12. Ben Whiting,
Connect Like a Mind Reader
Eric: Hey everybody. I'm Eric Mueller. Welcome back to the Eric Mueller Show. Is anybody out there a fan of magic, card tricks or mind reading? If so, I think you'll especially enjoy today's guest. Now, don't worry, even if magic is not your thing, I'm still confident that you'll feel uplifted and motivated after tuning in to this episode of the show.
Allow me to introduce Ben Whiting. Ben is an award-winning magician, actor and playwright turned speaker. As an entertainer, he performed in over 30 countries, had multiple television appearances and his clients included the likes of Crystal Cruises and Oprah's HARPO studios. Recognizing his passion for helping others, Ben began focusing on keynote speaking and leadership development. In 2016, he delivered his first TEDx talk and was then hired by a leadership development firm shortly thereafter to deliver leadership training around the globe. Within two years, he moved from leadership trainer to senior consultant at that firm.
His leadership consulting clients [00:01:00] have included international companies like UNiDAYS as well as Fortune 50 corporations such as Schlumberger. Today, Ben runs his own consulting firm employing magic and entertainment as tools to teach and inspire corporations, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions around the globe.
Get ready to learn how to connect like a mind reader. Let's roll on over to the interview.
[EDM music begins playing and then fades-out]
Eric: So, welcome to the Eric Mueller show Ben Whiting. Super stoked to have you here today, sir. How are you?
Ben: Eric man, I'm doing fantastic. It's great to be here.
Eric: It's a pleasure to have you on. And before we get too deep in the conversation here, I hear that you're quite the magician.
Ben: Yeah, it's a habit that has completely gone out of control to the point that it, took over everything else for [00:02:00] a while. But yeah, when I was about, I guess, five years old, I was just bit by the bug. I tell people. I had a very active imagination because I was an only child and the first time I saw a magician live and in person and it was as if I had found my imagination outside of myself, and not only that but like because he performed an effect in my hand and like that little stack of coins I was holding, it wasn't just a magic trick.
It was kind of a promise that everything or anything that I could imagine, I could hold in my hand. So yeah, my mom and curiosity drove me to the library. I still think it's 793.8. That's the Dewey Decimal number for magic books in any library.
Ben: And my appreciation of it has kind of evolved throughout the years and why I think I got into it and why I still do it. Now that reason has changed is as I've gotten older, but it's something I always fall back on.
Eric: [00:03:00] Yeah. Do you have a favorite trick that you like to perform? You do variety of performances but is there one that's always kind of your go-to type thing?
Ben: I don't have a go-to. I have like a trick for every situation, like, you know what, you're going to perform for 2,000 people on a stage is not the same thing you're going to perform for four people seated around the table.
Eric: Very true.
Ben: What I really am into these days is more of the mind reading and mentalism side of things. Spoiler, I'm not a psychic, I'm not a wizard. It's all entertainment. But what I like about the mind reading is I always tell people that magic, classical magic is like classical music, you know, you learn your scales, you play the right notes in the right order and if you do that correctly, you get the desired effect mind reading on the other hand. It's like, improvisational Jazz. Yes, I know my scales but also I have to be present in the moments. I know what I'm capable of. I know what I have at my disposal, and I know what my audience is doing right there in front of me and what they know and what they see. [00:04:00] And if I play all those notes correctly, we could have something special. And so what I like about mind reading is it's impossible to phone in. You have to be present and you have to be in the moment and so I think that's why I like it.
Eric: That's a great answer. Do you like Criss Angel? It's one my mind freak, mind reader. I have seen him in Vegas. I've honestly, wasn’t really unimpressed to be honest.
Ben: I don't know him personally. I know friends who have worked with him and I hear he has a bit of an ego, and I've been to one of his shows and I also Thought he had a bit of an ego but it could be a choice. It could be a Persona, a character that he's trying to play for some reason, I don't understand, I won't pretend to be smarter than him because obviously, he's achieved a level of success that few people have in if that's what you consider success to be: Fame and notoriety and money. But there are other magicians out there that are a lot more to my taste [00:05:00] than him.
Eric: Yeah, yeah. My fiancé and I saw him when we were out in Vegas. I think four years ago and I was a big fan of the show, big fan of his card tricks, and some of his, you know, sleight of hand up close magic. So I was hoping to see some of that in the show, but it was mainly just like bunch of levitating and you could, it was obviously, you know he's just being pulled around by strings and stuff about the stage.
Ben: Yeah. Cirque Du Doleil is a great show and they don't have that much of an ego around it. So go see, go see the Beatles Love at where's that the Bellagio I think?
Eric: Oh, there you go. Yeah, yeah. So magic’s been a part of your life. You know, you're a performer, you’re an entertainer, you’re speaker. So, let's walk through a little bit of your journey. So you graduated from Wake Forest with a bachelor's degree in theater and then you move to Chicago, where you were going to train as a professional actor, perform as a magician, you got into the Steppenwolf Conservatory
Ben: Yeah. The school at Steppenwolf in Chicago. It's kind of an acting school for people who are exactly where I was like leaving kind of the educational field and trying to transition [00:06:00] into the professional field. And I was very very excited that I got into that school and but as luck would have it, I was in there from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, 6 days a week. It was in very intense training. So it was really, really difficult for me to make money and get a job or hold down a job. Nobody wants to hire someone for those hours.
So I did instead is I started street performing and I was very lucky that the first Mentor I had in Magic was a man named Jim Cellini and he was a street performer. Not like you would think of in terms of David Blaine but very old school, you know, he goes on a sidewalk, he builds a crowd and then at the end of his little mini show, he asks for tips.
And that's how you know he made his living. That's how he traveled the world. That's how he raised a family and you know bought cars and all these things off of kind of the generosity of others and he would get shows, you know, working in the corporate market, or on television, but it always came from someone who taught him performing on a sidewalk. And I was so lucky that, that's how I [00:07:00] was taught.
So it wasn't a big deal for me to say. All right, well, I can't get a job. I'm not going to not go to my classes because I want to get good at acting. So I just grabbed my stuff and I went on the sidewalk and for two or three years in Chicago, the majority of my income came from street performing.
Eric: Wow, I bet you have some crazy stories from that experience.
Ben: Yeah, I do. It's funny you ask for tips and, you know, you want you want fives, that's like what you aim for every now and then you'll get a twenties but it's not like you can't ask for twenties because not everyone's going to give you one.
Ben: Just about everyone will give you a dollar or change but some people don't have money and so they will drop everything into your hat. I got, you know, I got no love letters, I got wedding proposals, I got joints, I got condoms, I got, you know, anything you Think of and then some, I got dropped in that hat and there were all those little things, you're just great stories and my favorite thing was when someone had a dollar bill and it was wrapped up really, really, [00:08:00] really tight. You knew that 9 times out of 10 there was something written on it that they didn't want you to see while they were around. And those messages could be really funny.
Eric: Yeah, I believe it.
Ben: And also very moving.
Eric: Yeah. So and basically, just downtown Chicago, is that kind of your main area that you focused on? Was there some certain areas?
Ben: Michigan Avenue. Right at Michigan and Orleans that was my spot.
Eric: My gosh, that sounds great. I mean you kind of get that performance experience and you know, make some side money as well and you know, Steppenwolf what I've researched about it. You know, very prestigious school, so congratulations on getting in there. I mean that seems like, do you feel like that was the framework for the person that you become now, as far as the Performing side?
Ben: Ya know, I'm like a compost heap. There's just, there's a lot of this stuff that's just piled up that makes me. But without a doubt, I mean, I've been impacted and influenced by every person that I've learned from and I try to learn from everybody. The School at Steppenwolf gave me the groundwork for developing a craft because I still occasionally will [00:09:00] act professionally. There's theater companies that I'm just friends with. I am very lucky. I don't have to audition anymore, they just called me up and say, hey, we think you'd be good for this. Can you come in and do it? And if I'm available, I do because I love acting. It's like magic without props. You're creating magic, simply with two people, interacting, and you want that to be engaged and moving. And you want the audience to leave changed and you can do that simply by two people saying words to one another, and the craft of acting I really started taking it seriously at the school at Steppenwolf and to your point of street performing. I think something that a lot of speakers, actors, anyone who presents more often than not takes for granted, is the fact that they have an audience waiting for them and that audience will stay until they're done or at least the vast majority of that audience will.
Where as in street performing, you have to go somewhere where no one's expecting a show. You have to stop them which is the hardest part and then everything you do and say has to be engaging. Because as [00:10:00] soon as you're not interesting or entertaining or engaging, they’ll walk away and if they walk away you can't do the most important thing which is ask them to then pay you what they think you're worth and hopefully make a living with that. And I think so many speakers and entertainers, stand-up comedians, don't get me wrong you have to kind of earn stripes in any of those fields, but when you learn street performing, you don't take that stopping and staying for granted. Like I think some people do if they've never done it.
Eric: Yeah, yeah. And if you can get that mindset if you, sell a ticket and someone comes to see a show in a theater. I mean, you probably think to yourself, hey, I've got them in their seat, you know, maybe your, maybe the effort kind of fades for some performers, because they think how they've already pay their money if they want to leave, that's fine. But as a street performer, you really gotta earn that value.
Ben: You do you do and it's and I think it's you can't blame people because they've just never experience it on stage but like sure you realize especially you know when your bills depend on it like oh shit people [00:11:00] are walking away. What about I kind of did I gotta change something? I have to say something funny or do something amazing or find a way to engage people because if I don't do that, they walk away and it's it gets in your DNA. And that's the other great thing about street performing is I cannot tell you how many god-awful shows I did on that sidewalk. But, you know, you have to kind of crash and bomb a few times to figure out what doesn't work and then you can refine it over time the but yeah. You know, I'm absolutely. It's amazing. I feel like a lot of the skills and lessons I learned from the sidewalk or the things that are helping me out now.
Eric: Yeah that that in the you know in the trenches type experience. I think that that's a good lesson, good take-home lesson for the audience to really you know, gather all the information you can from those experiences and don't discount anything because those those types of experiences might really shape you to who you're going to become and speaking of magic. Yeah. Yeah exactly. And speaking of magic [00:12:00] and theater, so you actually co-founded a company earlier in your career called the Magic Mouth Theater.
Ben: Yeah. It was a blast, my best friend and I from undergrad, his name is Matthew Gutschick, he's now artistic director of the Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska, he's incredibly successful in the theater world and he and I started this theater company that combined theater and Magic were magic, was not so much the point as much as we wanted it to be one of the main narrative tools that we used to tell a story. Because one of my favorite things about magic is it demands just kind of out of its very nature, the audience to be present and in the moment because it's curiosity and wonderment.
You can't be sincerely, curious if you're not present in the moment. And so that was one of my favorite things about it and we also developed an educational program that taught kids life skills through magic. You know, if you're performing magic, you have to automatically be aware of what other people are seeing. So, it kind of, it's a stepping stone into empathy and perspective. And, yeah, we did. We wrote a few original [00:13:00] plays, we won some awards, we had a great time, but we just kind of both got to the point in our lives, where we realize we're going in different directions and we're still friends to this day, actually talked to him on the phone last night, and I tell a story about him in my keynote now. But it's yeah, it was, it was a great time and it's again, one of those things. I'm just thankful that we did it.
Eric: Yeah, yeah. For sure you dove in and did the thing and I thought it was really cool. To see that was actually featured in entrepreneur magazine back in 2006. I mean that's pretty incredible feat that you had to feel good about that coming out of school.
Ben: That was really cool. It's really really cool. There was, you know, Wake Forest had this big kind of it was just starting its kind of entrepreneurial wing or kind of major. And so it was giving away these kind of fellowships and scholarships every year and Matt and I were the first two people to receive it in a single year up to that point. It was only one person per year. But with us, they gave it to each of us. So that was fun. So we got a fifth year in college or as we refer to it as our Victory lap.
Eric: There you go. [00:14:00] Speaking of company founding, do you have any advice to someone who wants to pursue that? Who wants to pursue starting a new company or some type of business adventure?
Ben: I this is now I'll put a little disclaimer on this. These are just things that have that have worked for me. Things that have Help me find some modicum of success in the things that I do. I'm not by any means saying that their gospel or that you have to do this, but the big lessons that drive me, are action will always trump planning, and in everything you do. You have to balance your results and your relationships. I mean, I'm not saying that one is right and one is wrong but they have to be balanced. And another way of saying that is you have to competent what you do, and you have to be likable. It's one of the things I figured out the street performing.
If I sit up there and I'm just telling jokes and being really, really funny. And likeable people will stop for a little while, but eventually if I don't do something, they're going to leave. On the other side of that coin, if I am performing [00:15:00] amazing magic but I'm just looking at my hands. I'm not talking to you when you're making eye contact, they'll leave because they'll think I'm ignoring them and just kind of playing with myself, that's the wrong term but you know what I mean?
Ben: So you're always balancing results and relationships and the quicker you can get your ego out of the equation, the better in terms of You know, choosing what to do. I've never been a big proponent of having huge dreams of one day. I hope I'm going to be, you know, this magician street performing guy. Hopefully, I'm much more, a proponent of kind of pursuing short-term goals, because if you get too focus down the road, you might miss that shiny thing that's in the corner of your eye, and if you miss that, that could be where your real joy is that could be worth something really interesting and present in the moment is. So, short term goals, action trumps planning, balance your results and your relationships.
Eric: Yep, that that's [00:16:00] phenomenal advice. I think that it makes me think of, you know, the research I've done on entrepreneurial type individuals. You see a lot of similar habits and traits that those individuals share. Is there some sort of secret pattern or formula, Ben that people can use to harness some of those traits? Or I mean is there some type of stepwise approach that someone could take to being more successful on the daily?
Ben: I think this again there's lots of things, but what's popping in my mind right now is you're saying this is realize that people don't connect with the best ideas sadly. They connect with the ideas that are communicated the best communication and effective storytelling and for me in my business, that's butter in the pan. That's what everything else is going to get cooked in. Because it doesn't matter how great my services if people don't see the value in it. Whether I am performing magic at an after, you know, after dinner at a sales conference, or whether I'm delivering the first keynote [00:17:00] for 2,000 people, you know, at some trade show. You know, if people can't see my value and I can't communicate it, clearly they're not going to hire me.
So investing in communication skills, knowing how to use your voice, knowing how to use your body language and realizing that I can do things with my hands that will invoke emotion in other people that can cause influence. Story telling you know, it's not about putting your features in your benefits first, it's about putting your emotion first and helping people connect their own dots as opposed to simply saying this is really good. Don't you want it? No, no, let me tell you about this story in this one time that's actually going to relate to something. You just said, go into it and then help people connect their own dots. So yeah, invest in your in your communication skills without a doubt.
Eric: Are there any resources in particular that you use communication skills wise or services that you signed up for what are some recommendations you got for the audience?
Ben: The school at Steppenwolf. [00:18:00] The main things you want to look into your voice because your voice is the one thing you have that everyone has and realize that engagement. There's a difference between communicating in ways that people understand you and communicating in a way so people want to listen and want to hear more and we obviously do the latter.
Engagement comes from creating variety, variety in not just the words we use, but in how we say those words, we can vary our pitch. We can vary the rate at which we talk our volume. We can. Insert pauses.
Eric: There you go.
Ben: Are you when you're consciously, inserting pauses, by the way, all your us and arms will magically vanish. It's kind of bizarre how it happens?
Ben: I think that. Yeah, but as far as resources go, oh there's I mean I'm reading things right now. Where's the book? It's right over here. I was just like I just picked this one up the other day and I was really excited by it. It's called Unleash the Power of Storytelling Win Hearts Change Minds [00:19:00] and Get Results by Rob Biesenbach or Bay-sen-bach. I don't know. I just picked up on Amazon. Yeah, yeah, Unleash the Power of Storytelling I think that's a great one. I love also, I encourage people. Yes, there's tons of resources out there, but the best resource you have, is your own kind of antenna. Be aware of the things that you engage with and then keep a little journal. Like, wow, that was really, why, why am I so drawn to that and kind of figure out what the mechanism of that is, and start applying it to the things you do in your own business? I always tell people, you know, when we talk about humor, you know, if you don't think a joke is funny, don't tell it because just because someone else can get a killer laughs with, it doesn't mean you can, especially if you don't think it's funny. But if you think something is funny, tell that joke because then that humor will naturally kind of come out on its own. A great resource. I will recommend is MasterClass.
Ben: I [00:20:00] mean, gosh, you can find so many things on Google these days but MasterClass, there's courses on negotiation with Chris Voss, coach courses on comedy with Steve Martin, acting with Dustin Hoffman, you know, sales with Dan Pink, these are all incredible classes and if you like cooking Gordon Ramsay teaches is an incredible rack of lamb recipe on there as well. The yeah yeah that's that's a solid solid resource.
Eric: That's great. Thanks for sharing all those, you know, Little Gems there Ben and it brought up a question that I had. So let's say you have this great idea. Let's take in your, in your case you have this this, you know, entertainment business let's say you kind of just a conglomerate of all your skills.
How do you go about marketing, that successfully to get that in front of the people that will find the most value in it? So, how can you tell that story in the most effective way? I mean, I'm talking maybe Facebook ads, Instagram ads, you know different type of social media platforms. I mean, maybe I'm taking the wrong, angle on it with thinking that way, but share with me, your thoughts there.
Ben: My [00:21:00] thoughts, and that is I agree. There's a great autobiography by Steve Martin called Born Standing Pp and he has two great quotes in there. One is whatever you lack in Talent you can make up for with persistence and the second one is he was asked by a group of actors and comedians. You know, what is the key to success? And he could tell that the answer they're looking for was like, well you have to learn about Google AdWords or make sure you get the right headshots or contact this agent guy, he'll hook you up, but the advice he gave is something I've always loved and it says he simply said, you have to be so good that people cannot ignore you.
You know, so much. I've seen a lot of people. They spend so much time. Thinking about how do I market myself? How do I scale? How do I, you know, put this into different revenue streams when the reality is make, what you do better than anyone else. Whether it's a product you're creating, whether it's a service you're selling. [00:22:00] And for me, I have never, this is just me personally. I've always been a proponent of relationship marketing. My goal is always to do, It's a great job that at the end of every event, I work, whether it's a keynote or a show or leadership development training that I want afterwards, at least, three to four people coming up to me being like, hey, can I get your business card? I think this would be great for someone someone I know. And if they're not doing that, I tell myself that my product is not good yet and so, it's a means to improve it. I think that And that's another little side note. I've never understood people with business cards, who would go to a networking event and brag about how many business cards they gave away. If you're going to the bar to pick someone up, you don't brag the fact that, hey, this is really hot girl at the end of the bar, man. I took my phone number and I handed it to her.
Ben: Who cares? We care when you get their number because now you can kind [00:23:00] of get them into. I hate this word but your sales funnel. So it's more about getting other people's information so you can then follow up and start building a relationship. I also think that success in these things it is it is a crock pot, it is not a microwave. I think that you have to be a human first. People have to like you and then once they like you and they know that you like them that's when you can actually start talking about business. I think that too many people like I said lead with features and benefits as opposed to telling good emotional stories and getting To know one another I think there is a basic level of competency that you know, with someone's hiring a subcontractor. They have to meet that level of competency, because they have to get the job done. But beyond that, people work with, who they like. And they work with whoever is the easiest to work with. And so those are two big factors that we have to consider in everything we do. I don't know that answer your question as [00:24:00] with the way I wanted it to.
Eric: That's a phenomenal answer to that question and I've got a kind of a building block off of that question and that really focuses on niching down. And when you have that, like, let's say, yeah, I've heard some other people say that I've had created successful podcast or businesses. They say you want to create the content that that you enjoy first and foremost so that you have motivation to continue doing it. But you also want to create content that provides value to your audience and you want to focus most of your efforts on just producing quality content before you really try to scale it. But in order to do that type of, you know, value production for your audience, you probably got an niche down if you know, if you want to have the best podcast out there. I mean, like this podcast I'm running right now, a success podcast/entrepreneurs podcast. There's a ton of them out there, how can, how can I, for example, niche down to become the best in in a, you know, smaller space so to speak.
Ben: Right now, I would say how many of these have you done?
Eric: This will be episode 12.
Ben: Episode [00:25:00] 12. So I'm going to tell you a story.
Eric: Let's go.
Ben: There is a seat, going right back. There is a magician by the name of Jay Marshall. Probably one of the greatest magicians that no one's ever heard of and this guy worked Vaudeville, he's an old-timer, he passed away sadly in around 2000, I want to say 2005 or 2006.
Ben: But there's a great story of hold on, I'm gonna grab a deck of cards here.
Ben: And I don’t know if this is gonna be a video that people can see or not, but you can. Can you see the cards where they are now?
Eric: I can yeah.
Ben: So there's a move in Magic, and I'll show it to you very quickly. So you see the Queen of Spades there yeah.
Ben: Let's give a little shake, and it changes into a different card.
Eric: There you go.
Ben: Now, that move is for her called the double lift. I'm not, I don't think I'm going to be going to magician hell for giving this away. There's a way that you can with a lot of practice, turn two cards over. So it looks like One and actually have a different card there. So someone would have to Jay Marshall. [00:26:01] because they were working on their double lift. And they said Jay, I'm really happy with this double lift. I've done everything you've told me to, as far as the mechanics and where my hands go, Can I show it to you? And he shows it to Jay and Jay goes, Ah, it's not too bad. Well, how do I fix it? And Jay said, do it about another 10,000 times and then bring it back and show it to me and was a lesson there is sometimes you just have to make the road by walking it.
Ben: I would say especially if you're a content creator first off by the book thought leadership biography. Think it's called no no it's not either thought Leader by Matt Church get that book read an essay by Robert Kelly called I think it's called a loyal thousand fans and then do podcasts. Just do a lot of them and the more you do them and you start building your audience, you'll start hearing from your audience because they'll respond to you about what they like, what [00:27:01] they don't like and the things they like, improve and the things they don't like, stop doing.
Ben: And let it evolve on its own and of course, always putting your own input in your own thought into it and bringing your own perspective. But I think so many people want the what's the, what's the button or the switch that I flip so I can just be successful in the reality is anything worth having anything that's going to be meaningful, is going to take reps. That's going to take stripes. I think it was Malcolm Gladwell said that in his book Outliers that the reason the Beatles were so successful is because of how many bad shows they played in Hamburg that no one ever saw and the most people who were outliers at some point put 10,000 hours into whatever their craft is.
Ben: I'm probably butchering, what Malcolm Gladwell actually said, but I think the sentiment is there
Eric: Ya. No. Yeah that that is extremely useful advice and I appreciate you showing that card trick here and for those of you listening to the audio that couldn't see it you know there will be something posted for you online and Ben [00:28:01] I would actually want to ask you, are you surprised to know that I can actually do what I call a decent double lift?
Ben: I would can you show it to me? I would love to see it.
Eric: I can. That I can. We’ll do it after the recording here.
Ben: After the recording deal!
Eric: There you go.
Ben: I want to see it. Maybe you can give me advice on mine. I very rarely do that.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah. Actually I am somewhat of an amateur card trick magician myself. I think it is one of the major reasons that my fiancé is now my fiancé both that and knowing how to solve a Rubik's Cube.
Eric: There's a few things she thought was really cool. There you go. Yeah. They are those that those foam AirPods you got behind you too. Is that?
Ben: Oh, that's that's a big AirPod.
Eric: There you go.
Ben: Spoiler alert. I use that in my Keynotes of my shows.
Eric: I like it. Probably hear pretty good on those. So so been, we've talked a little bit about marketing and how to, you know, harness, you know, your skill set in terms of how you can provide value to an audience as an entertainer, how you can potentially Niche down with your craft [00:29:01] by utilizing reps. And I want to ask you the question, you kind of touched on this a little bit earlier, possibly, but what is your personal definition of success earlier? You said some things that, you know, some other people might think it is, whether it's money. Fame. You know, certain types of, you know, people know you type thing. But how do you define that word.
Ben: There is a Maya Angelou quote, so Maya Angelou was I was actually so lucky. She lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, two blocks away from the college that I went to, and once every three years she would go there and teach a poetry class to just, you know, 30 random kids, and I got to be in that class. It was dumb dumb luck that I got in. So I'm going to throw it up here on the screen real quick but yeah, that is me before I knew anything about how to style my own hair with Dr. Angelou but she was a gold mine of just [00:30:01] gold and everything she said was wonderful. She said success is liking yourself liking what you do and liking how you do it and that's good enough for me.
Ben: I think that work-life balance plays a part in that and I said, like it like I said earlier it's about results and relationships and for me having meaningful relationships in all facets of my life, I get a great deal of Joy from that I don't just have clients. I have friends and I think this is a big part of. I think this is important to business. I think I think Zig Ziglar said if you help, you can have anything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want. And so I am constantly like keeping track of people. What are their interests. What are they working on? What are their struggles are obstacles? What are they passionate about? And not just, you know, what's their title, what business they work at, what's your cell phone and their LinkedIn address. Its, I keep [00:31:01] track of everything dogs, birthdays and spouses and if I see someone, I'm like oh wow these two people, they both love Bruce Springsteen and there's this really cool concert happening you know the I think it was the inauguration, this year Bruce Springsteen was playing, I sent them both a link and was like, Hey, all three of us here. We love Bruce Springsteen, you know, I just thought I would send you this link. And yeah, let me tell me what you think of it afterwards and we did and it didn't turn into you were into any work, right then, but it will down the road. I know that when those two people need a service that I offer that they'll think of me because I do things like that.
Eric: Yep. And you're and you're making that personal connection and I think if you know as a person receiving that from someone maybe they had their last interaction with you was quite a while ago. You know that really feels cool to think. Wow. Like they remembered that minute detail that maybe I only mentioned one time. In passing conversation so it makes them feel valued and yeah you're helping them you know, pursue their passions by sharing the love of Bruce Springsteen.
Ben: That's yeah, it's it it's a habit that mind reader's have because like I said, we're not actually [00:32:01] psychic but we keep track of a lot of stuff that people have no idea we keep track of and I just kind of took that skill and put it in my everyday life.
Eric: Yeah. So you define success, what success means to you, you know, lining up with Dr. Angelou there. The backbone of my show. What I'm really trying to find out across the board, is what keeps people driven towards chasing success. So the backbone of my show, really find out any successful person, what makes their inner clock tick. So Ben, what is the one single driving force that keeps your inner clock ticking toward success?
Ben: I want to figure out and become the best version of myself so I can have a positive impact on people. I'm a people person, I just, it's one of my, you know, it's just in my DNA. It's not anything I had to learn. I just get it. I love people. I like connecting with people, and I want to be the best version of myself and the kind of fuel on top of that fire is I am viciously [00:33:02] curious, and I have a strong desire to learn. The other side of that coin is I very rarely have ego in being right. I'm more the kind of person that when there's conflict, I will bring us back to our values and the things that everybody has in common, so we can get going in the same direction together. But yeah, I want to be the best version of myself so I can have a positive impact on the people I care about and that's everybody. It's, I'm trying to him. There's a few assholes out there but for the most part I try to care about everyone and give everyone a fair shake.
Eric: Yeah. And that helps, when you're performing, I'm sure keep an eye contact and keeping people engaged and making people feel valued in being there that you not only are you performing for them. But like, you actually care that they are there and that they are, you know, they formed an audience for you. So I think that that's a really cool piece.
Ben: Yeah, we can take it a notch about that because my shows in my opinion start and this started when I was a street performer, and I brought it into my kind of the corporate Arena. My show started getting a lot more [00:34:03] positive feedback when I started bringing people out of the audience and making them the stars of the show. So yes, I'm doing the heavy lifting but the reality is I want all the applause for the person that's on the stage because the reality is they're taking a much bigger risk than I am. I've done this thousands of times, this might be their first and only time ever on stage. So how can I make them look like a rockstar because what that demonstrates is shared values. The audience sees that I am taking care of and valuing one of their own which is going to make them more apt to bring me kind of into their community and like me more and yeah.
Eric: Yeah, that that's empowering.
Eric: You clearly have a high, you know, amount of value that you place on relationships. But can you narrow down at what point in your life, you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur? You knew you wanted to kind of go off on your own as I know currently for the audience here, if you haven't read his bio, BenWhiting.com, you can read all about them there. [00:35:03] He's currently got a consulting firm that, that he helps, you know, kind of drive the mission that he's been talking about. But yeah, what point Ben did you think you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Ben: I never really thought I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but there was a certain point in my life where I noticed a lot more people were calling me one. So I just kind of took up the mantle, I think for initially you know, I was in acting school. I wanted to be an actor, but I needed money. So I started street performing and then the street performing, you know, kind of progressed on its own from because, you know, the last kind of real piece of advice, Jim Cellini gave me was get off the sidewalk. He's like, you don't because he passed away at the age of 69, and he looked like he was 80. He was an amazing human being but you could tell the sidewalk just kind of weathered him and he told me, you know, Ben get off the sidewalk get into the corporate market, whatever the next level is find it. And I've always done that, and I still I'm doing that to this day, I'm always trying to find whatever the next level is for me.
So went from sidewalks to house [00:36:03] parties to country clubs to holiday parties to corporate events to sales conferences to trade shows to cruise ships. And then I felt like the next level was keynote speaking like how can I have more of an impact? And so then I started bringing my theater career into play and teaching, people presentation skills, helping my clients, develop their keynotes. Out of that I developed keynote of my own and always take risk, always put yourself out there. Like I said, action trump planning and I think it was Ross Perot who had the phrase ready, fire aim, which I always kind of liked.
So I applied for a TED talk with a title, having no idea. W-what'd. I was actually going to say and I got, they picked it up and so I was like, oh well I guess I better write this thing.
So Connect Like a Mind Reader, my first like little mini eight-minute Ted Talk, that got picked up. And from there, there was a woman in the audience who saw me, who had a leadership development firm of her own and her and I started talking and I started initially, I was going to help them kind of [00:37:03] make their content more engaging but after working with her for a few months, they just hired me, and I worked there for four or five years before I went out on my own and now I'm like trying to think of all what's the next level and all the while you know, I'm still doing shows that my shows went from, you know, corporate entertainment to, you know, theater shows and I have a residency at a resort close to where I live and working at a casino as well.
And so I just always seemed kind of open to wherever life takes me and because when you engage with constantly with curiosity and a desire to learn and a desire to get better, you mentioned my set up into this virtual set up, I didn't know what Soft light was this time last year, I didn't know what an f-stop was on a lens or what the difference between a cardioid microphone and just, you know, an omnidirectional one was. These are all things I learned because I don't like sitting around, I get bored very easily and I knew I wanted to pivot my business virtually and so these are all things I'm constantly learning. I can [00:38:03] feel myself going on to a tangent as I hear myself talk but I hope that answer your question as far as entrepreneurship goes.
Eric: No, that's perfect. I really loved the piece that action trumps planning. I think that really hits home for me, and I feel like that could be a message, you know, to hang up in my studio here. If you're curious about doing something rather than sitting around and talking about it and thinking about all these steps that you have to do to do it. By just doing it. I mean, if someone has a desire to start a podcast or something, just try to record an intro for a show you think might sound cool with the title and get some feedback from friends or something. See how that goes. Better off, you know, doing that rather than sitting for three months or something thinking about what would work and trying to do a market analysis, and it's just really inspiring to hear, you know, you say that action before planning.
Ben: And but don't get me wrong and there's a great book on that kind of whole idea. The Five-Second Rule by Mel Robbins. It’s fantastic. But another really, really big part of this whole equation that I would be remiss if I didn't mention is self-forgiveness because you're going to fail [00:39:03] a lot and especially in 2020 and 2021 I'll be honest. There are days I slept in till 10:00 I knew exactly what I needed to do to get the day done and I just sat on the couch and didn't do it. And is that going to help my business? No, but I also know that if I beat myself up over it, that's not going to help anything else either. So, a big part of this, there's a great, I’m throwing a lot of stuff at you. If you've ever wanted to write anything, one of the best essays on writing was written by Ann Patchett and it's called The Getaway Car. And what I love about she says is, you know, our ideas are not in the same part of our brain that understand words, she says, the best part of a book is before she's written anything down, and it's just a feeling. The feeling you get when you think of man, if when this podcast lands it I'm going to feel this in my chest. It's going to be great, people are going to be inspired, and she's like the best part of a book [00:40:03] is that moment when the book is just a butterfly in her imagination.
The hard part is when you actually have to pluck the butterfly out of the air, put it on a piece of paper, and stab it to death with a pen and try and write something, because that transition that going from the emotional to the right here in my hand, that's the journey, that's the craft and you only gain that craft by just repetition over and over. But like I said, yes, action trumps planning. Done is better than perfect. A lot of people, you know, I think use perfectionism to hide the same way people use procrastination to hide. The reality is, it's not that it has anything to do with, you know, oh I have to work out in the gym. The reality is probably you’re, you have self-doubt, and you're hiding using procrastination to hide. So, I would say, forgive yourself when things don't work out, don't beat yourself up, but always get back on the saddle.
Eric: [00:41:03] That's great. That's great advice. And I do, remember reading you’re passionate about writing plays and you had a few that received some awards and you're currently working on your sixth play I believe, is that correct?
Ben: Yeah. There's a few things in the drawer right now. I'm actually right now, I'm always working on right now there's, there's an adaptation of The Tempest. That's just a passion project I love written by William Shakespeare. Right now, there's a theater company that wants me to write an application of The Velveteen Rabbit that we're still kind of in the really early discussions of that. And I personally am working on my own book. About the principles of mind reading and how they can be applied to everyday life and business. So yeah, and that, by the way, that book I've been working on that for like six years. I have jot notes, I have pages, I have all this stuff. I have half of a proposal. It's a hot mess, but the point is, you know, keep working on the stuff. Forgive yourself and don't stop. You miss all the shots, you don't take.
Eric: That's right. That's great advice for everyone listening and and and specifically about the writing [00:42:03] process if someone was thinking and listening right now and saying, hey, I want to write a short story or a book. Let's say they have the, you know, the baseline idea. They've got that hammered out. What is, what's the logical next? Step for them. You as they get pen to paper as they get typing on their, on their word doc, words per day?
Ben: Everyone writes differently. I think one of the best pieces of advice. Again, it comes right out of that, The Getaway Car written by Ann Patchett set aside one hour, two hours a day for a week and put your butt in the chair and do not let yourself do anything else other than write. You can sit there and do absolutely nothing but you will not do anything other than write. And if at the end and if you do that for a month and at the end of the month you don't have any pages, maybe writing is not your thing. And that's okay, that's totally fine. But at a certain point you want to get to this this kind of precipice, this edge where the act of not writing, has now become more [00:43:03] stressful than the act of writing. And when you kind of make that flip, then you just get it down on paper, everyone styles different, some people like outline, some people like to freeform. Some people, I know someone who says, when they have a hard time starting the writing process, they will open up a dock and just tap the top gibberish on the keyboard, but the action of their fingers on the keys, eventually gets them in the mindset where they start writing something which turns into a sentence, which turns into a paragraph, which turns into an essay or a book.
Eric: Before, you know, it, you might have a best-seller.
Ben: You never know, you never know
Eric: Never know.
Eric: Well, Ben, it's been a pleasure. I've really enjoyed listening and learning from you. I know the audience has got to be thinking. Wow, there's a lot of things that I have to read after this, which I think is great and I need a lot more things to read too. But really, yeah, thank you so much for the time.
Ben: And I will give you one more book that I always love to recommend. It's called.
Eric: Let's hear it.
Ben: It's by author name, Donald Miller [00:44:03] Building a Story Brand and it's how do you take what it is you do, what is your passion about, create a story around it that can eventually become your elevator pitch, your website front page, all these things that you need, your proposals. Building a Story Brand, it's a really, really powerful book that I read probably about three years ago. And it's one I recommend all the time and it's great for entrepreneurs because we have to rely so much on our own ability to tell our own story and convey our own value.
Eric: Really appreciate that and put that on my list too. That sounds great. It's been a pleasure talking to you Ben Whiting, I know that you've probably got something else to do tonight and get back to, you know, working on the next piece of your entertainment business.
Ben: I’m gonna drink a gin and tonic but yeah that sounds great.
Eric: There you go! Yeah I might have a beer as well.
Ben: Eric man, this has been an absolute blast. If there's ever anything I can do for you. I hope you won't hesitate to reach out.
Eric: Most definitely right back at you sir.
Ben: All right.
Eric: Take care Ben!
Ben: You too bud.
Eric: Thank you. Bye-bye.
[EDM music fades-in, plays and then fades-out]
Voice audio: Written, produced and edited by Eric R. Mueller
EDM music: Produced and edited by Eric R. Mueller