Ever since I was a young boy I was serious about magic, but it wasn’t until my teenage years that I started to take it seriously. You see, while I was always serious about my passion for performing magic, it wasn’t until I began watching documentaries on magic that I began to earn a deeper respect for what magic is and what performance magic is capable of. And it turns out it’s capable of so much more than a few tricks and some cheap laughs.
One magician that I especially looked up to during this time, and for whom I was in awe of, was Eugene Burger. With his deep soothing voice and long flowing beard, he not only looked like a magician but he sounded like one too. And that was before he even did any magic! When he did do magic it was amazing. I could never quite figure out how he got that card to turn inside out and outside in, or how he got that burnt string back together. But what was perhaps most intriguing was that I didn’t care to learn how he did those things, because I was too interested in the stories that he would tell while doing them. He planted the seed for me that magic could do more than baffle; it could also tell a story, and if it was told well and performed with just the right piece of magic, it had the potential to transform lives. That, to me, was real magic, and thinking about these things kept me occupied throughout high school and my transition into adulthood.
I remember the first time I saw Eugene in real life outside of the television screen. I was at the 2008 World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas attending one of the opening evening galas and was standing in line at the cash bar. There in front of me, leaning on the bar, was Eugene! I was star struck! But of course I had to play it cool so I quietly said hello, trying not to act too excited, and didn’t bother introducing myself. I’m just Jonas, after all. Throughout the seminar I’d see more of my magic hero, but I kept my distance. He was always surrounded by other magicians, and certainly they were more important than little old me. Yet he was always performing some piece of magic, sharing some little piece of insight. I enjoyed watching him from a distance. I don’t think it occurred me until then that he performed more than those two routines that I’ve seen him perform hundreds of times on those documentaries.
Eugene served as Dean of the McBride Magic and Mystery School, and it was just a few months or so after the seminar that I signed up for my first class at the Mystery School. I was excited to take part in the course and learn from the faculty, but I was perhaps most excited for the opportunity to finally work closely with my hero. It was not to be, however, because the week that I attended classes Eugene was “on sabbatical.” Well, he was actually most likely performing somewhere. Though I had missed another chance to learn from the Master, I still gained a lot of new knowledge and skills at Mystery School. It would be another six years before I had my next opportunity.
In early 2014 I was at Diamonds Magic in Peabody, Massachusetts, and was told that Eugene Burger would be coming in to teach a workshop. I was so excited that I quite literally took the bill from out of the thumb tip to attend. It was by far the best several hours I had ever spent thinking and talking and learning magic. I still have the notebook filled with the copious notes that I took that evening.
When I got home that night, inspiration struck. I would soon be visiting Chicago, Eugene's hometown, on business. I thought, “Why not? What do I have to lose?” So I emailed his “magicalbeard” email to reintroduce myself and remind him of how we met recently, and to let him know that I’d soon be in his neighborhood. Then I asked if we could get together while I was in the area. It was by far one of the biggest thrills of my life when I found myself sitting in his Chicago apartment, with Eugene performing a card trick for ME! It turns out destiny does have a name...and it’s JONAS! I still have that card framed in my studio as one of my most prized possessions. It serves as a reminder of the night I spent in Chicago with my hero, hanging out with HIS magic friends! But it also serves as a reminder that there’s no reason to ever hesitate to seize an opportunity to learn from a mentor. Now is truly the best time to seize the opportunity, because you never know when you’ll get your last chance. And perhaps the greatest reminder of all: it never hurts to ask for what you want., because when you do, the results can be Magical.
In 2016 I attended the Magic and Meaning Conference in Las Vegas for the first time, an event hosted by the Magic and Mystery School. This is a special gathering of magicians in an intimate setting and was truly truly a powerful experience for me and my evolution as a magician. So much so that before the conference was over I already paid for the following year’s registration! One of my favorite activities at this event was a “book swap.” Everyone was encouraged to bring a book that held a special significance for them, with the intent of gifting the book to someone else at the conference. At the appointed time we’d all take turns pairing up and looking at each others books, and then after doing that a few times we’d be told finally that whoever we were with would be the one we’d swap books with. Think of it as musical chairs for books. I brought The Art of Living by Epictetus, and during the book swap I was honored to see that Eugene was “lingering” closely to me because, as he put it, he wanted my book! Unfortunately for him we weren’t paired up at the end. However, as a special thank you for his inspiration over the years, when I returned home after the seminar I sent Eugene a copy of Epictetus’ book.
I recently learned that Eugene had released an audio program entitled Growing in the Art of Magic. I liked that idea; it’s kind of like having the Master available 24/7! Once again, cost was no option, as this was clearly a “must-have.” While I was at it, I decided to purchase instruction to his Destiny Has A Name even if only as an exercise in creating a tribute to my hero. Somehow I must have known, perhaps on a spiritual level, the news that was to come just a week later: the sudden death of the Living Legend who on August 8 joined the ranks of those Masters who have passed before us. The shock of his passing is profound, like “a vast cosmic sleep.” I know for sure, though, that his light will continue to shine “brighter than ten thousand suns.”
Thank you, Eugene. You have been a most worthy guide. May you rest in Peace…
1939 — 2017
I don't know about you...but July was jam-packed! It was so busy that I started thinking back to when I was a child and I would long for summer vacation to relax and enjoy some time off. Nowadays with the responsibilities of everyday life summer is VERY different!
But it wasn’t all work and no play. On July 1 I climbed Mount Washington! It was by far the most ambitious hike I had ever done, and the views made everything worthwhile. About halfway up I said to myself that this was actually quite an easy hike! But as I neared the top and climbed into the rocky clouds, I realized how soon I was to judge. Then, once you’re at the top and you’re exhausted, you still have to make your way down! I’ll definitely be doing the hike again one day, but for now I’ll stick the leisure hikes for a while. To that end I did a small hike up Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire on July 15. Even more breathtaking views!
On July 7 I was back the River Garden, on July 8 I was on Martha’s Vineyard performing motivational street magic for Tisbury’s annual celebration. This was my fourth year at the fair and it’s always a joy to share my magic with the families on the island. On July 12 I was back in the studio filming episode 4 of Positivity Now, and on July 19 and 27 I was at shared by interactive comedy magic with the students at Camp Stanica in Bondsville, MA. Also on July 27 I presented my motivational program Engage Your Magic for the Vermont Drivers Ed Summit in Rutland, VT, and the following day on July 28 I was in Methuen, MA presenting to the students of Rangers Camp. On top of all of this I taught four week-long courses at Westfield State University’s College for Kids program with my magic workshops and myth writing classes.
August settles down a little, but with more opportunities to add value to others there’s certainly little time to sit back. Here’s to what’s next!
P.S. For many, September is a month of renewal, a fresh start coming out of summer. I’d love the opportunity to work with your origination to plan a personal and professional development day to get things off on a positive note. Contact me here and we’ll have a conversation about how I can help your group. If you book between now the month of September you’ll receive $500 my professional training fee!
June was a busy month! I was back at the River Garden and the Magic Studio with my professional development magic show, and I returned for an encore performance of my hit new show 4000 Years Of Magic at the Hooker-Dunham Theater. The highlight of the month was by far the week I spent volunteering for the Massachusetts American Legion Girls' and Boys' State Program. This was my seventeenth year on staff and the group of 600+ young men and women that participated in this year's program made every effort worthwhile. I had the opportunity to facilitate a new class entitled And The Pursuit Of Happiness, which was so well received that I am already working on releasing it to the general public. Be on the look out soon!
Next months brings new adventures, so be sure to check back in August to hear about it! As always, I love hearing from you so please don't hesitate to reach out and let me know what you're up to. Until then, stay positive!
This month I had the privilege of speaking with a High School Track Team the day before their big championship game. The coach invited me to encourage his athletes to not accept “good enough” and instead grow to their full potential. I was thrilled to learn that the next day they won the championship! These are incredible athletes and I am so very proud of their accomplishments! I was also invited to speak with the employees of a trucking company specializing in transporting fuel. In case you aren’t aware, this profession is incredibly dangerous. A colleague of the truckers I had the honor to speak with recently lost his life while on duty. Care, focus, diligence, excellence…these are all words that I was asked communicate to ensure that these professionals make it home at the end of the day.
I was happy to have the opportunity to present my program Engage Your Magic! for two groups this month. The first was for a group of elder care executives for their annual meeting in Norwood, MA, and the second was for a group of high school students at their awards banquet in Brewster, MA. This is an incredibly power program helping people to find creative ways to overcome adversity by leveraging their natural talents and learned skills to live a life of purpose.
Once again I returned to the River Garden in Brattleboro, VT as the guest speaker for their daily lunch series, and then the following week I was back in Brattleboro at the Hooker-Dunham Theatre with my hit show It’s a Magical Life! I’ll be back in Brattleboro for an engagement at the River Garden on June 9 at noon with my professional development workshop Teamwork Magic, and at the Hooker-Dunham on June 23 at 7pm with 4000 Years Of Magic! If you’re in the area I encourage you to attend!
Until next time, stay positive!
Can you believe another month has come and gone? It's almost like magic!
I had a some wonderful opportunities to share the magic in April, including the first-ever Positivity Day held at Birchland Park Middle School in Eastlongmeadow, MA. We helped raise a lot of money for the school AND we helped raise awareness for the importance of being positive. There's some amazing things happening with Hashtag Positivity! You van visit their website here.
I returned to the River Garden in Brattleboro, VT for their daily lunch series with a presentation of my Positivity talk, and then the following week I was back in Brattleboro at the Hooker-Dunham Theatre with the premier of my new show 4000 Years Of Magic! This new show is a magical history tour of some of history's most influential magicians. If you missed it I'll be performing it again at the Hooker-Dunham on June 23.
I also had the pleasure to present my professional development magic show to 80+ executive directors of an eldercare company servicing the elderly community all along the east coast. They were a phenomenal group and I'm looking forward to sharing more positive leadership principles with them in the future!
Perhaps my favorite opportunity was meeting with my fellow Boys' State counselors at UMASS Amherst for their installation of new fraternal Brothers. Always a Joy to catch up with good friends!
There were many other amazing presentations over the past month, but there are so many other amazing things coming up to prepare for that at some point there comes a time to stop looking backwards and to just stay focused on looking forward! Until next time, stay positive!
Back in June of last year I had an experience at a Wisconsin lake that left me with this question: "What am I not doing now because I've never had a worthy guide to show me the way?" I left Wisconsin looking for a mentor and in January I had the phenomenal opportunity to spend a weekend with one of them, my long-time friend John Brady with Protem Partners, and then this past month I got to meet another mentor, my new friend John Maxwell. It's been a wild ride so far, and I'm looking forward with anticipation and excitement to where the next year will lead!
Last month I began filming for a new talk show entitled Positivity Now This show will be broadcasted locally, and will also be available on the television studio's YouTube channel. Click here to visit their page. I also had the honor to perform my interactive keynote presentation Engage Your Magic for a fraternity at UMASS Amherst. The message shared with this presentation is so personal and so important that it's always a Joy to deliver. As a bonus, I have several friends in the fraternity, so that make sit even better!
A number of you have reached out to share your experiences and thoughts on these Magic Words. I love hearing from you, so please continue staying in touch! At the end of the year we will have discussed 52 different Magic Words to help us conjure personal and professional growth, and I will take these words, along with comments and stories from viewers, and turn them all into a book. So if you're interested in being an active part of this project, please be sure to keep the conversation active!
Until next time, stay positive!
I got to see Bobby McDermott this month!
This evening I attended a performance of An Evening of Storytelling with Garrison Keillor. I was so moved by his masterful weave of the yarn. He makes his stories come alive by arresting our interest – giving more detail than one would think necessary, yet it is the details that electrify the tales. “We are more alike than we think…and certainly more than we try not to be.”
Before a word was even spoken, upon entering the stage, he hummed a note and beaconed us to follow. He then led us in a rendition of My Country ‘tis of Thee, followed by a number of other equally familiar songs. He spoke of important moments in life that he wanted to write down. Moments that, as they were happening, he knew were of significance and that he would want to remember and understand.
Mr. Keillor connected with us by sharing his life experiences, proving that we all relate with our own intimate stories that are just as private as the ones he so boldly shared with us. He talked of sin, death, love, and sex. Intimate confessions of the frailty of human beings. He empowered us. He inspired unity, proving that strangers can come into a dark room together and sing songs that everyone knows the words to.
The storyteller brought it all back in the end, after two and a half hours without a break in the meaningful, poignant, and hilariously exaggerated tangents that all somehow made sense. He arrived back to the notion that though we are divided, especially in today’s political climate, it is all only an illusion. We all have these incredibly human experiences that we all share.
The evening ended with a humming of My Country ‘tis of Thee. It had come full circle. We had arrived safely back down to the ground after the incredible journey. Garrison Keillor is an empowered communicator, because he empowers his listeners.
Fostering Meaningful Connections
Scientists estimate that it took 17 million of years for the Grand Canyon to become the wonder that we know it as today. 17 million years! Can you imagine that?! It took 17 million years for this “Wonder of the World” to be endowed with the title “Grand.” Such a large number is, for me, inspiring, because it allows me to go much easier on myself when I don’t right away get the “grand” outcomes that I’m looking for. How can I expect to do anything “grand” without putting in “grand” time? I’m encouraged too, by seeing the pain that the canyon experienced over the years by the constant erosion caused by the Colorado River. If not for the persistent flow of activity by the River, the Canyon not only would no be Grand, but it also would not exist.
All of this tells me that Grand things take Grand time, and that if we persist it promises to be painful, as pieces of us that no longer serve us are taken away during the flow of the process. This letting go can be difficult; it’s far easier in the short-term to keep things as they are, but life constantly reminds us that in order to have what we have never had we must do what we have never done, which requires a sacrifice, a giving up of what no longer serves us.
For the Grand Canyon, this giving up is of rock and sediment; for you and me, maybe it’s old thought patterns. Maybe it’s old habits that are keeping us down; or well-meaning friends, family, or colleagues that are discouraging us from growing, keeping us from operating on a higher level. Maybe it’s an old dream, or maybe it’s our current job that’s holding us back. The feeling of comfort, security, and stability is perhaps the greatest poison for innovation; for the comfortable person has no reason to seek anything more, to seek anything greater for his or her life. Leaving the security of the known for the unknown is simultaneously the scariest notion and the beginning of a fantastic adventure story. No story worth hearing ever began with “Once upon a time the world was safe, and nothing terrible happened…the end.” If that’s your story, and you’re happy with it, good for you. As for me, and as for those who are no longer content with being “good” but rather wish to become Grand, we’re hungry for something more. We’re not comfortable being comfortable anymore. And to leave that comfort requires giving up what no longer serves us. We’re operating from a different level now.
The good news is that we don’t have to go it alone. The Grand Canyon would not exist if not for the relationship that it fostered with the Colorado River 17 million years ago. This tells us that our own greatness will not exist without building important and meaningful relationships.
My mentor, John Maxwell, says that as leaders we should seek not to be a reservoir, but rather a river, allowing the benefits of our accumulated knowledge, skills, and experience, to flow through us, rather than stay with us. I like this metaphor because it encourages us to build relationships much like the Colorado River. If we show people the way to greatness, they will want to follow us. But first it requires a connection.
January was a busy month! I had the opportunity to travel to New York and Philadelphia, and present my brand of motivational magic, including a presentation for an eldercare networking group in Beverly, Massachusetts. They were a fun group and has already led to spin-off work. Good times!
Seeing Masters of their craft at work is always an inspiration. They provide us with encouragement to seek new opportunities in our own field, and to never settle for "good enough" for too long when "better," "best," and "Great" are just around the corner, over the horizon, and on the next mountain.
I have had the privilege of seeing The Amazing Jonathan work his craft a number of times, and it is always a Joy. This past weekend at Foxwoods was no different. His opening act was a comedian who decided when he was 12 years old that he wanted to pursue comedy, after sitting in the audience of one of The Amazing Jonathan's performances. Beyond deciding, he took ACTION. He sought the guidance of mentors, worthy guides who could show him the way. The most important mentor has been and continues to be the same comedian who inspired him to pursue that path all those years ago. May we all continue to be inspired by such Masters.
Christmas with family is always magical, but this year proved even more magical than expected. Late in the evening, as most of the family had already gone home, I lingered at my brother Steven’s home, enjoying some extra company. My nephew Jesse came into the living room where Steven and I were talking and brought with him a toy he had found in his Advent calendar. It was the notorious cup and ball on string. Notorious, because of the inevitable frustration everyone gets when they can’t get the ball into the cup. He played with it for a few moments then handed it to me to try. It’s been a long time since I’ve even picked up such toys, because of the frivolity of the activity, and the inevitable frustration it entices. But in the spirit of Christmas and togetherness, I humored the moment and gave it a try. After several attempts I admitted to everyone, “I’ve never successfully done this before.” And lo! Just as I spoke those words, the ball fell squarely into the cup! I couldn’t believe it! I had never done that before!
Jesse then took back the toy to try himself, but to no success. That is, until he got the idea that the magic words are: “I’ve never successfully done this before.” And magically, just as he said those words, the ball again fell squarely into the cup!
Excitedly, Jesse handed the toy off to his mother, Dana. She tried for a few moments without luck, and without trying the magic words. Jesse told her that she had to say the magic words for it to work, but his mother didn’t want to say them because as she explained, she had successfully done it before. I suggested that she revise the words to say: “I haven’t successfully done this in a while.” Sure enough, when she facetiously said those words the ball fell squarely into the cup! The four of us could not believe the amazing luck!
It was lastly my brother’s turn to try his hand at it, but without saying the magic words. Perhaps he, like many, didn’t see the connection between the words and the results. But after hitting himself in the head with the ball a few times he too relented and said those magic words: “I’ve never successfully done this before.” The four of us agreed that it was a Christmas Miracle when the ball fell squarely into his cup too.
This once-in-a-lifetime, you-had-to-be-there moment was a beautiful bonding experience for us, and it got me to thinking about its greater meaning. I had long given up toying with such an activity, deeming it frivolous simply because I was incapable of doing it, because I lacked the skill. And because I lacked the skill I labeled it senseless child’s play, something below myself. Yet, there the four of us sat in awe as we each, one at a time, succeeded at what was once deemed silly and impossible. It got me to wondering what else have I given up on and deemed silly and below my station, simply because I lacked the discipline and patience to give it an honest effort. Surely, mastering the cup and ball on string is of little consequence, but it serves as a healthy reminder that “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Today I suggest that if you find yourself struggling with a small matter, just give it a little more time, and maybe even try some Magic Words.
I'm excited to announce that begining January 2, 2017 I'm hosting a weekly video series called Magic Words: 52 magic words for conjuring success! Each week you'll receive a new Magic Word to reflect on and apply to your life. If you make the commitment to learn and implement each word, and if you follow through with it, then I am confident that by the end of the year you will produce something amazing! And best of all...it's absolutely FREE! Simply fill out the form below and you'll gain access to this valuable resource. Remember, it's a Magical Life, so boldly step forward and perform!
During my recent trip to Wisconsin I stayed in a cabin by a lake. On the morning of the last day of the trip I decided to jump into the water for a swim. There was a floating dock in the lake and I desired to swim to it. But I hesitated. I was alone, and thought that if something should happen to me, such as an unexpected medical emergency, that I'd drown and no one would know it until staff noticed that I hadn't checked out yet, and all my things were still locked inside the cabin, my rental car was still parked outside, and that I was no where to be found but for my t-shirt and flip-flops on the shore of the lake. A dead body is bad for business, so I opted to content myself with sitting on the shore. It was there that the lake taught me a lesson.
I have become much more adventurous as of late, though at the same time I have also become more cautious. A younger me would have swum out to the floating dock had I desired to do so, yet my younger self would not have had such a desire. To be sure, my caution is not out of fear, as evidenced by the fact that just the other day I jumped out of an airplane. Rather it is a matter of preparation. If someone was with me at the lake I would have surely made the swim to the floating dock. What i lacked was the safety of another person. Just as when I jumped out of the airplane. I did not jump out of the plane alone. Rather, I jumped with the security of a person who had made that same jump thousands of times before. It was in this notion that the lake held its lesson for me.
Having recently graduated from college, I am currently in a period of transition. This is a time of serious reflection as I consider how best to use my newly gained skills in tandem with my natural talents and passions. Informed by the impending reality of student loan payments, I have been leaning on the side of responsible practicality in terms of a career move, but the lake has another idea.
What is it that I want to do, but am instead sitting on the shore of? What would I do if had a worthy guide who had gone before me in the direction of my dreams?
I have answered this question for myself, and in so doing have been assigned the homework of finding that guide. There is much work to be done, and I look forward to it with anticipation and excitement. My hope for you is that if you have found yourself for too long on the shore of your dreams that you will consider the Wisdom of The Lake.
Dead Goose Lake at Canoe Bay
When I was a little boy I idolized my eldest brother. Being fifteen years older than me, I rarely saw him, but I knew that he was the coolest guy around. I often only saw him at the annual Christmas Eve get together at my Grandmother’s house. He’d come in wearing his leather jacket, with guitar. His gift to me was always a CD of music that he thought I should listen to. And every now and again it would be a CD of a recording he had done with his band: Ed Vadas and the Fabulous Heavy Weights. For years he toured the east coast playing bass with that blues band, and I always looked forward to hearing his latest stories from the road. I remember one summer in particular they had a standing gig at a local country club and dad would the family to see them play. It was there that I first met Ed Vadas.
I was nervous meeting him, though. I had heard that he didn’t like sax players. And I’m a sax player. What I saw at his performances was a master at work. With guitar strung over his shoulder and harmonicas armed to his strap like ammo on a soldier, he ‘d put his hand on the guitar and blues would pour from it as easily as the sweat from his forehead in the summer heat. Everything he did was a performance. His rolling lyrics, his banter between songs; he even found a way to make a broken string mid-play a lesson in music making. I loved watching my brother play with Ed. He was already cool, but being in Ed’s band confirmed what I already knew. During one visit to the country club I summoned the nerve to talk to Ed. I asked him why he didn’t like sax players. Imagine that; I must have been no more than thirteen years old, talking with this living legend, asking what his beef was with people of my kind. In his own colorful way that only Ed could, he told me, which I will paraphrase: “Those sax players, they think they only have to play when they solo!”
I took that advice to heart. With every band I have ever played with, a ska band, a wannabe blues/rock band, a folk rock group, a jazz trio, an experimental electronica ensemble, a jazz troupe, a Dave Matthews cover band, another Dave Matthews cover band, another jazz trio, a jam band, and an all original pop group, I have kept Ed Vadas’ words in mind. The thrill of my life came on brother’s surprise fortieth birthday. Ed was there with a bunch of other musicians to play the party. I happened to have my sax with me, and for the first time in my life I got to play with Ed Vadas. I was so nervous! I had to put a few drinks in in me first, but I played my heart out. When the night was done I was anxious to hear Ed’s response. His only words were: “You need a metal mouthpiece.” I took that as a positive sign that he approved of my playing (even when I wasn’t soloing). It was one of the best compliments I had ever received from anyone.
I got word this week that Ed passed away on February 18, after a long battle with an illness. My heart sank. I hadn’t seen him in years. And to know that the world lost such a soul, I’m sad for those who never got to meet him. But his spirit touches everyone. He’s gone but not forgotten. Yes, the very words from one of his most iconic songs came to mind. Gone But Not Forgotten. I hadn’t listened to that album in years, but that’s all I’ve wanted to listen to all week. So much has happened to me since I last listened to this music. I’ve changed so much. And listening to it again on the other side of so much change allowed me to hear it from a new perspective. It was like watching a movie you hadn’t seen since childhood, and you catch things that you never saw before. Listening again, I can easily see how it has influenced my playing over the years. Though I spent much of my time playing other genres, my favorite to play has always the blues. You can hear it in my playing, as I favor the pentatonic scale for much of my work, even when it’s uncalled for. Adding that “blue not” is also a favorite of mine. I listened the whole album several times this week, but it was track four that I was mostly interested in. Gone But Not Forgotten. It was like he was singing his own eulogy. Structurally, the song departs from the standard 12 bar blues, with it’s catchy chorus and poignant verses, multiple back-up voices and handclaps, it at times feels like a gospel song. Track five also deserves repeating when it comes around. Waiting On Sunrise. His soulful lyrics contrast with the soft-spoken words in response, like hearing a man talk to himself or hearing his thoughts. “If my life’s a whiskey bottle, my heart be a broken glass….(I looked in the mirror today and saw why you left).”
That’s how I spent my week. Hanging out with Ed Vadas.
1944 — 2016