do the work for you. It is predicated on the assumption that you know the layout of your house in enormous detail. You can then place visual symbols of information in various rooms in your mental version of your house. With practise, this method has a much greater capacity than the alphabet or numbers methods, which means you can remember more facts with it.
The Journey Method
Consider your route to work, or somewhere else you go very often. This method utilises that method in a similar way to the previously mentioned methods. Every time you want to add a new piece of information, you choose another point on your journey.
Now that we’ve been through the basic methods, you’ll start to get a feel for how this works. But before long you’ll find limitations: types of information for which the methods just don’t seem that effective. I created a number of hacks for types of information that I found that just didn’t work.
Foreign Languages & Words With Little Normal Meaning
Words in foreign languages and long chemical names don’t have much meaning. And because they don’t have much meaning, they’re not all that easy to remember. Especially when there are lots of them.
In order to make them stick in the brain more easily, we need to convert them into something that means more to us. So I created visual symbols for each part of words in order to make them mean more to me.
So glucomethylpentoxyphenelate for example: GLUE + ME + PEN + OXY + PHENEL + LATE. So now I create an image containing all of those elements and use that to remember the chemical name.
Like quite a few of the articles on my blog right now, this is not perfect yet. As I said before, I shall be adding videos to this article shortly to better demonstrate how the techniques work. If you have any questions, or think I could be clearer about certain things, or don’t understand something, please do comment. It is through your comments that I’ll make the blog better.
Most of all, I hope this helps you to kick ass in your exams.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But can make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: Continue reading “If” »