Raised in humble beginnings in Reading, Pennsylvania, acclaimed mentalist Wayne Hoffman discovered a passion for his craft after receiving a magic spell at age 8. As a mind reader and magician, his big break came on the TV show Phenomenon more than a decade ago, and he later performed on numerous national programs, from The Ellen Degeneres Show to the popular daytime talk show Pickler & Ben. Hoffman, now based in Naples, makes appearances at corporate and private events leaving everyone he interacts with in wide-eyed awe. There is always a cacophony of oohs and aahs after he has read the minds of guests at high-profile events like Naples Botanical Garden’s April FooIin’ in the Garden and Naples Winter Wine Festival vintner dinners.
NI: What sparked your interest in magic?
Hoffman: As a kid, I was always into the mysterious, psychic powers, aliens, anything strange. I would ride my bike to Mingus Magic Shop and hang out with magicians, mind readers, and sword swallowers. My first paid performance was when I was 15, and I’ve never done anything else. I love entertaining people and watching them leave reality and have a good time, whether it’s for an hour during my show or 60 seconds doing something quick one-on-one.
How do you do it?
It’s having a [mental] toolbox that I’ve collected over the years. I started to profile people in categories. If I can figure out what category you fit into, I can figure out how you think, then figure out what you’re thinking and implant thoughts into your head. I think I’m fairly intuitive and can read people well; combine that with study and practice and you get where I am.
Can you turn it off when you’re not performing—or are you constantly sizing things up?
I work hard to figure out what people are thinking. There’s a lot involved, but the hardest part is making it look like I’m doing absolutely nothing. And it does seep into my daily life in small quantities. If someone is lying to me, the majority of the time I can instantaneously tell. It’s a gift and a curse.
If you weren’t a mentalist, what would you do?
Something in the world of art. I’m an art collector and I paint. I do black-and-white pencil sketches, typically portraits, and I do mixed media and acrylics, typically abstracts.
You also wrote a self-help book. What inspired you to do that?
A lot of people go through life not living the life they want but having a lot of expectations, goals, and dreams. The problem is we’re not taught how to accomplish goals, we’re taught how to do tasks. I was raised in what was once ranked the poorest city in the United States per capita, yet I had this crazy dream of being a mind reader and magician. The stats on me being successful were slim to none, but I’ve done it. In my book, Mind Candy: The Power and Potential of the Human Mind (2012), I focus on mind hacks to help change the lens through which you view the world. It’s a set of tools to turn visions into reality. I get emails from people all over the world telling me it has changed their lives, which is super awesome.
What is your most memorable moment on stage?
It was my first major TV performance on a show called Phenomenon. It was live, no retakes, the entire world was going to see what you do in the moment you do it. Former Miss USA Shandi Finnessey [was on stage] and I subliminally implanted the image of a yin-and-yang symbol. A month prior, I had gotten a tattoo of a yin-and-yang symbol on my arm. I gave her a marker and a board and said draw whatever you want. It was a make-or-break moment. But she drew it and I nailed it. When she turned that board around, inside I wanted to scream: “YES!” But, of course, I had to play it cool. That was the first real emotional huge moment for me because I succeeded in doing what I set out to do and it was in front of millions of people.
Can you share a time when something didn’t work?
I was at Western Michigan University on a college campus tour doing a demo of psychokinesis, moving an object with your mind. I put the object on the table and I wanted it to fall off of the table. I was fairly confident it was going to work, but when I went to do it, it wouldn’t move. I tried it again and that thing would not move. To this day, I don’t know what happened or why it didn’t work and finally I had to concede. I think in an odd way though it helped the audience believe in what I do. Having a moment where things didn’t go the way they were supposed to made them think to themselves maybe everything he’s doing is actually real because if this were a trick it would work every single time.
Can you share an example of a mind hack?
There’s the concept of “yes lives in a world of no,” [which means] you cannot have yes without no. Let’s say I handed you a quarter and asked you to flip it as many times as you can in 60 seconds. Every time it lands on heads, I’ll give you $100 cash. If it lands on tails, you don’t lose anything but you don’t get the $100. You would flip the quarter so fast, and keep flipping and flipping, to get as many heads as you can in 60 seconds. Right? You would not say: “I am not going to flip the coin because if I get a tails I won’t get a $100.” You wouldn’t worry about the times you were not getting the $100. So why does that logic change when we go out in the world and attempt to get things we want? We stop ourselves because of false stories we tell ourselves related to the word no. We relate no as a negative experience when it’s really just a piece of information. Learn to love the word no. I love hearing no because that means I am one step closer to a yes. Statistically the more noes I am hearing, mathematically and logically, the more yeses I am also hearing because I’m asking. So, ask for what you want without regard as to what the answer will be and don’t attach a negative story to it.