What A Master Illusionist Can Teach Us About Real Life

Criss Angel is arguably the most famous magician of this generation. He’s built an extremely loyal following for grand, death-defying stunts and mind-bending illusions that he often performs on the street in broad daylight. But none of this fame was handed to him. Criss grew his empire through years of dedicated practice and sheer force of will. By looking at some of the surprising stops along his road to success, we can see that real magic comes from drive, resilience, and a singular vision of your future.

Here are five life lessons from Criss Angel.

#1: Success Has Its Own Timeline

Due to the intense popularity of his hit television show “Mindfreak” and viral YouTube videos, Criss is often referred to as an “overnight success.” In reality, Criss performed magic for 18 years before getting attention. That doesn’t include the years he spent as a kid making quarters disappear in his living room back in Long Island.

Criss would be the first to tell you that success isn’t magical, it’s just hard work. He’s also proof that success may not happen on your timeline, so if you want something bad enough, you must pursue it relentlessly.

#2: Monotony Can Make You Stronger

Every job, no matter how exciting it appears to be from the outside, can have stretches of tedium. Magic is no different. While exhilarating for the crowd, each illusion requires hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes preparation.

Criss knows a thing or two about repetition. In 1998, at the annual Halloween convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City, he performed a 10-minute routine 50 times a day for 12 days. That’s 600 performances in less than two weeks. While it may have been monotonous, Criss’ epic Halloween performance helped him land his next gig with The World Underground Theater in Times Square, bringing him one step closer to his goal. His marathon performance is a great reminder that if something is moving you toward your goals, you can endure it, no matter how draining or mind-numbing.

#3: Leaders Get Involved

Criss is not merely a magician, he’s a savvy entrepreneur and respected business leader. He credits much of his success to knowing the ins and outs of the magic business—from performance to marketing to booking—and to taking an active role in each piece.

This means Criss is as deeply involved with developing new ventures like The Supernaturalists roadshow as he is with choosing the specific straightjacket used in a performance or designing merchandise like his best-selling illusion kit. Where did he learn this useful trick? Criss’ father was a successful restaurant owner who could work every position in the front and back of the house. He taught Criss at a young age that if you’re going to be the best at your craft, you must learn the supporting roles and skillsets, too.

#4: Sleep Is Overrated

It’s easy to lose sleep in Las Vegas. The entire city is designed to entertain visitors 24/7. A mainstay of the Vegas Strip for more than a decade, Criss is not the type to rest on his fame and leisurely indulge the good life. He worked around the clock to pull off his latest show, MindfreakLIVE, which opened in May this year. Preparing tirelessly for each performance, he regularly sleeps only three hours a night, perfecting every last detail. Criss’ work ethic is unparalleled in the business, and another reminder that—as IQ guest Lisa Nichols pointed out—transformation often requires inconvenience.

#5: Serving Others Is Your Reward

With all of the effort Criss gives to his work, it could be tempting to dismiss him as a careerist. But his larger goals go way beyond magic and into the world of philanthropy. A longtime supporter of cancer research, Criss’ most important stated mission in life is to make pediatric cancer disappear.

He’s been personally impacted by cancer twice in his life, as the disease has afflicted both his father and, more recently, his two-year-old son. Over the years, Criss has made generous donations to cancer charities and raised awareness around the world. In September, he’s performing his most important show of all at the Luxor theater, where he’ll hold a large, star-studded fundraiser to raise money for pediatric cancer research. The goal is one million dollars, and Criss is paying for the event out of his own pocket so that 100 percent of the donations go to research. If there’s anything we can learn from Criss’ charitable spirit, it’s that having a goal larger than ourselves can be a powerful accelerant for our individual growth.

For a deeper look at the man behind the magic, check out Criss Angel’s interview with Tom Bilyeu on Inside Quest.