It took centuries to collect the stories that would become A Thousand and One Nights. One character, the best known, was not in the original.

It is the tale of a magic lamp stumbled upon by a peasant named Aladdin. A Frenchman named Antoine Galland added the story of Aladdin in the 18th Century.

Aladdin’s story of finding a lamp and rubbing it to get a genie who grants three wishes resonates with us all. We long for what Aladdin had.–a magic lamp to give us whatever we want, including me.

In short, most of us believe in magic. In a technological age of wonders, we expect drugs to take away disease, devices that answer our questions, and gadgets to dispel our boredom.

Do you believe in magic? Let’s find out.

Believing in Magic

We want easy answers to difficult problems that that took months or years to create.

Organizations retreat into magic. Starting a new program, building a new building, hosting a unique seminar, or listening to a special speaker will solve our dilemmas.

And most do something along those lines, yet the problems remain.

We do it with our personal challenges as well.

In 2012, people spent over 69 billion dollars on lottery tickets. If I hit the right combination of numbers, I can be rich. I don’t have to save, work, earn, or invest. The money drops in my lap.

It doesn’t take much of an internet search to find a pill, supplement, or workout that’s a miracle. It can, in 5 days, transform you into someone who is 20 pounds lighter and ten years younger. When I was a kid, the going thing was fitness belt. A person would put it around their waist, hook the ends to two rotating arms, turn it on and it would “shake the fat away.”

Writers sit in front of blank screens waiting for inspiration to hit. (I know because I have done it many times.)

We do these things, and so much more. It’s because there has to be a lamp with a genie inside. Rub it and, “poof.” It is ours.

The Marks of Magic

How can you tell if you believe in magic? See if any of these resound in your mind.

I want it now.

We take a lifetime gaining weight but want it off next week. If I pop a pill, it will make me svelte and ripped. It’s always overnight.

On Friday afternoons, an organization puts in a new software program. On Monday morning, they expect growth in sales.

The longer you need to wait for results, the more you believe in magic.

I want it easy.

Be honest. None of us likes to sweat. We abhor risk. Sacrifice is not even in our vocabulary. We have been promised “quick and easy” for so long we believe it.

When we believe we can have something without effort and heartache, we believe in magic.

I want it my way.

We tend to come up with solutions and answers that allow us to stay the same as we are. We want it convenient. We need to “like it.” We want changes that don’t change us but change everyone and everything else so we can feel comfortable.

We rationalize this infantile sense by saying, “it will be best for everyone” when it means “I like it that way.”

The sense is “I get what I want in the way I want it.” (That’s what my preschool grandchildren believe.)

Magic has three mantras:

  • I want it now.
  • I want it easy.
  • I want what I want.


The Terrible Truth About Magic

Albert Einstein observed, “we cannot solve our problems with the same problems we used when we created them.” It takes a change from believing in magic.

If the solution were easy, we would have already done it. We would have saved the money, stayed on a diet, made the calls, and written the novel.

The only way forward is to stop believing in magic. Magic is a story, a legend, but not an effective strategy to solve problems in our lives or our organizations.

Give up your ideas for a greater good. What I or any group wants is unimportant as what is best for all. One of the marks of realism is to accept the fact you cannot have everything you want.

Put in the hard work every day. Single events, such as a motivational speaker or session, do not produce results. It is better to put together a process that, when worked over time, pays dividends.

Lengthen your timeline. Things worth doing take a lifetime, not a day. How patient can you be to do the hard work? Michelangelo took over four years (but we don’t know how much over) to paint the Sistine Chapel.

If you find the magic lamp, let me know. But I am not holding my breath.