There once was a brilliant young man who longed to be a great magician. He toiled and researched and tried the mundane and the uncanny. Eventually, almost by accident (although those who looked back at him slways attributed it to his genius) he discovered the most amazing trick. When he held up his top hat and spun his wand around the inside of it three times while chanting a magical incantation, money would come shooting out of the hat. Real money!
This trick became the highlight of his shows and he always ended with it. He would hand some of the money out to people in the audience to prove it was real and they would come from miles around and wait in the rain for a chance to watch one of his breathtaking shows.
As all people do, he became old, so he began to teach his oldest daughter how to be a great magician so she could carry on the family business. His daughter was a great student and followed everything he did exactly to the letter. She begged to learn the Hat Trick but he demurred, thinking she wasn’t yet ready for such greatness.
But eventually – on his death bed – he relented and taught her the trick. He was adamant that it could only work on stage, in front of people, and only when you shared the money. She didn’t understand and asked “but papa! – how does the money get into the hat in the first place?!?”. He opened his mouth to answer, but before he could tell her the answer, he died.
The first night she did the Hat Trick on her own she was terrified – she was the Daughter of the Great Sardini! If this trick didn’t work then her whole act would be at risk. But to her relief the trick worked, and it seemed that maybe it worked even better than it had worked for her father. The money shot out of the hat like it had been launched from a cannon, fluttering down onto the audience and the stage to everyone’s delight.
Soon the Daughter of the Great Sardini stepped out from her father’s aura and took on the name Odessa, Mistress of the Macabre. Her acts were sold out everywhere she went and kings and emperors, queens and divas all sought her out. She was the greatest of living magicians.
As all people do, she became old, so she began to teach her youngest son (her oldest had become a lawyer) how to be a great magician so he could carry on the family business. Worried she wouldn’t have time to teach him everything she started much earlier than her father had. Her youngest son was also a great student and as she had, begged to learn the Hat Trick. She also demurred, thinking the lad precocious (he was almost half as old as she had been when she learned it!) and not yet ready. Her son, frustrated by not being able to take on the trick right away, studied what she did on stage, seeking to copy everything she did exactly so that he might uncover the secret to the trick and be able to do it himself.
But then tragedy struck – in the middle of a huge tour across Europe, Odessa was suddenly killed in an accident, and she had yet to tell her youngest son how to do the Hat Trick! He decided to take on her shows anyways, and just omit the Hat Trick. But the audience would have none of that. They screamed and yelled and almost stormed the stage, and so near the end of a particularly disastrous run of shows he did the trick out of total desperation, and it worked.
The audience was delighted – such great showmanship, they all said! The papers the next day immediately said it was the best version of the Hat Trick they had ever seen, and other magicians were suddenly envious of a man they had come to dismiss as a pale imitator to his great mother. This son clearly was also a force to be reckoned with.
The act now always ended with the son – now called Orlando, Mystical Money Machine – pretending he wouldn’t do the trick. He started to believe that he was actually doing magic! It was all so easy.
The way you made money was just by doing the trick!
Hat Trick, money.
Hat Trick, money.
Hat Trick, money.
One day, after a particularly hard show in a new town none of the family had ever been to, the Hat Trick actually DIDN’T WORK. Not at all. He thought that the had done it exactly right but nothing came out. Panicked he fled the stage as the crowd erupted, nearly setting the entire town ablaze.
By now the hat was frayed and the lacquer on the wand had been completely worn off. Perhaps he needed a new hat and wand? But these were THE hat and THE wand that had always worked! Maybe he said the words wrong? But no, they were the words he had always said. Unsure of what to do, the next night when it didn’t work again, he just tried over and over again as quickly as he could, before the crowd could overwhelm the stage and tear him apart.
After a few tries the Hat Trick worked. Orlando was relieved! He just needed to keep trying the Hat Trick and eventually it would work.
This continued, with the Hat Trick failing more and more often. Eventually Orlando had to try it so many times each night it took up over half the show. The hat became so worn that it was nearly rags, the wand a thin stick where once it had been a solid rod. He no longer sold out the largest venues and wasn’t invited to visit world leaders. Orlando’s Ted talk was quietly relegated to an archive and after that, a boilerplate “file not found” error. But he still could secure decent venues – not the best, but still good box office.
As all people do, he became old, so he came to his middle daughter to teach her (his oldest had become an entrepreneur and his youngest was traveling the world jumping off of buildings) how to be a great magician so she could carry on the family business.
She was a very practical girl, and she said “Pops, you need to tell me how the Hat Trick works. Our numbers have been consistently down for the past 11 quarters and without that trick, I’m not sure we should keep going.”
He told her that yes, the new customer numbers were down and growth was stagnant at best, but the business was still making tremendous amounts of money off of repeat customers. Some of them had been to shows given by Odessa, or even Sardini when they were children. The family business was still profitable.
They argued and argued. It soon became apparent to the daughter that her father was not just being proud – he was also afraid. He was hiding something from her. Finally she confronted him:
“Pops, if you won’t tell me how the Hat Trick works, I’m going to scrap it and try something different. Other acts are doing different stuff and we have a lot of great infrastructure, so I’m going to look into other things. Aerials maybe, or dance. Perhaps comedy, or a cooking competition. Something we know that people want and which we can learn how to do.”
Finally, he relented. With his own last dying breath, he told her his secret of the Hat Trick: “I have no idea how it actually works. I just stand on stage, do what your grandma did and hope that the money will come out.”
If you work for a wildly successful organization then chances are you work for (or are) one of the people above.
What is your Hat Trick?
Do you know how it actually works?