How a young magician become the world's most famous hacker

Kevin Mitnick is a “white hat” hacker who abides by the law and breaks into computer systems to help corporations and organizations figure out the weak spots in their security. Before that, the FBI had called him the “most wanted hacker”, and arrested him for 5 years, keeping him in isolation, afraid of what he could accomplish even from his jail cell. And before that, he was a budding magician.

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Hosting an event with little or no alcohol? Here’s the kind of entertainment that “sober curious” people go crazy for.

if you’re hosting an event and looking for entertainment that will delight both drinkers and the newly minted group of “sober curious,” interactive, strolling, close-up magic is the greatest shared experience you can create for your audience. Magic has universal appeal and is the ideal form of entertainment beloved by people who aren’t drinking just as much as those who are.

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This College Footballer Mastered Misdirection (A Magician's Perspective)

North Texas punt returner Keegan Brewer is a magician—a “sleight-of-body” magician. Here’s how he successfully used principles of magic to misdirect his audience (the opposing team) so that he could score a touchdown. (Spoiler: Brewer was successful because he understood in that moment that using an audience’s expectations to fool themselves is diabolically effective.)

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My Life Story in Print (So Far)

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with J Life Magazine, which was interested in telling my story from my childhood in the Soviet Union to my career and the Penn & Teller stage. Here's the story in full, told by the talented Allison Slater Tate.

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Amy KimlatComment
Healthcare CFO talks about hiring keynote speaker, Kostya Kimlat

After hiring Kostya Kimlat as a keynote speaker for her group for a third year, Karen Fauer, of UltraGroup Healthcare, discusses her expectations and reflections on his keynote presentations. 

I just started thinking about it, because we do our conferences every year, and I wanted to do something different. So I started researching him, looking online about him, and I just saw all these interviews with people who had just ...

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Why I Lie To Children

Last week, I spent a couple of hours lying to children. It’s the most beautiful lie I can create and I’m hoping they believe it completely. Let me explain…

These kids are usually ages 5 to 18 and they’re patients at a local children’s hospital — Nemours Children's Hospital — where I perform monthly magic. I stop by the individual rooms and each child gets to experience their own personal show.

When the kid is the right age, I ask them to participate by putting their initials on a quarter, or make a drawing of a smiley face or a butterfly. Then I ask them to clutch the coin in their fist and imagine themselves getting stronger and stronger.

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The Best Keynote Speakers Share This Purpose

The purpose of my keynote speech is to do what Seth Godin describes: “ to communicate emotion. To create tension. To bring change.”

This quote comes from a great interview in Forbes magazine by Michael Solomon. In the same article, Richard Schelp, co owner and CEO of Executive Speakers’ Bureau writes that “the biggest success is when the keynote speech inspires the audience to leave different than they came in.”

It’s taken me 15 years to develop my Keynote Speech and turn it into an hour long transformative experience. My journey to create an ideal keynote speech started with wanting to “do something fun and different” for corporate audience that had grown tired of the expected.

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The Perception of Magic in Culture is Changing

The zeitgeist is changing. In today’s social world magic is cool and popular.

And in my real-world performances people are approaching me before I approach them, asking to see some close-up magic.

I think what's most important is that people are starting to understand that magic takes skill. They understand now that I am not some charlatan pretending to have powers. Because I have made the choice to highlight my technical ability instead of a mysterious force, people are more open, accepting and interested. They’re not scared of magic, they dig it. And while they still incessantly make jokes about me taking their watches and wallets, they now have a positive correlation to magic. 

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Lifestyle Changes That Last, Like Magic

Practicing magic for 20 years has taught me that practice never ends. You're constantly refining ideas, perfecting techniques. The levels of learning make themselves very clear. 

I’m starting to see that the positive strides I’ve made in changing certain behaviors have each taken a year or more to develop. And they follow a pattern similar to the one that comes when anyone goes for a lifestyle change.

I find something I want to change, I find a reason why I want that, I learn how I can accomplish it, and then I am disappointed at myself and disapprove of my inability to do so easily. I then forget about the goal, and the efforts leave my conscious thoughts. 

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How To Catch a Playing Card In Mid Air

Want to learn to catch a playing card from a deck of playing cards that are flying by? I'm happy to teach you. Anyone can do this. It just takes practice.

I decided to reveal the method myself because I think "revealed" videos that are prevalent on YouTube are just terrible. They steal from the artist; they give away their art of craft without permission. And they steal from the viewer, who is given the illusion of knowledge.

I wanted to beat them to the punch this time. Not just by making my own "revealed" video first, but by selecting a magic trick to perform on TV that would only grow in appreciation when "exposed."

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Fool Us: No Tricks, I Just Do It

In Season 2 of "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" I fooled Penn & Teller and made Penn pretty mad about it. The performance video went viral and made a huge difference in my life.

Invited back for Season 5, I decided to do something different. Here’s the full video. And, if you're curious about what was going through my mind and what went on right before filming, my wife, Amy, and I discussed what we were feeling, just four hours before showtime in Las Vegas.

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After retiring this trick for a decade, I brought it back for Penn & Teller

Without giving away too much, let me tell you a little bit about the trick I decided to perform this time, on Season 5 of “Fool Us.”

The effect is catching a selected playing card while the cards are falling down in a cascade that magicians call a "dribble."

It's the hardest trick I do. I stopped doing it because it brought me too much stress.

So why in the world would I want to perform it when I have just one chance to get it right, in front of Penn & Teller and millions of people watching it at home?

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Lions, Tigers & Siegfried...Oh My!

On the second of the three days I spent in Las Vegas with my wife Amy prepping for my second “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” appearance, we found ourselves with a free afternoon.

On a whim, we found ourselves in a place we had not visited before, Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage. Our Google search billed it as “a zoolike animal sanctuary at the Mirage hosting tigers, lions & panthers plus bottlenose dolphins.” Some of the animals we’d see would be the ones who had appeared in the retired Siegfried & Roy’s iconic Vegas magic show until it ended in 2003.

As we wandered around looking at the beautiful animals, we saw one pacing back and forth, looking a little tense and more active than the other animals. We asked one of the employees why this lion was acting that way, and she said, “It’s probably he’s ready to be fed, or he knows that Siegfried is around.”

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Kostya KimlatComment
How A Magician Prepares for Penn & Teller: Fool Us

While viewers of “Fool Us” see 5-8 minutes of a particular magician’s performance, let me tell you about the 3 days each of us spends in Las Vegas getting ready for the showtime/showdown with Penn & Teller.

Our first morning began bright and early, with filming for the “bio package.” The total shoot takes about 4-6 hours and is different for each performer. Each of us worked with our own producer on our spot.

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If You Can Think This Way, You Can Think Like A Magician™

Because we all perceive the world differently, we need—now more than ever—to better understand each other in order to communicate more effectively. This skill of understanding each other is one magicians have honed for centuries.

The art and craft of magic can showcase principles of applied psychology in action. Magicians think differently, see differently, and act differently. Understanding these differences and applying them in a different field can be very powerful.

If perception plays a role in your life or business, you'll find these new ways of seeing and acting permeating into your work life and your personal life. In the end, you won’t be a magician but you’ll learn to think like a magician. 

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How Fooling Penn and Teller Changed My Life

Performing for Penn and Teller changed my life in one way I never expected. Up until then I had assumed I was going to remain, for the rest of my life, an anonymous, local magician. And this wasn’t a bad thing.

My friend and I would talk about how we would retire by the beach and do magic tricks into our last days. We knew that doing magic would always make us happy because it made others happy.

So as a teenager I embraced this fact with aplomb: to be happy in life I wouldn’t need to be famous, I just needed to do magic.

And then came the chance to be on national television and get a taste of national exposure.

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Back with Penn & Teller: Fool Us - Season 5!

I’m beyond excited to share with you that I will be back on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” this year, performing on the fifth season of their amazing show. The video of my first performance has almost 10 million views and nearly 4,000 comments. My favorite ones are when people tell me that watching the video brings them immense amounts of joy and they’ve watched it 5, 10 or 20 times with their friends and family.

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Want to Wow at Work? Learn to Think Like A Magician™

I’ve been a magician for over 20 years, specializing in teaching businesses the secrets of magic and how those insights can improve communication, sales and client relationships. As a speaker, trainer and facilitator, I teach that magic is a rich source of thinking tools. Those tools apply to any organization and any industry, but they also apply to individuals. You can make magic work for you, at work.

To prove it, I’m going to share a few magician’s secrets that can help you improve your career in the following areas: Innovation and Lateral Thinking, Perception Management and Social Intelligence.

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If You're In Sales, You Need To Think Like A Magician™

A sale, like a great magic trick, occurs inside the customer’s mind. And it is there where it is replayed, remembered and redefined continually after. The mind is the final battleground. Because magicians are masters of perception, they understand how to get into the heads of their prospects better than anyone else. That’s why the principles of magic can be so helpful in a business environment. If you’re in sales or customer service, here are four secrets to Think Like A Magician™.

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