Magic and Misdirection

“The tuned deck” is a curious trick that fooled hundred of professional magicians for years – they were too busy concentrating on specific techniques to realise that there was an art at work…

“As soon as Hull had announced his new trick and given its name to his eager audience, the trick was over. Having set up his audience in this simple way, and having passed the time with some obviously phony and misdirecting chatter about vibrations and buzz-buzz-buzz, Hull would do a relatively simple and familiar card presentation trick

“And so it would go, for dozens of repetitions, with Hull staying one step ahead of his hypothesis-testers, exploiting his realization that he could always do some trick or other from the pool of tricks they all knew, and concealing the fact that he was doing a grab bag of different tricks by the simple expedient of the definite article: The Tuned Deck.”

As a (strictly) amateur magician myself, I’m always inspired by this kind of skill. Magician/showman Derren Brown also uses misdirection as an art – he’ll show a trick, then explain how it was done – except the explanation is actually another level of the trick. He did Russian Roulette live on TV:

“as a magic-related performer to have that even being asked: Was it real? Was it not real? That lifts it to a level that I’m very comfortable with.”

Think of a situation you’re involved in. Where can you use this tactic to your benefit? How can you control the framing of an idea by directing attention to where you want it to be?

5 easy ways to lose weight

Like everyone, I’ve had times when my weight has been heavier than I’d like it to be. Something I learned years ago is that it’s simple to take control of your weight – as long as you actually want to do that.

If you don’t have the willpower to make a decision and act on it, nothing you do will ever be truly effective.

Now that’s said, here’s the 5 easy ways to lose weight:

  1. Eat less
  2. Excercise more
  3. That’s it
  4. No, really

Yeah, so there are actually only two ways. But those items are fundamental to reaching your goals.

Eat less

This is where a lot of folks go wrong. If you attempt this with the wrong mindset, you might lose weight in the short term, but you’ll probably put it back on and more in the longer term:

  • People on diets typically lose 5 to 10 per cent of their weight in the first 6 months.
  • But 33 to 66 per cent regain more than what they lose within 4 to 5 years.

Don’t go on a diet. Change your diet.

  • Cut out a regular snack or indulgence
  • Replace a meal with a bowl of cereal or a salad (without a calorie-rich dressing)
  • Reduce your portion sizes little by little

The key is that this isn’t a temporary change, it’s something you commit to. You don’t have to give up all your treats, but make them just that – treats. If you make this a natural part of your life, your body will respond and you will be satisfied with less.

Exercise More

Get out there and do something. Walk for 30 minutes. Do push-ups before you go to bed. Take the stairs.

Don’t make excuses why you can’t fit exercise into your life, you can always do one of something every day. Let’s say you want to do pushups – do at least one every single day. If you miss a day, you should feel like you missed out. Exercise isn’t punishment, it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself.

You have to become someone who loves to exercise. This doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym for 3 hours at a time, just that exercise should be your release, your reward.

Final thoughts

I bought a fancy new set of scales, and I didn’t like what I saw. I was heavier than my ideal, and my body fat was on the edge of acceptable – something I didn’t want to accept when looking in the mirror. I made a commitment to myself to change this. Two weeks later I had lost 7lbs and 1.5% body fat.

If you make these principles part of your self, they will work – guaranteed. Or you can ignore this, go from diet to diet, watch your weight yo-yo, and stagnate. It’s your choice, no-one else can make it for you.

My life without coffee – one year on

Coffee cup

It’s coming up to the 1-year anniversary of my last cup of coffee (I never planned it, so I didn’t note the date exactly), so I wanted to share some thoughts about my experience.

Let’s start with background – I’ve been drinking several cups of coffee daily since my teens. Then we got a coffee machine at work. I think 6-10 cups a day would be a reasonable estimate of my intake just over a year ago. I’d never really thought about how much I drank, though a few years ago I started switching to decaf after 6pm, so that I could get to sleep before the new day began.

Then one fateful day, the coffee machine at work ran out of milk. I thought to myself, “let’s see if I can go without coffee for a day”.

That night, around 9.30pm, I was sat in front of the computer when all of a sudden my shoulders locked up and I got a pounding headache. I switched off the PC, curled up in bed and slept like the dead.

Having such a strong reaction really shook me up, and I decided to extend the experiment and see what happened.

For the next two weeks, I was incapable of staying awake past 10pm – I literally crawled into bed and was out like a light. I didn’t feel hugely refreshed, but I was getting more sleep than I’d had in years, and I started feeling better, little by little.

Over the next couple of months, as I slowly adjusted to my new rhythms, I was able to stay up later, but also I was able to wake up earlier without feeling dog-tired.

Now, I can’t lie to you and say I have boundless energy and need to sleep for only 30 minutes a night – I like a lie-in as much as anyone – but I do feel more energetic, and I’m doing a lot more with my time nowadays. I can’t attribute it all to giving up coffee, but it was certainly the catalyst for many other lifestyle changes.

I haven’t cut out caffeine entirely – I’ve grown to really enjoy tea – but I went without any caffeine at all for a few days recently, and it had no effect at all. The addiction is gone and if I have my way it’s never coming back.

Always achieve your goals


Is potential born or made? Can you be good enough that you don’t have to get any better?

Carol Dweck is a psychology professor at Stanford University. She’s been investigating why people of equal talent reach such different levels – why some become Muhammad Ali, and others Mike Tyson.

The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

People who attributed their failures to lack of ability, Dweck thought, would become discouraged even in areas where they were capable. Those who thought they simply hadn’t tried hard enough, on the other hand, would be fueled by setbacks.

The Effort Effect

According to Dweck, there are two types of mindset – fixed, where there are definite limits, and growth, where you can always get better.

This calls for you to display your own strength of mind – if you embrace a growth mindset, you’re not admitting that you’re weak, you’re admitting that you can do even more. Don’t give up if you can’t do something new right away, acknowledge that you’ll need to work on it.

I couldn’t do chin-ups for years, but once I stopped making excuses like “I don’t need to do chin-ups”, and started building my upper body strength… I could do maybe one or two, struggling. But I kept going, and got better as I went on.

Remember that Carol Dweck took up piano as an adult and learned to speak Italian in her 50s. “These are things that adults are not supposed to be good at learning.”

Prof. Dweck has written a book called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” – I know it’s gone straight into my must-read pile.

<a href=";tag=insidestrength-20&#038;linkCode=as2&#038;camp=1789&#038;creative=9325&#038;creativeASIN=1400062756">Mindset: The New Psychology of Success</a><img src=";l=as2&#038;o=1&#038;a=1400062756" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

Defeat laziness with two simple steps

Running shoe

Here’s a great quote from Ryan Holiday about fighting back against self-imposed barriers, called “The Myth of Prodigy“.

He let himself get drawn into a way of thinking that limited him:

As competition grew fiercer, I capitulated instead of fighting it. I accepted my own fate as a novelty. I admitted I was a flash in the pan, that I was nothing special, that it was all a fluke.

Only by fighting against that mindset could he begin to achieve his true potential

“Everytime I wanted to stop I sped it up a little. Each goal I set–I’ll stop at 3 miles–I exceeded by .1 or .2. I excised those demons (laziness) by refusing to indulge them.”

So there are just two steps

  1. Recognise that you’ve set your own limits
  2. Ignore them and push past.

You can always do one more rep, run that bit further, achieve more than you thought possible. You just have to reach for it.

Never give up. Never stop trying

Have a look at this guy. Makoto Nagano is a Japanese fisherman and was 34 years old when this was shot.

He competed in SASUKE / Ninja Warrior six times before he won, even getting to the final stage and failing by less than a second. He never gave up. That’s how you win.

The incredible upper body strength on display is nothing compared to the mental strength to keep going and push yourself just a bit further.

Makoto Nagano on Wikipedia