Being an entrepreneur means having your attention pulled in a dozen directions at once. What are you missing that you really need to see?

Since there's no such thing as multitasking and every interruption can cost you up to 25 minutes, the key is to establish focus. The scary thing is, what we focus on tends to be so predictable that magicians can use it to trick us. So I kept my eyes on the best magician I could find, the brilliant Prakash Puru, to see what I could learn. There's a reason why Salon calls him "the country's leading close-up magician," and Time Out New York says he's "one of New York's most skilled and original tricksters."

I ended up with a few more lessons than I expected.

  • Pay attention. You miss almost everything, including things that take place right under your nose. You might consider yourself a very attentive person, but Prakash will handily disabuse you of that foolish notion. I co-direct Science House in Manhattan. Prakash came to perform his show, How Magicians Think. The first time he did a trick involving a glass of water next to my elbow, I wasn't surprised that he managed to sneak a physical object past me. But what about the second time? The third time? Even then, I couldn't see how he was doing something that more or less involved my own elbow. This made me wonder: what else might I be missing? And what is it that seems perfectly clear to me, but might not to our customers?
  • Question everything. A good magic trick combines misdirection, psychology, sleight-of-hand, design, and the ability to tell a convincing lie. "You suggest the lie," Prakash says, "and then people will tell it to themselves, and start to believe it." What assumptions are we making, whether about our customers, our markets, the world, or our own company's products and services that might not be true? Analyzing assumptions might be one of the best things you can do for your business immediately.
  • Practice. A lot. People understand when someone trains everyday with the hope of winning a gold medal in the Olympics, Prakash says, but they don't expect someone to have practiced sleight of hand for eight to 12 hours a day, year after year. No matter what it is you do or sell, you should practice every single day with a clear understanding of your own weaknesses. Prakash practices every gesture in the mirror until he can do it without looking, because sometimes it's the illusion of weight in one hand while you're holding the coin in the other that brings a trick to life.

Business isn't magic, but with practice you can make it feel that way for your customers and truly delight them.