We are not a spy but of course, even if we were, we wouldn’t tell you for your own safety. But we are a magician and that is somewhat like a spy. Our specialty is Mentalism and that is very much like a spy. 62.7 percent of our act is based on intuition, pre-show work and informed guessing. Perhaps that is why we found so much of the information contained in former CIA operative J.C. Carleson’s new book Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer.
Ms. Carleson worked in the business world and then decided to join the CIA to serve her country and find adventure. Along the way, she learned to collect, analyze and use information without detection or suspicion. Those skills translated well when she returned to the corporate world and so her book is addressed to her new peer group – corporate executives.
Of course the ability to collect information from those who do not wish to give information – a doing so in a way that does not tip off your target – is what we as magicians do for a living. Even if you are not into mentalism and work solely with automatic tricks requiring no “read” of your audience or volunteer, this book will help you tune your routine to the crowd.
On the other hand, if you are a mentalist or street magician, you need to get this book. We pride ourselves in being very in-touch with our audience and able to easily pick up on their unspoken communication. Ms. Carleson says we are precisely the type of person who could be a lousy spy. Once you are convinced you can read people or discern truths from their behavior or background, you blind yourself to the reality of the encounter. She provides a step-by-step method to acquire the skills you need to be successful building rapport as a business person, a spy or a magician.
We enjoyed the exercises she prescribes such as picking a stranger at random and learning the make and model of their car in a way that this perfect stranger has no idea you obtained the information. You can do it – we know because we did it. (But not on the first through fourth attempts).
Magicians need to pick the right volunteer to do their secret work and Ms. Carleson teaches us how to target the right person to obtain the information you seek. How to then talk with that person to get the information without asking a single question and ingratiate yourself with your new found friend.
Granted, she describes some techniques that may be considered extreme for the average mentalist or birthday party entertainer: getting your target drunk; dressing in a manner that appeals to your target’s fetish; lying about your background or position to develop the target’s trust. But there is plenty here for the magician looking to improve on his or her intuition.
Ms. Carleson is a fine writer – especially if this is her first book – and it is a quick but substantive read. In fact, we read the book in an afternoon. True, it is not a magic book but it is a good book with instant application to our profession.