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231: Max Major

Mentalist Max Major joins BTG Network from the Florida Senior Living Association Conference where he performed a jaw-dropping keynote show. He is an America’s Got Talent finalist and world-renowned speaker and performer.

Book Reference: What Every Body is Saying, Joe Navarro 

Book Reference: Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini 

Recorded at Florida Senior Living Association (FSLA) Conference.

Follow Max on social media: @itsmaxmajor

Welcome to Bridge The Gap podcast is senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We are here in sunny, Orlando, Florida at the FSLA conference. It’s an exciting time and we have an incredible guest on the keynote speaker for this morning. We want to welcome Max Major to the program.

Max Major

Hello. Hello everybody out there. 


Lucas 00:054

Well, so Max, a fascinating background for you, your world renowned mentalist. You were also a competitor on America’s Got Talent and the world’s fastest hypnotist, which is frankly terrifying to me. 

Lucas 01:10

And then, and that’s it. Wgot to hear some of your story on stage, but for our audience that wasn’t here, fill them in on how you even become into these categories.

Max Major 01:22

Yeah. Okay. So we should start with what a mentalist is and is not and then maybe we go from there. So I’m really just fascinated with the mind and with human nature. And I think the mind is magic. We are the only creature on the planet that can think of thought in one moment and be happy and be on top of the world. And then a moment later, we can think an entirely different thought and we can be sad and depressed. So the thoughts that we hold in our head, they really shape our reality. And I think that is magic in a way, right? So we could hold the thought in our mind that we are unlucky and bad things always happen to us. And guess what? We’re going to be unlucky and bad things are always going to happen to us. Or we can hold the thought that, “wow, I’m so lucky I have a great life,” and that’s going shape the way we view the world as well.

Max Major 02:01

So I think that first and foremost, the mind is very powerful. And part of what I like to demonstrate on stage is some of the things the mind can do. And so the topics that I’m interested in are influence and body language and hypnosis. And so it looks a lot like mind reading in that way. This started for me when I was a kid when I was 18 years old, my dad was actually hypnotized, so he could quit smoking. And I was fascinated by this. He was always trying to quit. Nothing ever worked, you know, cold Turkey, the patch, the gum, whatever it is. And one day after work, he didn’t tell us, he just went to see a therapist and he came home and he never smoked again. And still doesn’t smoke to this day 20 years later.

Max Major 02:43

And I thought, you know, that is a real life superpower. I mean, if you can just like, you know, get inside someone’s mind and change their whole life, then that’s going to be something I should look into. Just like I learned with hypnosis with my dad, the words that we use, they have the ability to influence others, whether or not we’re conscious of the language we’re choosing, but also the words we use when we talk to ourselves influence us as well. And the thing about the mind is it doesn’t really discriminate between like where ideas come from, whether it’s your own thought or an idea that someone else gave to you, whether it’s something you heard when you were a kid that’s stuck with you, that’s echoed in your mind for 20 years or something that a coworker said. So being aware of the thoughts that we’re having, but also where they come from, I think is a really important lesson for everybody. Because as we learned with my father, and as we learned with people on stage today, our words can literally shape the choices that other people make.

Josh 03:33

Well, Max. So you had this moment, you shared a little bit about your dad’s experience that obviously had huge influence on you. Can you tell us a little bit about the journey from that point? I mean, you’ve had tons of success. You’ve been on TV. My kids by the way, are going to geek out because they watch America’s Got Talent all the time, but tell us about the journey.

Max 03:52

Yeah, so that, that was a big turning point for me when I was 18. After high school I started performing everywhere, conferences, conventions, but it wasn’t glamorous, right. It was used car lots and birthday parties and weddings, anything you can think of, I performed at. And that was really where I started to experiment and learn about people. And I would try my theories out on stage and see, could I get someone to make the choices I want them to make? And so that continued on I’m 38 years old. So 20 years later I did my first show when I was 14. And it’s just been a progression. It’s constantly learning and integrating the things that I find interesting into my show. And the difference between a mentalist and a magician is like with a magic trick, you can practice that at home, in front of a mirror and you can know it’s going to work.

Max 04:37

You know the mechanics okay, this will work. But with what I do, you really can’t test it at home. You need a person to try it on a stranger, fight? So a lot of the things that I do, I have to figure out on stage. And so I’ll have a theory about human nature or maybe it’s something I learned from a social experiment or psychology, and then I’ll literally have to go on stage and, and take a shot, you know? And in a lot of ways it kind of makes it like jazz, right. I’m sort of like shifting gears throughout the show. So yeah, that was the path was just performing at larger events and bigger crowds. And I performed, I think almost 3000 shows now all over the world. Did events for Richard Branson for Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins.

Max Major 05:17

Some Supreme court justices, lots of corporate events. Really I’ve had a, such a fun ride. In 2020. I was actually invited to perform on America’s got talent. So that was another really exciting opportunity for me. Prior to that, I kind of mentioned this on stage. I had been very sick for about three years with Lyme disease and it had gotten so bad that I was at a point where I was sure that I was never going to perform again. I had sort of accepted the fact that like, this is my life now. Some days I didn’t have the energy to get up or get on the stairs. And I was like, “well, this is it. It was a fun ride.” But eventually I found my way out of that hole and I found a lot of perspective along the way. And literally when I stepped on stage for America’s Got Talent, that was the first time I had performed for anyone in over three years. So pretty big stage. Yeah. It was a big moment for me to kind of come back and return and to prove to myself that I still could do this. And ever since I I’ve just been more inspired and more driven than ever. 

Josh 06:13

So this is not, you go to, you make a decision, you’re gonna go to a school and get educated on how to do this. Yeah. So everything, it seems like was just self-taught you just made your mind you were going to do this?

Max Major 06:22

In a way. I did go to college. I studied business at University of Maryland and that for me was not a backup plan. It was like part of the plan. I felt like if I knew how to run a business, then I could do this for the rest of my life. Show business, right? So that that was a big piece of the puzzle and kind of helped me frame how I would turn this into a career and not just something that was fun in a hobby. And then the rest of the skills I learned from a variety of places. Some of it’s experimentation, some of it’s research I do on the internet, but there’s conferences. Mentalism is maybe a dozen different disciplines that you study.

Max Major 06:57

One of them can be hypnosis. So there’s workshops you can go to and courses, take a course online and learn how to be a hypnotist, can learn from books. And it’s a bit of a community approach to learning. It’s like a collected body of knowledge. So everything that you create kind of adds back into that pool and you draw from it. I have friends that I collaborate with, creative partners, things like that. It’s a combination of formal education training at like a hypnosis workshop, for example, to just experimenting. I live in Las Vegas, so you can go out on the street any day of the week, any time of day. And there are [focus groups] victims,  everywhere you look, you know, it’s like a human Petri dish in Las Vegas. And so I can try things out on the street and on strangers. And I put a lot of that content on my Instagram and it’s really fun to just try some of those things for the first time out on the street. And then I go, “okay, if it works on a stranger, then it’ll work on stage for 3000 people or whatever it is”


Lucas 07:52 

Well, what you’re doing is really complicated. And you mentioned like show business. I mean, yeah. You never know, like who’s gonna stab you in the back. Like it’s, it’s very complicated. I imagine it’s a bit of a roller coaster. It’s kind of a grind. The two years that we’ve all come out of the senior living industry, number one is very complicated. We’re dealing with not just housing, we’re dealing with dining, we’re dealing with care, we’re dealing with end of life. It’s very complicated. And it’s very emotional. And I think if there’s probably a lot of kind of segues and bridges on how do you develop influence in a very complicated arena? How do you know who to connect with and developing that empathy and trust?

Max Major 08:37

Sure. So I think the skills that I have in the things that I study would be helpful for anyone in any area of life, whether you work at a senior facility or you’re having a conversation with someone at home. In a way you’re always selling, you’re selling an idea, right? Even if you’re not selling a physical product or selling an idea to your team, to your wife, to your partner, whatever it is. That’s where the influence side of it works and influence kind of gets a bad rap. A lot of people think of influence as like the used car salesman who’s trying to trick you into buying minivan That won’t start after you leave the lot. But it’s about being a more effective communicator. So if I could teach you to be a more effective communicator, would that help you in your life?


Josh needs a lot of help with that, actually. 


Yeah. I knew that was coming. I totally knew that was coming.

Max Major

That’s why I looked at you. 


Yeah. Max, I knew I already feel it, you’re about to unpack this. 



The moment he said that I was like…

Max Major

This is an intervention, actually, this is not a podcast. 


Max and I have talked for many weeks before this.



Stop it, Max, geez.

Max Major

If I could teach you to be more influential, you could have a bigger impact on the people in your lives, the people that you work with. And likewise, the other side of that coin is body language, reading people. Right? And the way I want you to think about body language is think of it as like another form of listening. So if I could teach you to be a better listener, would that help you in your life?


Say again? 

Max Major

Yeah, exactly. 



Max Major

Yeah. Would it help you at work? 


Of course, yes. 

Max Major

Would it help you at home?



Max Major

Would it help you with your family? 


Amazing. Of course. 

Max Major 10:07

Yes. So these are two tools that you can take out into the world. It’s about being a more effective communicator, getting your ideas across and about being a better listener, because body language is just more information. That’s all it is. And again, it’s not an nefarious thing about decoding lies and trying to know what’s really going on in someone’s mind. It’s it’s just about getting the unsaid said. Because a lot of times in a team, okay, we work in a team environment. It’s not the things that people say that are really important. It’s the things they’re not saying. And how do we get the unsaid said? So we could do a little mini body language workshop if you want.


Yeah. Okay. Let’s do it.

Max Major 10:44

So let’s say you’re walking into a meeting with some of the other folks in administratio in the facility that you work at, right. Team meeting, all hands, that kind of thing. The first thing you want to do is you wanna take a snapshot of everyone. What is their baseline? So freeze, don’t move. If I looked at the two of you, I would just notice what you’re doing now without judgment. I’m not trying to see through it. I’m just observing, okay. One arm on the table, one arm here on the lap. Yep. And then both hands on the lap here. And I would just notice your baseline. So I take a snapshot in my mind. Okay. Because no one piece of body language means anything in isolation. There’s nothing that means they’re always lying or this or that. The only thing that matters is changes in body language.

Max Major 11:25

Right? So now that we have a snapshot in her head, as we continue the meeting and continue the conversation, we’re going to look for shifts in body language. Sure. You don’t need a technical chart to tell you what these things mean. All you’re going to do is you’re going notice if someone shifts from an open posture to a closed posture. Well, what is that? Is this an open or a closed posture?

Josh, Lucas

Closed, closed. 

Max Major

Closed, right? Am I more open or closed? 

Josh, Lucas.


Max Major

If I’m leaning into you, am I more open or closed? 

Josh, Lucas

Engaged. Open. Yeah. 

Max Major 11:52

If I’m leaning back closed. Right? So, you know these things naturally we do this as a human being. Okay. So when you notice a change in someone’s posture, the most important one is from an open posture to closed posture. Now that doesn’t mean you offended them or you upset them. All it means is that a thought has crossed their mind that has created a shift in them. And so instead of us looking at them and trying to code, what does this mean, and be mind readers, right? We’re not going to do that. Instead, all we’re going do when we notice someone shift from an open posture to a closed posture is we’re going stop talking.

Max Major 12:24

That’s the hardest part. And we’re just going ask, we’re going shift the conversation, then we’re going to go, “what’s on your mind right now?” Or, “what do you think of everything I said so far?” Because sometimes we get so caught up in delivering the points that we want t make. We have an agenda, we have a PowerPoint that we don’t pause to notice what’s happening with the group we’re having bcauseit’s a conversation, right? [Sure.] It’s a meeting. And the problem is if we note that in our head and we keep moving because we have an agenda, then that thought is going to leave their head and you’re not gonna be able to get it out of them, right. And they’re going to have trouble re recreating what that moment was in their mind. So if, instead, let’s say we’re talking about, I don’t know, new hours or something, right.

Max Major 13:04

And we notice that at that moment, one of the people in the group, they cross their arms, they lean back. Maybe they disengage a little bit. Instead of guessing what it is that they’re thinking, we’re just gonna stop talking and we’re gooing to say, “hey, what do you think of everything I said so far?” And right at that moment, you’ve opened a doorway to the thought that is currently in their mind and you’ve given them permission to share it. [Sure.] And so now, instead of guessing, they’re going to say say, “well, you know what, to be honest, I don’t know if I can take on this new project because I have so much responsibility with this other thing you asked of me that you said it’s due by Friday and I don’t know how I’m supposed to pull all of this off.

Max Major 13:41

Sure. And so would you like me to deprioritize this current project and work on this new thing, or is there someone else that could work on this? [Right.] Sure. But if we don’t take that moment to see, then we lose that thought because again, it’s about getting the unsaid said, so yeah. That’s probably the best tip I can give you is when you see a shift from an open posture from something closed, stop talking, look at that person, invite them into the conversation and say, “hey, what’s on your mind. What just crossed your mind? Or what do you think of what I’ve said so far?”

Lucas 14:11

Super powerful, super powerful. 

Josh 14:13

Pro pro tips from max.  And that explains why you never asked what I’m thinking. Never.

Lucas 14:18

No, I did that one time. I learned, messed up, learned the hard way. So as we kind of close out the conversation, let’s shift back to your like very exciting career. Let’s just kind fire some questions out .What’s one of your favorite performances of all time, either location or act or people?

Max Major 14:37

I would’ve to say like America’s got talent is one of the fondest memories of my life. It was so much fun. It was a roller coaster. Particularly if I had to pick and act that I did, it was my quarter finals act where I had everyone at home draw a picture. I won’t spoil it anymore than that, but if you wanted to look up Max Major AGT and look at my quarter finals act I think that was one of my favorite things I’ve ever created. It was very unique because it was a virtual crowd. It was mid government shutdowns, so there was no audience physically. So I chose to perform for hundreds of families around the world that called in over zoom. And that was a really unique thing to do, to try to read minds through a screen rather than with a person who’s physically in the room. That was just a unique situation where I got to create something really fun. Most of the shows that involve travel. I love seeing new places in I just did a TV show in Rome, it’s like their version of America’s got talent. I went to do that and performed there and got to spend some time in Italy where I’d never been. So yeah, it’s a fun part of the job is getting to travel and see new places and meet new people and learn about new cultures. 

Lucas 15:39

Yeah. And Simon, Cal is not an easy guy to went over. Seems like you’ve had some success

Max Major

There. Yeah. He was my like greatest fan during the show. I was so lucky to have him as an ally because he was really pulling for me in the early rounds. So that was that’s pretty awesome.


My gosh.


Fascinating experience!


Well, so can you tease us, maybe what’s next on the future for you? Is there any big announcements or anything you want to just drop here for the senior living crew?

Max Major 16:03

Wow. Okay. So I’ve been putting out short form content on my TikTok and Instagram for the last  three years. But secretly in the background, I’ve just recently started working on a longer form project that’s gonna live on YouTube. So you heard it here first. There’s a new series biweekly, every two weeks. It’s going to be on my YouTube channel. You can look me up anywhere on the internet, just type in Max Major. You’ll find me. But yeah, that’ll be a really fun one.


Yeah. Fascinating. So we’re gonna connect all of the senior living world to you and all of your socials and your new YouTube that we’ve heard first right here on Bridge the Gap.

Lucas 16:40

That’s right. It’ll be all in the show notes. You can go to BTG, We’ll make sure that we connect with max there a fascinating conversation. And if you want him to attend one of your corporate events or a conference or an event that you’re planning, he’d be delighted to have that conversation with you. We can say firsthand that it was absolutely stunning. I’m not going to give any spoilers away, but we were literally blown away by the progression of the event and specifically the end. So you won’t regret talking to Max and their team.

Max Major 17:12

If I could leave your listeners or viewers with a little gift, if anybody wanted to go deeper down this rabbit hole, maybe I could throw a few book recommendations at you. 


Yes, please do. 

Cool. So I think like the Bible for learning body language is a book called What Every Body is Saying. It’s by Joe Navarro, he was a FBI interrogator. He really got in there real world. He’s not a scholar. It’s like real world stuff for 25 years on the job, he was decoding what was going on inside someone’s head. So that’s a wonderful place to start. Another foundational book, if you want to learn influence is called Influence by Robert Cialdini. And he has a follow up to that called Presuasion, which is a really good book, all about setting the scene for a conversation before.

Max Major 17:52

It’s like how you persuade before persuasion high persuade before the meeting ever starts. And that would be really helpful. How you set up the room, how’s the lighting? Where are you sitting? Who’s in what chair? How do you frame the conversation? Those are two amazing resources. And then if anyone wants to go further down the rabbit hole, you read either of those two books and either the body language or the influence that speaks to you, send me a message anywhere online. And I’d love to send you on a little journey down, down either of those paths. So that’s a great place to start real world stuff you can take right into your life. 


Max Major on the Bridge the Gap network. Thank you for your time. Safe travels back to Las Vegas. And that’s another great episode of Bridge the Gap.


231: Max Major