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Apollo Robbins (@ApolloRobbins) is often referred to as “The Gentleman Thief.” He ﬁrst made national news when he pick-pocketed the Secret Service while entertaining a former U.S. President. Forbes has called Robbins “an artful manipulator of awareness,” and Wired has written that “he could steal the wallet of a man who knew he was going to have his pocket picked.”
Robbins’ entertainment credentials include the Warner Bros. film Focus, with Will Smith and Margot Robbie, along with appearances in Brooklyn 99, and the TNT series Leverage. He was a producer and co-host for National Geographic’s Brain Games, which was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series. Robbins applies his expertise in magic and misdirection beyond entertainment, pulling back the curtain to show how the principles behind these illusions can enhance strategic thinking and decision-making.
His contributions to attention and perception research have been published in Scientiﬁc American Mind and Nature Reviews Neuroscience. He has delivered lectures at Harvard Kennedy School, MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Society of Neuroscience. He has been proﬁled by The New Yorker and featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and The Wall Street Journal. Robbins’ TED Talk, “The Art of Misdirection,” is ranked in the 20 most-watched TED Talks of all time and has been hailed by the TED editors as a revelation in the ﬂaws of human perception.
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[07:51] Was Apollo a naturally dextrous wunderkind?
[10:26] The influence of Apollo’s blind minister father.
[14:10] Apollo’s slide toward agnosticism.
[17:24] Ben Stone enters the picture.
[21:08] Taking in orphaned animals as a youngster.
[23:31] An early lesson on the value of money.
[25:20] Bear in a box.
[28:19] Seeing magic as a ticket to the larger world.
[30:55] Shoplifting for fun, profit, and education.
[32:19] Equivoque magic and Jazz-based mentalism.
[38:09] A magic book club and a year-round Santa.
[44:10] Apollo’s first fateful trip to Vegas.
[52:14] A false accusation leads to a real job and a vampire code.
[55:27] Jimmy Carter and the Secret Service.
[1:03:44] The pros and cons of becoming legendary.
[1:05:39] Academic accolades.
[1:08:01] A sauce less secret isn’t necessarily less rich.
[1:09:28] Recovering when the reps get rough.
[1:11:12] Sheet music versus jazz.
[1:14:10] The introduction to — and enduring influence of — Apollo’s wife, Ava Do.
[1:22:27] Perception science perceived but not yet entered into the lexicon.
[1:26:16] The significance of Apollo’s silver ring.
[1:27:01] Meeting (and stealing from) Penn Jillette.
[1:29:10] Demonstrating the confidence of a con man.
[1:33:03] Hallmarks that differentiate Apollo’s style.
[1:40:14] Who has the advantage with arguments in the Robbins household?
[1:41:18] 40 Elephants in the modern world.
[1:42:52] Teaching kids about the cons — and pros — of deception.
[1:45:50] Paltering and puffery.
[1:49:14] Perceptual shaping and change raising.
[1:51:14] Slick re-thievery.
[1:54:01] Influential reading.
[1:56:38] Whiz Mob.
[1:59:22] How is a team of pickpockets organized?
[2:04:54] The pandemic of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
[2:08:37] Best practices to avoid becoming a target for theft.
[2:11:14] The Illusion of Knowledge Project.
[2:15:28] The Unsinkable Titanic Thompson and other noteworthy charlatans.
[2:19:06] Rod the Hop, Kevin Mitnick, and Whizmob Inc.
[2:23:11] How one word can make a difference to an impressionable child.
[2:26:38] Parting thoughts.
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Past guests on The Tim Ferriss Show include Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Jackman, Dr. Jane Goodall, LeBron James, Kevin Hart, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jamie Foxx, Matthew McConaughey, Esther Perel, Elizabeth Gilbert, Terry Crews, Sia, Yuval Noah Harari, Malcolm Gladwell, Madeleine Albright, Cheryl Strayed, Jim Collins, Mary Karr, Maria Popova, Sam Harris, Michael Phelps, Bob Iger, Edward Norton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Neil Strauss, Ken Burns, Maria Sharapova, Marc Andreessen, Neil Gaiman, Neil de Grasse Tyson, Jocko Willink, Daniel Ek, Kelly Slater, Dr. Peter Attia, Seth Godin, Howard Marks, Dr. Brené Brown, Eric Schmidt, Michael Lewis, Joe Gebbia, Michael Pollan, Dr. Jordan Peterson, Vince Vaughn, Brian Koppelman, Ramit Sethi, Dax Shepard, Tony Robbins, Jim Dethmer, Dan Harris, Ray Dalio, Naval Ravikant, Vitalik Buterin, Elizabeth Lesser, Amanda Palmer, Katie Haun, Sir Richard Branson, Chuck Palahniuk, Arianna Huffington, Reid Hoffman, Bill Burr, Whitney Cummings, Rick Rubin, Dr. Vivek Murthy, Darren Aronofsky, Margaret Atwood, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, Dr. Gabor Maté, Anne Lamott, Sarah Silverman, Dr. Andrew Huberman, and many more.