The Most Important Social Experiment I’ve Ever Seen: “In & of Itself”

Tim Denning

This bizarre social experiment will teach you many life lessons you can put into action.
Image Credit: Derek DelGaudio

It takes a lot to get Bill Gates out of bed.

When I heard about a documentary based around a magic show, and saw Bill Gates’ beautifully wrinkled face people either love or hate, I knew a special moment awaited me.

The documentary is called “In & Of Itself.” It’s without a doubt the most important social experiment I’ve ever seen. It will challenge many of your beliefs and surprise you.

The film is based around a stage show a magician named Derek DelGaudio put on at a theatre for two years. If you call him a magician, though, he will hunt you down and kill you with a deck of cards.

Vulnerability You Show Is Reciprocated

There are multiple moments Derek shares from his own life. Growing up with a gay firefighter for a mother made him a target for bullies. He turned people’s hate for his mother’s way of life into magic. Magic became a way to channel the hatred into a helpful hobby. The hope he has is to transform that hatred into a changed mind through simple magic tricks.

Each time Derek shares an intimate moment like this with the audience, they return the favor. He gets different audience members to read out letters. The audience members have no idea that the letter they’re about to read is from a person close to them.

The magic Derek uses to obtain the letters isn’t revealed. The reaction from each audience member will send chills down your spine. Because Derek asks the audience to be vulnerable after he has displayed it, the audience finds the courage to do the same. This is the magic — not the trick of getting the right letter from the right family member into their hands.

I’ve always said that I’ll break into your house to leave you the thing you’ve always wanted.
I am putting them in a position where they’re forced to be a little vulnerable in front of strangers, but at the same time, the gifts that they’re being given — the gift of being seen and heard and acknowledged? I’ll become the villain if that’s the thing I’m dishing out. (Source)

Trust a Professional Liar

Derek has had an unusual career path. When he mastered card tricks earlier in life to escape the school bullies, he later used them at private poker games in Beverley Hills. The job was to look like a dealer and use card tricks to cheat the players out of their money. He’d get a cut of the proceeds.

Cheating people for a living showed him the dark side of magic. Watching one player leave with nothing more than a $5 bill which he generously left Derek as a tip, unlocked a new level of honesty. That is the day he gave up cheating people out of their money using magic.

When you act dishonest you’ll learn the damage it does. The damage is more severe to the liar than the person being cheated. You have to lie to see the illusion.

Magic Is a Distraction for the True Illusion

Throughout Derek’s show you see a series of magic tricks. These are designed to distract the audience. What is really happening is an unofficial social experiment. At the start of the show audience members need to choose an identity. Later in the show they have to reveal the identity.

The point of the exercise is to show people how ridiculous labels are — and to show how easy it is to pick a label and act within its boundaries. I reference labels all the time when teaching courses. I tell people you can do anything you want if you can simply move past the label.

“Writer” is a label. If you write emails or text messages you’re already a writer, so give yourself permission. “Entrepreneurship” is another annoying label I hate. If you charge money in return for your skills then you’re already doing entrepreneurship. A 9–5 employee has one customer. A business owner has more than one customer. The subtle difference is what is missed.

You’re not broken. You're not lazy. You’re trapped in a label that doesn’t fit who you want to be. If you can throw away all the labels then you can throw away all the limitations those labels create for you.

The Magnificent Golden Brick Experiment

One magic trick in the documentary features a golden brick that was thrown at Derek’s house as a child because his mother was gay.

Derek makes the brick disappear. Then he finds a way to get audience members to map out a new location for the brick randomly. Then some members of the audience decide, strangely, after the show, to see if the brick is at the location. It is, and many of the attendees post the golden brick on social media as proof.

The magic trick isn’t the point.

If you think deeply about it, you realize the golden brick is placed in busy streets of New York right by traffic light poles. You’d think a big, loud, obvious, golden brick left in the street would be seen by strangers and stolen, moved, or taken away by a police officer so it doesn’t get thrown at a car.

The miracle is the golden brick is ignored by strangers who pass by it. The only people to notice the golden brick are the audience members who know the story of the devastation that golden brick created for Derek as a child. Those people are emotionally connected to Derek and his story, so they see the brick when everybody else can’t.

So much pain can’t be seen. This is why stories are so powerful. Stories help us see what must not be ignored. Many of us feel invisible because of mental illness, or oppression, or failures, or broken upbringings. What if you could help others like you be seen again by sharing your story? Well, that would be a real magic trick worth sharing, wouldn’t it?

I Have a Tough Confession to Make

The film helped me realize something profound. My writing is a form of social experiment just like “In & Of Itself.”

Many readers consume my work and think I’m trying to get them to agree with my opinion. I am not. Whether you agree or disagree is beside the point. My writing is designed to make you think the same way a social experiment does. Because by making you think, it helps me think and heal from past wounds, the same way Derek uses live magic to heal from his former life of deception and ridicule for being raised by a gay firefighter.

“I am not just defined by what you see. I am also defined by all the things you will never see. We all are.”

Magic isn’t an illusion. Magic can be a social experiment that collectively heals. That’s what “In & Of Itself” can teach you.

What if you made part of your life a social experiment?

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Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship


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