County News

Magician connects principles of magic to leadership

David Kwong mesmerizes the crowd Saturday at the Opening General Session of NACo’s Annual Conference in Clark County, Nev. Photo by Denny Henry

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David Kwong to General Session: "If you can get your audience believing that they are dictating how the trick goes, they will more readily buy into the illusion."

Magic tricks, Scrabble hacks and a deck of cards taught county officials how to see the world from a different perspective and learn valuable lessons about being leaders at Saturday’s General Session at the NACo Annual Conference.

David Kwong, an illusionist, magician and crossword puzzle maker, shared his insight on the thought processes of magicians to “pull back the curtain on magic” for the crowd. 

“Magic in a sense is a puzzle. It’s a way to challenge your brain to see if you can work out the solution,” he said. 

Kwong said a fundamental aspect of magic is preparing ahead of time and described the principle of magic, which occurs when there is an excess amount of preparation that an audience would doubt went into a trick.

He described the “deepest, darkest secret of magic” as the illusion of free choice: If you can get your audience believing that they are dictating how the trick goes, they will more readily buy into the illusion. 

Kwong compared this to having a good idea at work and convincing a boss it was his or her idea, which will result in the idea moving forward.  

He referred to the “choice of architects,” where someone controls the choices of others or nudges someone to take a certain action.  

Kwong transferred this concept to leadership, saying leaders know how to get an audience, followers or employees to make decisions that are good for them.

“You’ll find when you can empower other people to make decisions, the overall fact is that they will be more engaged in the outcome,” Kwong said. 

He showed off his own magic skills by doing sleight-of-hand card tricks, pulling a dollar bill out of a kiwi, and using random Scrabble words where the scores added up to the numbers on the bottom of the dollar bill pulled out of the kiwi.

“My hope is that you can take some of these principles and think about them and apply them to your life in not a manipulative way but rather embrace them as a way that you can get ahead in your own situations and have more control in your own life,” he said. 

 
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