Discourse is back from our break and, to kick things off, Kostya Kimlat joins Jonah to discuss balancing your business and art, considering various audiences, and the importance of building a community. Alongside being a skilled sleight-of-hand magician, Kostya is also a business consultant and motivational speaker based in Orlando, Florida.
To Kostya, he views his journey through magic as a series of episodes that have led him to his current point in life; the first episode was in Ukraine, where his father taught him two simple card tricks that sparked his interest. When his family moved to America, Kostya discovered the World’s Greatest Magic, which he would record and dissect. Between friends and mentors, Kostya continued to grow in his magic throughout his childhood until eventually his father invested in the Tarbell Course.
His contributions to the field of magic started when he was young. Between newsletters and publishing in magazines, Kostya established a reputation for himself among magicians. He valued, and still does, sharing and teaching magic to help other succeed alongside him.
Losing motivation when starting out your business is all too simple due to the lack of a reward system. In magic and entertainment, you are rewarded for your practice through your audiences. In business, you may only see failure after failure which is difficult to get your head around if you don’t reshape your view of success.
To keep motivated, Kostya recommends starting your business with a friend. If you’re planning to go to restaurants to offer your walkaround services, pitch with a friend who shares your desire; you can keep each other accountable and give the person a nudge when they need it to continue.
Any answer is only a few key strokes away if you’re determined enough to discover the secret. While this access is great for the development of humanity, it is a hindrance for magicians as there is such a wealth of knowledge out there that they don’t know how to find the good material. Kostya points to YouTube as an example of the blind leading the blind; there are people online who have measured there success in view counts, so they’re sharing less than useful information.
Kostya has nothing against sharing material, pointing to his work on the cull as an example. His distinction, however, is that he studied the cull for years and has spent time teaching it in person to magicians. He goes on to refer to his YouTube video that breaks down his spots on Fool Us. He knew that kids and amateurs would be posting videos that exposed the technique, so he decided to change the conversation and post his own exposed video so that those who stumbled across it could truly appreciate the effort he put into his spot.
Creating a Business
For the last eighteen years, Kostya has been on his journey through magic, building the necessary skills and knowledge to start truly serving his audience’s needs and focusing on the tricks. His journey into business began with his work with tradeshows, where he had the opportunity to see how the world is much bigger than what he knew. His business views shifted when he began to learn about franchises. As he went from city to city, he recognized that there were the same magician types—with a few magicians in every city who had the same goals as him. Kostya realized that the model he built for his own success could be shared with other magicians to help them succeed. Starting out though, he knew he couldn’t treat his art like his business.
The EMyth Revisited inspired Kostya when he was starting his business. Mapping out the various departments he would need for his business to efficiently run, Kostya took on each of these roles until, over the course of three years, he could hire people to fill positions. Everyday, he would put on a different hat, shifting his perspective of what he was getting done; he recognized that he sometimes needed to focus on his magic to improve his services while other times his focus needed to be in marketing. By understanding that he could focus on different aspects of his business, he shifted his definition of a successful day.
There is a difference between practice and rehearsal. Practice is a personal thing where you work on the moves. Rehearsal involves actively working through your content and recognizing the aspects that need to be improved. Kostya rehearses alongside a team of people, all of them sharing the approach often seen in Spain; they are actively helping each other improve rather than smiling and keeping their criticism to themselves.
Much like his approach to business, Kostya likes to compartmentalize his rehearsal by breaking it down into sections. One of his rehearsal techniques is what he refers to as the Penn & Teller brain. One rehearsal he doesn’t talk but moves through the actions while the next rehearsal is the talking without the actions. By taking this approach, Kostya has been able to focus on the two aspects of his performance before bringing them together. When he began taking this approach, he watched his performance abilu multiply.
Kostya’s loves the fact that live shows and the popularity of magic has continued to grow and seems to be continuing on that trajectory.
He isn’t a fan, however, of people on YouTube who create a false sense of what success is for the viewers; the incoming magicians seem to have a sense that success is in view counts rather than overall skill.
Take Home Point
Create the reality you want. You have the means and the resources. If you can make the world a better place while doing it, even better.
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