Have any of you seen the film Pain And Gain?  They say it’s a true story.  Daniel, played by Mark Wahlberg, just wants the American dream.  But he’s watched Scarface one too many times and resorts to extortion, kidnapping, and murder to get it.  Sounds depressing right?  Daniel’s arrogance makes him look so foolish that you’ll actually find yourself laughing at it.  The imagery is stunning and of course there is an explosion or two.  Thinking about Daniel got me thinking about all sorts of people who let money screw up their lives.

Last week I wrote about attitude being one of the most important things when it comes to making magic happen at corporate events.  Thanks in large part to my attitude I’ve been on an especially hot roll lately, but I think it’s starting to go to my head.  I just booked a string of corporate events for the fall.  Although I’ll be traveling extensively for some of that time, I managed to book other entertainers and will be getting a fat commission from them.  In addition, Princess Cruises has decided to send my wife and I to South America to perform our corporate illusion show for their passengers.  Life is tough, huh?

If you were to visit my office and look around, you’d see pictures of me with some celebrities and corporate clients, you’d see I have a loving and gorgeous wife, you’d see framed letters on the walls from satisfied fortune 500 companies and clients for whom I’ve helped make trade shows unforgettable, you’d see me working on new ways to mystify with magic and communicate core messages for companies with corporate magic.  You’d see my wife and my staff all laughing and joking and having a good time while everybody works like crazy and, if you could also read my thoughts, you’d see a man (me) dangerously close to making one of the deadliest mistakes a person can make which is…

Letting it go to your head!

I think this can be fatal. I’m not talking injurious to your business (though it can be), I’m talking fatal fatal.

Time for a story.  Once upon a time, success came dangerously close to ruining my life.  What you are about to learn is just how dumb, foolish, and ignorant a supposedly intelligent man (Ol’ “Alexander”) can be.  But let me suggest something: Before you smirk and get condescending about the stupidity I am about to reveal and say, “that Great is really dumb, that will never happen to me,” I suggest you listen to that little whisper in the back of your mind that says “Don’t be so sure.”  Read on and learn from my mistakes.

Let us go back in time to the first half of 1993.  Back then I was truly living high on the hog.  I was performing two and three corporate events a week at $20,000 a piece.  I had highly profitable investments (sometimes my stocks would appreciate as much as $2,000 per day), showplace homes in Vegas and Hollywood, and lots of great business and magic friends.  The economy was completely different then and anyone in corporate entertainment could make a killing.

Believe me, I milked it for all it was worth.  Whenever I found myself in a conversation with strangers and the conversation turned to money and everybody was trying to impress everybody else, I would always emerge victorious by performing a magic trick with money like turning a one dollar bill into a 100 dollar bill and then giving away the 100!  If one of the group asked how much I earned performing magic at corporate events, I’d say, “Oh about five thousand, I guess.”  And then they’d smile and say, “I guess $5,000 a year is decent money for a young guy like you.”  And then I’d say, “Oh no, you misunderstand.  My income is $5,000 per day!”

The above scenario vividly demonstrates the insufferable stupidity of my early career.  The guy who so readily gave away $100 bills is the same guy who couldn’t get a checking account from the Bank Of America in North Hollywood because his credit was deemed so unworthy.

My humbling went down like this: One day in the first week of September, 1993, just after dark, I was walking a young lady to her car.  As we got way up Wilshire Blvd. I saw two figures rapidly approach us.  At first I thought they were kids and I started to say “Hey,” but then they each drew out big knives.  Not little switch blades, mind you.  Big long hunting knives.  I’d rather they’ve been guns.  Have you ever seen a hunting knife?  My father had Blue Fox and they are scary, especially when you are looking into the business end of one of those monsters.

One of the guys drew it to my friend’s throat and said, “Give me the purse B____h.”  The other, anticipating my moves, said “Make one move and I’ll stab the s___ out of you.”  I said to my friend, “Give him the purse.”  There was no other choice.  She did as I said and within a minute we got away with our lives.  Before they left one of the muggers said, “This is what happens to people who make a lot of money and drive a nice car.”

Ouch.  Getting mugged was extremely unnerving, even for a guy who went to USC in South Central LA during the LA riots era.  Success had turned me into such a jerk that it took a knife in my face to humble me.  After the incident I took some serious time to develop an attitude of gratitude.  I began to help people, stop flaunting my success, and realize that tomorrow is promised to no one.  My new grateful and giving attitude made my business suffer and my bank account shrink a little, but that’s okay because I was maturing.

So what?  What can be learned from all that I related above?  A lot.  Assuming you don’t want to be robbed, incarcerated, or swamped with emotional and financial trauma, I offer five simple rules that will prevent success from getting to your head:

#1. STOP LIVING IN A DREAM WORLD!

Stuff like this really can happen to you. People who never take any risks are boring cowards but people who take stupid risks are, in fact, stupid.

 

#2. STOP CHEATING

Don’t lie to your clients, your audiences, your team or to yourself.  If you lie in contracts with big corporations, the one time you get caught may easily cause you more grief than it was worth for the hundreds of times you slipped by.

 

#3. DON’T RUB YOUR WEALTH IN OTHER PEOPLE’S FACES!

Showing off is one of the “perks” of being a success, however, I suggest you avoid trying to impress people who are losers (i.e., bitter, frustrated people who are constantly looking for new people to blame for their failures).

 

#4. KEEP YOURSELF HEALTHY!

If you stay in shape with a great program like P90X or run three or four miles a day like my father does, you’ll unconsciously give off a different class of vibes that signal you’re not a vulnerable wounded fish and easy prey for all the two-legged sharks of the world.

 

#5.     KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR!

You think you’ve got it hard?  Don’t be silly.  What you’ve endured is nothing compared to what millions of people endure bravely every day of their lives.

 

Someone once said every man’s life has value if for nothing else than to be used as a bad example.  Maybe that’s me.

 

P.S. I’ve been wanting to do something very special for you Alexandrites for a long time and if you’re on my list you’re gonna love this one!

This is one of those deals that’s like a Rolex watch: You don’t buy it so you’ll know what time it is, you buy it simply because you can.  I’ll send you an amazing free magic trick!  Just send an email to Alexander@alexandermagic.com with the subject line FREE MAGIC TRICK with your postal address and I’ll send it right off to you.  Sound Good?

 

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