New book from NYT bestselling author Lewis Howes is now available!

New book from NYT bestselling author Lewis Howes is now available!


Derren Brown

Mindset and Persuasion

What story are you telling yourself?

Whatever it is, you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You’re projecting your story onto everyone around you without even realizing it.

That’s why mentalists are so successful- they suggest a story to you that you accept as true.

Whatever your way of thinking, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

You can be free of your own story.

On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk with someone who changed his own way of thinking to become an incredible illusionist and mentalist: Derren Brown.

“Live in easy accordance with fate.” @DerrenBrown  

Derren Brown uses magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship to create series and specials on stage and television. He’s won two Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Entertainment and has also written books for magicians as well as the general public.

He doesn’t use his skills to deceive others for his own benefit. Instead, his acts are often designed to expose the methods of faith healers and mediums.

So get ready to learn why humans are so easily persuaded on Episode 722.

“The greatest burden a child has to bear is the unlived life of his parents.” @DerrenBrown  

Some Questions I Ask:

  • Do you believe there are mediums who can see into another realm? (25:54)
  • What is your greatest superpower? (27:46)
  • When you meet people, what goes through your mind first? (30:02)
  • Did you used to have a bigger ego? (38:05)
  • Why did you get into magic? (39:27)
  • Do you have any regrets? (47:11)
  • How can we rewire our minds? (1:02:37)

In this episode, you will learn:

    • The two ways faith healers deceive (19:56)
    • Why it’s important to make peace with the parts of you that aren’t “right” (46:06)
    • The effects of coming out as gay later in life (48:46)
    • The three main fears people have (55:27)
    • The importance of accepting yourself (59:44)
    • Plus much more…

Connect with
Derren Brown

Transcript of this Episode

Lewis Howes:                 This is Episode Number 722 with mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown. Welcome to the School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, a former pro athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur, and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now let the class begin.

Albert Einstein said, “Once we accept our limits we go beyond them.” I am so excited about this episode because this is someone I’ve been wanting to interview since day one. I became a fan of Derren Brown probably nine, 10 years ago, when I learned about him through a friend who introduced me to his work and I went down the rabbit hole of watching every video I could of this person, and just became fascinated with the way his mind thinks, how he studies human nature and psychology, and how he gets people to do certain things they normally wouldn’t do.

For those that don’t know who Derren Brown is, he is an English mentalist and illusionist and since his television debut with Derren Brown Mind Control in 2000, he is named in the U.K. as pretty much synonymous with the art of psychological manipulation. He’s produced several other shows for stage and television in both series and specials. He’s written several best-selling books, and his 2017 U.S. debut show, “Secret,” won the New York Drama Desk Award for unique theatrical experience, and he’s planning a Broadway return in 2019, so make sure to get your tickets for that.

But right now, guys, he has a number of specials on Netflix and when I tell you I’ve been freaking out about them and telling them to everyone. They are so much fun to watch. They’re riveting and they will blow your mind literally. One is called “The Push,” and he conducts a social experiment to see if people will commit murder. And you are going to freak out in the last few minutes when you watch this. Go to your Netflix and watch “The Push.” He’s also got “Miracle,” which shows him on stage healing people and not necessarily saying that he has powers to heal, but showing ways that you can through different psychological triggers and things like that.

And his newest show is called “Sacrifice.” Holy cannoli! This is unbelievable. He gets someone to … I don’t want to spoil it for you actually, but he’ll tell you more about it in this interview. But “Sacrifice” is going to shape the way you think about everything in your life, and how you think and judge other people. And it will inspire you, it brought me to tears at the end. Crazy experience. So, “The Push,” “Miracle,” and “Sacrifice.” Watch them on Netflix after this interview. In this interview we talk about his belief in Stoicism and how it controls his thoughts and actions. Also, how we can become masters of our own minds throughout our lives, the good and bad ego provides for magicians and other performers.

Also, the three fears that people typically have and how it holds them back and the effects of coming out as gay later in his life, what that did for him in his early childhood and later in his life. We talk about that, we talk about God, religion, so many different things. I’m so excited for you to dive into this. Let me know what you think. Take a screenshot, tag me at Lewis Howes and Derren Brown over on Instagram and Twitter. Let us know what you enjoyed most about this, because I’m super fired up and pumped about this one.

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Again, a big thank you to our sponsors, and I’m so fired up. You guys have no idea how pumped up I am about this. Something about understanding human psychology, the way we think, the way we do things, why do we do the things we do, why we’re influenced, I’m obsessed with and it’s always fascinating me. I’m curious about why I do certain things and why others do it. And Derren Brown is the man to reveal all of this for us today. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the one, the only Derren Brown. All right. Welcome everyone back to the School of Greatest Podcasts. We have the legendary Derren Brown in the house. My man, I want to gently shake your hand.

* * *

Derren Brown:                Hello. Yeah, I have my hand out. I’ve been having a lot of powerful L.A. handshakes this week.

Lewis Howes:                 All the power players are just gripping you and-

Derren Brown:                Right. I’m not sure I appreciate that because you are the gentle-

Lewis Howes:                 Of course.

Derren Brown:                A British handshake, in fact they-

Lewis Howes:                 How does the British handshake go? Is it like a dead fish?

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Hello.

Derren Brown:                You have to let it … Like you have to maybe guess how much it weighs or something.

Lewis Howes:                 Okay. I first learned about you I think in 2010, somewhere around then, when a friend of mine … I believe James Whitmore was all into magic. He used to be a magician himself when he was a kid, and he just appreciated the art of suggestions, and mentalists, and illusionists. He turned me onto you and I kind of went down the rabbit hole then. I lost track of you for probably four or five years but picked it back up recently because you’ve had a number of specials that have come out of Netflix that blow my minds. One called “The Push,” which … Literally go watch this tonight on Netflix if you’re listening to us or watching this. I’m telling you, it’s going to blow you away.

If you appreciate anything that I’ve done in this show you will love this. Without telling the whole thing, “The Push” is essentially you get people to kill people on video and just-

Derren Brown:                It makes it sound just-…

Lewis Howes:                 You get people to kill people, literally, but no one dies, but they think they’re killing someone.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. It’s an exercise in social compliance. It was to see whether you could … Yeah, ordinary social compliance, and a big sort of hidden-camera setup where there’s one real guy who doesn’t know he’s in this kind of Truman Show [inaudible 00:08:37] everyone else is an actor. Just starting with little things-

Lewis Howes:                 The little eyes.

Derren Brown:                The little eyes, whether he could build to the point that he would murder.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s unbelievable. It’s just mind-blowing. And you watch it and the end, it’s just like … It just makes it … It’s so suspenseful the whole way through.

Derren Brown:                It’s kind of anxiety-inducing. Isn’t it?

Lewis Howes:                 It’s so much anxiety, but it’s really … It’s like making a murder on steroids, and with a mad scientist behind the curtain, you’re like, “Moo-ha-ha.”

Derren Brown:                That’s right. Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s so funny. You’re talking about the psychology of the whole thing all the way through. It’s a beautiful piece of art and just very entertaining. Go watch “The Push.” Then you have a new show out called … New in the U.S. at least, called “The Sacrifice” or “Sacrifice.”

Derren Brown:                “Sacrifice.” Yeah, this is brand new.

Lewis Howes:                 And this is freaking mind-blowing because it’s in perfect timing with all of the elections that have been happening and all the different things in social media where people are against each other, and they’re trying to build walls everywhere. They’re excluding people, we’re comparing each other against other societies and countries. There’s a lot of fear in the world and I think you eliminate this fear by creating another experiment, a social experiment, where you get someone to … Who is essentially … I’ll let you explain it because I want to make sure it’s [crosstalk 00:09:56].

Derren Brown:                Maybe I should first of all explain that. So, my background is in magic, but the psychological side of magic and working a lot with … Excuse me, with suggestion and … I began as a hypnotist. That was my first weird way into all of this. But as I grew up, the desire to just do tricks and go, “Hey, look. Aren’t I clever?” Which is kind of a subtext. Right?

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, yeah.

Derren Brown:                I grew out of that. So, although I still do stage shows that are a bit more like in that traditional mode, so the 20-year, 18, 20-year TV career I’ve had in the U.K., I appreciate no one really knows me here, but in the U.K. I’ve sort of … What I tried to do was take the idea of magic and make it into something that was dramatically more resonance. So, now what I do is I’m behind the scenes, and the deception is something we’re all part of it in on, apart from normally one person. So, it’s quite separate now from any kind of magic. It’s not really about that. It’s-

Lewis Howes:                 An experiment.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. These really are. These are kind of social experiments, but with our views normally changing and transforming something, and doing something worthwhile, so-

Lewis Howes:                 And you’re not necessarily performing the act yourself.

Derren Brown:                No, no. I’m-

Lewis Howes:                 You’re letting other people … You’re orchestrating the trick or the experiment, as opposed to actually-

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Exactly. I’m persuading. I’m using the kind of psychological techniques and the kind of … Just the power of sheer production, and actors, and stuntmen, all that kind of stuff around it to create-

Lewis Howes:                 Pressure, authority, all these things that make you say yes.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. To get someone to a certain point, and I’ve done various things with that over the years. So, this new show, “Sacrifice,” is taking a guy … So, an American guy who is a right-wing guy and doesn’t like immigrants.

Lewis Howes:                 Doesn’t like immigrants.

Derren Brown:                Doesn’t like them, and particularly illegal immigrants.

Lewis Howes:                 And he likes people who … It’s like, if you’re from here, great. If you’re not, we don’t want you.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. That’s his bottom line, and I … The challenge is, I get him to the point … So, he thinks he’s taking part in one show which he thinks is a documentary. So, he knows he’s taking part in a show. Often when I do these things they have no idea there’s even a TV show going on. He thinks he’s taking part in one show, which is a documentary about … He thinks he’s got a microchip that I’ve implanted in him.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s amazing. Oh, my gosh.

Derren Brown:                He thinks he’s trying out.

Lewis Howes:                 He thinks it’s a performance or something rather than a-

Derren Brown:                Yeah, exactly. He’s trying … So, he’s got a motivational thing, this biotechnology. But the actual agenda of the show is to try and get him to the point where he willingly takes a bullet and lays down his life for an illegal Mexican immigrant.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s unbelievable. And the scene at the end when he has to make the decision … I don’t want to spoil it here, but when he has to make the decision and you watch his conscience, and it’s unbelievable. Again, you guys have got to watch this because at the end it’s going to blow you away. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.

Derren Brown:                It was a really emotional journey.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s so unbelievable, and I hope it was as powerful in person as you guys made the production.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Even more, maybe, because these things take 10 months of … Maybe of work, because it’s not-

Lewis Howes:                 Oh, my gosh. For one moment.

Derren Brown:                For one moment. Or for one … Yeah, because you’re not only creating that moment for the guy, Phil in this case. This guy is called Phil. I’ve got to stop calling him the guy. But also you’re also having to create everything as a completely convincing fiction for somebody, because not only do you got to make it work as a kind of story, but this guy can’t know that this whole … Again, it’s a Truman Show. You can’t break the fiction for the person.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s amazing.

Derren Brown:                There’s a lot involved. We did a show called “Apocalypse,” which was ending the world for somebody. So, here’s somebody who’s gotten … He’s sort of disengaged from life, he’s selfish, he lives with his parents, they’re like, you’ve got to change this guy essentially. So, I took the Stoic idea that you value … Like we need to value what we have more, and one way of doing that … And the Stoics, this big, philosophical school 500 years before Christianity burst into the scene. They were the most popular-

Lewis Howes:                 Stoicism. Yeah.

Derren Brown:                I’m sure you’ve spoken about it with many people. So, I’m a big fan of the Stoics, so I took this idea. The idea was, “Okay. So, how do we take everything away from him in order to have him value what [crosstalk 00:14:20].

Lewis Howes:                 Appreciate these things. Yeah.

Derren Brown:                So, we [inaudible 00:14:22]. What we did, we took … We had cameras in his house. He had applied to be on the show. There’s normally some application process, and we vetted him and we decided he’d be robust enough for it. Ideal for … And also suggestible enough. I look for people that are naturally quite suggestible.

Lewis Howes:                 And then you tell them, “Hey, you’re not on the show. You didn’t make it.”

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Exactly. “We’re not going to use you.”

Lewis Howes:                 And months later you come back and-

Derren Brown:                And then months later we put cameras in his house, so his family were in on it. He’s like 20-something. 23, I think he was and lives with his family. So, we’ve got hidden cameras throughout his house and began this process of convincing him that the world was going to end through a meteor strike. So, if you imagine like he’s watching TV shows where they have guests and [crosstalk 00:15:01] but we’ve recorded our special versions of it that are only playing on his TV.

Lewis Howes:                 That he knows that’s like an authority, it’s [crosstalk 00:15:07] credible.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, yeah. He just thinks it’s a regular episode of his show. We had control of his phone. We hacked into his phone so that we could send him … Like on his news apps, and even the NASA site we were able to create convincing replicas that we could drop in these news stories. I was tweeting as his favorite … Because he was quite into science, tweeting as his favorite scientist. So, bit by bit we drip-fed this idea. He’d be out in a café that we knew he was going to be in and would have the radio playing in the background with real DJs that he knows, like famous U.K. DJs, talking about this thing.

Lewis Howes:                 The world is going to end.

Derren Brown:                Is it going to happen? Is it not? Is it a hoax? And then we created this pyrotechnic event for him where the world ends.

Lewis Howes:                 No way.

Derren Brown:                And then in the second part of the show he wakes up seemingly weeks later in a hospital.

Lewis Howes:                 Shut up.

Derren Brown:                And everywhere is deserted, there’s no one around. He then begins … Basically he goes through the plot of The Wizard of Oz. He loves the important things. He knows about courage, he knows about having heart, he knows about leadership, and having a brain I guess is that other part, The Wizard of Oz thing. And he finds his way home, and is finding his way back and kind of claiming himself as the best version of himself and he finds a few other people, but there are zombies.

Lewis Howes:                 No way.

Derren Brown:                There’s no easy way to solve it. There’s this whole zombie planet.

Lewis Howes:                 I haven’t seen this one yet. I’ve got to watch this one. I’ve got to watch this one.

Derren Brown:                Oh, it’s great. It’s great. So, these are big, elaborate, quite cinematic-

Lewis Howes:                 It would take years for you to plan out, probably, [crosstalk 00:16:37] to think about.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. It was-

Lewis Howes:                 You did another one, I think I read … I haven’t watched some of them because they’re not in the U.S., but there’s another one you did where the guy is afraid of flying and you’re helping him overcome his fears and he has to-

Derren Brown:                And he gets to land the plane.

Lewis Howes:                 … land a plane or something?

Derren Brown:                So, again that was like … Imagine an airplane where everyone is an actor apart from you. There’s hidden cameras, then there’s a medical emergency, “Can anyone land this plane?” And so, at the end of this big transformational experience for him, he goes, he gets up, he rises to the challenge, says “I’ll do it.” He’s terrified of flying. He’s got no idea this is being filmed. He goes to the cockpit to go in and do this. He’s, again, very suggestible, so he’s in a kind of condition … I can put him to sleep very quickly. So, I step out. He doesn’t know I’m there. I step out, hypnotize him, we land the plane, he’s like, asleep. We land the plane, we then get into one one of those very convincing-

Lewis Howes:                 A simulator.

Derren Brown:                Simulator.

Lewis Howes:                 He’s asleep.

Derren Brown:                He’s asleep, and he then wakes up and steps into that. Then he goes through this whole plane-landing experience, which is completely convincing for him and comes out … I don’t know if you’ve seen The Game, that Michael Douglas [crosstalk 00:17:38].

Lewis Howes:                 It’s the best. It’s amazing.

Derren Brown:                So, it comes as a reference point for me.

Lewis Howes:                 Oh, my gosh.

Derren Brown:                So, he comes out and there’s a big party at the end of that. All these people that are there they were part of the journey, and so … I’m spoiling the ending of all these shows.

Lewis Howes:                 Wow. That’s all right. No, no.

Derren Brown:                But “Sacrifice” is the new one.

Lewis Howes:                 I didn’t spoil the ending for “Sacrifice” yet.

Derren Brown:                “Sacrifice” is the only one that I’ve done that’s kind of resonant and kind of-

Lewis Howes:                 It’s so relevant too. Whatever you guys do, go watch both of these, “The Push” and the “Sacrifice” right now. We’re going to talk a lot more. And then you had a stage performance which was just … I hope you edit these things, because if you don’t you’re like a perfectionist with your words on stage and it’s really annoying, because when I speak on stage I’m like, “Man, I wish I could present that way.” So, hopefully there’s some editing in these things because it looks like you never miss a word.

Derren Brown:                Well, I … It took quite a lot [crosstalk 00:18:23] so it just gets you there.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, you [crosstalk 00:18:25]. But you do something which I thought was fascinating, which is you demystify these faith healers that try to manipulate … Because I think there’s a lot of faith healers or people in spirituality that help a lot of people, bring them faith, bring them peace of mind, bring them inner peace.

Derren Brown:                And there are some that don’t.

Lewis Howes:                 And there are some that try to manipulate to get more money out of you, that say, “I’m healing you and give me more money.”

Derren Brown:                And then create a bad cycle of self-blame and so on.

Lewis Howes:                 Absolutely. And you create this experience on stage which just blows my mind, where you recreate it. You say, “Listen, I’m … I don’t believe in God.” I think you said that, like, “I’m an atheist, and … But I’m going to heal you today. And I’m going to show you, through the power of suggestion, the power of influence, the power of, like, all these other stage-performance techniques that these faith healers do.”

Derren Brown:                So, this show is called “Miracle,” which is also on Netflix, especially those three shows.

Lewis Howes:                 All three of those, you’ve got to watch them all.

Derren Brown:                They’re the last three shows I’ve done and they’re all on Netflix.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s amazing.

Derren Brown:                The rest of it you’ll have to dig around on YouTube and my [crosstalk 00:19:26] catalog.

Lewis Howes:                 Exactly. But this one you get everyone to … Like if you felt a healing on the audience you’re like, “Stand up and come to the back of the room.” And there’s a line of, like, 300 people who had some type of healing in three minutes.

Derren Brown:                It was amazing. I’ve taught for 20 years in the U.K. and I do a brand-new show every two years. So, this show, “Miracle,” is one of the recent shows. And in that whole experience, that kind of career, nothing, nothing was as interesting as doing this every night and … Because you’re basically … There’s two components to this idea of faith healing, at least as I see it and certainly as I was doing it, and I was learning from the faith healers and using their techniques. One is adrenalin. So, you create … You know with your own background you’re not really feeling pain.

Lewis Howes:                 [crosstalk 00:20:11] state. Feeling like-

Derren Brown:                Yeah. If you’ve got adrenalin going it’s a pain killer. That’s the first thing. If you’ve got some back pain and-

Lewis Howes:                 You’re slouched in a bad-

Derren Brown:                A wild lion walks into the room, you’re not worried about your back. Right?

Lewis Howes:                 Right.

Derren Brown:                The pain goes, so adrenalin kills pain. That’s the first part of it. The second part of it, which is where it gets really interesting, is the stories that we tell ourselves, which is a recurring theme in my interests and life work, and how we get restricted by that. But what I didn’t expect was how … I thought it was going to be people saying, “Oh, I had back pain and now it’s gone.” But within a week of doing the show, I remember a woman coming up in floods of tears. She was maybe in her 40s, she had been paralyzed down one side of her body since being a kid, but for the first time she was able to move her arm.

Lewis Howes:                 No way.

Derren Brown:                And this is how you can … Of course, she even started to [inaudible 00:21:01] as the healer and started to believe in it.

Lewis Howes:                 And believe you’re like a god.

Derren Brown:                And starts to take an effort to think … Exactly. This isn’t something I’m doing. This is something you’re doing. So, that psychological component. Basically it’s like the part of our … Not for everybody, of course. I’m only dealing with a percentage of the audience. Right?

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                I’ve got maybe 2 or 3,000 people in the audience and here are 300. Right?

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                So, the numbers are getting smaller.

Lewis Howes:                 Most people aren’t feeling it, or maybe they didn’t have pain or whatever.

Derren Brown:                Exactly. And then the numbers that get [inaudible 00:21:27] out get smaller again.

Lewis Howes:                 Like the most suggestible people are the more like …

Derren Brown:                Yeah, exactly. Because they’re the people that certainly experience the most. But the fact that … If you X-ray this woman before and after, it’s clearly nothing has changed. But somehow in the story she was telling herself about this condition, “I can’t move my arm, this is something I live with. It’s a restriction that I have.” Maybe a bit of adrenalin at the start and then the kind of the challenge of like, “If you couldn’t move something before, try it now and notice what’s different and come up and tell me.” Just that sort of, br-b-b-b-, “Okay, I’ll think about it differently,” just snapped her out of it.

She’s not just feeling a difference. She’s actually physically moving. And night after night these things happen. And it varied from night to night and some nights were more dramatic than others, but it was extraordinary. And again, the percentage is getting smaller.

Lewis Howes:                 Yes.

Derren Brown:                So, now we’re at the top, like, probably half a percent which is always going to be kind of extraordinary. But people then saying a year later, “This is a permanent thing.”

Lewis Howes:                 Cured.

Derren Brown:                Again, I’m thinking, “It worked for 10 minutes when they were on stage.”

Lewis Howes:                 Right, because they’ve got the adrenalin and they’re-

Derren Brown:                Yeah. They’ll go back and they’re going to be as they were, which is where those healers … Where it starts to get nasty because then they’re saying, “If this healing hasn’t lasted it’s your fault. You didn’t have enough faith,” and so on. That’s where it gets nasty. So, I’m being open and say, “Look. You’re going to get it back. It’s probably going to be the same. Don’t throw those pills away regardless of what I said earlier on.” But it was-

Lewis Howes:                 Some people are worst for it.

Derren Brown:                So, it continued to work.

Lewis Howes:                 Here’s the thing. My girlfriend Janet, she’s a doctor of physical therapy, and she works on people who are in chronic pain. Who are broke … Who pulled muscles, who have bad neck pain, back pain, knee pain, all these things in joints. And she’ll get them on her table and literally have them start changing the story around. It’s an emotional thing that they’re holding onto. They’re just really tight. When you get people to relax they can usually move better and the pain goes away. And so, the way you were doing it, I was just watching, I was like, “Wow, you’re just getting people to really relax, you have them take deep breaths, you have them, I think, close their eyes at one point and see that version of yourself.

Derren Brown:                It was a [crosstalk 00:23:29]. There’s a visualization. But it wasn’t really even relax. It wasn’t like a … Because you can’t stand on stage and have people just relax for 20 minutes. It was just a … It was just like-

Lewis Howes:                 It’s crazy, man.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, it was crazy. And then I started to think, “Well, maybe I could, like, present this as a thing,” because you could pack out stadia if you said, “This is a secular healing show.” I’m not making any claims, but that’s what that is when you start to go mad, because we never advertise it as a healing show because of course-

Lewis Howes:                 But you heal people there, or people are feeling better.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. We know that people coming to the show want a healing, because you’re there with kind of a dark [inaudible 00:24:05]. So, anyway, yes.

Lewis Howes:                 What you do which is even cooler is you start to guess where people’s … Or not guess. I shouldn’t say that. But you start to call out where people’s pain is.

Derren Brown:                Where people’s pain is and-

Lewis Howes:                 And you’re just like … By looking at them you’re just like, “Your left knee.” And they’re like, “What? Yeah, my left kneecap,” whatever.

Derren Brown:                And that isn’t someone that, [inaudible 00:24:20] obviously. Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Exactly. But it’s amazing. And so-

Derren Brown:                I’m using the techniques that the healers use.

Lewis Howes:                 What are they? What are those? Are you going to share or …

Derren Brown:                I always find, if I say, “Oh, this is how they do it,” people then go, “Oh, okay. Well, that wasn’t how the healer I saw.” Or the psychic. I do lot of stuff debunking psychics and mediums.

Lewis Howes:                 Mediums. Yeah.

Derren Brown:                I never say exactly how I’m doing it, because then people go, “All right, well that’s now how my guy did it.”

Lewis Howes:                 Got it. Yeah.

Derren Brown:                But I’ve sat in those-

Lewis Howes:                 You’ve studied a lot of them. Right?

Derren Brown:                Well, yeah. I’m talking a bit about some of the methods which are kind of unpleasant. But you know those like … The studio audience, taught by the psychic, by the TV psychic, the medium that comes out and there’s a big audience. I’ve sat in that audience. I wouldn’t say who that was, but he was certainly a big name a little while ago. And he came out and you have an audience of believers, of course. And he comes out and he’s saying, “So, is there anybody here who is hoping that someone is going to come through?” So, like, 50 hands go up. And so, “Well, tell me and I’ll let you know if they come … Who are you hoping will come through?”

And people start to just tell him everything he wants to know. And, “Is there anything I could look for that would be absolute proof and no one could possibly know?” And they tell him all these things. “Yeah, it was my son, and he died and this …” And it’s heartbreaking. And then they start taping and of course then he comes out and says all these things.

Lewis Howes:                 Oh, really?

Derren Brown:                And it’s horrible sitting there. You kind of think … There’s not even … If you’re a magician working, I have to work so much harder because you’ve got to prove you’re not cheating in a [inaudible 00:25:44]. You’ve got to do something like show there’s nothing up your sleeve and then still do it, whereas unfortunately he’s-

Lewis Howes:                 And he got some questions before.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, when you’ve got an audience of believers it’s different.

Lewis Howes:                 Do you believe-

Derren Brown:                It’s because of the lies about it. That’s why some people don’t believe it. If you’d rather believe that that was really happening, then that’s [crosstalk 00:25:59].

Lewis Howes:                 Do you believe there are mediums that … Or individuals like that who can connect on a different way? Or is it-

Derren Brown:                No. I don’t. I think because it has been tested, it’s being looked at again and again and it never holds up. Never once in the history of that business, which is maybe the second-oldest industry in the world, it’s never … It never holds up. And then our capacity for … I did this one … In one of the stage shows I did I had people [inaudible 00:26:27]. I did medium shit, but I’m debunking it as I’m doing it.

Lewis Howes:                 Really?

Derren Brown:                So, I’m saying, “I’ve got your grandmother here. Her name is Alice. Is that right?” And they’re, “Yeah.”

Lewis Howes:                 How do you know the name?

Derren Brown:                That’s my secret. And she’s saying … And she’s not saying anything. “I’m lying to you. You understand this? But she’s saying you’ve got a little dog called Jasper. Is that correct?” “Yeah.” And she’s … I’m making this up.

Lewis Howes:                 You’re making it up.

Derren Brown:                So, I’m debunking it as I’m doing it. I’m saying, “I am lying to you.”

Lewis Howes:                 And you’re making it up or you have other …

Derren Brown:                I’m telling them correct information, but at the same time I’m saying, “I am lying.” So, it’s a kind of an interesting … I felt it could actually be kind of an interesting way to play it. Anyway, so after the show there was a girl at the stage door who said to me, “Could you put me in touch with my grandmother?” And I said, “Well, I hope it was clear from the show that I can’t really do it. I’m kind of debunking it.” “Oh, no, no. I know it’s fake and everything, but would you be able to put me in touch with my grandmother?” And it was just a really interesting moment, of our capacity for that kind of dissonance to just like hold those twin ideas and yet they’re completely conflicting. It’s extraordinary. So, our capacity to essentially fool ourselves I think is so-

Lewis Howes:                 To want to believe. To want to believe that this person can, or that this person is connecting through someone somehow.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Exactly. And I think there’s a lot of that you’ve got to get through before you reach the possibility of anyone doing it for real.

Lewis Howes:                 What do you think is your greater superpower? Because I think you can do a lot of things extremely well, and you could … I feel like you’re a student of life and understanding people, and you’ve been doing this for a long time. But what do you think is your greatest skill set?

Derren Brown:                That’s very kind. I’m happy if my breath smells okay in the afternoon.

Lewis Howes:                 You have a weak handshake. I understand you-

Derren Brown:                If I have a tool kit, like a magician has got his deck of cards, but I think my tool kit is people stories that they tell themselves. I think that’s what interests me.

Lewis Howes:                 Can you give an example, or-

Derren Brown:                So, even just like a magic trick. You might watch a card trick and you go, “He had me pick a card and then he put the card back in the deck and it disappeared and then it was in my pocket. That’s impossible.” That is a story you’re telling yourself and you’re going from point A, to point B, to point C. But of course there’s also a point one, a point two, but you … What the magician is doing is just encouraging you to edit the story in such a way that … Normally all the sleight of hand happens right in front of you, but you don’t pay attention because it doesn’t seem important, and then the bits that do seem important are the bits that later are going to join up to form the story.

And there are little … I used to do a lot of this kind of magic, and a thing I’d always say is … So, let’s say you have, like, a deck of cards at the beginning that is in a special order so you can’t shuffle them, but there’s a point halfway through the trick where they can shuffle them. I would normally say at that point, “Okay, look. Shuffle the cards again but this time do it under the table.” So, they follow that instruction, but it sounds like they’ve shuffled the cards before to them. Does that make sense?

Lewis Howes:                 Shuffle the cards again.

Derren Brown:                Because I say, “Shuffle the cards again but this time do it under the table.” Now, they haven’t shuffled the cards before because they were in a special order. But then later when they’re reconstructing the trick in their head, [inaudible 00:29:37] then telling someone else about the trick.

Lewis Howes:                 I shuffled the cards a bunch of times.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, “I shuffled at the beginning,” and it’s like a false memory that you start to implant. So-

Lewis Howes:                 [crosstalk 00:29:46].

Derren Brown:                Yeah, you’re just working with stories. And so, what I do because the sort of magic I did wasn’t really like appropriate. It’s more based around suggestion, so it really is … There’s also a conjuring in it as well. I’m using magic techniques too, but largely, like the bit that interests me and-

Lewis Howes:                 The story.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, it’s people’s ongoing perception.

Lewis Howes:                 I hope you’re enjoying this interview with Derren Brown. I’m fascinated with everything he said and everything he is about to say. But I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about my Greatness Mastermind. Now, if you are an influencer, a [inaudible 00:30:25] creator, or you have a business that is generating seven figures or eight figures, then make sure to check out This is a highly curated group of passionate individuals looking to make a massive impact in the world, while also looking to double, triple, and 10-X their income year by year.

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When you meet people what goes through your mind first? I’m not trying to ask you about me, but just in general, what goes through your mind when you see someone? Are you always thinking of, like, “I wonder if there’s a way I could tell them a different story to create an aha moment, or I’m just curious about this individual, or are you just kind of not thinking anything because-

Derren Brown:                No. Do you know what? The work that I do is very sort of-

The work that I do is very sort of controlling. I seem to be able to control people’s minds or control people’s actions or whatever. I actually think that’s a terrible way of living. I’m a big believer in the stoic idea that there’s all the things you can control and then the things you can’t control. If you try to start controlling things that you can’t you’re just going to get frustrated, and angry, and anxious right?

Lewis Howes:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Derren Brown:                But the only things you can control are your thoughts and your actions and that is it. So you have this choice. You try and control all this other stuff or you could just decide that it’s fine. That everything else is fine. And the thing is it always is. And if you let that thought of …

So your partner is driving you mad because essentially they handle stress badly and they’re putting it all on your head, whatever that is. And you’re in charge of how much you maybe do try and help them or how kindly you can meet them. But essentially if they handle stress badly and they’re having a bad time, you can emotionally separate a little and go, “That’s okay. It’s okay.” And in that sort of clarity that comes with that then you can actually be a better partner and be a better help as opposed to making it all about you and turning it into a huge big thing that you don’t need to do.

There are gray areas but essentially … I’m sure sport is the same. I don’t know, tennis. If you’re going to a game of tennis, if you try and control the thing you can’t control which is the outcome … So if you go in thinking I must win this game, then what happens? You start to lose, you become anxious, you don’t play as well. Whereas you can go in thinking, “I will play as best as I possibly can. The best of my abilities.”

Lewis Howes:                 And I’m not going to react and be negative …

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 … and I’m going to control my actions.

Derren Brown:                Well, it’s just a different story.

Lewis Howes:                 Yep.

Derren Brown:                You’re on this side of the line. And of course you play better. You do actually play better so the results tend to be better. But you’re just trying to keep it on the right side of the line.

So there are kind of like matters of social injustice that you think, “Well that’s not fine. That needs changing.” Well fine but then just emotionally commit yourself to doing your absolute utmost to change that thing. Not to an outcome that this may not be the time. That may be like going to be years after you’ve done your efforts that that’s going to change. But you’ll do a better job because you’ll be less bitter, you’ll be less frustrated.

So what I’m saying is in life I’m like, you know, the least controlling person. Actually what I think is more important is to have an easy relationship with fate, fortune. You know the Greeks really believed in this thing called fortune that …

So imagine a graph … and I love this image when it comes up. I read a book on happiness and I just found this a recurring image from the ancient Greeks onward. So imagine you’ve got your X-axis and your Y-axis. Is it that way or is that way? I can never remember.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                So along one axis you’ve got, say the Y-axis is your aims. It’s the things you want to do, the things you want to achieve, right?

Lewis Howes:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Derren Brown:                So that’s like that axis. This axis down here is just stuff. It’s fortune. It’s stuff that life throws back at you. It’s stuff you can’t control. What we are told again, and again, and again, is if you believe in yourself enough and if you set your goals clearly enough, you can sort of the life you lead this line will be kind of up here somewhere. Really in line with what your goals are.

And I mean, that can work sometimes and that’s great when it does. But what you’re not then respecting is this stuff that just happens that you don’t have under your control.

We call people losers now. We used to call them unfortunates. It was a slightly more sympathetic approach …

Lewis Howes:                 Right.

Derren Brown:                … to when things don’t go right in people’s lives. So what I think is important is that actually what we live is an X equals Y line. We try and do certain things and we try and pull the line a bit up here, and then life pulls back a little bit. And you can either let that drive you mad or you can just let that settle in as a kind of … That’s what life is, right? It’s just whether you make your peace with that or not.

Are you like a dog that’s pulling at the lead and sort of like this all the time? Or are you kind of trotting along a bit more harmoniously with it?

Lewis Howes:                 Right.

Derren Brown:                This is, I think, a really big thing. And that same idea comes up. Do you know Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who wrote Flow?

Lewis Howes:                 Yes.

Derren Brown:                He studied …

Lewis Howes:                 He’s amazing.

Derren Brown:                … yeah … athletes …

Lewis Howes:                 Musicians, artists.

Derren Brown:                … surfers, musicians, chess players. Anyone that had like a zen state. Like a state of flow where they felt, “This is the best version of me and I’m achieve the most.”

What he was that there were this X equals Y line. Imagine like you’ve got your skills on this side, you’ve got the challenges you’re facing on this side. When your skills roughly match your challenges, you settle into this flow state. You lose any sense of time and those things, regardless of what the skill is a lot of people experience this.

Lewis Howes:                 Anxiety, anything. You’re like in the zone, yeah.

Derren Brown:                All that just goes … Yeah, you’re just in the zone. If your skills are greater than the challenges you kind of get bored. If the challenges are greater than your skills you get anxious. But there is this X equals Y line.

Schopenhauer, great 18th, 19th century German philosopher said, you know, if you … and I guess it’s so relevant today … when you just whole believe in yourself and set your goals.

So if you’re playing a game of chess, you start out with a plan. But if you just stick to that all your life … To stick to that plan for the game it’s nonsense because someone else is playing so you have to adjust, right?

Lewis Howes:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Derren Brown:                So again, you’ve kind of got this idea of moving on. Freud who started psychoanalysis, he wasn’t trying to make people happy. He figured life is pretty much unhappy a lot of the time.

Lewis Howes:                 Suffering, yeah.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. So he said that I want to restore what he called natural unhappiness as opposed to unnatural unhappiness that people have.

Lewis Howes:                 Natural unhappiness.

Derren Brown:                Natural unhappiness he called it.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s like being in the UK, yeah. I know what you’re saying.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. It’s like living with our weather in the UK. And our teeth. You don’t sell a lot of books with those kind of … It’s a sort of pessimism.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                It’s like a strategic pessimism it’s been called. But I think actually a little bit of that is valuable. Because otherwise it’s like the faith healer that says, “If you don’t continue to feel better it’s your fault. You’ve let yourself down because you didn’t have enough faith.” And if you swap out faith for self-belief …

Lewis Howes:                 Worse.

Derren Brown:                I don’t know if you’re a fan of The Secret but it’s the same model.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                And it says, quite explicitly, if these things don’t come to you …

Lewis Howes:                 It’s your fault.

Derren Brown:                … it’s your fault. It is your fault because you let go of that self-belief. And it’s a recipe, I think, for anxiety and disaster.

Lewis Howes:                 Do you face a lot of anxiety in your life?

Derren Brown:                I don’t. No, I don’t particularly. I have the opposite problem that I’m …

Lewis Howes:                 You’re too relaxed.

Derren Brown:                … I’m so good at avoiding anxiety.

Lewis Howes:                  How do you avoid it?

Derren Brown:                I just have this natural constitution that I just avoid stress. But the difficulty is getting stuff done then, isn’t it?

Anxiety is really important.

Lewis Howes:                 Because you need a little pressure to complete things.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, that’s our signal that something needs changing in life.

Lewis Howes:                 Or a deadline. It’s like, “I’ve got to do this thing,” or, “Something’s not working. I want it to change.”

Derren Brown:                Yeah. You don’t change your job, you don’t know it’s wrong unless you start to hate your job. You don’t cross the road on your own without letting go of your mother’s hand first. Something has to die in order for something new to live.

I’m 47. So as you get kind of into the middle bit of life you start to notice … Kind of like your ego has to now just settle down and you actually putting yourself in service of something that’s bigger than you. Whether it’s your kids or a passion or whatever it is. Those things start to become important. You have to let go of some things to move on, to move into growth. But you don’t grow unless you embrace some level of anxiety. It’s tough.

So I find that difficult. I’m too the opposite and I need to embrace a bit more anxiety probably in life.

Lewis Howes:                 Did you used to have a bigger ego at one point? Have you started to kill the ego off for yourself?

Derren Brown:                Uh-huh (affirmative). You know I was a magician. It’s just awful. It’s embarrassing.

Lewis Howes:                 Trying to please people or trying to like …

Derren Brown:                Oh, trying to impress. The bottom line of magic is, “Look at me. Aren’t I impressive?”

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                That’s it. That’s all it has to say. It is the quickest most fraudulent route to impressing people. And there’s wonderful magicians and I love great magic, of course. But there’s a lot of grown up lonely children in that world. Because you learn to show somebody something that is a cheat … it might be actually really easy … and they go, “You’re amazing.” And that’s quite an addictive cycle.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                I’ve hopefully let go of some of that. But I know I was unbearable. I couldn’t sit and have a conversation without doing tricks.

Lewis Howes:                 Really?

Derren Brown:                Yeah. I was horrible.

Lewis Howes:                 Because it was like a drug. It just always felt good. It was that hit.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. And we don’t like people that are trying to be impressive. And that was such an obvious truth that I just hadn’t quite realized. We like people that are kind and we like people that are nice to be around.

Lewis Howes:                 Good listeners and, yeah.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Not always trying to get all the attention or whatever, right?

Derren Brown:                Exactly, yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                And interestingly we don’t like people that necessarily like us because we always try and be like people we admire to get them to like us. So we instinctively try and be like them. And actually it’s not really what we necessarily are drawn to in people, I don’t think.

Lewis Howes:                 Why were you so into magic or learning about all this stuff in the first place? I remember hearing a little bit about …

Derren Brown:                I was a really insecure kid who needed to impress and feel solid. I saw a hypnotist in my first year at university and I kind of … So I was studying law. I was supposed to be a lawyer. And I saw this guy and it just ticked all these boxes. It was performance. I’d never really thought of myself as performing but I think I needed that.

And the control side of it was like … It was a great show. I wasn’t making people look stupid or anything. A bit of me was like all the kids that I found intimidating in school. Those kind of sporty guys.

Lewis Howes:                 Guys that look like me, yeah.

Derren Brown:                Like you. You would terrify me.

Lewis Howes:                 Big guys.

Derren Brown:                They’re the ones that tend to respond really well to this kind of stuff. So now I’m in control. It was all that kind of stuff. Hopefully I’ve grown out of some of that at least.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s why you got into it in the first place.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 From insecurities and it was like …

Derren Brown:                Absolutely, yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Wow. When did you realize you had a gift for this? Were you just all of a sudden funny and interesting and a great storyteller in the first few months? Or did you bomb a lot and get embarrassed even more?

Derren Brown:                It isn’t a gift I don’t think. I think it’s like if you have that insecure thing or whatever that makes you … It’s like playing the piano. Probably not everyone’s going to play the piano but anybody could in theory. You’ve just got to put in thousands of hours …

Lewis Howes:                 5,000 hours, yeah.

Derren Brown:                … or 10,000, whatever the figure is today. But not everyone’s going to do that. So it clicked for me. It was a slow process.

I remember one weird seminal moment. I was the guy at university that would hypnotize you. That was my thing. So people would come over and I was learning hypnosis. So I started practicing on people.

Lewis Howes:                 Were you practicing everyday, just all the time?

Derren Brown:                Yeah, all the time. If they were good, if they responded well, I’d leave them with the suggestion, “If you come back and I click my fingers and tell you to go to sleep, you’ll go straight back into the sleep state.” And if people are highly suggestible that will work with them.

Lewis Howes:                 Right.

Derren Brown:                And it just would speed up the process the second time.

Lewis Howes:                 Sure.

Derren Brown:                And this guy came one week. I’d thought I’d seen him before. So I sat down, I said, “Click.” I clicked my fingers, “Go to sleep,” and he went out.

Lewis Howes:                 He went to sleep.

Derren Brown:                He went to sleep. Well it’s not sleep but he went into this kind of …

Lewis Howes:                 Right. Yeah, relaxed state, yeah.

Derren Brown:                … this relaxed state. But essentially went into a trance. He slumped down and we did whatever we were doing. I can’t remember what it was. Maybe he wanted to give up smoking or something like that. And then it was only afterwards when we were talking about it and I realized I hadn’t met this guy before. So how did he … because I don’t have magic fingers or something? Nothing I’m doing. But I just realized it was my kind of commitment to that.

Lewis Howes:                 Really?

Derren Brown:                Out of my confidence and my belief that he was going to respond. And the fact that he was very suggestible was just like a fortuitous coincidence.

Out of my confidence and my belief that he was going to respond. And the fact that he was very suggestible was just like a fortuitous coincidence.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                That’s a whole other discussion as to what it is. But I know that that moment of stepping up on stage is bewildering and there’s suddenly an audience and they’re desperate …

Lewis Howes:                 Right. And there’s lights and they just boom.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. All that. And desperate for direction, desperate for clear instruction which is like a gift if you’re a hypnotist because then you know that whatever you say will just unconsciously …

Lewis Howes:                 Work. Wow. Someone tried to hypnotize me once and I was like, “I want to be hypnotized.” I was like …

Derren Brown:                You were too enthusiastic.

Lewis Howes:                 First off, I was like, “I never want to be hypnotized.” And I’d watch it and things like that.

Well this was back in the day.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Then I met a guy who was a hypnotist. He was like, “Well, I’d love to show you and guide you if you want.” I was like, “All right. I’ll try it. I’m open to it. I just don’t know if it’s going to work.” And he was like, “Well, you need to come to the space that it is going to work.” And that’s what he said to me. He was like, “I want you to, you know, you want to do this. This is something you want. And we’re going to work on it,” whatever.

And he did the whole like arm pull thing or whatever and it just wasn’t working. I was trying to …

Derren Brown:                Pulling your arm?

Lewis Howes:                 Well, it was just like a quick like you know.

Derren Brown:                Oh, this is like a stage show. How are you?

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, it was just like a little pull where you …

Derren Brown:                Be careful of those really. [crosstalk 00:45:29]

Lewis Howes:                 Oh, sorry. I just [crosstalk 00:45:30]

Derren Brown:                All right, remind me.

Lewis Howes:                 Don’t break the hand. But at the same point I was like, “Okay.” I’ll just try to go along with it and really just try to more relax …          

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 … in the process and just try to be relaxing. Breathe and relax. And he took me through like a visualization of becoming your greatest self. He actually put me through an actually nice process. Because I love the power of visualization. I’ve been doing it as an athlete since as long as I remember.

Derren Brown:                Sure.

Lewis Howes:                 And I believe in the story that we tell ourself. The projection I would say, “This is how I’m going to show up tomorrow at the game.” And I’d walk myself through …

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 … every move, every play, every whatever it may be …

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 … and see myself performing well. And I’d also be putting years of hard work to back it.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 So it wasn’t just like, “I’m going to do great with no work.”

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 But reaffirming that belief. And so he put me through a nice little kind of guided visualization, meditation, whatever word I’m calling it. And he was like, “I want you to imagine the greatest version of yourself standing right in front of you.” And in that moment I’d actually never heard the way he told it before. Then I was like, wow. I could see myself with 100% confidence. Calm, poised, the best looking version of myself, whatever. Just standing perfectly. Not slouched. Just every part of me the best version. And I was like, “Wow. I can push myself to be a greater person by seeing it first and then taking action steps to becoming that.”

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 So I was like that was a nice little …

Derren Brown:                As long as you build in this kind of sub-clause. Because people can set these kind of goals that last forever. Joseph Campbell, I’m sure you know. Big writer of myth said, “You can spend your life climbing a ladder and then realize you have the ladder against the wrong wall.”

It’s wonderful …

Lewis Howes:                 Why are we climbing the ladder, right?

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Why are we climbing this or …

Derren Brown:                Yeah. We spend a lot of time focusing on stuff like this. We have this image of this version of ourselves that we’re moving towards. And it’s always out there somewhere. And it’s kind of like all those things that …

Well, look. It’s helpful. If you’re going to have a self-image, of course why not have a great self-image because we tend to make terrible ones.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                But it’s just a picture in your head. It might as well be a good one.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                But in the meantime, there’s also like the here and now. And there’s like making …

Lewis Howes:                 Being present.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Your relationship to the parts of your that aren’t right or don’t feel right and making peace with that and understanding that in a different way.

Like, you know, if you’re in a relationship … And I heard this philosopher in England called Alain de Botton, I really love this. He said, “If you go to bed twice a week with your partner and you’re thinking, “What am I doing with this person? This is terrible.” That’s normal.” That is a normal thing to start with.

Lewis Howes:                 Right.

Derren Brown:                And that, to me, that kind of thinking is healthier than I’m going to have the perfect relationship and I can visualize that perfectly and I’m going to make it happen. Because sometimes that’s great but sometimes it just sets you up for a kind of an impossible standard.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s smart.

Derren Brown:                There’s a balance. I think there’s a sub-clause that goes …

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                … if everything turns out brilliantly then yes.

Lewis Howes:                 Right.

Derren Brown:                But if it doesn’t then that has to be okay. That has to be a situation that’s comfortable and also exciting.

Why not also be happy with things as they are?

Lewis Howes:                 Where you are. Yeah.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, exactly. It’s an important bit that gets missed.

Lewis Howes:                 Of course. Appreciating and being in gratitude and all those things.

Do you have any regrets of all the work you’ve done or just anything in your life where you regret maybe something you did, or something you didn’t do, or something you wish you’d done? And I have no clue what you’re going to say here but I’m just curious. Do you have regrets from whether your personal life, your career life?

Derren Brown:                It’s different because I always think of … A friend said this which I thought was great. You know Richard Wiseman? Have you come across his work?

Lewis Howes:                 Mm-mm (negative).

Derren Brown:                He’s a kind of popular psychologist. He’s great. He says it’s like trying to pull out a big jar with loads of different colored threads. So as you try to pull one out and then of course it all just comes out together. It’s how you’d go back and remove one thread from our life.

I’m gay but I didn’t come out until I was like 30. So that’s kind of late.

Lewis Howes:                 17 years ago, right?

Derren Brown:                Yeah, that’s right. That’s normally where my mind goes.

Lewis Howes:                 Really?

Derren Brown:                Do you regret anything? Because that was a really long time. But I don’t think I’d have put half the energy into sort of doing the stuff that I do if I wasn’t A: desperately trying to avoid any conversations about sex and just basic human conversation. So you tend to get very good at deflecting attention with dazzling amazing things.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, tricks, yeah.

Derren Brown:                That’s a good strategy if you’re trying to avoid that kind of subject. So weirdly that kind of helped.

So I don’t know.

Lewis Howes:                 So you can justify these things as well. You’re like, “Well, I wish I would have came out earlier but at the same time …”

Derren Brown:                Yeah. And you know what it really did? And I think gay or straight or whatever we often have things about ourselves that would be good to come out about. Stuff that we just carry a lot of shame around about and feel like, “Oh, I could never tell people.”

And what’s fascinating of why the coming out thing, regardless of what it’s about. Not necessarily about sexuality, just anything if there’s something to come out about. And this is what I’ve found. It’s liberating not because you get to go, “Oh, I’m gay,” or I’m whatever. It’s that you realize that no one gives a [inaudible 00:50:48].

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                No one cares.

Lewis Howes:                 Maybe two or three people or something.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s it.

Derren Brown:                What really settled into my head was this idea that we’d worry a lot less about what other people think of us if we realized how seldom they do. They really don’t really care.

So once you’ve done that with your big thing that you’ve carried all this shame around then you realize, “Oh yeah, everything’s fine.”

Lewis Howes:                 Wow.

Derren Brown:                So because of that, other than I was probably a bit of a dick for a long time …

Lewis Howes:                 Really?

Derren Brown:                … while I was struggling with all that stuff. But you’ve got to forgive yourself that.

Lewis Howes:                 Came to peace with it, yeah.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. So I don’t have any regrets as such. It’s fine. I’d like to be a better partner and a better person. Those are things that I think are good to engage with in the present.

Lewis Howes:                 Right. Is there anything you’re struggling with right now? Or what is the biggest challenge for you? Because you don’t have anxiety.

Derren Brown:                Oh, I have anxiety. Don’t think I don’t.

Lewis Howes:                 Oh, you do?

Derren Brown:                I just mean I get so good at …

Lewis Howes:                 Avoiding it.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. I don’t have anxiety like some people have anxiety. There are different patterns out that say you’ve got classically pattern and avoidance pattern. So if there’s a stress or if there’s a challenge, if there’s something in your life that comes up that’s stressy, do you run towards it like a magnet and try and fix it, like some people do. That’s what my partner does. That makes it worse, I think.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                But are you drawn to stress?

Lewis Howes:                 Problems, yeah.

Derren Brown:                Or do you just naturally avoid it? I’m very good at avoiding it but that isn’t … Both sides have their ups and downs, right?

It’s kind of nice we work well with each other because …

Lewis Howes:                 Come in the middle with it.

Derren Brown:                … he makes me more engaged in things and I help him calm down a bit about other stuff.

What I find interesting at the moment is the tension between the urge … It was kind of like what you were saying about … Do you Nietzsche? He kind of had this line of, “Become who you are.” That was his drive.

So there’s that one idea of that there is a version of you that you want to clear everyone out the way so you can just focus on that. And I think if you get married or you have kids and stuff that kind of tension, that sense of un-un-un can be very strong.

And then there’s the other completely conflicting impulse which is, “Well, maybe the best version of myself, rather than being out there somewhere which I’m never going to reach, is actually” …

Lewis Howes:                 Right here.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Maybe the self is something that extends and is sort of active and fluid and extends out into the relationships that you’re in now. But both are important.

What’s hard is I think just generally in life is hard is conflicts. Ambivalence is important and, again, real. It’s part of life that things conflict and things are ambiguous and things are messy and that’s okay. And actually it’s okay to let completely conflicting opposing ideas settle.

Lewis Howes:                 Right.

Derren Brown:                Politically we’re so like this now that we each think the other side is just mad and evil. And we’ve kind of forgotten which is kind of what sacrifice is about.

Lewis Howes:                 Oh man, yeah.

Derren Brown:                We’ve forgotten that actually the dialogue between the sides … forgetting the personalities involved … but the dialogue between the sides is actually where you find humanity and where truth is ultimately going to be found.

You’ve got two very different narratives about the conservative urge is essentially about protecting the group, right?

Lewis Howes:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Derren Brown:                It’s about holding things together.

Lewis Howes:                 What we created [crosstalk 00:54:19]

Derren Brown:                Hierarchies holding that together. But it can happen at the expense of the weaker individuals.

And then the left wing narrative is about protecting the weaker individuals.

Lewis Howes:                 And tearing down, yeah.

Derren Brown:                If that can happen at the expense of the overall structure, that’s fine. So sometimes we do have to think as a group, sometimes we have to think as individuals. And we’ve evolved along both lines.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                And both sides ultimately are going to be important. So dialogue is important. And likewise in life, things are messy and they’re complex and they’re ambiguous. And growing up is tolerating ambiguity I think.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s true. What is your greatest fear or fears?

Derren Brown:                That you’re going to forget about my hand and give me a really hardy handshake at the end of this. I don’t like spiders.

Greatest fear. I don’t know. I think getting it all wrong. I hate the idea of letting my partner down. Letting things and people down. Letting myself down. I really think about these things and try and get them right. And I try and communicate them through the work that I do.

And you can only ever be good enough. Again, it’s not about ever being perfect.

Lewis Howes:                 You do your best, yeah.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 You can’t control how people respond or react …

Derren Brown:                Exactly.

Lewis Howes:                 … to the way you show up.

Derren Brown:                So, it’s not a kind of anxiety fear but in terms of the things that I think about that part of me, as I said wants, “Everyone to clear out the way and I just want to pursue these things.” But then what am I going to be?

I think I’m becoming this great fascinating version of myself. I’ve probably just become some weird old man. You know we crustate that we develop like a sort of a hard shell when we’re on our own for too long. And what relationships do is they make you more conscious of all the things that are just mad about you. Because otherwise you’re unconscious of them. And it’s the things you’re unconscious of that will own you and will come back and bite you.

So relationships are so important. Because I’m naturally kind of a bit of a loner. I’m really aware at the moment of that tension. That for more me in the kind of middle bit of life that’s what I find really interesting in the moment.

Lewis Howes:                 Since you do like to be alone, it sounds like, and be kind of in your art, and your crafts, and your photography, like isolated in some sense of the word. But I’m hearing you say that when you are around people or your partner, you don’t want to let those people down? Is that what I’m hearing you saying?

Derren Brown:                Yeah, because that’s a potential for sort of not only letting other people down but just becoming this intolerable, horrible version of myself.

Lewis Howes:                 Got you.

Derren Brown:                It’s just trying to get that stuff right.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                How old are you, if that’s all right?

Lewis Howes:                 35.

Derren Brown:                35, okay. So you’ve probably got a while before those sort of things start to become pressing.

Lewis Howes:                 Well, I think … I’ve been talking a lot about this just in my work that in all the people that I’ve interviewed over the years of different backgrounds and stuff. There’s really three main fears that I’ve found that most of us have.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 The fear of failure. We don’t go after something, or pursue something, or speak, or do music, or whatever it may be because we don’t want to fail.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 That fear of, “Oh, I’m failure. I’m a loser.”

The fear of success where then we’re leaving our pack, our community, because if we’re succeeding and they’re not coming with us then I’m alone and they’re not going to accept me. Or the pressure that I have to perform again. I have to repeat the success, right?

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 You might have felt that when you had this hit show. And it’s like, “I just got to be better. It’s got to be better.”

And then the third one …

Derren Brown:                Spiders.

Lewis Howes:                 Spiders, yes. Spiders, and snakes, and heights. The fear of judgment.

Derren Brown:                Oh, yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Of either way. Making sure that people like us. Fear of like either one. “If I succeed or fail are people going to like me?”

And for me, the judgment was always the fear until I addressed it about five years. Because as an athlete I was taught that you had to fail to succeed. And I was the youngest of four. I was this tall when I was like 11 and just goofy and gangly. I wasn’t like this stud athlete or whatever. I was the one that everyone made fun of. I was in special needs classes. So it was hard for me to read and write all through college. I almost flunked English in high school. All those things.

So I had a lot of insecurities about the perception people had about me.

Derren Brown:                Right.

Lewis Howes:                 Like my image, my ego. Like, “What do they think about me? What do they say about me? Am I saying the right things.” I always thought I was off.

So that judgment was what drove me to be a great athlete. To succeed, to achieve, to perform well, and to win at everything. So it was accomplishment driven.

And I realize that failure wasn’t a fear for me because coaches taught me, “You’ve got to practice. You’re going to miss shots. That’s how you learn.” So I was like, “All right. I’m going to fail every day and that’s okay. That’s the foundation for achievement.” And that’s all I wanted was the success.

But it was like, “Did I slip? Did I look silly? Da-da-da.” You know the fear of what people think about me.

Derren Brown:                You’re still living that out. That same fear of judgment. You’re still living it out. But you’ve turned it to something …

Lewis Howes:                 I’m aware of it. I’m very aware of it.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Well, I started to accept it. And five years ago I opened up about being sexually abused as a kid and I’ve talked about it many times on this show and wrote a book about all that stuff. And it wasn’t until I fully opened up about all my fears and insecurities about that and many other things. It wasn’t until I opened up about it. And my fear was like, “Everyone’s going to judge me. No one’s going to love me. No one’s going to accept me. They’re just going to make fun of me even more.”

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 And I had everything to lose. I had a successful business and career and everything. I was like, “No one can know about this stuff.” Like no one can know that you’re gay or whatever. Maybe that was a feeling. I don’t know.

Derren Brown:                Yeah totally.

Lewis Howes:                 And for me it was like the most shameful thing that I held onto for 25 years or until I was 30. But when it happened I was like, “Man, this weight. No one cares.”

Derren Brown:                No one cares, yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 And in fact, they cared more about me. At that moment they were like, “I respect you more. I trust you more.”

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 “Because I felt like something was … your ego was in the way.”

Derren Brown:                And when people are like that, when people have that thing that like people when they’re closeted, for example, whatever it is, there’s always a bubble around them. I knew I had it around me and I’ve had friends that have come out since and there’s just a bubble and you just can’t quite get to them because their constantly deflecting.

Lewis Howes:                 Something missing, right?

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah and that was me.

Derren Brown:                You were probably doing the same, as was I. So people only go, “Ah,” and they step in closer. So it’s very a good experience for you.

Lewis Howes:                 And all of a sudden everyone was telling me vulnerable things about them that I never knew and I was like, “Wow, we can connect on a different level.”

Derren Brown:                Yeah. It’s an amazing thing to kind of discover, isn’t it?

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, unbelievable.

Derren Brown:                It’s such a simple thing for everybody else. But it’s an amazing thing to discover.

Lewis Howes:                 But once I kind of let go of … Listen, I still have an ego and I want to perform well and all these things. I want to do a good job and do all that stuff. But it’s like I care so much less about the way I look and the way people are judging me. Because I’m like they’re going to judge me whether I’m doing nothing or doing something. Either way people are going to judge me for a moment and then they’re going to let go and judge someone else. It’s like whatever.

And so I think I’ve come to the point where I’ve accepted myself. Because I used to not think I was enough and that’s why I was constantly living in one of these fears.

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 And I think once we can start to just accept who we are as opposed to saying, “Well, I’m not the perfect version of myself like you were talking about. Let me be where I’m at right now and appreciate the moment.”

Derren Brown:                And you know, I think the most we can hope for often is just being conscious of these things.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                It’s not easy just to go, “Oh, great,” and then change anything. But being conscious means that it owns you less.

Lewis Howes:                 Yes. Yeah.

Derren Brown:                From the word go, we come into this world and we are given powerful messages from our parents, our caregivers, or authority figures kind of going, “Here is the relationship between you and the world. You are small, the world is big. You have no power, the world has power.” We learn very quickly what that is.

It’s a skewed vision. [Yung 01:02:15] talks about the greatest burden the child has to bear is the unlived life of it’s parents. How great is that?

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                So that’s right on us from the word go.

Lewis Howes:                 Putting the pressure, yeah.

Derren Brown:                But we are adapting creatures. The thing that makes us so great at evolution because we adapt really starts to kind of fuck us up a bit with this sort of life thing because we adapt to that. We internalize it and we go, “Okay, so I’ll think of myself like this and I’ll think of the world like this.” And we start to kind of live that out.

We develop a template of what love means from our parents. Which is entirely unrealistic because you see all the nice stuff. They presumably, hopefully … please God … give us the best side of themselves. We don’t see the arguments they have when they’re … We know what it’s like now as adults …

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah.

Derren Brown:                … what the experience of parenting is like. We don’t see them screaming and arguing and losing sleep.

Lewis Howes:                 I saw that.

Derren Brown:                Well, yeah, maybe you did.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah. I saw. Yeah.

Derren Brown:                But very often at least.

Lewis Howes:                 Sure.

Derren Brown:                So there’s an idea of this template of what love is that isn’t really realistic and we start to bring that into our … that becomes our template for our adult relationships …

Lewis Howes:                 Our story, yeah.

Derren Brown:                … because that’s all we know. And then we’re project all of that stuff onto our partners.

Lewis Howes:                 And expecting certain things, yeah.

Derren Brown:                And we live out these same patterns. Everything comes back again and again because the stuff we’re not conscious of is the stuff that rules us. And if we bury one part of us … Like the homophobic televangelist who preaches against all that and then gets caught in bed with some guy …

Lewis Howes:                 Right.

Derren Brown:                … and there’s a big … It’ll come back and bite you if you bury these things, you know. So the most we can do, I think, is become conscious of how we adapt in these ways to skewed messages. Our compasses are all over the place.

We internalize it. We think that’s the truth …

Our compasses are all over the place. We internalize it, and think that’s the truth. And then we go through life looking for things that, in a familiar way, repeat that pattern. So, people can have the same problems with relationships again and again.

Lewis Howes:                 Because that’s what they know.

Derren Brown:                That’s what they know.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s what [inaudible 01:04:15] true. No matter where we’re at in our lives, how do we rewire and master our mind? How can we-

Derren Brown:                You’re asking me like I know. Bear in mind that the only reason I have any language for this stuff is [crosstalk 01:04:29] that it doesn’t come naturally. If it came naturally, if it was all [inaudible 01:04:32] I wouldn’t have the language for it.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s why you’re an expert, because you’ve studied this, and went through all the experiments you’ve done, and all the people you’ve worked with. Just by observing people, I feel like you’ve had thousands of interactions with people where you’ve been able to set things up for them, tell a story, or not tell a story, to have them go in a certain direction. How do we rewire our minds to at least be aware of what we want, what we don’t want, and how do we become more of a master of over our minds, as opposed to it being a master of us?

Derren Brown:                I think we set our goals realistically, we allow for failure to be comfortable. We align ourselves with that X equals Y line, and not try and crank everything up here, because if we’re trying to do that we’re just buying into someone’s system somewhere, and we’re going to make life miserable for us eventually, and we’re going to blame ourselves when that happens.

Lewis Howes:                 What do you mean, failure comfortable? Meaning be okay with failure?

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Is it even failure? I don’t know, but it’s just experiences, isn’t it?

Lewis Howes:                 Just learning.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. You make your peace with the fact that life isn’t always going to produce what you’d like it to, and make that okay. That’s huge. And, as I said, the best we can do is become more conscious of this. So that can happen through psychotherapy, right? Like, psychoanalysis, that kind of thing, increases your dialog with yourself. It increases your consciousness about those things, but it’s very expensive, and it’s long form, and a lot of people aren’t interested. But that’s one way of doing it. Another way, I guess, is to look honestly at your life and see, “Where are these recurring patterns? What keeps cropping up? What am I a bit obsessed by? What am I constantly trying to avoid? What just keeps coming back and biting me? What does life keep throwing at me that’s bad, and causing problems?” And then just trace that back. See where it goes back to, and are there any other possibilities? Are there any other ways of behaving? It’s not like it just goes great, and then you change.

But you become more conscious of it, and then it’s like a little drip by drip, feeding into the soul, that can make a difference. I think these are modest goals, and they’re important.

Lewis Howes:                 I’m curious, who is more influential in your youth? Your mom or your dad? To you?

Derren Brown:                Well, both. My dad maybe in a sort of negative sense. There was not any bad blood, which is quite common with boys that are gay growing up, is that you tend to have the stronger bond with the mother, and the father, there’s just a bit of a disconnect there. Of course, both had not been hugely influential, because both of those impulses inform who you are as an adult. I was closer to my mother certainly.

Lewis Howes:                 What was the greatest lesson that your mom and your dad taught you?

Derren Brown:                I heard recently somebody say, it was so great, how great is this, that kids spend their life wanting their parents to apologize. Parents spend their lives wanting their kids to say thank you. That nice thing. Because I studied law, I was surrounded [inaudible 01:07:45]. My dad could barely read or write, and neither of them went to university or anything like that. So, here I was amongst all these other law students that were from these really big, powerful families. The first set of exams we came across I saw that they were all really nervous, not because they were going to fail for them, but what their parents were going to say. I’d never had that experience, I couldn’t relate to, “You’re parents would be angry at you for failing?” I wrote my parents a letter, because i just suddenly realized, “Actually, they’ve done this amazing thing of just saying, ‘Just do what makes you happy.’” The only thing they every wanted me to do was learn to drive, that’s the one thing I don’t do. I don’t drive.

Lewis Howes:                 You don’t drive?

Derren Brown:                [inaudible 01:08:31].

Lewis Howes:                 No way.

Derren Brown:                Which, in L.A. here is just [crosstalk 01:08:35]. In London it’s fine. So, I kind of lost track of your question, but-

Lewis Howes:                 The greatest lesson-

Derren Brown:                From them, yeah. So that was it. I feel I’ve done well in my life, and that what they were giving me was just, “Do what makes you happy.” And that’s always been my impulse. I’ve had genuinely no ambition, which is why I’m kind of cynical about the goal setting thing. I’ve never done that. I only felt, “Is what I’m doing now enjoyable and interesting? And feel worthwhile?” That was on day one, when I graduated and I had no money, and I was just doing magic tricks. I though, “This is kind of fun. I quite like this.” I’m walking around dreaming up tricks, then going out and performing in the evening. That’s nice. And that is exactly the same now. That hasn’t changed.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s on a bigger scale now.

Derren Brown:                It’s a bigger scale. But, being successful with what you do doesn’t really change those things. You mentioned the fear of success. I have a good friend, I found this a really interesting thing. He built up a company. [inaudible 01:09:37] back. He had a relationship with his father where he felt he had to achieve, and show achievement, to get love.

Lewis Howes:                 Approval and love?

Derren Brown:                Yeah, exactly. Really common. Again, in terms of those stories that we get in from an early age, and then we just kind of adapt to it and think that’s what we have to do, and think that’s real. So, his way of responding to that was that he had to be a really high achiever. And the world becomes dad. The world becomes wanting approval from everyone. So, he built up this company, and he had this dream that, “I’ll build up this powerful company, and then I’ll sell it, and I’ll be a multimillionaire.” And, I guess-

Lewis Howes:                 Dad will love me?

Derren Brown:                I guess then, yeah, dad will love me. He did it, he built up this company. He’s a very good friend of mine. He sold it for a lot of money, and then he was in therapy within like a year, because that need, that doesn’t go away. That’s the thing that has driven him in his life. Now he’s done the thing, he’s achieved the goal, so now what? And he went to therapy and realized that he was not alone, this is a really common thing. This is another whole thing with the goal setting. There isn’t just the problem of, “What if it doesn’t work?” What if it does work? What if it works, and you’ve spent 30 years making-

Lewis Howes:                 I’m still not happy.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Because the thing that was making you do it is still there, and now it’s got nowhere to go. And then you’ve got no meaning. Forget happiness, meaning is what we need. We need to make sense of ourselves in the bigger scheme of things. So, what happens when that goes out is horrific. But, great for him, because now he’s become conscious [crosstalk 01:11:15], so he’s worked a lot of that stuff out.

Lewis Howes:                 That was my upbringing as well. I wanted to prove people wrong. That was my meaning. It was like a negative meaning, it was like the three to five bullies that picked on me in school, and told me I was stupid, and laughed at me when I couldn’t read in front of the class, that stuck with me. I was like, “I’m going to become so big, so strong, so athletic, so talented, I’m going to prove these kids wrong.” And I did. I achieved all these accomplishments, and went on and did all these great things, or whatever. And I was like, “Why am I still not happy?”

Derren Brown:                Proving them wrong.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, I was like, “I’m proving them wrong, but why am I still not happy? I did the thing that they said I couldn’t do, and I still don’t feel good about myself.”

Derren Brown:                That’s because you never reached the point. You never reached the point where you fully proved them wrong, you’re still-

Lewis Howes:                 There’s always another thing. And so I stopped that as well. I was like, “Okay, instead of trying to prove a few people wrong, that I don’t even talk to, and don’t even remember their names. Why don’t I shift my meaning and purpose towards lifting others up, and serving humanity? And serving people in a powerful way, to support, educate, entertain, whatever it may be, to help people, as opposed to get back at people?”

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 I think that-

Derren Brown:                That’s a good one. That’s a good idea.

Lewis Howes:                 Right? That gives me so much more meaning, and it strips anxiety from me. It strips anxiety, and it strips the fear of judgment. I’ve been speaking onstage for about 10 years, I used to be so terrified to speak onstage. And I went through a year of public speaking training, and Toastmasters, just to force myself to dive into the fear. So, I was like, “I don’t want this fear to control me anymore.” I got good at speaking onstage, but I still get really nervous before. It wasn’t until about three years ago where I talked to a guy who was a coach of mine, who was like, “Because you’re still concerned about what people think of you. You’re focused on being perfect, and missing a word, or forgetting a story. You’re going to mess up. Just own the fact that you’re not going to be perfect, and quit focusing on what people think about you, and start thinking about them. And it’s being of service to them.”

Derren Brown:                Yeah, and the idea. I think a lot of that fear of public speaking is held by the realization that it’s an idea that you’re all engaged in, that you’re presenting and everyone’s learning about, and it’s not about you. Which is also the difference between proving those people wrong, and being of service to humanity, as you put it, is that it’s not about you. I think things get better in life when thyre not about you. I can’t think of any job, that you don’t become better at that job when you stop making it about you. A teacher that’s just looking for approval, for the kids to like them, and all those things, is not going to be as good as the teacher that’s genuinely about serving those kids. And public speaking is the same thing. That’s the trouble, it becomes about us, and it’s just going to drive us mad. If it’s about the ideas, again, that’s [inaudible 01:14:10] thing, just letting go of the ego and serving something bigger. We find meaning in life by finding something that’s bigger than yourself, and just throwing yourself into that thing.

Lewis Howes:                 Let’s go into that, because you talk about being an atheist, right?

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Did you grow up believing in God, or in a religion? And when did this shift? What was the idea behind that?

Derren Brown:                I didn’t have a religious family or anything, but I went to a sort of Bible reading, Sunday school type thing when I was quite young. It was a teacher at school I really liked, and she ran these classes, I went to that. So I just believed in it, and by then by the time I was old enough to realize, “I actually have a belief that not everybody has.” I was pretty inculcated, so that wasn’t going to shift. That was fine. I didn’t have a lot of Christian friends or anything, but I had one good friend at school first, then at university. It actually started to change, in fact, I was learning hypnosis and magic, because there was such a negative reaction, such a song reaction from my Christian friends.

Lewis Howes:                 Of you performing these things?

Derren Brown:                Yeah. Like, ‘You shouldn’t. You’re tampering [crosstalk 01:15:16]. Exactly. And I thought, “Okay, that’s them just not understanding what it is. So, okay, that’s all right. But, that’s just fear isn’t it?” That was the first little drop of a kind of skepticism. And then I had a friend who was a psychic healer, and we used to have long arguments, because I was so skeptical about that kind of stuff. Which magic tends to teach you, because you learn about how we fool ourselves, and how tricks work. So you tend to become quite skeptical about those sorts of belief systems. And I started to think, “Am I just doing the same? Is it just another circular belief system?” So I thought, “Well, I should really look into it.’ I was the guy who would sit you down in a pub in England, and tell you why you should believe in God. Here are these arguments.

Lewis Howes:                 You would do that?

Derren Brown:                Yeah, I was that guy. I could prove to you-

Lewis Howes:                 In high school and college?

Derren Brown:                Yeah, I was that guy.

Lewis Howes:                 You were hardcore.

Derren Brown:                I was pretty hardcore. I could prove to you why God existed, all those things. But, part of me thought, “Yeah, and for 2000 years philosophers have not been able to answer that question. So, probably I’m overreaching there a little.” So, I started looking to things like how the Bible was put together [crosstalk 01:16:29].

Lewis Howes:                 Translations, the this, the that. A bunch of people writing stories.

Derren Brown:                Exactly. And bit by bit the conviction fell apart, which I thought, “Well, maybe that will give me more honest belief based on a kind of honest sort of doubt,” Weirdly, rather than all these convictions that didn’t really have any intellectual bravery to them. It was a lot of intellectual cowardice. But anyway, it all fell apart. I couldn’t really put it back together again.

Lewis Howes:                 Really?

Derren Brown:                What then tends to happen, if you’re a real believer, you become a real disbeliever. So, I was a very vocal atheist. And I still me in the sense that atheism gets a hard rap, because people think has an agenda attached to it, which obviously it can do with certain people, of course. Individuals bring what they want to it.

Lewis Howes:                 Just like anyone, with any belief.

Derren Brown:                Yeah. I don’t know, do you collect stamps? No?

Lewis Howes:                 No.

Derren Brown:                So, you are an aphilatelist, right? You could be described as an aphilatelist, which doesn’t mean anything. But if people started to suggest that you held an agenda as an aphilatelist, that implied any kind of anything, you’d get sick of the label. So, I’m an atheist now, I don’t believe in God. But now, what I think is, I kind of see religion as like, well at some point it really gave people the experience of transcendence. Somewhere in history people were having a phenomenological, experiential, embodied experience of transcendence. Like it meant something. Whatever was happening historically was there in living memory with people. Whatever this guy was talking about, whatever the experience was, it was like giving people the real thing. And then time moves on, and that thing moves out of living memory, whatever the historical context was. So, to recreate it, you introduce practices, things that you can do. Rituals and things that will just give you back a bit of that.

But, of course, you’re now moving into belief as opposed to a kind of embodied knowledge that it was. And dogmas, all these things start to come into replacing what was actually an experience. And then, of course, that body, that church, gets powerful, and monetized. And then you are, where we are now. To me, a lot of the atheist arguments feel a bit like that kind of straw man thing. Of course you can point at where we are now and go, “Well, that’s kind of silly, that’s ridiculous.” But, I think, to give religion its credit, it may not be doing a very good job at it now, but actually those things are signposts back to what is important, which is the value of transcendence, which is only what we’re talking about. All it means is, it doesn’t have to mean anything overtly spiritual.

It’s just losing yourself to something bigger, which is what you’re saying, right? What you’ve done, turning-

Lewis Howes:                 Service? Yeah.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, turning that thing of proving the bullies wrong to serving something bigger. And that’s massive, but we don’t instinctively get that, that is an important thing. It takes people like you to say, “This is a valuable thing, and makes a difference.” And we go, “Oh, does it?” Which is why I think the mythological side of religion is important, because these sorts of things have to die for new things to grow. These are religious myths that serve this very basic need to transcend, because when we don’t put it somewhere valuable, we put it in the idea of money, wealth, fame and so, which don’t serve it. They do not-

Lewis Howes:                 Accomplishments, yeah.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, they don’t serve it. They don’t give you that experience.

Lewis Howes:                 What is the thing you believe the most, then? And what’s the meaning that you’re giving that’s bigger than you right now? If it’s not God, or religion, or faith, and those things?

Derren Brown:                This will sound very self centered, but I think in as much as we can only sort ourselves out, can we? That you’ve got to just sort yourself out before you can even think about anybody else. If there’s anything in my life, it’s trying to maintain the best possible, which does not mean perfect, just good enough, kind of dialog with myself, and understanding of that. So I can just do this thing as well as I can, which is, that’s a life project. And not one that’s of any interest to anybody else. I don’t expect it to be. But, that’s interesting enough. And then, what’s nice is taking stuff that I do learn out of that, and then putting it into a book, or putting it into a project. That’s nice. Because, again, that’s less about me so that’s where it gets valuable.

Lewis Howes:                 Have you been able to answer the question about why you’re here, where you’re going, what’s the point of all this? Have you been able to figure out a solution, proof, formula?

Derren Brown:                I don’t think they’re helpful questions, really. I think what’s the helpful bit is what’s important to us, and I think meaning is important. I think meaning is more important than happiness. We think it’s happiness, but it’s not.

Lewis Howes:                 Meaning brings us joy.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, meaning puts everything else into place. The other part of that, is that thing about tolerating ambiguity. The trouble with words like meaning and happiness, and even words like the self, is that they hide the fact, they’re not nouns really, they’re verbs. These are active things. Maybe there’s no self, maybe we just kind of self. Maybe what this is, is something that happens in our relationships, and happiness, maybe it’s an activity, and meaning is an activity, which means they’re messy, and they’re complex, and they’re active, and that’s a tricky thing to maintain and hold in place. But all that stuff is important.

Lewis Howes:                 What about the thing you’re most proud of? What’s the thing you’ve done that you’re most proud of, that maybe a lot of people don’t even know about?

Derren Brown:                To be honest, the first thing that comes to mind is like this show, Sacrifice. Sorry to come back to it.

Lewis Howes:                 No, it’s all good. Bring it up, man. I love it.

Derren Brown:                In this show, Sacrifice, this guy goes through a genuinely transformational experience that has really changed him.

Lewis Howes:                 And has he stuck with it?

Derren Brown:                Yeah, and he will tell you. I did say to him, “I’m going to probably do some promotional stuff around the show. What do you want me to say?” And he said, “Apart from having my kids, this is the best thing I’ve ever done. I’d do it in a heartbeat.” And when you watch it, like it’s dangerous, dark stuff. So you wouldn’t necessarily take that for granted that he would say that. So, given that television and entertainment can be such a ludicrous-

Lewis Howes:                 Produced.

Derren Brown:                Well, just a meaningless kind of experience. To occasionally do things like that, that make a difference. I think, in terms of feeling proud of anything, that’s all I can really think of. I don’t really feel proud of things that relate back to me, because that’s not as interesting. But, because it’s like …

Lewis Howes:                 Helping someone else, yeah.

Derren Brown:                Yeah, and not in a trying to make myself [inaudible 01:23:17], but just genuinely, it’s much easier to feel proud of something when it isn’t about you. You’re going to probably feel prouder of your kids than you’re going to feel about your own business achievements. That would be normal.

Lewis Howes:                 If you’re kid’s [inaudible 01:23:29] spelling bee, then you’re like, [crosstalk 01:23:30].

Derren Brown:                Yeah, amazing.

Lewis Howes:                 What’s the thing that you’ve been thinking about maybe for awhile that you haven’t been able to create yet? An experiment? A trick?

Derren Brown:                I don’t really have them. When there’s a time for a new project, I just sit and think, “What’s interesting now?” Because I’ve got to live with the thing for like 10 months. If it’s some idea from somewhere in the back of my mind from three years ago, it’s not going to be interesting. And I’ll have grown up since then, so I have no ideas, and no ambitions.

Lewis Howes:                 You’re very present, yeah. Until you come up with an idea, then you start acting on it?

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Wow. What’s your favorite hobby? Is it art?

Derren Brown:                I paint.

Lewis Howes:                 You’re an amazing painter. Your work is unbelievable, man.

Derren Brown:                Oh, thank you very much.

Lewis Howes:                 You’re like a professional. Not just like some amateur, it’s like check out his stuff on his website, it’s amazing.

Derren Brown:                Oh, thank you. Yeah, I paint and take photographs.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s your main thing.

Derren Brown:                That’s my main thing, yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 What is it about both those things that you love the most?

Derren Brown:                It’s that flow thing we were saying. Again, that could be anything. It might as well be surfing, I guess. But, it definitely gives me that. I have a very public job, so they’re also quite private things. I’m naturally quite introverted, really. I’m quite shy. I don’t know, you’d probably describe yourself maybe as a bit shy, even though your personality might be very extrovert. But, I’m generally quite shy, so there are things that sit well with me. Like photography. I do street photography, so I’m out taking candid pictures.

Lewis Howes:                 Moments.

Derren Brown:                Moments, yeah. And you’re kind of in an interesting mental space, because you’re separated, and you’re kind of detached, but you’re also very open and engaged. In the UK, because I’m quite well known, I used to naturally, if I want out, keep my head down. And now I don’t. I’m open and engaged, and of course, no one’s stopping or anything. That was another fiction I was living out in my head. But it’s a great state of mind. Again, it’s that easy, something about that [inaudible 01:25:35] you’re just a step back, but you’re also very open. It’s a very porous state. I think that’s a very nice place to be.

Lewis Howes:                 A couple of final questions for you. This has been fascinating, so I appreciate you all opening [crosstalk 01:25:48].

Derren Brown:                Thank you for having me.

Lewis Howes:                 This question is called the three truths, that I ask everyone at the end.

Derren Brown:                Okay.

Lewis Howes:                 So, I’d like for you to imagine for a moment that you get to pick the last day for you, that you’re going to be on this earth, right? It’s your last day. As many years out as you want to live. It’s, whatever, you’re 100, you’re 200, it doesn’t matter, whatever age you are. And you’ve done everything that you want to do. You only think 10 months out, so you do everything in 10 month increments, but you’ve done it all, right? You’re happy with your life, essentially. You’ve created the work, the shows. Anything you want to do, you’ve done it. You’ve got the relationship with your partner, you’ve had the family you want. Whatever it is, you’ve done it. And it’s been a great life. For whatever reason, all the work that you’ve put out into the world you’ve got to take it with you. Your books, your shows, the amazing shows on Netflix [crosstalk 01:26:35].

Derren Brown:                As in like none of it’s going to exist after I’m gone?

Lewis Howes:                 It’s not going to exist, you’ve got to take it with you, and it goes into wherever you go next. But you get to leave the world with your three final truths. You’ve got a piece of paper and a pen, you get to write it down. Or maybe it’s a hologram at that point, who knows what it is. But you get to give the world three lessons that you know to be true from your life experience, that could benefit them, or serve them in some way. What would be your three truths?

Derren Brown:                I’m probably going to be repeating myself, because I think I’ve probably said everything that I think to be true during this interview.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, that’s fine.

Derren Brown:                I’d say, don’t try and control the things you can’t control. The stuff you feel shame about, no one really cares. And, flossing. I think flossing [crosstalk 01:27:22].

Lewis Howes:                 That’s a good one. Yeah, that’s good. Okay, great. Make sure you guys watch Sacrifice, which is on Netflix right now. It’s all over the world, too, right? You can watch it-

Derren Brown:                It is. It is all over the world.

Lewis Howes:                 Not just U.S, anywhere Netflix-

Derren Brown:                Yeah, it’s on-

Lewis Howes:                 Worldwide?

Derren Brown:                Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 So, if it’s not on the homepage of your Netflix just type in Sacrifice. I think it has an exclamation point.

Derren Brown:                I think once you’ve watched it, it’s on your homepage every time you [inaudible 01:27:47].

Lewis Howes:                 It’s riveting, yeah. So, go there, watch it tonight. I’m telling you, watch this thing. It’s only 60 minutes, I think.

Derren Brown:                It’s not even that. It’s like 47 minutes.

Lewis Howes:                 You don’t want it to end, I’m telling you guys. You do not want it to end. So go watch it right now. Sacrifice. Then you’re going to go down the rabbit hole, I’m not going to even tell you. I going to get people messaging me on Instagram stories, tagging me on your YouTube, just watching every video after this.

Derren Brown:                There’s a lot there.

Lewis Howes:                 Watch Sacrifice. Then do yourself the favor, and watch The Push right afterwards. Oh, my goodness, it’s crazy. The moment when people were kicking the [inaudible 01:28:21]. I can’t believe watching this stuff. The last five minutes of the show is just amazing. It’s crazy, man. It’s unbelievable. Watch The Push afterwards. It’s crazy, it’s going to blow your mind. And then watch your stage show, which is called Miracles?

Derren Brown:                Miracle is the stage show that’s on Netflix as well.

Lewis Howes:                 Watch the three shows tonight. I’m telling you, you’re going to love it. I want to acknowledge you for a moment, Derren, for bringing so much joy to so many people. Whether it’s onstage, or if it’s at home, for so long you’ve brought joy, and intrigue, and wonder, and creativity into people’s lives when they don’t have it. And I truly say this from an honest place, that you bring a lot of people hope and inspiration for a better version of themselves, whatever that looks like for them, by showing people what’s possible, and by showing people that their way of thinking doesn’t have to stay that way. So, your quirkiness, your struggles from childhood, to obsessing over certain things, of trying to impress people, is paying off in a massive way through your creative service. And I really acknowledge that, and appreciate you.

Derren Brown:                That’s an amazing thing to hear. Thank you so much.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, of course.

Derren Brown:                Thank you.

Lewis Howes:                 I have one final question for you, and that is, what is your definition of greatness?

Derren Brown:                Of greatness? Living in easy accordance with fate. By fate, I mean fortune, and stuff that happens every day.

Lewis Howes:                 Wow, Derren Brown. Thank you so much, man. A gentle handshake [crosstalk 01:29:57]. It was a good one.

Derren Brown:                Thank you for sparing my poor, British soft hand.

Lewis Howes:                 Where can we connect with you online? Where do you hang out on social media?

Derren Brown:                I’m on Twitter, which is @DerrenBrown, It’s an unusual name. It’s D-E-R-R-E-N, Derren Brown. I’m on Instagram, too. I mainly put my photography and painting on Instagram.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s great stuff on there.

Derren Brown:                And my website is Annoyingly, because someone is sitting on, and they won’t let it go.

Lewis Howes:                 Go buy it. Yeah. Make sure you guys follow Derren on all social media accounts. Which one do you hang out on the most?

Derren Brown:                Probably Twitter.

Lewis Howes:                 Twitter? So, send him a tweet, retweet this link to your friends, and check out Sacrifice, The Push, and the other shows. So, Derren, thanks again, man.

Derren Brown:                Thank you so, so much.

* * *

Lewis Howes:                 I love it. I hope you guys enjoyed this one. If you did, make sure to check out the Netflix specials that Derren has right now. Sacrifice, it’s going to blow your mind. The Push, it’s going to take it even to a different level. And Miracle. You’re going to get three different experiences. Binge watch them all in one night for all I care, but make sure to tag me @LewisHowes, and @DerrenBrown. That’s D-E-R-R-E-N, Brown. Make sure to tag him on Twitter and Instagram and let him know what you think while you’re watching those shows on Netflix, and during this interview. We’d love to hear your thoughts about what you enjoyed the most from this interview, and what you took away from it. Again, bit thank you to Derren from coming on and sharing this. Make sure to get tickets to his show on Broadway next year as well. Support Derren on all the good things that he has going on. Again, a big thank you to our sponsors, Make sure to check out to set up a business account today.

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Music Credits:

Music Credit:

Sea You Soon by Adam Hinden

Melancholy by Ghost’n’Ghost

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