The Magic, Misdirection, and Mindset of David Blaine (#245)

“I never look at anything really as a success. I always look at it as a work in progress.”

– David Blaine

David Blaine (@davidblaine) is a magician, illusionist, and endurance artist. He is best known for his high-profile feats of endurance and has set and broken several world records.

A while back, he taught a group of TEDMED attendees (and me) how to hold our breath for longer than Harry Houdini’s lifelong record of three minutes and thirty seconds — which still pales in comparison to David’s own record of just over seventeen minutes.

This episode comes from the premiere of my new television show Fearless. If you want to watch the entire first episode, you can see it for free at (To watch all episodes, please visit DIRECTV NOW). Don’t worry if you’ve seen the episode or plan on seeing it because we recorded three hours of material and only one hour was used for the show. This episode is almost all bonus content that you won’t see anywhere else. Please enjoy!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.


#245: The Magic, Misdirection, and Mindset of David Blaine

Want to hear another podcast with a talented performer? — Listen to this episode with Jamie Foxx where we discuss Jamie’s workout routine, what he learned during In Living Color, and he shares some of his best impressions (stream below or right-click here to download):

#124: Jamie Foxx on Workout Routines, Success Habits, and Untold Hollywood Stories

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with David Blaine:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

Show Notes

  • Numbers that make you go “wow.” [07:07]
  • Why I had to remove David’s section from the second edition of The 4-Hour Body. [08:03]
  • David explains the story behind his Primo Levi tattoo. [08:47]
  • What Wim Hof taught David about cold that he couldn’t learn by himself. [13:24]
  • On fasting inspired by a Franz Kafka story. [17:42]
  • David’s heart condition may give him an (albeit risky) edge in endurance performance. [19:23]
  • Growing up, how did David interact with his teachers and other kids? [20:18]
  • David talks about running barefoot in the snow and exposing himself to the elements as a kid. [21:42]
  • We talk obsession, chess, and misdirection. [23:43]
  • The balancing points of salesmanship and magic — how does David pick subjects for his tricks? [25:34]
  • When David was a waiter, why would he make patrons’ tips magically reappear in their wallets? [26:34]
  • David has an obsession with Don Quixote and its author Miguel de Cervantes. [27:29]
  • Being a loner as a kid gave David time to practice magic. [30:07]
  • David talks about his mother’s fight against cancer. [30:47]
  • Why David hopes his daughter doesn’t pursue a career in magic. [33:06]
  • David’s summer in Saint Tropez that changed his career, and what he learned from Jeffrey Steiner and Jack Nicholson. [35:16]
  • How David struck up an acquaintance with Bobby Fischer. [44:06]
  • David’s needle-through-the-arm trick was inspired by human pincushion Mirin Dajo. [46:54]
  • What advice would David give to his twenty-five-year-old self? [48:31]
  • We discuss our own experiences with sleep deprivation. [49:27]
  • A favorite short story by David Sedaris. [51:10]
  • What does it take to divert someone’s attention while performing magic tricks? [51:44]
  • David’s TED Talk if he had to speak about something for which he’s not known. [56:30]
  • Are there any quotes David lives by or thinks of often? [1:00:10]
  • What ninth-grade class would David teach? [1:00:19]
  • How does David take failure? [1:01:41]
  • What’s next for David Blaine? [1:03:42]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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21 Replies to “The Magic, Misdirection, and Mindset of David Blaine (#245)”

  1. Didn’t think I would love this one… damnit… wrong again

    Going to read Primo Levi ASAP! Even his quotes were dope!

    Two rabbit hole/spiderweb consciousness recommendations I found similarly fascinating.

    1. Samsa & Seuss (youtube it) – Kafka’s character Gregor Samsa meets Dr. Seuss in a radio play written by David Rakoff (who was friends with David Sedaris, I often confuse the two… you can see how I got here right?)

    DISCLAIMER: this reco comes from someone completely uneducated about Kafka and note from above is wrong often.

    13 minutes 28 seconds

    2. With the talk of Victor Frankl and fasting. Mike Rowe’s podcast “Episode 53: A Simple Solution”. Not very uplifting but fascinating story about Fritz Haber and the holocaust.

    9 minutes 45 seconds

  2. Hi Tim,

    The fascinating thing about David Blaine is that he spends so much time OUT of the world of illusion and so much time IN reality. All the master magicians and also, enlightened beings have this common trait.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


  3. Off-topic, but do you recommend any books, articles, or any other type of material to learn about/becoming a better generalist? I loved your podcast on it but want to learn more.


  4. Hi Tim,

    Since you are already in Uzbekistan, why don’t you visit the largest terra incognita in Europe-Ukraine? Would be happy to organize your stay here.

    Best regards,


  5. Hi Tim,

    “Cricket protein” was the phrase that stood out in your post to me, and, whilst my reaction was indeed “eurgh!”, it’s because of the cruelty to crickets, not the idea of their taste offending my tastebuds. You mention ethics quite a lot and I urge you to really, really ponder the cruelty in eating the flesh/fluids of other animals. All the best to you.

  6. Thank you Tim, I’m not on social media. And I don’t believe in reviews, but you have changed my view on life. I just had to say thank you, even if you never see it, I had to say thank you.

  7. Tim- as ever – great week of info, podcasts and 5BF. Quick question- how do I get in touch? I know there is a whole heap so spam coming your way, but I think it would be a great idea for you to chat to my mate Terry Virtz… spent 200 days at the international space station and also just launched an amazing IMAX movie of the images of earth he took from up there. I would love to give you a call to set something up, on a plane right now in a South Africa, but available to give you a call to set it up.

    Chat soon-


  8. TimTim,

    This episode was so much fun to listen to. All the bouncing around was incredible for my add or whatever they call it these days. It is hard to imagine the podcast getting any better but each week you seem to out do yourself. Truly an amazing spectacle to witness.

    Thank you so much for what you have done,


  9. Dear Tim, here is Carla from Brazil. We are living a very specific and dry moment in cultural field here. Me and Raquel, my bussiness partner are organizing an on line congress ( to discuss how to deal and behave with this new panorama and to exchange creative ideas. That would be breath taking if you could send us few words of enpowerment and fresh air. Do you think it is possible? For us that would be awesome!

    Best, Carla

  10. Somewhat unrelated, but what are your thoughts/experience related to the pomodoro method? What are good activities during the breaks?

  11. Hey Tim, I’m a senior at a university studying biochemistry and I recently experimented with LSD by microdosing. I since then have been able to stick to a healthy diet and a workout routine, gotten over my long battle with depression, feel happier, and am doing very well at my internship. I feel like this drug, if used correctly can change someone’s world. I did some research and stumbled upon your podcast with James Fadiman.

    I feel as if my story can be useful to helping with what is emerging in this field. I want to share what has turned my life into everything I’ve ever wanted it to be because it really was not too difficult. If you were me what would you do next?

  12. Great post on fear. For years, my qualifying question was if I do this, will I lose an arm or a leg? If the answer was no, I jumped in. Later, I became paralyzed in my left leg. It disappeared in my cognitive mapping. But… wasn’t the end of the world. Yes I can walk again now and losing that arm or leg isn’t so fearful anymore. Funny how stuff happens just when we need it.

    Now the qualifying statement is Yodarian. There is no try!

  13. While we sometimes acknowledge that “good enough is good enough,” the truth is that everything is a work in progress. A great podcast with David Blaine.

  14. Hi Tim – you’ve referenced a book about a Holocaust survivor in a couple of your recent podcasts, including this one. (I think Esther was another one). Is the book Mastermind by Fritz Haber?

  15. When will ‘4 hour workweek’ be translated/published in Hindi language?

    I have a lot many family members who deserve this great book, but unfortunately they can’t read English.