Its Not Magic. Or is it?

John Michael Hinton is an amazing magician, speaker, redhead – as his branding tells us. He is all those things and more…and no matter what you call him he is an incredibly entertaining stage performer.

My wife Paula and I got a chance to see John perform his show in Cleveland in October…and were blown away by what we saw. His specialty is close-up slight-of-hand magic. He made cards and money disappear and then reappear. He solved a Rubik’s Cube without even touching it. And he blew my mind with a bag of Skittles.

I got a chance to speak at length with my new friend John recently about the performance dynamics of a stage performer like himself. I was curious to learn from him about how the performance dynamics that we see in leaders of organizations or athletes on the field of play – including golfers – would show up for an elite-level magician/performer. And he was kind enough to give me some time during his busy schedule on the road ahead of a show in Denver, CO.

John Michael Hinton in Cleveland, Ohio with some new friends.

It may surprise you – but there are many similarities between the things that we encounter on our Single Plane Swing journey and what John encounters on his performance journey. John told me that there are certain things that he does as part of his success formula that help to ensure he is in the proper mental state to perform his act. And there are things that occur that can throw John off his game a bit – even if just temporarily.

But one thing he did say reminded me of something that I have talked about in this space – and that you have heard many times from Todd, Tim, and the  instruction team at Graves.

John said that most of his confidence that he takes with him onto the stage is a result of the hours and hours he spends on honing his skills. He said that a well-known old quote has become a standard by which he approaches his development as a performer:

Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”

In fact, he has even modified it a bit to fit his performance needs. When he says it to himself these days it sounds like:  “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you know all the ways it can go wrong.”  Bottom line: for John there is no substitute for mastering the skill. It is one of the things that produces the right kind of performance energy he needs to be at his best.

John said that his intention is to practice more than he ever thinks he needs to. Putting in these hours is what gives him confidence.

John also said the one of his secrets to his development as a performer is his willingness to take new tricks and illusions onto the road with him. He understands that part of his journey to mastery is putting his new performances to the test with live audiences. He knows he has to “Road Test” parts of his act -and to be willing to be vulnerable, knowing that he may not have mastered the trick just yet. As a part of this process, he’s willing to subject himself to the negative judgment of others.

Finally, on of the most important insights for me came when John talked about the intention he brings to every performance. When asked what his focus is prior to each performance, he said that it is this: to ensure that people who experience his show feel loved and cared for.

That’s right. It’s not: “I hope they all buy my T shirts.” Or:  “I hope that the scout from America’s Got Talent likes my show.” Or: “How much money am I gonna make from these people?” Or: “I hope they like me.”

It’s different. It’s about a focus on OTHERS and not himself. John knows that if he focuses on his purpose –  to ensure that others feel loved and cared for – there is a much better chance he can perform at his best.

What does this have to do with golf? What if you approached practice and play the same way John Michael Hinton thinks about his own performance journey?


  • Practice more than you think you need to. Work on building your skills and your feel. There is no substitute for great mechanics and ball-striking skills for all elements of the game. It’s the key to elevating your confidence on the first tee.


  • Subject yourself willingly to the judgment of others. Often. It will build your resilience and the skills of learning to play in front of others. Loosen your grip on your story about what it means to make a mistake in front others. Mistakes are information. Embrace them. Mistakes help us learn and develop. Everyone makes them.


  • Consider the power of approaching the game with more love, gratitude and appreciation. For the game. For the course, For your playing partners. Make your golf experience about something other than fulfilling YOUR needs. Life is too short for that.

It works for John Michael Hinton. It can work for you too.

It’s not magic.  But it might produce magical results for you!

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan

Paul Monahan is an International Coach Federation (ICF) - credentialed coach working in the arena of human potential. Paul’s clients are leaders, executives, athletes and musicians who are serious about transforming how they perform in critical moments. His experiences in leadership and development over a highly-successful 25-year corporate career have created powerful context and understanding for the leaders and executives he coaches. Additionally, his passions and experiences in sports and music have uniquely positioned Paul to profoundly impact his clients in those areas as well.

2 thoughts to “Its Not Magic. Or is it?”

  1. Great article. You have a skill that is able to pull together the experiences from different professions and weave a common thread that all can relate too. Even us crazy golfers.
    Thank you


    1. Thanks Larry! Glad this article spoke to you. I believe that the mental game dynamics necessary to thrive on the golf course can be seen in all kinds of scenarios in our daily lives. We just have to look for them.

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