How Penn & Teller Revealed a Magic Trick and Skyrocketed My Business Growth

Jay   41

Updated on December 22, 2019

Be honest - you want to hit it big and make headlines everywhere.

You want to go from zero to massive income, achieve ludicrous subcriber counts in no time, be part of wildly profitable product launches... It's the classic hero-story and you want to be part of it.

Yet, your every attempt always seems to leave you stuck in the little league.

You're constantly dabbling in the same fields as these big hitters, but the hero high note of massive success always seems to be just out of reach.

Why is that? Are some people simply destined for greatness?

Recently I heard Penn Gillette, the bombastic larger half of the Penn&Teller illusionist-duo, guest speaking on the Art of Charm podcast. He made me realize why some people will never achieve greatness, and some will achieve it every time they try.

And because it's Penn Gillette, the answer comes in the form of an illusion.

Hold on tight.​


Succeeding in Real Life - The Greatest Illusion of Them All

Imagine being a newcomer to Pat Flynn's homepage.

You quickly find income reports and discover that Pat's is earning dizzying amounts of money with his business. A business that includes speaking gigs in front of huge audiences, a blog with seemingly endless amounts of useful content and a podcast with tens of thousands of listeners, among other things...

This guy is a walking success machine! Everything he does seems to work like... magic.

Eventually you try to replicate Pat's success. Aiming high, you try to build a website with thousands of readers and incredible sales figures. Of course, you have no such luck and soon run out of motivation to continue.

You fumble and fall.

It's disheartening. It's deflating. It makes true success seem like something that's completely out of your reach.

Well, I'm sorry to break it to ya, but success in real life isn't about reaching emotional climaxes or massive overnight results​.

Incredible results make for a good story, though. And we love telling a good story.

Why Magicians Never Reveal Their Secrets

As humans, we respond naturally to a story structure. Emotional highs and lows make any content engaging and entertaining. It's like we become part of the action.

Advertisers, newscasters, salesmen, content creators all know this and try their best to deliver their message wrapped in a good story.

Since our world is so heavily inundated by different story structures, we start viewing life as if it were a story. We start expecting everything to work according to a dramatic structure.

I realized how true this is after seeing Penn & Teller's version of the classic 'Cups and Balls' routine, which supposedly breaks the first rule of magic: never reveal your secrets!

Penn & Teller on the Johnathan Ross show, performing their Cups & Balls-routine.

I always get excited when someone promises to reveal a magic trick. I want to see what goes on behind the scenes and how I can also become a magician!

The duo proceeds to show us quite literally how the cups and balls trick works, using transparent cups. But even though we've just seen how it's done, could we hop on stage and recreate the trick?

Absolutely not. We'd have balls and cups all over the place.

​This is a carefully orchestrated choreography between the two artists, sprinkled with humor and showmanship, ending with a dramatic result. It's fantastically entertaining...

...but reveals nothing.

It's still just a good story.

A true reveal would be to look past the story and completely disassemble the routine down to its actual core elements: Decades of practice, endless repetitions and countless failures.

But nobody wants to see that in a magic show, now would they?

Forget the Dramatic Story - Focus on Immediate Action

In real life, you hear about fairytale successes all the time. What you don't hear about, and what people rarely talk about, is the road leading to these successes.

In other words - you see the dramatic end result, but you never see the true reveal.​

It's easy to forget that Pat Flynn and other successful people have been in the same situation as you. They've poured countless hours into content that nobody read. They've shouted into the void, desperately trying to get an audience.

You never heard about this because, well, no one was there to hear them. But they kept going and eventually ended up as someone you look up to.

Here's the thing: you can't replicate Pat Flynn's income or have your face painted on a Las Vegas skyscraper. These goals are the result of years of dedicated work, and they are completely out of your reach (for now).

So instead of focusing on what took others YEARS to achieve, you should focus on what they achieve EVERY DAY. If they can achieve something in one day, you can achieve it too, but only if you understand the secret of daily progress.

You can't get a million readers today, but you can publish an article and improve your writing.

You can't do a card trick today, but you can improve your dexterity by handling cards.

Completing a single task like this might not make for an interesting story, but even after a handful of repetitions, you'll notice a change. Soon you'll realize how close to your dramatic story finale you were the whole time.

Your ultimate goal will slowly change from unachievable dream into an inevitable stop on your journey.

It all comes down to 'The Grind', or progressing in small, incremental steps.

Sounds simple, right? Sounds almost obvious.

Well, without one essential key element, none of this means anything.

You must keep track of the incremental steps. If you don't, you'll never see your advancement, and you'll never feel like you're advancing anywhere.

The key to consistent progress is tracking EVERYTHING.

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7 Things To Track That Will Help Grow Your Business

Here's some things you can track and measure daily, that will advance your business to another level almost immediately.

Add to this list as much as you wish, but your daily task must be:​

  1. Small enough. You need to finish it in a day, after all.
  2. Measurable. You need to record your progress daily.

1. Amount of Hours Working

You may have seen this coming, but guess what.

If you don't show up, nothing gets done.

As long as you show up and work on your goals, you will advance.

Look back at your last few weeks. How many times did you show up and put hours into your project? Every hour is a win.

If you feel like hours are just slipping away and you don't have control over what's happening, you need a time tracker. A great tool for this purpose is called Toggl.

It runs in the background and shows you how you spend each and every one of your minutes. You'll be surprised at how much time you could use more efficiently!


Track of the amount of time you work. You'll see how you use most of your time and how many hours you've worked. How many hours have you spent working today?

2. Amount of Pomodoros

Have you heard of the Pomodoro-method?

In short, it's a way of using an eggtimer to force yourself to stay focused on one task.

One pomodoro is formed of:

  • Focusing on a task for 20 minutes.
  • Take a break for 5 minutes.​

While the Pomodoro doesn't work for everyone, it can be the difference between productivity and slacking off.

There's a trick to making it work though. During the first 20 minutes, you absolutely need to finish your task. So be sure to pick a task that you can finish in 20 minutes. It can be as small as writing one paragraph. Skimp on quality if you must, but you absolutely must finish it.

Then during the next 5 minutes, you must stop and take a break. During break time, you can not work on your task anymore.

When you teach yourself that there's a break right around the corner, you'll learn to hold off on that Youtube-video or facebook message for just a bit. You'll notice productivity increasing immediately.​

You can use Toggl's Pomodoro-function for this, or use a free online eggtimer like this one.


Use the Pomodoro-system to increase productivity and focus. How many Pomodoros did you finish today?

3. Number of Landing Pages Published

Landing pages are the most important web pages for your business. Besides the obvious advantage of converting visitors to subscribers or customers, each landing page you publish has a number of surprising uses:

  • You'll learn copywriting skills.
  • You'll discover different value propositions from your product or service.
  • You'll see which offers appeal best to your audience.

Whatever your business, you need to be comfortable in creating and publishing landing pages consistently and quickly.

Thrive Landing Pages makes publishing landing pages simple and quick.


If you feel unproductive, create and publish a landing page. It's useful in more ways than you'd think. How many landing pages did you publish today?

4. Number of A/B tests started

Your website may work right now, but how well does it work? You can't know until you test alternatives.​

A/B testing, or split testing can be intimidating terms, and there's a lot of misinformation out there about the subject. All it means is to compare two or more webpages to see which performs better.

To get the maximum value out of your business, you should be testing and comparing your most profitable pages constantly.​

It's the only real way to find out what works for you and what doesn't.

Every time you start an A/B test to compare your best performing pages, you're taking a step forward. You find out more information about your readers and what resonates with them specifically.

Things you can split test:

Here's a great article by Dave D to help you get started.


A/B testing is always useful, and can provide valuable information. You should always have some A/B tests running. How many did you start today?

5. Amount of Ads & Ad Variations Published

Paid advertising is a great way to drive targeted traffic to your site... when it works.

At best, you can get huge amounts of targeted traffic with the click of a button. At worst, it's a waste of money.

At Thrive Themes, we've achieved impressive results through paid advertising, but only because we've ​put our ads through intensive split testing.

That requires creating and publishing a TON of ads.

You can use tools like Adespresso to help your ad-creation, but at the end of the day maximum profit requires going through a whole bunch of ads and variations.

That's why every ad you publish and learn from leads to your business growth.


Paid advertising can lead to massive profits, but only after rigorous testing. How many ads have you published today?

6. Amount of Content Published

You may feel like publishing content is useful only if it drives search traffic or increases sign-ups.

In truth, every time you publish content, you're advancing your business growth in ways you might've not thought about:

  • Your audience might like it more than you think​
  • You're improving your writing skills.
  • You get a sense of accomplishment. This small victory can be a welcome boost of positivity on a rainy day when nothing seems to be working.

Tools like Thrive Content Builder can help you create awesome content quickly.


Creating content is always valuable, in ways you might have not thought of. How many pieces of content have you published today or this week?

7. Amount of Rejections

How many times have you sent an outreach email or tweet this week? How many times have you been rejected or outright ignored?

Every bit of outreach is necessary for your advancement. Every rejection even more so: you learn that this particular person is not the one you should be approaching.

Remember that JK Rowling was rejected by numerous publishers before finding one that would accept her quirky novel about wizards and muggles.

Send a couple of outreach emails immediately. Try to get a guest post somewhere. Try to get an interview. As long as you're polite, you can't go wrong, so get used to sending these.

Buzzsumo has an excellent resource on outreach, use it to get a headstart today!


Aim to get rejected as many times as possible. It's the only way to succeed. How many times have you been rejected today?

Start Your Business Growth Today

The ugly truth is - you are going to have to start counting. Be proud of even the smallest victory.

Focus on enjoying the journey. It’s gonna be ugly, but that’s what will get you to the fabled magic performance.

The story climaxes are within your grasp. Now you have the tools to reach them.​

One day you'll wake up to people amazed at your, almost magical, success.

by Jay  December 2, 2016


Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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Leave a Comment

    • Hi Patricia,

      You’re very welcome. That’s the classic story, innit. =) We all need a reminder of that sometimes.

      Glad to help with the motivation!

    • Hey Carsten,

      Thanks! Glad it helped.
      Measuring stuff is difficult at first, but then it becomes a habit and you don’t even think about it anymore. See, you’re improving already. =)

  • Great post Jay! Thanks a lot for helping me feel better about working so hard and not yet seeing the results I want.

    I’ve got a question about landing pages. I’ve avoided creating those because I don’t know how can I use them. Meaning, where will the traffic come from? I don’t currently have budget for paid advertising, and since their main goal is to get more subscribers I don’t see how it could be of use to build landing pages and send my audience there (they’re already on my list!). How do you recommend using them?


    • Hey Mary!

      You’re very welcome. Glad if it helped, I know how it feels when every day is like dredging through a thicket.

      Thanks for asking, that’s a good question. Let’s see…

      You can use landing pages to collect subscribers/sign ups, but that’s not their only purpose.
      You can also share your product/freebie, sign up people for a course, sell a product, advertise an event, promote a job offer, etc. Basically when you want a group of people to express their interest in whatever topic, you need a landing page. So if you already have a mailing list, you would send them to a landing page for whatever offer you have for them specifically. Then you’d have a different landing page for other audiences.

      Regarding traffic, I would suggest going for highly targeted traffic. Meaning – you only need a handful of people to visit your page to get results because they’re already interested in what you have to say. This kind of traffic doesn’t come too easy though. If paid traffic isn’t your thing, I’d suggest guest posting, interviewing influencers, or even live meetups. I prefer guest posting and paid advertising though. You can get massive results from Facebook ads with $200 or less. Check out this article for more about that!

      Hope that helps!

    • Thanks Frank!

      Baby steps is indeed the building blocks of every great journey. Funny how it’s become such an esoteric term that so few understand how to practically take “baby steps” toward their goal.

  • Best article I’ve read in a long while! Thank you!

    I am just about finishing my software (which is awesome) but of course nobody cares, (yet). It’s all about the route you just described in your article.

    Btw. my goal is that in articles like this you would mention my software FindFocus in the future, for creating working routines, promodoro rituals etc. instead, but I guess it will take a while. 😀

    Good luck and thanks for the great article!

    • Hey Martin,

      Thanks for reading! Nice plug, I don’t see those too often. =)

      You’re finishing your software, so you’re familiar with the grind, then. From what I see on your site and your apparent go-getter attitude, I’d wager that Findfocus will be featured in an article (mine or someone else’s) sooner or later. I’m always up for highlighting things if it helps my audience.

      Good luck to you too, sir!

  • Dear Jay

    I think this is a good article and perhaps even a great article. There is no doubt in my mind that persistence and measured persistence is critical for us all. This applies in any sphere in which we apply ourselves; EG, business, sports, arts, dance or whatever. It does though hide another reality and this may be unpalatable to some.

    What is this, (possibly) unpalatable, reality exactly?

    Have you noticed, how we quote stories of people who were living in poverty, or who had massive challenges, who built a business from scratch, and came out the other side, having succeeded.

    We naturally tend to gravitate towards those stories, because they get picked up by the media, they inspire us to believe we can replicate their success. Provided we stick at it, persist, have self belief, put the hours in, have a system etc.

    Another reality

    We tend not to see stories of people, who have slogged, persisted, had their nose to the grindstone and have nothing to show for it. At least nothing obvious.

    I’ve lost track of the numbers of people who don’t make it despite their efforts. The talented and hard working singers who don’t get heard, the huge numbers of bloggers who remain hidden, the Tennis players who remain on the bottom rung of their profession, the inventors who never see their ideas brought to a successful fruition and so on.

    It’s natural to want to read, hear and see successful people, but I think a dose of reality is sometimes necessary.

    So perhaps, “One day you’ll wake up to people amazed at your, almost magical, success”. Or, you may also wake up to another day of the same old slog which never ever ends.

    Your real outcome, is not some almost magical success, but the quiet satisfaction, of understanding that sometimes, things don’t pan out as you had hoped. You may end up as financially insecure, you may even lose everything material.

    You’re joy is the self knowledge that despite everything you have done your bit for humanity.

    The human spirit has been somewhat overtaken by the material world. Human spirit is about carrying on despite never succeeding.

    So, to all those people who will never succeed materially, keep on and never stop. It’s what makes us human:-)

    • Hi Steve!

      Wow thanks for your comment. I’m glad you got a spur to write after reading this article. =)

      You got some deep insight there. Seems like this subject has a book or two in it. (At least I’m up for delving deep into it.)

      “Or, you may also wake up to another day of the same old slog which never ever ends.” I totally agree that this is a definite possibility, but I also think you make your own magic. If every day feels like the same old slog that never ends, my belief is that something should change.

    • Hey Donald,

      Thank you very much. So glad the magic came through.

      I’ll make sure to pass on your compliments to our amazing designer. =)

  • Great reminder, and read, thanks Jay.
    I will be working on this tomorrow.
    PS. I liked the magic trick reveal too haha

    • Hey Mark!

      Thanks for the compliment, means a lot.

      Yeah you guys are headed for a magical success for sure, and there’s gonna be no doubt about the hard work that lead you there.

  • Hi Jay,

    Loved this article, I was amazed at how you took the magician angle and related it to building an online business. It’s so true and so obvious that its very easy to miss this point.

    • Hey Ryan,
      Thank you so much, I’m glad you liked it. =)

      This angle took me by surprise as well, really connected some dots when I heard Penn talking on that podcast.

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