In the stage production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Tinker Bell is brought back to life when the audience claps enough to show her they believe in fairies. The iconic scene had so much impact it inspired social scientists to frame up the Tinkerbell effect—a concept describing things that can only exist because people believe in them.
This effect is the stock in trade of anyone who identifies strongly with the Magician story type. Every Magician asks others to believe in something that can’t be seen or experienced in the present moment, to accept that an intangible vision can indeed be realized—and to see that change is not only possible but necessary.
Alfa Demmellash is a great example of the Magician at work. She’s co-founder of Rising Tide, a New Jersey non-profit with a mission to transform lives and communities through entrepreneurship. The organization helps seemingly unlikely entrepreneurs in underserved places develop business strategies and get access to capital for their business dreams. She sees possibilities in places where other people usually don’t.
Demmellash describes her work in very Magician terms. For her, it’s about helping people with limited resources and educational opportunities communicate their very real visions; align their internal passions with external needs; be very intentional about what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with so that business ecosystems start to form.
Connecting the dots for business good
There’s an even bigger vision behind all this—no less than transforming the way business actually works. She wants to connect the broken dots between why economies and marketplaces exist and the human and planetary wellbeing she thinks they should be serving. For her, that involves rethinking competition, collaboration, and innovation in ways that integrate and channel those things towards good.
These big ideas spring from some surprising sources. Demmellash is the daughter of an Ethiopian refugee mother who started an entrepreneurial sewing business of her own once she arrived in the United States. Demmellash joined her here 10 years later, finding the life of a mother she’d always imagined “like a fairy/magical goddess with a castle of her own” to be rather different than the hard-working reality of a Boston waitress who sewed gowns for extra money. Her own path and vision started forming right then.
Understanding the Magician’s gift
This is my ninth post in a 12-part series about resilience and the unique gifts each story type brings to the table. A resilient Magician is someone who’s deeply motivated by the opportunity to effect change and transformation (usually shaped by a unique vision they hold for themselves, their workplaces, or the communities). Intuitive and open to synchronicities, Magicians see and feel things that others often don’t. They’re usually able to reframe ideas, concepts, and situations in ways that help others understand them better and eventually buy in as well.
Non-resilient Magicians can be overtaken by feelings of disempowerment, though—especially when their visions and dreams start to feel out of reach or if too many obstacles start to pile up in front of them. They can also become very impatient with others who don’t get quickly onboard and may begin over-promising things that will be tough to deliver in order to gain more support. Sometimes they lose confidence in themselves, allowing a voice of doubt to overtake their natural intuition.
The path back to resilience for a Magician involves activating another inherent trait—flexibility—and using that strength to see and pivot towards possibility instead of hanging on too tightly to a highly fixed vision. Magicians can displace disempowerment with more expansive thinking, and by changing the way they take in and frame what’s going on around them.
How do Alfa Demmellash and others like her do that? Truly resilient Magicians seems to focus on a few key approaches that elevate resilience, such as:
- They keep on reconnecting the dots in the world around them, looking for new patterns of meaning to understand and act on (a major focus for Demmellash)
- They pivot when things around them change, even in seemingly intractable ways (like Demmellash in her evolving approach to the automation that’s displacing people in a variety of business settings)
- They stay open to new possibilities and ways of doing things (in the case of Demmellash, by staying open to what the new workplace looks like and how communities of collaboration will shift and evolve)
- They up-level their vision to stay focused on their ultimate intention and let go of the pieces that aren’t working out (for Demmellash, that looks like charting a course towards higher consciousness, co-creation, and human evolution)
Ultimately, Magicians learn to balance their need for enrollment and admiration with a healthier approach to engagement. While the belief of others saved Tinker Bell, too much reliance on other people to prop them up can end up being dangerous terrain. Resilient Magicians learn to believe in themselves—and to get other people involved to share ideas and build on (or reshape) what they envision could take shape.
So, here’s what our resilience chart looks like now with the addition of Magician:
Resilience-building attribute or gift
|Ruler||Insecurity||Confidence||Progress||Responsibility, Role Modeling, Influence|
|Everyperson||Voicelessness||Empathy||Solidarity||Community, Justice, Fairness|
|Caregiver||Overwhelm||Compassion||Human potential||Service, Kindness, Development|
|Innocent||Disillusionment||Optimism||Hope||Ideals, Faith, Values in Action|
|Hero||Exhaustion||Mastery||Achievement||Action, Drive, Making a Difference|
|Creator||Lifelessness||Imagination||Re-invention||Invention, Ideation, Expression|
|Explorer||Restriction||Growth mindset||Meaning||Discovery, Individualism, Experience|
|Lover||Disconnection||Relationship building||Passion||Aliveness, Appreciation, Commitment|
|Sage||Doubt||Perspective||Curiosity||Insight, Clarity, Wisdom|
|Magician||Disempowerment||Flexibility||Possibility||Vision, Intuition, Intention|
Activating the Magician resilience quotient
So how can you be a more resilient Magician—and/or activate the gifts of Magician as you become a more resilient professional?
Magicians need space and time for dreaming, for visioning, for connecting the dots, and for keeping the big picture top of mind. If you haven’t actually articulated a vision for yourself, your team, or your business—get a process for that going right now. Once developed, stay in touch with it daily in tangible ways.
When it comes to specific circumstances or situations where you feel yourself veering towards disempowerment, ask yourself the following questions:
- What else is possible here?
- What haven’t I seen?
- How can I reframe what’s going on?
- What do I need to change or transform in myself?
- What’s my intention here, and are my actions and attitudes actually supporting that?
- Where do I need to be more flexible, and how would I benefit from that?
And remember—if you believe, clap your hands!
Cindy Atlee is a Creator type (with a Magician-flecked attitude) who loves to help professionals, teams, and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world. She’s the co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/).