The SC Interview Series is an effort to highlight the work creative professionals are doing that “move the needle” in how we work and perceive the world around us. The next interview in our series features Jonathan Pritchard, a Chicago-based Mentalist, Speaker, and Consultant. Jonathan is an incredibly unique individual who had me captivated the first time we met at an event I organized in Chicago in 2015. He is the creator of [ ] Like A Mind Reader, a quasi-coaching/consulting practice that deeply engages individuals and companies on the psychology of marketing and sales. He founded A Life Well Designed, which includes a highly-recommended podcast on living better through lifestyle design, of which I am a big fan. Jonathan has also traveled the world as a Mentalist, entertaining troops and corporations, and even consulted with Criss Angel on a TV project. You’ll find, as I did, that Jonathan is a one-of-a-kind individual with a curiosity that adds a richness to his life and those that are fortunate to work with him. Jonathan joins Scarantino Consulting from his office in Chicago, Illinois.
Josef Scarantino: Jonathan, welcome and thanks for participating in the SC Interview Series. Let’s start by telling the readers a little about yourself.
Jonathan Pritchard: Hey Josef, thanks for letting me share my thoughts with your readers.
I wholeheartedly believe that people can do incredible things if they put their mind to it. It’s how you think about your problems, resources, relationships, and yourself that governs how you succeed (or fail) in life.
I grew up in a poor town in the mountains of North Carolina and have since traveled the world, and done amazing things.
I saw my dad work in a factory my whole life. He worked himself to the bone and our family barely scraped by. He set an amazing example for dependability and integrity, but I saw how the American dream just isn’t what it used to be. We’re in the middle of a massive revolution with the digital age, and the old way of thinking about things just isn’t cutting it.
When I went off to college I had to figure out how to escape the traditional mindset of hard work = success. Since I graduated, I’ve been focused on how we can make the most out of incredible resources that are at our fingertips. With the digital revolution, we can do more today than the richest person 100 years ago could with a device that fits in our pockets. That’s incredible!
JS: Take our readers back and tell us how you got started as a Mentalist and Performer. Were you always a curious individual with a penchant for public speaking and entertainment?
JP: Absolutely not! I was about as far from “a natural” as you could get. Shy doesn’t even begin to cover it. In fact, there was a time when I was younger that I wouldn’t even ask for ketchup at a restaurant because I didn’t want to talk to a stranger.
When I was 13 that all changed. I met my first mentor who was a retired street performer. He taught me how to juggle fire that summer, and as it turns out juggling fire at 13 is a huge confidence booster! Juggling let me put myself out there without having to talk to anyone; the audience would still clap without me saying anything. That helped cultivate the self confidence of being in front of large audiences. (To this day I’d rather be in front of a crowd than in one.)
Through junior high I got interested in magic tricks, too. Quickly I found out that the mind reading tricks seemed to amaze people more than a simple “finding your card” kind of trick. Looking back, I can see why. A 15 year old who can read your mind would be unnerving!
In college I met my second mentor, James Randi. He was a world-class escape artist, was on the Carson Show 33 times, appeared on Happy Days, etc. When we met he had a million dollar challenge for anyone who claimed to be genuinely psychic. I asked for a job, and got hired on the spot. Over the next 4 summers I worked with him to design testing protocol for each claimant. With Randi’s guidance I saw all the ways people were trying to scam their way to the million dollars, and that formed the basis for my mind reading show.
JS: As a follow-up to the last question, where did the persona Jonny Zavant come from? Does it have a unique origin?
JP: In 2008 I was the tour manager for a full time magician in the college market; I was learning the business side of doing shows. Plenty of entertainers have great acts, but have no idea how to make a living at it and I didn’t want that to be me. By touring with someone who was already doing what I wanted to do, I got to see first-hand what I’d need to do.
One night after a show we were hanging out in the hotel room and we were spitballing ideas. I wanted a stage name as a way to buffer my onstage life from my offstage life. I’d seen too many entertainers believe their own marketing and become completely detached from reality. I didn’t want to lose who I was by believing the illusion of success. Creating a character was the best way I knew how to do that.
I wanted a name that was lighthearted, distinctive, and still available on all social media platforms. It didn’t hurt that searching for “Zavant” only brought up a handful of articles. That meant, anytime someone searched for me, only I would show up.
As far as the character goes, he’s a massive flirt. Flirting is a fine art, and I feel like too many people have lost the skill. We all want to feel desirable, but too often the only time someone flirts with us is if they’re trying to take us to bed. Jonny Zavant will never do that, but he will flirt with anyone & everyone. Make people feel wanted, and they’ll love you forever.
JS: At what point in your career did you make the connection to businesses and how your work could benefit them? How have they since responded to your approach?
JP: It was after seeing so many “business consultants” claiming to understand the psychology of sales. I thought, “Can you stand in front of a room full of 3,000 people and make them believe you can read their minds? No? Then I think I know more about psychology than you do!”
I realized that the psychological principles I use on stage are the exact same I’ve used in my own business to network, sell, and connect with clients for the past decade.
They’re the exact same principles used in marketing, advertising, hiring, and every other angle of business. It’s all about building relationships, and relationships are built through communication. When you can get inside someone’s head and see the world through their eyes, you know exactly what to say to help them understand why they need you. That’s communication! That’s the power of mind reading.
We’re all trying to do that, but few people are an expert at it like I am.
That’s my unique sales proposition. Anywhere people are involved, I can help.
My clients are absolutely blown away at what I show them. I explain how a magician seems to do things that are absolutely impossible, yet there he is doing it. It’s clearly possible. The only reason it’s impossible for the audience is they don’t know how it works.
Whether it’s psychological blindspots, lack of knowledge, or limiting beliefs holding you back it doesn’t matter; once you see behind the curtain of what goes into making something work, you can achieve results other people think are impossible.
So people who work with me commonly say things like, “You turned my brain inside out!” and that makes me beyond happy. I love giving people the mental tools they need to make lasting change and then teach them how to use them.
Imagine you’re a woodworker. You can have the best chisels in the world, but if you don’t know what to do with them, it’s the same as not having them in the first place. The essential piece of the puzzle is the knowledge & skills to make do with what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
JS: In all of your performances, what is the strangest thing you have witnessed? And have you ever been surprised by the outcomes of any of your performances?
JP: Oh man. There have been some doozies. Do enough shows and weird stuff is bound to happen, and I love it. The hardest part of my job is looking like I meant for it to happen all along, so I can take credit for pure chance!
One time, though, I completely botched a super important performance. It was a 15-minute showcase in front of 1,200 people who potentially could book me. I failed on every level. It’s a 45 minute story in itself, but there’s a silver lining at the end. I still got an amazing opportunity out of it, and that helped me lose the fear of failure. No matter how badly you fail; you can always find some useful way to think about it.
JS: I’ve been a big fan of your podcast A Life Well Designed, available on iTunes, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio, where you’ve ruminated with some well accomplished guests discussing everything from relationships to success in business. Let’s turn the tables on your model of interviewing and ask, what are some of the more rock solid principles you have learned from guests that impacted your own practice?
JP: Thank you so much! It’s nice to know your work is appreciated, and isn’t going out into the world without being heard. Due to the consulting practice picking up I’ve pulled back on the posting schedule, and I’ll be slowly transitioning the show from A Life Well Designed over to a new podcast “Think Like A Mind Reader.” It will be the same kind of interviews, content, and outlook; the only thing different will be the framework. Instead of design thinking, it’ll be mind reading!
Over the couple years I’ve done A Life Well Designed, I’ve learned a lot. I started noticing common threads show up in conversations with very different people, so I think that’s something to look at.
The idea of creating your own opportunities is one of the most powerful ideas that creeps up again and again. I’ve definitely seen that in my own life. Almost every single success I’ve had is the result of asking for it.
Getting to work with Randi, the college magician, and so on. They all were the result of me understanding what they need, figuring out how I could help them get it, and then asking for the opportunity to make it happen. It’s rarely someone finding me out of the blue and then handing me money on a silver platter. You gotta go dig in a mountain to find your own silver ore, refine it, and hammer it into a platter-shaped object for yourself.
JS: In December 2016, you wrote a great piece on LinkedIn titled, “Work/Life Balance is a Scam.” While so many discussions around this topic center around trying to creatively balance the busy-ness that is life, you take a psychological approach drawing an analogy between the geodesically-designed golf ball and the illusion of balance. How does someone more easily embrace the tension between work and life and let go of these illusions?
JP: Yeah, that’s a tough one for people to accept. We do not live a static life. Balance is not static. Life is constantly changing. Constantly moving.
We like to think we can compartmentalize our lives, but our reality is much more interconnected than you can possibly imagine. We like to think we are separate from reality. That we are somehow not a part of this universe. The problem is, every single thing is connected to every single other thing. That means you. Your work is your life. Your life is your work. They’re not opposites; they’re merely contexts for you to practice living with integrity.
“Our lives are not a static either/or see-saw with life on one side and work on the other. Our lives are more like a dance of obligations, desires, hopes, and dreams, and the only way it continues is through the tension and connection between the two.”
Fulfillment isn’t the result of counterbalancing two things in opposition to each other, but in finding how one supports the other.
JS: This is a question I ask all of my subjects: For individuals who are captivated by your line of work and want to pursue a similar path, what would you tell them? How do they get started?
JP: Read. Read everything you can. Reading is absolutely amazing. It’s time delay mind reading. Think about it. The author has ideas. He traps those ideas into words that are then locked into a medium. You come along, open the book, and then release those ideas from the page into your mind. That’s amazing to me.
So reading everything you can get your hands on is the best way to make your world bigger. To discover new possibilities and opportunities. If you can’t find a real life mentor, a book is a close second best.
JS: Would you like to offer any closing thoughts to our readers?
JP: You are your own worst enemy. That can be tough to hear, and it’s easy to think your problems are “out there.” But it’s how you think about “out there” that’s the problem. Once you realize you’re the common denominator to all your issues, you can finally take ownership of your success. The fastest way to succeed, as Zig Ziglar figured out a long time ago, is to help others get what they want. Helps others succeed and you can’t fail. So if you’re curious how a mind reader can help you, I want to be your secret weapon for success; we’ll both be better off because of it!
JS: Jonathan, thanks again for participating in the SC Interview Series. It’s been super fascinating discussing your work. For more information on Jonathan’s expertise and services, contact him through [ ] Like A Mind Reader or on LinkedIn.