The Magician Archetype
Achieving the Impossible
A magician is a tenacious, passionate person who believes they can inspire change or do the impossible…and they won’t stop being convincingly dramatic until it’s complete. When a magician finishes a project, people often say, “Wow! How did you do that!?” They bring about transformation, inspire others with their lively spirit, and turn ideas into action.
You know you’re a magician when…
You’ve left a career and started a new successful company. You went from a couch-potato to a marathon-runner. Your visions of achievement propel you forward and motivate you to tackle new projects. You share your passion with others so they can see into your visions of greatness. The magician is within you when you can achieve something that seems impossible or something that you have never done before.
A dare-devil magician
Years ago, I read Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, a novel about early 1970’s life in New York City – a very different place then than now. The World Trade Center Twin Towers were brand new and a little-known high wire walker, Philippe Petit (and magician archetype), had decided to illegally cross between them in the early hours one morning. Petit and his crew set up the entire stunt secretly at night. When Petit successfully finished his death-defying walk, the NYPD handcuffed him on the other side. This event is the backdrop of McCann’s story about chance events and how the towers have caused the world to spin. Was Petit’s feat inspirational? Yes. Is it repeatable? Not in that way.
Petit walks us through this life story in a 2012 TED talk. He begins by lighting a match in the dark, demonstrating the power of a campfire story. Beginning with his juggling at age 6 and ending with his controversial tightrope walks as an adult, Petit’s story keeps us mesmerized for 20 minutes. During the talk, he animatedly draws six magician characteristics with broad, sweeping strokes.
Six magician characteristics:
Cheating the impossible
Petit tells us how he learned to “cheat the impossible” when he crossed the towers of Notre Dame and the World Trade Center. And, that he learned he could inspire others in 1987 while crossing 1,000 feet of wire between the Jewish and Arab sectors of Jerusalem and freeing a white dove. While standing hundreds of feet in the air, he heard the cheers and chants of a unified crowd below. After the event, he learned that the mayor of Jerusalem kept a photo of Petit on his desk. When asked why, the mayor said, “Whenever I think something can’t be done, looking at Philippe inspires me to try.” Petit remarked, “All you have to do is glue feathers to your arms and believe that mountains can be moved.”
A magician’s shadow side
As inspirational as Petit’s story may be…you’ve probably heard of Icarus. While not a bad feature of the Magician, a shadow side represents the weaknesses we’re all aware of within ourselves. They are what we adapt to so we can work well with others.
Some of the magician’s weaknesses may be:
- Expecting more than is realistically possible
- Using tricks to distract people from the truth
- Resorting to frustration when they can’t “pull the rabbit out of the hat”
- Ostracizing conventional thinkers
- Making giant leaps without leaving instructions for others to follow
Curious about your company culture and archetypes? Take our archetype quiz to uncover your organization’s archetypal identity!
Maybe you too are a magician? You don’t have to juggle or walk on tightropes to be one, but you can offer vision and inspiration. When faced with the impossible, you can inspire change. Or, maybe you aren’t this person but you realize one works with you? Tap into that person’s knack for vision and inspiration and truly hear them, they may just succeed in achieving the impossible with the Magician’s pixie dust.