It was a Friday evening. I had just performed my show for a multinational company at a five-star hotel in Bangalore and was leaving the venue, to head home. One of the event managers offered to see me to my car,  as he was also planning to catch up on a long-awaited smoke, after what had clearly been a long and tiring day.

As we emerged from the elevator and walked to the front door, Ajay (name changed) confided in me, that he knew that smoking was not good for him, that he had been meaning to give it up, and had tried various options to quit smoking.

And it was then that it happened.

You should understand that my being a corporate speaker on topics of Persuasion, Influence, and Human Behaviour has a certain effect on the people around me: they begin developing specific expectations. This gets further accentuated when they witness my mind-reading acts: they want to tell me their thoughts, troubles, and problems, hoping for a magical or hypnotic solution to their ails.

The cab had arrived, and I was about to get into the car. This was when Ajay asked me, “Can you help me Nakul? Can you help me quit smoking?”

I have been in this exact situation many times, and each experience has taught me new things and new perspectives. I was trained in methods of Hypnosis and Silva Mind Control about 15 years back, and since then have honed my skills not only via various techniques of hypnosis, but also insights into the human psyche via my work on and off the stage.

“Well, if you say you want to quit smoking, and you already know that this is bad for you, you have covered most of the journey already Ajay,” said I. “It is very easy for you to quit smoking. Don’t smoke your next cigarette. Walk back, take the elevator down, and go back into the hall.”

That did not find logic with Ajay. “No, Nakul. I have come here to smoke. My mind is made. So I have to smoke now,” said he.

Not one to give up easily, when help has been sought, I asked, “How many cigarettes do you have in that box?” “One,” said Ajay, showing it. Off I took it from his hands, pushed it into my left fist, and with a finesse that would have done a prestidigitator proud, opened the hand to show that it had vanished! *POOF!*

The magic trick did not impress Ajay, who asked to see my other hand. Not letting my disappointment show (and mentally making a note to get back to practicing some of my old sleight of hand) I brought the cigarette out of my suit pocket, and tore it into little pieces with no intention of performing a magical restoration.

Putting the small, now-unsmokable pieces of what was an expensive cigarette back into its box, I handed it back to him saying, “Now you can head back, for you have no cigarette to smoke.” Our man clearly was of very strong mind and will, one of those that would not back down despite the odds. “I will go and buy a new one, for I have to smoke,” said he.

“Sure! Your can walk out the compound, deal with the traffic, cross the road, buy your cigarette, and come all the way back, or turn around now and head back to the hall and enjoy your dinner,” said I, using all the persuasion powers I had honed over the years. As my cab began its long journey back home, I saw Ajay start his long walk across the road to get a new smoke.

Clearly, change was ready, but Ajay was not. He had a clearly stated wish: to give up smoking, but this wish was not yet a want, definitely not a need.

My mind started to fill up with all those philosophical lessons on the “Today” versus the “Tomorrow”. The significance of the “Now,” “This Moment” was never more evident – for anything else is just a different word to say “Never”.