Following is the full transcript of public intellectual Andrew Bennett’s TEDx Talk: The Magic of Words – What We Speak is What We Create at TEDxTowsonU conference.
Andrew Bennett – Canadian public officer
I am a magician for over 45 years. When I was 23 years old, I met former US presidential candidate Ross Perot, and I ended up working for him for 10 years. Ross made me promise that I’d figure out a way to integrate magic and business, and I’ve been working at that for the last 30 years.
So tonight, I’m here to share with you, one of the greatest secrets that I discovered on that 30-year journey. Tonight we’re going to pull back the curtain and I’m going share with you one of magic’s greatest secrets. This is so secret that most magicians don’t know it. This is a real treasure to me.
When I first discovered it, I didn’t want to share it with anyone. Seriously, I wanted to keep it for myself, but it had such a big impact on my life, and as I started to share it with other people, people were telling me how it was impacting them. So, It’s clearly one of those ideas worth sharing, and that’s why I’m here tonight.
The secret is a magic word, that has transformational power. In fact, it’s the universal magic word, you all know it. What’s the universal magic word? Abracadabra. “Please” is the very good magic word. And “thank you”. So, I never used the word “abracadabra” in my magic performances. I thought it was goofy, some nonsense word.
But one day I was sitting and reflecting, and I thought, “Where does abracadabra come from? What does it mean?” So I started to do some research which led me to the department of linguistics at MIT. I sent an email, and I had a follow-up phone conversation a couple days later. One of the faculty called and said, “You aren’t going to believe this. ‘Abracadabra’ is an Aramaic word.”
I said, “What’s Aramaic?”
He said Aramaic is an ancient sacred language that predates Hebrew. Some people say Aramaic is the language that Jesus spoke. He said, “Hold on because you’re never going to believe what abracadabra means.” It means: “What I speak is what I create.” What I speak is what I create.
Let me give you an example of abracadabra in action. We’re going to start, “What I speak is what I create”. We have to begin with words. So we’re going to take a simple word. The word “ball”. And let’s just add another word. The word “bowling”. Abracadabra! (Sound of bowling ball dropping)
Truly, what I speak is what I create. Words are one of our most powerful sources of creative power. Words can ignite a movement. Words can inspire us to rise above adversity. Words can connect our hearts.
On the other hand, words can destroy creativity. Words can take us down a rathole with self-doubt, and words can destroy relationships. We all know how powerful words are, and yet it’s scary how little attention we pay to our words. We don’t realize how powerful our words are, in terms of influencing the results that we are getting in life. Words are so powerful.
So, tonight, I’m going to equip you by using this idea of abracadabra, to use your words more consciously, so that you can move toward what you want to create, so that you can become more collaborative, more innovative, more creative, you can look at obstacles in different ways, and so that you can transform your life, your relationship, your teams, your workplace. Abracadabra is a powerful tool for doing this.
I want you to think about your words in two ways. Creative or limiting. Are your words creative? Are they uplifting? Are they inspiring? Are they generative? Or are they negative? Are they destructive? Are they demoralizing?
Now, just understanding this distinction between being creative and limiting can be a really powerful tool for you. It may sound really elementary. But just being conscious. Are my words that I am using right now moving me towards what I want? Or are they moving me towards what I don’t want?
And just by being conscious, you can do kind of an abracadabra on yourself and say, “Wait a minute. What I speak is what I create,” “I want to be using words that are moving me towards what I want to create.”
So, let’s look at this idea of abracadabra on three levels: On a personal level, on an interpersonal level, and from a leadership perspective.
First, the personal level. Raise your hand if you talk to yourself. Now, you hesitated for a moment. I kind of saw you look up and that leads me to believe that you were thinking, “Do I talk to myself?” Of course you do. We all do. We all talk to ourselves. We have this constant churning, constant stream of thought going.
If you don’t believe me, just try meditating. You get quiet, you close your eyes, and immediately it starts. (Snap) “Did I leave the coffee maker on?” It starts. And we just have that constant stream going on.
In the world of magic, the magician’s script is called “Pattern.” It’s carefully designed words that influence what you believe and what you see. That internal pattern that we all have going on is similar. It’s there to influence what we believe and what we see, and consequently what we end up creating in life.
Let me tell you a story about that internal pattern. When I was a kid growing up, practicing magic in our farmhouse in the basement in Michigan, I learned about an organization called the Magic Circle in London. Magic Circle is the oldest society of magicians in the world, and I set a goal at age 14 to become a member. 25 years later, I was invited.
Now to become a member, you have to pass an audition in front of 140 of the best magicians in the world who know how you’re doing and what you’re doing. Very intimidating. About 2 weeks before my audition, I was doing a workshop for a company in Chicago. And it was a two-day workshop with about 100 people, and I thought this was a perfect opportunity for me to rehearse for my audition.
So, first day, I step out in front of a group, and I start to perform a trick, and I screw it up royally. I mean so bad that the audience were going, “Oh, so that’s how you do that!” And it shook me up a little bit, but I just rolled with it and went on with the workshop.
Day 2, I stepped out again, a different trick. I started to perform it and I failed again. Now I was really shaken up this time. It was two weeks before the audition of my life, and I had failed at two magic tricks that I’d performed my entire life for decades, I was so shaken that I stepped aside and asked one of my colleagues to step in for me. He gets up in front of a 100 people and looks over at me and says, “What’s going on with you? I’ve never seen you fail at a trick,” And I was very humbled by having failed.
And I took his question to heart, and I just thought for a moment. And I realized, and I announced it to everyone and said, “I don’t believe I’m good enough to become a member of the Magic Circle,” and my friend lovingly looked over at me and he said, “Abracadabra. What you speak is what you create.” I had this script running in my head that was so powerful that it worked its way out of my head and into my hands.
So, I set to work rewiring my brain. I spent the next two weeks, every morning I’d take 20 minutes, and I would sit and write a first-person accounting of what my audition was going to look like, what it was going to feel like, and it was all as positive as it could be. I could feel the energy from the group. They want me to succeed. That kind of thing. I did that everyday for two weeks.