393 The Great Deception – Harris III

What you will hear in our discussion with Harris III:

  • Protect Yourself from the Great Deception
  • Conquer Lies and Discover Real Magic 
  • What is Illusion and What is Real 
  • Are You Deceived?
  • The Great Deception  – a Magician’s Story

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More about our featured guest Harris III

Storyteller. Illusionist. Part trickster, part truth-teller. Full-time family man with a passion to help others conquer lies and discover #RealMagic


The Great Deception – Find out how you can support this documentary!


Full Transcript

[00:00] Joel: As promised, one of America's most respected storytellers and speakers is with us here today. Award winning illusionist, Harris, III is here. Harris, welcome, welcome to the show.

[00:14] Harris III: Oh man, thanks for having me.

[00:16] Joel: It's good to have you on here. We've been looking forward to this interview, and thank you so much for getting us fit into your schedule. Fully appreciate your time. This show, it's highly practical because it is all about the relaunch, Harris, and specifically how you did it. And while we've all experienced numerous launches and relaunches throughout our lives, I generally ask our guests to zero in on the relaunch that has been the most significant, or the most transformational for them, and then we unfold the story from there. And we'll do that with you here in just a few minutes, but if it's okay with you, I'd like to start the show off with a quick piece of takeaway gold. And you…

[01:00] Harris III: Sure.

[01:00] Joel: Okay, thank you. Now you do phenomenal work, teaming up with schools, and churches, and other organizations, and helping them to discover real magic by uncovering deception and lies that, for whatever reason, they've been tricked into believing. And now we could deep dive into that process a little bit later on in the show, but in your experience, what would you say, Harris, is the biggest doubt or fear factor that people have when it comes to pulling back the covers on their own lives and kind of taking that closer look? What do you think?

[01:39] Harris III: Well I believe there's this life that we were all designed to live, that we were perfectly created to live out, I think that we're all capable of far, far, far much more than we believe that we are. And the only reason we're not living those lives is because I think along the way, we all sort of get tricked into settling. I think we allow the world to deceive us, sometimes we even deceive ourselves. And throughout the process, what happens when we become deceived is we settle for what is essentially a counterfeit version of the life that we were meant to live, and so I feel like my sort of goal in life is to… My purpose, the life I was meant to live, was to help other people discover the life that they were meant to live by drawing their attention and giving them a new perspective that allows them to see, “Oh man, I am settling for some sort of fake version, this is a counterfeit version of life and I want what is real and what I was actually meant to live.” So I love helping people discover that.

[02:43] Pei: So in your opinion, why is that deception, or that safety, is just so much more attractive?

[02:53] Harris III: I don't know that it is more attractive, I just think that we all think that we're not capable of what that other life is, which is why we settle. We're all reaching for this illusion of “more”, and a lot of the times the reason we want more is we don't feel like we're enough on our own; we feel like we need to be more, basically. So the world sells us lies, like we're not talented enough, we're not strong enough, we're not smart enough, not beautiful enough, or perfect enough, thin enough, right? And so the world can convince us that we're not enough, eventually we start to believe those lies, and then we tell ourselves those lies, and then we just kinda settle and go, “Okay, maybe I can't live that life that I was meant to live. I'm just gonna settle for this version instead.” But that's a counterfeit version, that version lies in deception.

[03:41] Joel: A counterfeit version, okay, I like how you framed that, so thank you for that. So if we can, and if we have time, let's definitely talk a little bit more about uncovering the counterfeit version a little bit later on in our discussion. But if we can step back right now, and we shared, or rather you shared with us before we started, a great example of one particular relaunch that you went through that changed a lot of things; pretty much everything in your life, in your career. So just kinda take us right up to that action, if you will, please.

[04:20] Harris III: Yeah, I mean, it's rooted in a lot of what I was just talking about in answering that last question. I kind of have to start at the beginning for you to really understand what that relaunch was. When I was nine years old, I got a magic set for Christmas from my grandmother; it's not at all what I wanted for Christmas that year, but that little box of tricks ended up changing my life. And I remember doing my very first trick for my mom and dad, and there was this look on their faces, and I'd never really been good at anything until that moment, and when I saw the look on their face, it was like this… They were totally taken back, they were filled with this look of wonder like, “How in the world did you do that?” I could tell that they were amazed. And it's the first time that I remember feeling like someone was amazed with me and something that I did, and it felt incredible, and so I thought, “Man, I'm gonna do magic for the rest of my life.”

[05:08] Harris III: And so fast-forward, by the time I graduated from high school, I traveled around the world. By 18, I'd performed in almost all 50 states, and done tours in Europe and Asia, and performed on cruise ships down in the Caribbean, and life was pretty good. And to make a long story short, I found myself in Sri Lanka, this little island that's just sort of south of India, and we were doing shows there. And we did this illusion with an old table that floated, it kind of levitates on stage, it's just an illusion, but it looks like it's levitating. And this guy came up to me after the show asking where I'd gotten this table, and saying that he had seen this table before. And apparently there's this person in his village who has a table. We go visit this guy, he does have a table, it does look like ours. He said that it was moving around and levitating because of spirits and he had just ordered this trick from the same magic trick catalog, basically, all the way from Kansas.

[06:08] Harris III: So he ordered a magic trick from America and was using it to deceive thousands of people in his country. And I don't mean like just trick them with a magic trick, I mean literally using this trick to create the illusion of some sort of power, which then gave him the ability to be like this religious leader that had control over people and shaped how they saw the world and they changed their lives and the choices that they made and everything about how they were living based on this guy's advice. And the reason they trusted it was because of his supposed power, and it was just a trick. And I had this epiphany, in that moment I realized that the principles of deception that magicians use on stage were pretty universal, and that there were other people all around the world not calling themselves illusionists, but they were deceiving thousands of people using the same principles of deception.

[06:57] Pei: Wow.

[06:58] Harris III: And so I set off on this 10-year journey where I felt like my purpose was to use tricks, the art of illusion, to show other people how they are deceived. And I think along the way I almost forgot that there was… That it was important to also tell people what's real. As I ventured into my early 30s, I found myself getting somewhat cynical, because when you're the guy that tells everyone in the world that everything is fake, you kind of become cynical, you think everything and everyone is all just kind of a big sham. Life, everything is just so fake. People are fake, politicians are fake, TV is fake, and we all call it “reality TV”, but we all it know it's fake and yet we still watch it, right?

[07:48] Joel: Right.

[07:49] Pei: Yeah.

[07:49] Harris III: You kind of start to go, “Man, what is real?” And around that same time, a few things happened. I set my face on fire, by accident. I was performing this fire-breathing act at a Fourth of July event, and it's something I had done a gazillion times and I just made a really stupid mistake that I shouldn't have done. I got too comfortable doing something that you should never really get comfortable doing because it's so dangerous. And so I ended up with these second and third-degree burns on my face and…

[08:22] Joel: How long ago was that, by the way?

[08:24] Harris III: About a year and a half ago, I think.

[08:25] Joel: Yeah, yeah, because I remember when Pei and I first watched the movie where you were the lead character… Incredible movie, ‘Entangled' is… Yeah, love… Yes.

[08:37] Pei: And that's also when we almost recorded our show with you.

[08:43] Joel: Harris?

[08:43] Pei: Yeah.

[08:43] Joel: Right, right.

[08:44] Pei: And then we had to cancel because of this incident.

[08:48] Harris III: Yeah. It was bad, and I was already cynical to begin with, and here I am laying on my couch, going, “I just kinda want to throw in the towel,” you know? Like I'm ready to give up, I don't really believe in what I do anymore, I certainly don't believe in magic because magic tricks aren't real, and I don't even know if I believe in any other form of magic. And around that same time, the other event that happened that was incredibly significant was I became a father for the first time. And my son was around six months old, so he just really starts to come alive and looking at things in the world around him, and I start to see that little spark that little kids have where simple, simple things that are mundane to us as adults, like Christmas lights or bubbles. Now he's two years old, we sit on the back deck and we blow bubbles and I'm just like, “They're just bubbles,” right?

[09:49] Joel: Right, right.

[09:49] Harris III: But not to Jude. Man, to my son Jude, bubbles are like real magic. And it kind of occurred to me that there's a lot of magic in the world that I was missing out on, real magic, and I'd missed it because I was so focused on fake magic tricks and all the things that are illusions and deception. And so I had this moment where wonder was reawakened in my life and in my heart and in my mind, and I relaunched my career and decided I wanted to go this whole new direction and I basically… Well, I've spent the last ten years of my career showing people what's fake, I want to spend the rest of my life showing people what's real, and that there is real magic all around us. How I discovered it, how my life is filled with magic now, and how they have magic inside of them. They just have to learn to open their eyes and see it.

[10:37] Joel: Okay, and we're definitely gonna unfold that in the next portion of the conversation, but let me ask you this. As you were on your couch and you were in the recovery mode, Harris, what are some of the things that you either learned or relearned about yourself, your potential, your possibilities, and also about the value that you had to bring to yourself, your family, and to those people around you?

[11:06] Harris III: Yeah, gosh. In that moment, I thought I was a failure, right? You start telling all these lies to yourself and then you start reading the criticism of other people, which, gosh, for some reason, when we're at our lowest, for some reason that's when we give those words of other people so much more value than they deserve. News throughout the performing arts community spread, “Harris set his face on fire, he made this stupid mistake while performing fire-breathing, I can't believe he did this, what a loser.” And then it just started getting really mean and hurtful.

[11:43] Joel: Okay, so hold on for a second, sorry to interrupt you. So most folks, and myself included, don't live inside the entertainment world like you do, so I'm just trying to put myself in that situation. So I guess the world that is intimate to you, known very well, was people, I guess, are talking, or rumors are circulating or I would assume that that information floats like it does in pretty much any kind of background.

[12:17] Harris III: Yeah, sure. And especially in certain circles. So that's the circle that I'm in, and now with things like social media and Facebook, it gives everyone a chance to spread that news faster and to comment on it. And then it became personal, it was like, “Oh, he's one of those religious types,” like, “Oh, he deserved this. It's too bad… ” Some people even… There was one guy that was like, “Oh, man, I wish he would've died. Too bad it didn't set his whole body on fire.” And when you're kind of down in the dumps, and you're mentally not in a healthy emotional place, you just read all this stuff, and you're just like, “Maybe they're right.” Which is so irrational. Of course they aren't right. But in that moment, you really start to believe all this stuff. And you think it's true when you start of thinking, “Maybe I'm not enough. Maybe I should quit.” It kind of made me go, “Why do I do magic anyway?” And then it was really my son. My… Watching the world through the eyes of my son, he taught me to believe in real magic again. That's really what pulled me out of it. It pulled me out of that place, and it made me go, “What does he see? Why is the world filled with so much magic to him?” Because to me it was just nothing, but apathy and cynicism.

[13:30] Joel: This is interesting to me because you're talking about your son and the spark of wonder that you saw in his eyes. This makes me think about the same look that your parents expressed when you were nine, 10.

[13:46] Pei: Nine.

[13:47] Joel: And I see that they… That look triggered one relaunch, a relaunch for you as a child, and then the same thing happened, this time by a child, which sparked the next one.

[14:02] Harris III: Yeah. Yeah. That's why I mentioned that just the irony of that's what made me start doing magic. That same spark in my sons' eyes, what made me decide to keep doing magic.


[14:14] Harris III: And to do it in a new way. It just reminded me, him seeing magic in the world around me and around him reminded me, “This is why I perform magic.” It's that… It's to create and inspire those moments of wonder. It make… Because it… Magic has this incredible ability to make people start to question things, but also makes them kind of go, “Man, maybe there is more possible than I previously thought.” It confirms that that little voice inside of us that always says, “Maybe there's more to life than what we can just see. Maybe there's more out there that's possible, than what I currently believe.” It makes that little voice go, “It's true. There is more. You are capable of so much more, that anything really is possible.”

[14:58] Pei: I know at age nine you started performing magic, but if I look at everybody, or myself included, the journey of our life is almost, in the beginning, we do believe in magic. Somewhere along the way to different degrees, we start to become cynical. Because of the hardship we've gone through or the failures, we call it failures. So why don't we go right into your message because I think this is perfect for our audience here.

[15:38] Joel: Yeah. Real, real magic. Talk about that.

[15:41] Harris III: Yeah. Well, I used to think that the opposite of… This is something I'm really only just been thinking a lot about over the last year because this is a new… It's a relaunch, it's an appropriate name. It's really what I've… It's now what I'm working on. I used to think that the opposite of deception or the opposite of lie was truth, and I don't know that that's a full answer; I think that the opposite of deception is reception. So to be… The opposite of being deceived means to receive something, which means that to be deceived must mean that something is being stolen from you. That you are being robbed. And so I've come to believe that there is a conspiracy to rob the world, and everyone living in the world, of their magic. That's kind of how it works because we all believe in magic as little kids, we all believe that anything is possible, we all grow up with this dream, we develop these dreams and we think that we have the ability to chase down and pursue and accomplish those dreams.

[16:39] Harris III: And then somewhere along the way, something robs us of that magic, that's when cynicism is birthed. That's when we start allowing ourselves to believe all those lies about ourselves that aren't true. Yeah, it's almost like there's… That's why I like to use the word ‘counterfeit', because like take pick pocketing, for example, like the really quick, hit-and-run pick-pocketeers that are just like your street thieves, they're really not that great at robbing people because they come out, they take your wallet, and then most people discover their wallet's gone very quickly. And so they run, they call, they cancel all their credit cards, and the thief doesn't get away with very much. But a lot… Most people don't realize, a really, really good thief… Like, take Indiana Jones, for example, if you remember in the movie before he… Is it… I don't remember which one it was, but he has to steal the little thing, and if he takes it off…

[17:36] Joel: Yeah, and replace it with the sand.

[17:37] Harris III: Everything's gonna start caving in, right?

[17:39] Joel: Right. Right.

[17:40] Harris III: So he has to steal it, but then replace it with something of equal weight, right? So that whatever he's in, that place, doesn't realize that it got robbed of something of value. And so really good pick pockets will go, “Okay, I'm gonna steal your wallet, but I wanna replace it with this little… I'm gonna replace it with another wallet that feels like it's the same thickness and the same weight,” because then you're going to walk down the street, who knows how long because you're gonna pat your pockets and go, “Oh, I've still got my wallet.” And I think that's kind of the way the world works, to be deceived literally means not just, “Oh, something got taken from me?” But the world is going to replace it with a counterfeit version of something that feels like the same thing. Which is why we all… Like we're all desperate for joy, but the world gives us a counterfeit version of joy.

[18:30] Joel: I like the word “counterfeit”, sorry to interrupt you. I like the word “counterfeit” and I was reading in a book, gosh, I wish I remember the name of this book, but it talked about the difference between a counterfeit and fake, and basically what it said is, “No one would create a counterfeit 21-dollar bill, so they would create a counterfeit 20-dollar bill because to counterfeit something means there has to be something of actual value there to mimic.” So if we think about the counterfeit version of you or of your potential or whatever, if we follow that same line of thinking, well then that means there is something valuable within you or there is something valuable to your contribution. Pei?

[19:21] Pei: So what… You started to talk about the counterfeit for joy, so what are the examples of those?

[19:31] Harris III: Oh, gosh, I mean we're wired for joy and so we settle for momentary happiness all the time. We're wired for meaning, and so we settle for counterfeit versions of meaning. We're wired for community, to live in relationships and have friendships and community of other people who view the world the same way we do, who support us and come alongside us and help us relaunch. But if we don't have that, the reason we… Why we're not so fed up and go, “I have to have community, I have to surround myself with the right people,” is because we settle for counterfeit versions of community and so we think, “Well, I have 200 friends on Facebook,” and so social media gives us this counterfeit sense of community and so we don't do the work of going, “I want to surround myself with the right team,” because we live under the illusion that we have a good team. So it's the settling for the counterfeit that keeps us under this illusion of everything being okay, because without the counterfeit, you'd be like that person who got their wallet taken, you would go, “Man, I got robbed and I need to do something about this.” The only reason we're not fed up and deciding, “I'm going to do something about this and fix this,” is because we're under the impression that everything is okay because we have that counterfeit version of what we were searching for.

[20:46] Joel: Is it possible that you can talk about how you're actually able to help people see the deception and the lies and uncover some of their own truth, discover their own…

[20:58] Pei: So they know is the counterfeits, identify… Yeah.

[21:01] Joel: Yeah, can you give us an example, or maybe one person at a show.

[21:07] Harris III: Oh yeah, sure, so I talked to a girl a while back, it was in the state of Michigan, I had spoken at her school.

[21:15] Joel: Was this an elementary school or junior high, a high school?

[21:17] Harris III: This was a high school, public high school, I did a community show that evening. In the afternoon, she came to the show and it really impacted her, she came back to the show that night and in between the afternoon and the evening, she came up and she basically said, “I figured out what my counterfeit is, what my illusion is.” In that particular context, I was doing… I was performing an escape from a straitjacket and I was talking about how lies can basically trap us, and how once we discover the truth about who we are, we can be set free from those lies and deception, and she came up that night and said, “Hey, this afternoon I figured out what my straitjacket is and I brought it for you,” and I was like, “Okay, what's going on right now?” And she holds her hand out like she has something to give me and so I hold my hands out and she dropped her razer blade into my hand.

[22:06] Joel: Oh, my goodness.

[22:07] Harris III: As she drops this razer blade into my hand, I see these scars all up and down her arms where she had been cutting herself and she said, “I don't have a good relationship with my parents, everyone around me tells me that I don't matter, I don't feel like my life matters, and I get bullied all the time at school, and you're the first person in my entire life to tell me… To look at me right in the eyes and tell me that my life does matter and that I'm capable of so much more,” and then said, “So that razor blade is my straitjacket and I don't want it anymore so you can have it.”

[22:38] Harris III: And that's when she got it, she… And really all it took was just an awareness. It just took her putting herself in a position where she goes, “Okay, instead of letting everyone and everything in the world around me do all of my thinking for me, instead of the world getting to decide who I am and what I'm capable of, I'm going to basically learn to think for myself and believe the truth about who I am and what I'm capable of.” And just by that awareness alone, all of a sudden that light bulb went off and she was able to see the deception. In that example, she was able to see her straitjacket.

[23:13] Harris III: Now the next question would be, “Okay, that's great, but how does she keep that up,” right? Otherwise, a week's gonna go by, I'm gonna leave town, I'm not there to keep her motivated and she's gonna find herself right back into another straitjacket again, right? So I think step one is just an awareness, most people aren't even asking them that question, “Is it possible that I'm being deceived? Is it possible that I've decided to settle?” And once you discover the truth, so how do we then take that truth and actually live it out on a regular basis so that we stay free, so that we stay rooted in the truth? And I think the answer is not, “We have to become experts at spotting deception and lies and counterfeits,” because I've been learning how to deceive people for over 20 years now and I still catch myself being deceived from time to time. So it's probably pretty impossible for her, as a high school student who haven't studied the subjects of trickery and deception, it's impossible for her to be an expert at spotting all the lies in the world.

[24:17] Harris III: But they teach bank tellers, the guys who count all the money in the banks, they teach them how to spot counterfeits not by showing them all the different ways you can counterfeit a dollar bill, they actually teach them how to spot counterfeits by consistently handling the real thing. So it's by being an expert in what real money is like that they're then able to spot a fake. And so I think, in a way, we can't really all become experts in deception, but we can definitely consistently remind ourselves of the truth. Whether it's putting a post-it note on the mirror that we get ready in front of every single morning that tells us who we are, what the truth about who we are is, and what we're actually capable of, so that we're reminded of the truth, or it's just surrounding ourself with a community of people who believe in us and are willing to tell us the truth. But we have to stay rooted in the truth.

[25:09] Joel: Absolutely. I love how you're sharing this. One of the things that Pei and I talk about as it relates to keys for a successful relaunch is you've got to have your relaunch relationships in place. Linking arms with the people that know you, like you, trust you, and will also allow you to stand on their shoulders. And Pei, did you wanna add something into that?

[25:34] Pei: I'm good. I'm loving this message, especially that know… Spot deception by actually knowing the truth, knowing exactly what is real.

[25:48] Joel: And if you don't have a team to surround yourself with, because some people may not, but if you can find one person, and that might be a person that's under your own roof or that attends the same church as you, if you can find one person, that's where you can start, aside from going to Harris, III's show. That's one place where you can start to uncover some deception. Harris, do I have that right?

[26:15] Harris III: Yeah. And I'm a living example of this. I am certainly not protected from deception, and a lot of people would consider me a deception expert because I travel around the world speaking on this topic, and I've spent 20 years doing magic tricks and deceiving people. But I still catch myself having to fight against those lies, and so I have those, what you would call my relaunch relationships. One of those is my wife, I come home and I jump online and you have a thousand people on Facebook saying you're awesome, and then you have that one person who's like, “This show is lame. I can't believe he said the things that he said. His tricks aren't as good as this other magician's tricks.” And do I focus on the thousand people who are like, “That's the greatest thing I've ever seen,” or do I focus on that one person? And I have the personality type that's like I always focus on that one negative comment, and those lies start to creep into my head. And even though that person is telling me those lies, if I'm not careful, I start to tell those lies to myself, and they become not just their lies, but my lies.

[27:18] Harris III: And so one of those relaunch relationships is my wife, who I can transparently say, “This is what this person said about me, and I know it's stupid, but I'm struggling to believe that what they're saying isn't true,” and she can be the person and the voice of reason and truth to go, “Why are you focusing on this? Obviously this isn't true. Look at all these people who thought it was amazing, ignore the haters.”

[27:43] Joel: Very good. Talking today with Harris, III. Of course, we're gonna have all of the social media links and the places to go listed there in the show notes that accompanies this episode. Coming in for a landing on this, Harris, really appreciate your time. Pei has one more thing that she wants to share with you, but let me ask you this first. Is there a question or something that we didn't yet get to touch on that you were hoping that we'd get to today?

[28:14] Harris III: Oh man, not really. I mean for people who… The question I get all the time is, “What do I do now,” [chuckle] because they see our show or they hear a little podcast, and they're like, “What do I do now?” Because deception is a deep thing, and most of it has to do with unpacking lies that were told to us years ago, sometimes even as children. And so it really takes a long time to kinda dig through this process, where… I'm in the middle of a production of a new documentary just on this topic, about how do we discover the life that we were meant to live by identifying the counterfeit version of life that we're settling for. And so yeah, I would just keep an eye out for that and check… There's information about that online as well.

[28:57] Pei: Awesome, and we'll put all your connection points, social media or website on our show note page, which is joelboggess.com/393, and I highly encourage you to connect with Harris and follow up and hopefully get to see this documentary, 'cause I know I can't wait to see it.

[29:23] Harris III: Good.

[29:24] Joel: Have a great day, Harris. You're welcome back here on ReLaunch any time. God bless. Thanks for being here.

[29:29] Harris III: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Connect with Harris III on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and his website.

Joel Boggess

Keynote Speaker | Corporate Trainer | Award-winning podcaster I help teams ignite their courage, take bolder steps, and get greater results. Together, we create possibilities that bring empowerment, meaning, and financial impact.

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