Welcome to the first episode of The Real Secrets of Magic Podcast. Hosted by magician, speaker, and author Brandon Love, this show celebrates possibilities and shares the practices that produce them. Recommended for anyone interested in making more magic in their lives. In the first episode, Brandon connects with Gurdeep Ahluwalia, host of CP24s Breakfast (Toronto's most-watched morning show). They discuss how Gurdeep created the path to his broadcasting career and share a few tips for dealing with failure and building creative routines.
Brandon: [00:00:32] Can I call you G, G?
Gurdeep: [00:00:34] Yeah. I mean, we met in university as you call me G so I feel like we should, take it back to the original. Absolutely. It's good to see you, buddy.
Brandon: [00:00:41] It's great to see you too. Thanks so much for joining me on the show. I know you're a super busy guy and have done so many cool things.
I can't wait to talk about them a little bit here. But first things first, G. Can you tell us a little bit about your work right now, for those who don't know, who are watching at home, [00:01:00] what, what's your role? What are you doing?
Gurdeep: [00:01:03] Yeah. And by the way, I appreciate you referring to me as your old friend, because yes, it's been awhile.
I am old now. So that is, that is the truth. I host CP24's Breakfast Monday to Friday. It's Toronto's number one morning show and it's, it's really early. That's the crazy part of my job. I'm on air - I'm actually the first person on air in all of Canada, because even our competitor shows start at like 5:30. I'm on air at 5:00 AM.
So up at about three, at the studio by 4:00, 4:30, and then on air for 5:00, and right till nine every morning. And our show is it's a little bit of everything. We obviously do news, which is mostly my role, but we have a lot of fun. We do contest games, celebrity interviews, just talk about, you know, our whole mantra is what's Toronto talking about.
So it's just sort of the, you know, what are people buzzing about? What's trending online and that kind of stuff. So it's, it's a little bit of everything I like to think of it as infotainment, if you will.
Brandon: [00:01:54] I love that and, on this show, I want to dive in a little bit to the magic that you have [00:02:00] made because we knew each other in university, as you said, going back... I don't want to say how many years, but a bunch!
Gurdeep: [00:02:08] Right.
Brandon: [00:02:09] But in those days you were, I knew you as a welcome week rep at McMaster. I knew you as a gregarious, outgoing, energetic guy. And I knew a little bit about your plans for the future, your interest in sports and in, in broadcasting in general.
But maybe you can tell us a little bit about the magic, that you've made.
Gurdeep: [00:02:32] Yeah. I mean, if I could trade my magic skills for your magic skills, I'd make that trade in a heartbeat because I, like I said, I, you know, I knew you as a Brandon Love who did everything at McMaster and you did magic tricks and you were involved in welcome week and everybody wanted, want it to be you.
I turn into a five-year-old kid when I see magic. So I'd much rather have that skill than what I'm doing now. That said, yeah, you know, things are, life is pretty good right now. It's been a long, long, [00:03:00] weird unpredictable winding road. I always say to people, and I still sort of mentor young people in the industry, you know, if you talk to 10 different people in my industry, you know, if you were to do this interview with 10 different people in the industry and asked what path they took to get there, you'll probably get 10 different stories because you know. You know, with, with doctors, you go to med school, you know, you become a doctor, you go to law school, you become a lawyer.
There is a clear linear path to what you want to do. You can go in, you know, many routes to sort of, to get into broadcasting. you know, I went to McMaster, which is not known for its, its journalism program, which it actually doesn't have. I did mass media communications after switching out of business.
And I got involved with the school newspaper, the school radio, and that was where I really sort of fell in love with the idea of media. And I decided, aha, that's what I want to do. I think everybody has their aha moment in life. Some people get it when they're 50 and they figure it out. I got it when I was 19 in first year university.
Some people get it much later. I have friends who [00:04:00] are in their thirties and still are waiting for that moment of, of key inspiration. And I hope that it's coming to them. But once you figure that out, I think then it's up, it's on you to, I mean, half the battle is figuring out what you want to do the other half is, is going and getting it.
So for me, you know, I, I got so involved at university and then, you know, was sort of well-established on campus, but I didn't know if that had any relevance in the real world outside of the McMaster bubble. And so I started to put together writing samples and radio samples and just started blasting it out to anyone and everyone I thought might be interested: magazines, newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and just trying to get an internship anywhere. And, this is really nerdy, but in fourth year university, when I went home for Christmas to my parents' place, I sat down, I made a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of like 30 places I wanted to work and it was everything I mentioned, every form of media.
And I ranked them from one to 30 in terms of most desirable places. And then I [00:05:00] just started - this is 2005, so the Internet, wasn't what it is now. Twitter wasn't even a thing. Social media was relatively young, so you couldn't - it wasn't as easy to access people and organizations. So, I was trying to find websites, contact numbers, whatever, and just hit up a bunch of places.
And, tried to play the law of averages game. Right? It's like, I dunno, it's like if you're at the bar, which you can't do now in COVID, but you asked 15 people that dance with you. you might get 13 rejections, but you get two people who say yes. And, and there you go. I don't know if that's an appropriate analogy anymore, but anyways, I heard back from like eight places out of the 30 and I managed to get three interviews and Brandon, this is where a bit of the kismet or the, the luck comes in. The three places that actually gave me an interview, believe it or not, were choices one, two, and three on, on my list of 30, which is just insane, right? And they were TSN, The Score and The Hockey News. [00:06:00] So I managed to land an internship at TSN and they said, "Okay, great. When do you graduate? April? Awesome. You're starting the next day."
I managed to get an internship at The Score. And The Hockey News. I managed to actually convince them to create an internship because they didn't have one. And they said they just don't have the budget to, to hire anyone. And I said, "Free labour.. Why not?" And I actually convinced the, the publisher in that meeting to take me on as their very first intern. And it's funny if you, if you look at The Hockey News' masthead now they have an army of interns cause they realize this free labour thing is pretty good.
After about six months of interning at all these places I managed to turn all three into, into part-time paid jobs. So it was working three different writing jobs behind the scenes, two TV stations, one, one magazine. And just learning the business behind the scenes. It was, it was almost like, being in a specific university or college program where you're getting like a hands-on learning experience.
Cause I really knew nothing about TV in university. and [00:07:00] after a while I put together a demo tape. After I got to know some of the reporters I would go out and shadow them on their shoots. And some of them were nice enough to help me put together this sort of crude, rough demo tape. But what that demo tape does, it's like your passport.
Once you have that passport in your hand, you can start sending that out to places and, you know, some might give you the time of day. Some might not. It goes back to that law of averages thing. And I was sending out, this is again, back in the day where you actually send out physical DVDs. Now people are emailing out their YouTube links.
I sent it out to stations all over Canada. Again, heard back from not many. You got a couple of sniffs here and there and a few failed auditions and, eventually landed an on-air job in a small channel, in Mississauga, Rogers Cable, which like nobody was watching, but it was good because I was so nervous at the beginning and mistakes were made every single show.
But again, this was sort of like Twitter was in its infancy and there were probably about 500 people watching at home - that's it! So, you know, you wouldn't get lit [00:08:00] up for a mistake. It was a good place to really work out the kinks because we were all very rough around the edges, and so that by the time you get to a much bigger platform, you're much more polished.
And, from there it was sort of jumping around from station to station until I sort of, wound up where I am now.
Brandon: [00:08:15] I love that. I love that you started with the nerdy spreadsheet because one of the, you know, one of the key components, as you said, is figuring out what the aha is. That's like, that's half of it.
The other half is doing the work to get it. I regularly ask people: "What would you do if you had magic powers?" People see magic and they, everybody says they want to do magic, or they want to know the secrets behind magic. But really I think that the, the burning question is if you had magic power, what would you create in your life?
And you started with this very clear vision. And, and we're able to like put it to paper [00:09:00] and then go from there. That's like the starting point from which all of this work and the path, as you say, could have meandered any, any direction. Thanks so much for diving in, you sort of you've answered the question that, that I wanted to get a chance to ask you.
So I'm going to ask you now anyway... "how did you do it?" It's the question that I get asked all the time.
Gurdeep: [00:09:20] I jumped the gun, sorry.
Brandon: [00:09:22] That's okay. You're you're you're tipping the hand before, before even necessary, which is what magicians are not used to. So, so, that's perfect. what I would love to know now, and, you've shared a little bit about the journey and, and, you know, you mentioned a bunch of like trial and error.
So another super important thing that I think everybody knows intuitively you know, the stuff we want to do on the first time, almost never works, but. With continued iteration, continuing to lean in and learn from the mistake, obviously, things get better. It just takes like courage to continue to get [00:10:00] back on that horse, right? But, but maybe you could share this: the show is The Real Secrets of Magic - you certainly made some magic. What would you say is like, THE REAL SECRET, you know, aside from the stuff on the surface, sending out the auditions, doing the writing stuff, are there things that you have, have done on a daily basis or a semi-regular basis that you maybe have contributed to your success that might not look like it from the surface?
Gurdeep: [00:10:30] Yeah, for sure. And that's a really good question cause, you know, like you, I mean you're a performer and you know, people see when people see you, they see the finished product, right? You do an eight-minute magic routine, but what they don't see is that, you know, if you do, if you do six tricks and an eight-minute magic routine, they don't see that you probably put months of effort into every single one of those tricks.
So that, that eight-minute finished product they see might've taken you a year to perfect or longer or [00:11:00] something, you know, it's, it's a, it's an imperfect science. You're probably always crafting and changing in your eyes. I'm sure it's never perfect. Right? It's, you know, similar to different, I tend to never watch myself.
I'm very lucky that what I do is live and it's sort of effervescent, like it's gone unless you sort of PVR it and you want to come back and watch it later. I'll never do that. I'm a field person. So if I watch myself, I always cringe to this day. I've been on TV for 13 years now, and I still cringe every time I see myself because I'll sort of watch and say, well, Why did I do that?
Or why did I take that pause there? My inflection wasn't quite correct. Or, you know what? I didn't love the way I asked that question. It could have been better. So I think as painful as cringe-worthy is that can be, it's a good thing, because I think the moment you watch yourself and sort of say, huh? Yeah.
Okay. I wouldn't change a thing that was perfect to me. That's when you've peaked and you've plateaued. But the way I choose to look at it is I'm still constantly improving because there is no... [00:12:00] you cannot be a perfect broadcaster, right? I mean, you can get close. You can be a damn good broadcaster, but the minute you're perfect, it's either impossible or you've plateaued and there's nowhere, nowhere less to go.
So the fact that it's still uncomfortable for me to watch myself, I think is, is weirdly a good thing. because you're constantly putting in time and I'm sure, you know, watch yourself do a routine and you'll, you'll nitpick. Other people won't - the average person won't notice. I mean, we'll have our minds blown, but you'll probably watch something and be like, I move could have been a little bit tighter or, you know, Right.
So in, in terms of, you know, with the stuff people don't see when, when, you know, when I get stopped on the street or someone, you know, sends me a nice tweet or whatever, and it's, Hey, love the show. Like, you know, your life sounds so great, or I see you on Instagram and you're at these fun events. and then you're on the show having fun behind the scenes.
Like your life is just it's fun and games. What they don't see is all the stuff behind it. At the time you would put in, on your, on all your magic tricks in your room, at your house, at your home, you know, trying to perfect it. For me, [00:13:00] I mean, the reality is, because I'm the first person on air in Canada every day I get up at three o'clock and you have to be sharp. So much of the show is improv. So much of the show is ad-libbing, thinking on your toes, So, you know, I go to bed at like seven, eight o'clock. And so when people say your life must be so exciting, you meet all these interesting people, you're out this, that.. Well, how exciting could it possibly be when I'm going to bed at seven or eight o'clock to facilitate what I do, right? I mean, I I'm a die hard sports fan and I, you know, I get to watch maybe the first period of the Leaf game. And then I got to go to bed, which is torture every night, but that's just one of the sacrifices you have to make. You get invited out to a fun event.
Well, You know, you might go have a drink, shake a couple of hands, before COVID, and then leave by 7:00, 7:30, because you just can't afford to stay that late. Cause it'll, it'll mess up your next day and then you'll be chasing your tail all week. So I think one of the big things I've learned is how connected everything is.
I mean, a bad decision on a Monday, me [00:14:00] accepting an invite on a Monday or staying up later than I should on a Monday evening. Well, I mean, I'm tired for Tuesday. And then maybe when I come home Tuesday, I don't, I don't get my workout in because I was just too tired. And if I don't get my workout in that, I'm not, my body's not tired enough for me to sleep early and, you know, and then you're just chasing it all week.
So I found, becoming, I used to have a hard time saying no to people and to temptations and the thing is I've gotten really good at saying no, this job has made me very good at saying no. And just sort of. Looking down the road a little bit and seeing the consequences of your actions positively and negatively.
So, it's just so connected and things like working out and getting at least six hours of sleep, which is still not great for the average person, but it's good for me. Those things are so important. So you just sort of learn to prioritize the stuff that matters, right? And as you get older, that stuff is, is currency.
You need that, you really feel it when you don't have it. So I think it's all those little, those little subtle things that people don't see behind the scenes. It's, [00:15:00] you know, it's, I'm going to use a word that probably sounds boring to people in their twenties. It sounded boring to me when I was in my twenties.
It sounded like you were settling. But the word ROUTINE. Routine had like, you know, you use the word discipline earlier and discipline can have a negative connotation, but that's not the way you meant it. You meant, you know, crafting your discipline, having your discipline, refining your discipline. A routine is the same thing.
Like, it, it's not boring. It's important. And, you can set your watch by it. You can, again, you can, really sort of refine your life and make improvements on your process. By having a routine, I'm always trying to tweak my week and figure things out. What could I do a little bit better to maybe optimize my sleep or optimize my workout or, or optimize my job or, you know, I've got a dog as well and outside of work and taking care of my body and my mind, my dog is really my only, my only responsibility.
If you and I were to do this podcast again, five years from now, and I had had a family, I might give you a whole host of different answers because of the priorities [00:16:00] change. But for now I think it's really just about figuring out your priorities and, and, and being able to say no, when you got to say no,
Brandon: [00:16:09] So, so powerful, for sure.
Thanks G that you mentioned like routine as connected to discipline. I like thinking about the differe- because the truth is everybody has routines already, whether you've chosen them or not is a different story. and we, we talk a lot about habits, right? and habits are good, but I think it's important to remember they start as practices. Right? They start as intentional leaning into your edges. as you say, you're always trying to find ways to optimize your, your personal care, your, your mental care. And, and by continuing to do that, build out these things, which will serve you later on down the road. so super huge.
I think, I think discipline and, and routine are our major [00:17:00] keys.
Gurdeep: [00:17:00] Yeah. Yeah. If I can give one example as well, cause you, you kind of jog my memory of what you said there and I'll, I'll add on one thing you said to all those great, authors that you mentioned that have sort of crystallized the things we talked about.
Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers talks about 10,000 hours of experience, right? Like he used the Beatles, as example, as they played all these gigs all over the UK, before they became mainstream popular, you know, multiple gigs a day. So that by the time they reached the mainstream, they were this well-polished for some that just sounded seamless.
One of the great things about what I do, because I worked for sort of a non-traditional TV channel where you work 24 hours a day. So you're on air all the time. So, in my six hour shift, I'm on air for the majority of that shift. So, you know, people ask me, don't you get nervous? And quite honestly, Brandon, I was way more nervous for that first TV job that nobody was watching.
That 500 people were watching because at that point, I didn't know if I sucked or not. I didn't know if I was actually cut out for it. I didn't know if I had a future in the industry. So I felt like every show was me trying to prove myself to be [00:18:00] like, yes, I do belong here. Yes. I am capable of this. And I was legitimately nervous for every show. Now, you know, most of the show for a couple of hundred thousand people a morning and it's like second nature, like I'm so in my zone and so comfortable in my skin doing it, that, I shouldn't admit this, but sometimes on repetitive news days or slow news days, my mind can actually wander and be thinking about something entirely different while I'm there creating the show, because it's just so comfortable and I've done, I don't even know how many hours I've done now, but it's well over 10,000. That, you know, it just becomes so second nature. It's like learning how to drive manual or whatever. Right. It's, it's crazy. At first we were thinking about pressing the clutch and, and moving the gears. But after a while, your mind can drift when you're driving, because you've just done it so many times.
One of the other practices I'll throw in there, that's super important that I forgot to mention is, I've learned to do things to - when I'm trying to build good habits, I'll reduce the friction between [00:19:00] those good habits. So, you know, working out to me every day is super important because as I mentioned it, it makes me tired in the evening.
Some days I'm really tired. I don't want to work out. So what I'll do is when I come home from work, even if I'm not working out for like three, four hours, I'll go home, get out of my suit and I'll put on my workout gear. I'll put on my compression leggings, my shorts, my workout top. And I'll just be in that all day until it's time to work out because then when three o'clock hits and it's workout time, I've removed one layer of friction - I'm already dressed.
So if I don't work out at this point, then I'm just a loser who's wearing workout gear all day and for no reason. So I'll, I'll do as many little things as I can to reduce the friction.
Similarly, I will increase friction if I'm trying to break bad habits. Right. Make things just a little bit tougher.
We all love cheat food. We all have junk food and all that stuff. And I know I tend to, you know, give into that a little bit more on weekends, but I make it hard for myself. I do not purchase cookies. I don't buy [00:20:00] chips. I don't do, I don't keep it here in the home, because that way, you know, those moments of weakness where you are craving it, if it's there, you're going to eat it.
But because I have to physically leave my place, go to the grocery store across the street and then buy it when I'm craving it. I've added all these extra steps of layers where in those moments I may change my mind. In the process of, Oh, okay, I got to put on my coat, grab the dog, head outside, go to the Sobey's to do it.
So I used that practice to sort of help me and also to sort of, I guess, create extra friction with things I'm trying to change. So that's, that's been something that's super important for me. And that's one of the things that I'm constantly sort of tweaking.
Brandon: [00:20:36] Gold. There's so much, so much value in that G like the concept of friction, when changing or breaking habits, and introducing practice.
I love that I had a friend who once told me he wanted to run a marathon and knows that to run a marathon, you need to train and run every day. But he really, really struggled to do that. And so made a goal, not to run every day, [00:21:00] but made a goal to put on the running gear every day. Get the running gear on go out the front door.
And if you made it there, you achieved the goal. But of course, once you get out the front door, I'm like, well, I've got the gear on. I might as well go for a little run.
Gurdeep: [00:21:13] We'll go for a run.
Brandon: [00:21:14] Yeah. Really, really brilliant, brilliant stuff, man. so, so useful and I hope, I hope our listeners and viewers are taking some value from this.
G, we've been chatting for a little bit here. I want to say thanks so much for your time. And, and, I know you're, again, you're a busy guy, but. This is so valuable and anybody who's interested in broadcasting or in creating magic in whatever field it is. I think these, these ideas you've shared, really helpful, and speak to the importance of setting up the right practices.
So thanks so much for joining us on the show today for one of the first episodes of the real secrets of magic podcast.
Gurdeep: [00:21:54] Hey, that's, that's my pleasure, Brandon, and, you know, Just, I want to say [00:22:00] to people, don't, don't be afraid to you see Brandon do his thing and it looks so awesome. You may see me or other people who you think this is great, but, again, you're seeing the final product.
So if you start down a path and it's not awesome right away, that's fine because you're gonna fail. You're gonna fail many times. That's all the stuff people don't see to get to that awesome final finished product. Whether it's learning the piano or, or learning magic or doing whatever, just know that there's a process.
And it's going to take some time. I'll leave you with one real quick story if that's okay?
Brandon: [00:22:27] Totally.
Gurdeep: [00:22:30] This is a story I'm just going to share a story, a story of failure, which, which people may not know, but it, this was a really, it was devastating at the time, but it was really important in my process.
And you don't see the value of it until until much later, The very first audition, that I, I got to work at CP24, was not the actual time I was hired. So this was a, I started with them in 2009. I had an audition in 2008 when I was still working at Rogers Cable. And this was the audition of my life.
It was going from cable to this - the number one channel in [00:23:00] Toronto. So I was nervous as hell and I also didn't know downtown Toronto that well, the audition was at 11:00 AM. I remember this so well, it was a hot June summer day. And, it was running a little late as I do. and I couldn't find parking.
So I finally parked a couple blocks away and time was getting tight now. So I'm in a full suit for this audition. And I'm now sprinting down Queen Street in downtown Toronto to get to the front door here for this audition of my life. And I, I pulled the total, the absolute quintessential thing you do not do on a job interview.
I was five minutes late. I, I run into the lobby. At 11:05 for an 11:00 AM interview. And the guy who had booked me for the interview, his name was Tony. And I was just praying in my heart that, he was not there waiting for me that maybe he was running a little late too. And I get into the lobby, I'm huffing and puffing.
And I see a guy there kind of looking impatient, looking at his watch and, and he goes "Gurdeep?" and I'm like, "Yeah." He's like, "You're late." And I'm like, "Oh, I'm sorry. I couldn't -" and before I can even explain it, he's like, "Let's go!" [00:24:00] So, you know, if, if current me could go back to, you know, 24- 25-year old me at that point and give some advice would have been like, "Hey man, just go to the bathroom, take a minute, calm yourself down and, and deal with this."
But he rushed me right on step, put me up on the anchor desk and and said, "Okay, here, we're going to watch your read some news. And we're just going to see how, see how you look, see how you sound." I got on the desk and, I'll, I'll preface this part by saying I'm not a sweater. I'm not somebody who sweats a lot in, in my normal life, but the nerves and the heat and the running and the being late, I started anchoring.
And, and he came out about two minutes later and was like, "Hey, Are you all right?" He stopped me halfway through the race. And I was like, "Yeah, what's up?" He goes, "Are you sure? You're okay?" I'm like, "Yeah, what's going on Tony?" And he leans in and he goes, "You are sweating profusely." And he gave me a mirror and I'm telling you, Brandon, it looked like a after court interview of like an NBA player, like a Hockey Night in Canada [00:25:00] intermission where you would just beads of sweat coming down my face.
And then he goes "Take a minute, go wipe yourself off, come back and we'll try it again." Went to the bathroom, wiped myself off, had some water, came back, but that second reading, this is going to sound so stupid was I was so, rattled, trying not to sweat. I was so focused on trying not to sweat. I don't think I blinked for that whole read.
And I read at such a frenetic pace. I was like this into the prompter and let me get through the read, finished the audition. And he said, "Thanks. We'll call you." They did not call. I did not get the job. and I went home and I cried and I was, I was just like, I just blew the biggest audition of my life.
And, I'm just not made for this stuff. I got an audition a year later, went in, landed the job.
But the point of that is, is I felt like I was at my lowest point at that point and thought about, maybe I need to rethink my whole plan because I don't think I'm cut out for the big stage. but I just wanted to put that out there because whatever you're doing, you may have a [00:26:00] moment like that. But to, to really create your own magic and to get to that final point, you gotta, you gotta just plow through, plow through those lows.
Brandon: [00:26:08] Oh man, I got goosebumps because I know I've had moments like that. I know, I know anybody who's ever experienced success has a story of such great shame failure. Yeah. It becomes like a badge, right? It becomes a little bit of a Stripe that you've earned on the way, because it's inevitable, it's inevitable. And the more we accept that, I think that the better chance we have at getting where we actually want to go.
Great. Well, thanks so much G for joining me on the real secrets of magic podcast and, wish you all the best as you continue in, in the world of broadcasting.
I can't wait to see what's next and I'll be watching from my TV over here in Hamilton.
Gurdeep: [00:26:55] Awesome. Thanks so much, buddy. Thanks for having me on I'm honored. Cheers. [00:27:00]