From NASA engineers to executives to the world-famous magician duo Penn & Teller — Kostya Kimlat has them all fooled.
In 2015, the Orlando magician appeared on Penn & Teller’s TV show, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” and was able to pull off a card trick that left the hosts stunned and bewildered. So stunned that Penn picks up his chair and later quips, “I hate you. … I hated the way you cleanly handled the deck of cards. I hated I knew the punchline when you started.” Kimlat had fooled and delighted them.
The video of Kimlat’s performance now has more than 10 million views on YouTube.
Kimlat has been a magician for more than 20 years, and he’s seen just about every side of the biz during that time. As a keynote speaker, Kimlat connects the art of magic with the craft of business for audiences at conferences across the world. He also trains and books magicians for large events through See Magic Live — you may have even seen his team at Disney World or an Orlando Magic game.
Kimlat explains magic this way: “There are two sides to a magic trick. There’s a method and an effect. The method is the reality. … The effect is what the audience experiences, but the effect isn’t real. The effect is completely imaginary, it’s perceived in the audience’s mind.”
Method-and-effect thinking is standard to magicians, who hide the reality and convince people to perceive something that isn’t really there. During his business presentations, Kimlat helps audiences realize that by focusing on the customer experience, they can create better memories to help increase their business in the long-term.
After helping his audience identify their desired effect — trust or hope, for example — Kimlat leads them in working backwards to creating a method to reach that goal.
“Magic is not about deception but about perception,” Kimlat says. “For me, magic highlights the fact that our perceptions create our realities.
As a refugee immigrant from the former Soviet Union, Kimlat understands what it’s like to start from nothing and build a successful business. Coming to the U.S. with his family, two bags, and $50 per person has inspired him to give back and look for ways to help others get their ideas off the ground.
When he, his parents, his grandmother and sister arrived in Orlando, the family received a warm welcome from Orlando’s Jewish community, along with other families who had recently immigrated. People from their new synagogue donated clothes and furniture, and helped the family get settled by showing them how to complete everyday tasks like opening up a bank account and writing checks.
“All these little things that make you feel like you’re a citizen and you’re a part of the fabric of the community — that can only be done on a human level, and it requires individuals to open their homes and open their hearts,” Kimlat said.
With those lessons in mind, Kimlat advises immigrants who are interested in starting a business to study the local market and use their culture to their advantage by offering the community something it hasn’t experienced before.
“It’s not about what you can do, but it’s about what other people need,” he says.
You can check out Kimlat and his team of magicians during dinner shows at Christner’s.