CDRE 27 | Authentic Life


Fame is a double-edged sword. Although getting into the spotlight is indeed an enthralling experience, it may change your perspectives in a way that you could never live an authentic life anymore. In your pursuit of perfection and excellence, you could risk abandoning your identity and get drowned in your own glory. Jeramie Worley chats with America’s Got Talent Winner Dustin Tavella to talk about achieving career success without having to lose your true self. He looks back on his journey from a birthday party entertainer to a proper music artist, spreading love and inspiration to everyone while staying true to who he genuinely is. Dustin also shares how his faith in God and keeping strong relationships allowed him to never lose sight of his goals as well as his authentic self. 

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2021 AGT Winner Dustin Tavella The Magic Of Being Real

This show is going to wreck you in a good way. It will change the way that you think about the choices that you make each day. AGT winner, Dustin Tavella, brings his unique brand of magic into our studio, by showing us how that playing into the hype and fame of life can be a serious misdirection in living real, personal, and authentic lives. He shares how he won AGT with zero social media strategy and how we turned away from social norms and broke the system because he was following a higher power. Like Gideon, we can see that Dustin is giving God the glory in his success, family, and marketplace ministry. If you see Dustin on AGT, you’ll know that his stories are personal, compelling, and indeed inspiring. If that’s what you’re hoping for, then you won’t be disappointed. We hope you enjoy this conversation.


CDRE 27 | Authentic Life


You flew from Hawaii, but you’ve been flying back and forth from Hawaii quite a bit.

We felt that God called us to Hawaii. We lived in Hawaii. They got a bunch of cool things. I was flying back to the mainland still doing shows and then made our way back to our spot in Vegas.

What is God doing for you in Hawaii now?

It’s cool. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Youth With A Mission or YWAM. Back in 2004, I joined YWAM. When I was in high school even, before 2002, I did some mission trips with them and fell in love with the idea of being around young people, traveling around, seeing different cultures, sharing the love of God with people, doing building projects and serving. I loved it. After high school, I went down and joined YWAM.

I sat there for five years, helping the school of worship and some of their other training schools there. Fast forward, YWAM’s main campus is in Kona, Hawaii. We went out there to work alongside them and do some stuff. It felt like God had us there for a season to focus on our family a bit and slow down. While we were there, I was speaking all the stuff and met cool people. It seems one relationship led to the next. We were praying for what’s next, but I feel like God did it through people.

You said he’s got you out there trying to slow you down a little bit. Have you slowed down?

No. I’m Italian with super ADHD. I always tell people it’s very dangerous. That’s why I don’t drink caffeine because I’m like, “It would be dangerous.” I would say I feel like I’ll kill somebody. My hands are moving much. We went out to Hawaii. It helped, but my brain is always going. I’m a Creator so I’m always creating. Whether it’s stuff that I’ll do or not, I’m always taking notes, always on my laptop writing up stuff and scripts. I’ll have an idea and I need to almost create an image of it.

I’m going to Photoshop all the time making stuff that I envisioned in my brain. I like to have to keep moving. To me, slowing down is sometimes on the agenda of the things that we’re trying to accomplish. Coming from the entertainment world, there are always things to be doing and creating. There are always people doing more than you. What was great was knowing that I could create what without feeling like I was racing people.

How do you manage that? I experienced that in the business world all the time. In the business world, if you read the book, The E-Myth, you’ve got a visionary, a manager, and a technician. I started out as a technician, real estate agent, real estate investor and then quickly moved to be a manager because I started training agents underneath me. Now I’m the visionary. I’m expanding the team nationwide. I’m like you. My brain doesn’t shut off. When I was at home, Kelly was like, “Can we shut off your brain for a minute?” She identifies. I’ll paste the floor because there’s somebody else out there who’s working, but it’s not the competitiveness for me. It’s more that I can feel the ticking clock. I don’t want to die with seeds in my pocket. Is that what it is for you?

At the end of the day, there are always going to be people doing more than you, making more than you, and with more of a following than you. It’s great to be able to build, but the problem comes in when we start putting our identity into those things and feeling like now we are less than, we have less worth, or we prove ourselves by building something bigger or greater than someone else.

It is great to be able to build, but the problem begins when we start putting our identity into those things. Click To Tweet

If we don’t keep up, then we’re behind.

With people in entertainment culture, people were trying to be celebrities, models, actors, and musicians, there’s a small amount of people who experience this pressure of, “I’m building a thing. People see me. I’m on this stage and this platform.” What happened is a social media has totally blown up and it’s been more of us promoting our lives, posting what we had for lunch, posting the movie we saw last night, and posting our kids’ birthdays. It is a personal thing. We’ve put our identity so much into it. There are kids struggling with crazy levels of depression and anxiety simply because they can’t keep up socially.

That, to me, is sad because that’s when you’re worth and your value starts to get put into that. As an artist, it’s easy to create something I’m proud of, to put it out there, and be stoked about it. The minute I see something that someone else has created that’s better getting more views and more downloads, instantly, I feel not happy with that thing anymore. There’s nothing to do with the quality of the product or the impact that it made. It has anything to do with me comparing it.

Do you still do that? Do you still struggle with that?

I probably will until the day that I die as long as I’m breathing. What’s a great thing, what I’ve realized and where I’ve been at is when I was in high school, both my parents used to video weddings and my dad would be down editing video stuff. I remember my cousin and I got our hands on a video camera and all we wanted to do was make stupid videos. We’d ride our scooters around. We pretend to fall in front of people and fake street magic. We would do pranks. I’d be like, “Here’s a normal lemon.” I’d give it to some random guy. My cousin would be sitting there filming and like, “Watch,” then I’d walk away and see how long they’d stand there holding a lemon.

We would do all these dumb things and then we would edit the video together. My dad taught us how to edit videos. We would take the VHS tape to the youth group and put it in the VCR. We played it for fifteen of our friends at youth group and we’d all laugh. We’d watch it for the second and third time, and that was it. I don’t even know where most of those videos are anymore. That was enough. We were creating because we loved creating. We loved laughing and showing our friends. Those fifteen people who we knew, those are all who needed to see it.

What’s sad now is some people don’t even know who those fifteen people are in their lives. There’s much more consumed with who it is on their social media platforms. That’s why I say building a brand is not a bad thing, but when we forget the personal connection and forget what we love, we start to deplete the satisfaction that comes with doing the things we’ve been designed to do.

Building a brand becomes a bad thing when we forget the personal connection. We forget what we love and our satisfaction is depleted when doing the things we’ve been designed to do. Click To Tweet

You see something that a competitor does. There is that twinge. Competition is a good thing. It makes you be your best in any free market. We need competition because it forces everybody to operate. There’s this saying, “Your friends won’t help you become your best. It’s your enemies that do because your enemies will reveal your weaknesses fast.” One of the things I don’t think we pay much attention to, which it sounds like you do, is your enemies reveal your weaknesses to yourself and you identify them and work to change them. What things do you do to work to change that or focus on those fifteen people and not the millions or masses?

That’s the peak of some of the music stuff that I was doing. I had a music career before I was doing magic stuff. I got to a point where I was like, “I love what I’m able to do and accomplish, but I was missing that connection thing.” At that time when I met who is now my wife, I was talking to her about some of the stuff that I used to do and I was doing the missions and traveling around helping people. Long story short, there was a homeless ministry that was birth out of this. We would go down to Skid Row, which is an area in Los Angeles with 54 blocks of people experiencing homelessness. What was wild at that time was we spent time with these guys. These guys became our family. It started as we would go down there and bring sack lunches to we would go and hang out with our friends.

How long ago is it?

This was 2013 and 2014.

The economy was heating up. There were a lot of opportunities and jobs, but still a lot of homeless people.

Yes, thousands and thousands. What was crazy at this time was that we built a community there with these guys who had nothing. What was wild was we would be with our celebrity friends in Beverly Hills in the daytime, and at night, we’d be down hanging out with these homeless guys. What we realized is the biggest difference between these people was the space that they lived in. The thing is the guys were working on the streets, a lot of them were sad, broken, addicted, and trying to find community, but people with big houses were sad, addicted, broken, and needing people with community.

What we started realizing is there’s something as humans at our core that we need. That is a relationship, and it’s what satisfies us. The reality and how we start to navigate through this stuff is measuring out our priorities. When we find ourselves building a brand but at the cost of a relationship, all of a sudden, that brand can grow and become very successful, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be more satisfied. I tell people all the time, “Competitiveness is good. Competition is good. People raising the bar in our lives is good.”

When success becomes part of our identity, it becomes dangerous territory because we start prioritizing that over relationships. I always say, “If you try hard to be a better businessman or entertainer, you will become a better entertainer. If you focus hard on becoming better at your craft and what you do, you will. It might be at the cost of people, relationships, and your family. If you focus on becoming like a great neighbor, father, husband, or person who is serving your community and recognizing the needs of people, you will become better at all those things and you will become a better businessman.”

The byproduct of focusing on yourself and people is that you become a better businessman. When becoming that better businessman is the focus, you risk all those other things not doing so well. That becomes our foundation point of we want to make sure we’re focusing on the people in our lives that matter and the things in our lives that matter. We’ve seen much fruitful stuff come out of that. We’re having this conversation because of relationships that we’ve had, not because of some pursuit of, “I want to get on a show and grow my brand.”



Let’s talk about that because the show was designed for two reasons. One, I’m an introvert. I’m somewhat shy about meeting new people, not because I don’t like new people. It’s just that I don’t know the words to say in a new conversation. I watch my brother-in-law who’s one of the most amazing conversationalists ever. I was studying him. I’m like, “These are the questions that he asked.” If I find someone like that, I watch them and ask questions. I’ll write down the questions that they asked so I can help myself. I took Dale Carnegie classes to help me learn a conversation stack and learn how to get through a conversation. I don’t care about sports. I don’t care about the weather. I hate small talk. I don’t like it. I don’t why I do. It’s not meaningful to me.

I feel like in conversations like this, we can get into a great conversation. In college, they couldn’t pick up any women. I went to school in Columbia, Missouri, which is an agricultural town. A lot of the girls there were in cowboy boots and tight jeans. They’re dancing and all that. I didn’t want to get up and dance with them. I was like, “Do you want to go sit at this table over here and talk for little a while? Want to do something meaningful?” They’re all like, “No.”

I go home by myself. Kelly and I were best buddies and we had the best conversations ever. She’s intelligent. I didn’t even know what she looked like. She’s gorgeous. I never even realized it until three months after we were buddies. I absolutely fell in love with her and I was like, “This woman is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with,” but we were friends. She was the person that if I had opened up to her, she would have freaked out and run away. I had to keep my feelings a secret from her, which turned me into this weird pent-up poet guy.

I had to tell her how I felt without telling her how I felt. I was mysterious to her for that reason, and I guess it worked. What happened was we were going to the same school. She told me she was going to transfer schools in three months and we were both in the Theater Department together. We had done a show and in a couple of classes together. We are such good buddies. I was going to miss my buddy. I was falling deeply in love with her and I was like, “I got three months to get this chick to fall in love with me.”

I failed miserably. It did not work at all, but it was the absence and the time apart that she called me and was like, “I miss you,” and our relationship developed after that. What’s also interesting is that she did go ahead and transfer schools, but we did go ahead and start a relationship. This was right about the time chicks were starting to become interested in me. Here I am in a long-distance relationship in college now.

I literally dated nobody in college, just Kelly. She was three and a half hours away. There was no email on demand. I had to go into the computer lab to check my email twice a day. I couldn’t wait to go in and check my emails from her. I would spend time pouring into those communications with her and I look forward to talking again. I had to pay $0.5 a minute on Sprint or AT&T. I was the guy who was changing my bill every month because I got a better deal because I was a college kid. I have no money and I wanted to talk to this woman. That helped us develop communication not just with each other but with other people which became the foundation for our relationship more than anything else. That’s poured over into some of our other relationships as well. Relationships matter to me. It seems like they matter to you too.

I remember there was a time when I was thinking, “What does this look like to build a brand and impact the lives of people?” You can’t just demonize the idea of, “I don’t do anything. I just love my neighbor.” We’re giving gifts for a reason to use them, and they are meaningful. It’s like going through this stuff and wondering what to do. I was in LA and now lived in Vegas for a while. I have seen a lot of people who seem like they have lost their purpose. It’s not like what they’re doing is bad or wrong. It sucks when it’s at the cost of yourself. You lose yourself in what you’re doing.

I remember I went into this deep dive. If you’ve been looking at the way that Jesus did things when he came, when you read through the gospels, it’s wild because people were expecting Jesus to come in to overthrow governments, to become king, and to take over everything. He’s hanging out at people’s houses and having tea. They’re like, “What is this guy doing? What warrior drinks tea in the house of some dude that no one’s ever heard of?”

What was astounding was you saw how still Jesus was a super celebrity mode. It’s funny because people always say, “Jesus only had twelve followers.” Jesus was like Justin Bieber famous. He would be in one space. So many people would want to see him. He’d get into a boat like, “I need some time on my own.” Before the boat crossed the water, the people would be on the other side of the water already. This dude literally had people swarming, thousands of people constantly messing up against him, wanting to hear, wanting his time and attention.

You see the level of fame that Jesus achieved. He would seize the moments. He would preach, go into space, do crazy talks, and heal the sick. He would post up in front of thousands of people and do his thing. What I started to realize is that Jesus didn’t demonize that platform and that brand that was naturally being built, but he did put it in its right place as far as priority because whenever it came time for him to get rest and to be healthy himself, he took that time. If he had to go and be with the father, he will be like, “I’m going to roll out for 40 days.”

People are like, “This is when you need to capitalize on this moment.” He’s like, “Yes, but I need to do something else.” He was okay with making the sacrifice of his brand for the health of himself and also the health of his followers because he knew the people in his direct circle also needed to be prioritized. You see many times when Jesus could have gone out and made more marketing moves. Instead, he always tended to the people whom he was able to truly serve on a one-on-one basis. What I think is cool is you see Jesus doing this well-rounded thing where what he was building as a leader and communicator was growing and growing, but it was never at the cost of the people in his life. It was also never at the cost of his own health and well-being.

There are times when you’re into the gospels and it says he was super tired because he is pouring out all day and all these things. I started looking at this, and I’m like, “I want to model things like this.” It is because you see people within the church who will be on either one extreme or the other. They’re either in ministry mode or their families falling apart, but at least the church is doing well, or you see people who demonize anything that has to do with entertainment. It’s like, “We do little things. That big stuff is Satan’s work.” There’s such balance because Jesus was able to manage both while still passionately loving people, never losing sight of who he was.

That’s the space that I want to be in. I want to know that what I’m doing is meaningful, but I’m not losing myself in the midst of it so that I can do things with excellence and I can look at the competition and be like, “I got to raise the bar. I got to be better. I want to be amazing at my craft, but at the same time, I don’t want to lose myself in the pursuit of being amazing at my craft.”

It is what brings us full circle because Jesus did it for those fifteen people in his life. We know twelve of them very well. I’m sure there were some others like Mary Magdalene and a few others that are named as well as Lazarus, his friend and mom. It’s special as I studied Jesus’s ministry as a leader as well, but from a different perspective because a lot of other people who are my competitors have gone big. They’ve gone after the investors and the masses. They did podcasts a long time ago. They were putting all their information on YouTube. I didn’t start touching social media until I started building a national brand, but only because I had to.

Prior to that, I was an analog guy. I stood right there in front of this and this room and taught people until the room filled up and we couldn’t contain it anymore, and then they got their own space and then we filled it up again. It was standing in front of people teaching them how to invest in real estate and how to become a world-class real estate agent. I was here. I was in the building. I did life with these people. It’s because I studied Jesus. He did life with those twelve people. Not only that, but three of them were his leadership team. There are even deeper relationships within a small circle. He built one of the greatest kingdoms ever, not with social media, not with caring about all that, but by being an analog guy face-to-face.

With Jesus’s prayer, I was at the gym. A lot of people listen to music in the gym and I’m listening to sermons. I’m trying to get the word in me. Listening to Jesus’s prayer and the way he prays is special. He says, “God, glorify me so that you might be glorified.” I feel like that’s what he did. He had the fame, but he did it to glorify his father. It’s special. I like stories when 4,000 had come. He cared about those people that he was ministering to and that they had to be fed, and the disciples were coming to him.

They’re like, “These people are hungry. Jesus, you need to feed these people.” He was like, “You feed them.” He taught his disciples leadership, even in the parable of the sower. He’s teaching these masses of people and then afterward, he pulls his leadership team aside and he says, “This is what I meant by that. I told the parable of the sower, but what it means is this.” He never stopped teaching. I think it’s special. It is so beautiful and robust. In fact, I’ve gotten closer to God that I got The Maxwell Leadership Bible. I’m getting the leadership lessons along with the word. It has been the best thing that I have ever done.

Even to take things a little further going with what you’re saying, you’re talking about Jesus pouring into these people as he taught these guys to do this thing. The one thing that Jesus never lost sight of was he wasn’t pushing himself onto them. Jesus was always aware of who his audience was and what the needs were of those people. As you talk about real estate, I was talking about sitting here one-on-one and face-to-face, there’s no bulk solution for everyone.

Every person is in a unique space, their finances that they have available, and the resources that they have available. When you pour into a person or a small group of people and growth happens, you’re able to specifically meet the needs of the people that you’re with. When you see Jesus, whether it was with masses and understanding the culture and the cities that he was in or if he was sitting down with the person taking time to see people, it’s one of the things that I matter most is as I look at Jesus’s ministry because, for me, sometimes I get caught up in my own agenda, what I’m trying to build, what I want to do, and what I’ve created that I want everybody to like. I’m like, “Like this,” as opposed to Jesus who is like, “What are your needs?” and creating things around what served the people.

There is no bulk solution for everyone in real estate. It depends on their unique space, finances, and the resources they have available. Click To Tweet

It became real to me in my whole journey through America’s Got Talent because, through the years I doing ministry, we’ve done so much stuff at churches, youth groups, and showing up for the homeless people and everything that we can serve people. We built some incredible relationships, having real encounters with real humans, some that were a little more short-term, some that have become a little more long-term, and then some that are going to be forever friends, people that will forever do life with.

The reality is we never had a thing. We were just pushing. Here’s what was crazy. When I was on America’s Got Talent, as soon as it sounded like I was supposed to back off of all my social media, I felt like, “God, if this is the thing that you want to do and expand, this has to be you.” I felt this challenge to trust God.

Can we dig into that a little bit? When you say you felt it, talk to me about what was it. Was it an overall general?

Developing is an ability. As people always say, “Hear God’s voice.” We throw that around a lot, especially within the church. We don’t always think through what that means or what that’s like as we’re navigating through what that even means. Over the years, I asked that same question, “What does it mean to hear a voice? Was it mean to let you lead me?”

The only way that I can explain this is when you’re in a place where you’re like, “What’s important to you? Where are the areas in my life where I can love people better?” when you start thinking of the things close to God’s heart and starting those conversations, I feel you become surprised at the things that start coming to your mind, people who come up and start talking about some random thing that you never even asked about. You open up your Bible, the scriptures start jumping off the page. All of sudden, the Bible refers to God’s voice as a still, small voice.

When you learn to lean into that, it’s something that is hard to explain outside of challenging people to say, “God speaks, but what would you want to speak?” Some people say, “I want God to speak to me so I said, ‘What are the lottery numbers? I sat and waited.’” There are things deeply meaningful that God wants to accomplish in our hearts, businesses, and relationships. Sometimes we try and put our agenda on what God wants to accomplish, but the thing is that what God wants to accomplish is far more meaningful and satisfying.

Sometimes, we try and put our agenda on what God wants to accomplish. But in reality, what God wants to accomplish is far more meaningful and satisfying. Click To Tweet

I think about this all the time. Thanks for bringing it up. If you had a piece of paper and a box of crayons, and I said, “Draw me a picture of the best scene of your future,” it would pale and comparison to the picture God would paint for you. I’ve seen some great crayon drawings. We can’t even comprehend what that looks like. You’re like a beautiful example of that. It was special for me because I didn’t know anything about you. My first impression of you was you are a friend of a friend. What’s even more special about it is how I met David, our mutual friend, because my acceptance into that mastermind was an act of God.

It was an act of obedience because I feel strongly in my heart as I’ve gone through a lot of challenges in my business in the past years because I’m trying to scale. I feel God has called me to be an apostle to the business world. All of the companies and people that I have aligned myself with are like, “God took me through a Gideon process with my business.” It’s like, “No, you got to be smaller.” People leaving my business, which from the outside in, looks like failure. When you’re not growing, you’re dying. I have always said that to people. I’ve said it to people in this town for the past years. My business was shrinking, but my heart was growing.

My closeness to God was growing. My leadership was tested and grew. Pain comes before promotion. I knew that I needed more. I knew that I needed to equip myself. I’m thinking the word Nehemiah constantly. All of a sudden, one of my friends and agents who’s in the office is like, “We’re doing a sermon on Nehemiah. Do you want to come?” I should have gone, but I didn’t, do you know why? Life. Busy. God’s reaching out to me, “You got to read Nehemiah.” One night, I looked at my Bible on the way to bed and I felt him saying, “Open that book.”

It’s like that urging. It’s this voice of, “I’m supposed to do this.”

I didn’t do it. In that funny way, we do that. It’s funny how your kids don’t obey you sometimes. I woke up the next morning though and did it. I had two massive problems going on in my business. Instantly, I’m like, “If you read the story of Nehemiah, it’s about building something special for God.” I realized that I hadn’t put God in my business. He was trying to help me, but I wasn’t listening and open to him. “He who has ears, let him hear,” and I wasn’t listening.

I read this nourishing text. I started taking screenshots of it and sending them to people and business partners, “We need to repent on this because we didn’t put God in our business first.” Later that day, I was in a meeting with somebody who was having similar challenges. I was like, “Here’s wisdom from Nehemiah that I read.” She said, “You need to be in this mastermind.” It’s like an invite-only, but the cost of this mastermind is huge.

I’m spending all my money scaling my business. I didn’t have the extra cash sitting around. I’m like, “I wanted to. I felt like it was a good opportunity.” All of a sudden, I got this call from another one of my agents, and I had a random lot in the city that I was going to sell. The price that I got for that lot was the exact price of the mastermind plus travel.

At that mastermind, I met many special people who have changed my life. In an amazing way, God is in it. I can feel a minute he’s in the DNA of it. I walked in there and I met David Hughes. I’m like, “My brother from another mother.” He is anointed. It’s special that is what seems like a random chance of you in Hawaii looking at this real estate in Branson that my wife and I had listed, and then David’s like, “I know that guy.”

Coming full circle the way you’re talking about, it’s why relationships are constantly important. I met David because we were on AGT, which is also hilarious. Going back to that still small voice of God like, “Trust me,” I’m like, “I guess we’re trusting.” What’s wild is that I had no idea what was going to come from America’s Got Talent. I never expected to go as far as I did on America’s Got Talent. I was thinking, “I’ll get on like one episode.” Even the judges say a bunch of bad stuff. I’ll make a promo video on mute with what the judges are saying. I was like, “I was on TV.” That was as far as I needed it to go because I was doing birthday parties and stuff for $100 a pop. He’s like, “We’ll give you gas money.” They won’t even give me enough gas money.

Let’s talk about that journey. When did you start entertaining? You said you were a musician first.

When I was young, my grandparents gambled a bunch and they would go to Atlantic City all the time. They would always get “free” rooms, but they’re paying for it. They would get a free camera, meal vouchers, and free tickets to shows and stuff like that. They would get free tickets to the magic shows. They’ll bring our family. We make a little vacation out of all my grandparents’ losses.

Not all family vacations were based on how much money they were throwing away at the casino, but I fell in love with magic and entertainment. My parents, especially my dad, were into music. They were DJs. They were video weddings. My parents also grew up where their family was a mess. To make a long story not too long, they started turning their lives around when I was probably about 9 or 10 years old.

My parents’s whole marriage involved drugs, alcohol, affairs, partying, and all these things. My dad was dealing drugs when my parents met. My parents met was on a drug run. They would try getting their stuff back with God every once in a while. At one point, they started going to this church and then my mom was having an affair, and my dad didn’t know who she was having an affair with.

He’s trying to talk to the pastor about this whole thing and how to deal with this. It turns out the pastor is the one my mom was having the affair with. It was lots of weird, wonky territory. You would think that our family would hate church. This is why this is close to me. There are two people who stepped into my family’s lives and turned everything around because they cared. They showed up. They weren’t working for a church, a nonprofit, or anything. They just cared. My parents met them.

Are they from the community?

My dad was in music. All of us went to this concert. It was a Christian concert. I don’t know if my parents realized it at the time. They met this other couple there who were Christians. They started serving our family. They would come. They’d have meals with us. They take us grocery shopping. We’d go to fairs. Just relationships. They were doing life with us. It completely transformed my parent’s lives and their marriage. Everything turned around. They became marriage counselors. They’ve told so many marriages.

It changed me and my sister’s life. The whole dynamic of our family changed. Now, we have two boys we’ve adopted. From these people showing up, generations of our family now completely transformed Without getting too off track, I started doing magic stuff. When I was young, I got a couple of tricks from the store. I learned to twist balloons from a video that I was watching. There was this guy who had this Inner City Ministry where he would help kids who were in not-so-good situations. They came and spoke at the church and asked if anybody wanted to help.

He’s talking to the adults, but I’m like, “I’ll help.” He looks. My parents are awkward because we just started going to church like, “We are not ready to dive in and help yet. We’re just attending.” Afterward, the dude took me seriously. I was a little nine-year-old kid. He’s like, “What do you like? What do you love doing?” I was like, “I don’t know. I like doing magic tricks. I like twisting balloons.” He was like, “Would you be willing to dress up like a clown and come perform for the other kids? It will be cool for these kids to see someone their age using their gifts to serve God.” I’m like, “It is my gift to serve God. I’m going to dress up like a clown and do magic tricks. This is serving God.”

You describe my business career.

What was wild was I don’t think I realized it, but at that moment, it was like this guy was adding much value to me by showing up and using my gifts to be a blessing to others. I didn’t have to be a pastor or worship leader. I was showing up using my gifts to bless people. I was a kid. There was no reason this guy should have taken me seriously. My parents were getting back on their feet. He had the eyes of Jesus. He was like, “Here’s a kid. He’s willing. There’s something here.”

I’m forever thankful for this guy’s investment in my life by giving me the opportunity. I was doing magic stuff. I started doing birthday parties and stuff for other kids. I did the grand opening for a bank. I did something in a grocery store, but I got the age when I’m like 12 or 13 where it’s not cool to dress up like a clown. I stopped and never looked back.

Do you still have the wig?

I do. I walk up and feel like, “Am I still nine years old? All my stuff is there.” What’s funny is that when I stopped being a clown, I stopped doing magic. It never clicked. I could do magic and not dress up like a clown. For some reason, when the clown went, the magic went with it. I fell in love with music and started doing music stuff. I play guitar and drums mostly. I was an artist for a while. I was singing and songwriting. I was writing songs for other artists, television, films, and stuff like that. I did that for a while for my music career. It was cool the people that we got to meet. I feel like God has always been after me and keeping the priorities in the right place and not allowing me to get too sucked in again with my identity in losing myself in these things.

It is a wild ride. A few years ago, I met this dude who was a real estate agent, which is hilarious now that I’m thinking about this. He was in real estate, but he was a magician on the side. He would go and perform in comedy clubs. I was having lunch with him one day and he busted out a deck of cards and some coins. He was doing some stuff and, all sudden, all these people were watching. The engagement was beautiful. It brought me back to this place and things that I loved.

Were you doing like up close magic?

Yes, in the beginning, because a few years ago, I started taking his more seriously. In the beginning, I was like, “Let’s get some decks of cards.” I had my mom send me all my old magic tricks, not the wig this time, just some old stuff. She had shipped some stuff out and it was fun. It’s funny now because people will always be like, “I used to love magic. I always wanted to be a magician, and then I turned twelve.” I’m like, “Thanks.” You never grew up, but that’s fine. I’ll take it.

When Kelly and I moved to Branson. We had performance jobs. We were doing the saloon show and or some of the shows in town. The Branson thing is like a handshake line to be out there. You don’t go back to the green room and you’re done. Some people do, but a lot of Branson performers are out in the audience. In Branson, they like to talk to the people afterward or shake hands. They say, “What a great show.” You have to get used to that as an entertainer, but you get to know the people and it’s very special. At what point in your career did you start to start getting bigger gigs or you felt you were getting momentum with your career?

I feel very I keep going back to the same stuff because so much has been relationship. I was living in the middle of nowhere in East Texas after High School doing the ministry stuff I was talking about earlier. I had this passion for so long. I don’t want to just reach church people and people in the church. We were doing this ministry stuff, but I wanted to reach the people who didn’t want to come to the ministry or worship nights.

That’s when I first started writing music and sculpting local cafes and stuff. I’m like, “I want to be where other people are. Not because I want to try and push my religion on them or force people to get in debates about Jesus, but I want to be out like loving people.” A lot of people have such a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to the church and Christianity. I’m the perfect picture of this with the affair with my parents, the pastor, and all this stuff. I see this thing that, when done right, it completely changed my life.

People have a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to Christianity. But when done right, it can completely change somebody’s life. Click To Tweet

It changed everything and my parents. For generations, our family has been completely transformed. That’s what I want people to know that they’re loved and valued. I was like, “I want to be out. I want to write music that’s encouraging. I want to create an environment to celebrate people, to meet people after the show, hear their story, and encourage them.” I feel like I was supposed to do this and I fell in love with it.

I was like, “I feel like I’m supposed to do this, to pursue a music career.” As you talk about when things start growing, it is so wild because as I was doing this, I had a friend who knew the things I was passionate about. He was in Texas. He had moved. This is a funny weird story of how he met another dude there whose mom was friends with this lady, who got on this reality show. She was a Christian and it turned out the producers didn’t like Christians. She was like, “I need other Christians praying for me.”

She asked her friend, who asked her son and asked my friend and me to pray. She’s like, “Anybody who could be praying.” I’m like, “This is weird.” At around this time, I feel like I’m supposed to start doing this music stuff, trying to figure out life. I’m taking time to pray and I’m writing down little encouraging words, things that I feel, getting scriptures, sending her little bible verses. I’m giving them to my friend who’s giving them to his friend and who’s giving them a friend. This is a crazy chain going back and forth.

Finally, at the end of all this, this lady is like, “Who was this dude in Texas that’s been sending me these words and stuff? Everything was always timely. All these scriptures were encouraging. It was when we needed it.” I ended up meeting her. It turned out that she was a casting agent and stuff. He took me under her wing and helped me out. This was at the time I was leaving Texas and I was like, “I’m pursuing a music career. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m living in the middle of East Texas. No connection to the music industry. No idea about business.” Literally, from this thing, from being on this prayer chain, and being faithful then meeting his lady, a month later, I found myself in Atlanta. I was with people like Justin Bieber, Tricky Stewart, and The-Dream.

They just got back. They won a Grammy for doing the Single Ladies record with Beyoncé. It was wild. I was working with all these producers and all these studios doing music. I’m showing up getting to write songs and helping be part of producing. These relationships started to grow through people that I had known and met and, at some point, had served with no idea of what the agenda was here. You are going to grow into a career thing.

It was showing up to serve people. I feel like many things in my life that I’ve strived to do have not always come to be something through relationships with people that I’ve met, showing up to do my best and to see and bless these people, not thinking of what I can get out of it. I did the song for the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl, which is a huge honor. The Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl have tons of history behind them. They got to the 100th anniversary and I got asked to do the song for it to perform the song. That was an incredible honor.

There are amazing things I got to do in my career from friendships. Going into my America’s Got Talent Journey, what was wild was it was the same thing going back, even to not being on social media and feeling like I was supposed to trust God with this stuff. There were people on my season who were famous already, like millions of followers and subscribers on TikTok and downloads. I would go to promote something or post something and I felt this thing like, “Don’t do it. Just trust.” What was crazy is as we talked about building brands, businesses, and all these things, part of creating longevity means building loyalty. It’s hard to build loyalty when people have encountered you in a way where they feel like you’ve valued them.

Those people who feel valued by you will always refer people to you. They’ll always come back to you. There’s something real about the camaraderie that can only be built through real encounters. What I realized in the time of America’s Got Talent as these votes were coming in was that these votes were coming with people who genuinely had my back, not fans, who followed me because they saw a video. The people who want to work, getting their family, friends, and communities to vote with the people who we had served, I was never like, “I better be nice to these people, so one day when I went to America’s Got Talent, they’ll vote for me.”

They’re eating a taco off a paper plate, “I’m voting for this guy.”

It was such a great encouragement to be as much as it’s great to build awareness, build a business, show up for people, serve people, and create that thing without even realizing it had created loyalty, people who like, “This guy impact in my life. This guy came and served our church. This guy came in as part of this building project. He never asked for anything. He just showed up and did it.” These were the people who were voting and getting their people to vote man. I try to carry that with me. Like the question of when I find myself in these bigger spaces, it was like when it was time for it to happen, it started happening, especially because of America’s Got Talent.

You are trying for it, the opportunities.

It is trying to always build with excellence, refining my craft, how I become a better entertainer, looking at what other people are doing, trying to raise the bar, always trying to strive to do things with excellence but not at the cost of stepping on people to get there. That balance is what’s beautiful. How do we continue to grow and expand what we’re doing and reach to become professionals and excellent in our craft, but also value people, to make sure that we are selves are mentally and physically healthy, and that we’re able to continue to show up every day to do the work and carry out responsibilities necessary but to also trust and believe that we as humans design for relationship and that there is value in relationship.

When that comes prioritized, there’s this beautiful balance that starts to come about. It’s when we’ve realized things opening up and things are being thrust forward that we find ourselves being great at what we do to be able to deliver when we get there. I can’t just put that to the wayside, trust God to open doors, and the doors open up, I’ve never practiced, and I’m good. You can’t deliver.



What’s cool is after David introduced us, we had a float trip scheduled on the day that we were going to do our first time meeting each other. We loved hanging out on the river. I can’t wait for you to try it here. It’s relaxing. Float trips in Missouri were the one thing I missed when we moved away for a little while. At the end of the day, we are paddling fast. I’m like, “We got to work. We got a phone call.” We finally got home, and I apologize that we were in our swimsuits, which is not usually what I do.

First, if I’ve never met somebody, I usually have the courtesy to put on a collared shirt out of respect, but we were rushing and we are like, “Sorry.” We got a t-shirt and all that. You were cool. I love the way we, in the end, prayed for whatever God wanted to happen for you, your life, and even for what we were doing and for what was supposed to happen out of us being connected in this by a divine appointment we both felt.

I’m glad we stood in agreement on that. I went right to my phone and I was like, “Who is this guy?” I’m looking and started watching the performances. They’re truly phenomenal. It’s very special not only in the way that you perform but in the very special and personal stories that you tell. You told your own personal stories. A lot of people connect with that because their own personal story is the most meaningful.

Sometimes when you tell your story or you tell a third-party story, people can see themselves and that. You inspire a lot of people. You create a spark of love in people. Maybe that’s why I got you out there because you do create love in other people. Not only you do create love but you create connection. You also create contribution and collaboration in the things that you do in your ministries off-screen without revealing anything that would be a trade secret. First of all, how did you come up with some of that? I’m not talking about the technical stuff, but I mean the theme of some of those.

For us, because of all the things that we do, we want there to be purpose in this stuff that we’re doing. We’re like, “What are some ways where we can go on to do some fun magic but to make sure people feel encouraged?” It’s by being super authentic because sometimes with magic, it can be very showy and people start telling stories. People have a magic trick that they love. A lot of times, what happens is as a magician, you’ll have a trick that you love and an effect that you think is great. You’re like, “I want to do this.”

You start thinking, “What’s the story that I can tell to go with this?” Some of you have a conscious stuff up and storyline. What ends up happening is you have a lot of magicians who are doing some magic trick, telling some story, and it’s like, “I know that the story and the magic are not real. I’m just enjoying a thing,” but automatically, there’s a disconnect because there’s a lack of authenticity. Early on, what we decided was that we were not going to come up with the magic first. We’re going to come up with what’s the narrative that is true to us, to who we are true, and where we’re at in this season of life, and then what’s the magic that can visually go with this story? What’s something that will visually help push this story alone?

As an encouragement to anybody reading, timing is always everything. This was my third time trying to be on AGT because, in the first season, I threw a friend in the music industry. Tyra Banks got me my first audition for the producers. Tyler was hosting the show at the time. I’m like, “This is it. This is too perfect. Tyler got me my audition for AGT. They’re not going to say no.” I did the thing, “No. Sorry. We don’t like you. You’re not ready.” I’m like, “That’s sucked.” The next year, I tried it again. The same thing, “No, sorry. You’re not AGT-level material.” It was crazy. I was in this third year and I felt, “This is the season we got to go for. This is the season to fight for.”

What was in you? Why did you go for it the third time?

It is that little nudge. For some reason, this year is important. This is the season that matters and I can’t explain why. I felt like God was putting this weight. In the last couple of years, when I was trying out for AGT, I felt that I was like, “It’s okay. Let it go. Surrender it. Keep trusting.” The feeling was different the third time around. It’s wild. The reason this is part of the answer to your question is because what’s crazy is that we had adopted Xander. The first audition was about the adoption of our son.

He had a biological brother who is older than him, who’s in the system. We didn’t know if we were ever going to get to adopt him. We desperately wanted to see these boys grow up together. I’m on AGT and getting ready to go out for the live rounds. AGT is sending a film crew out to film our lives. We were living in Virginia Beach at the time. They filmed our lives in Virginia Beach and to get some lifestyle stuff. We got a phone call in the meantime asking if we would adopt the older brother, which we weren’t expecting. This call was out of the blue.

Was it while the film crew was there?

This was before they were coming. We get this call asking if we would adopt the older brother, and I’m like, “We’re not going to say no. This is the craziest season of my life. We’re getting ready to go out to Hollywood. I got to have my head in the game with this competition. I have to plan for this next round. I got to create a magic trick for this next round, but we’re not going to say no to a kid.” This is more important than anything. We’re like, “Let’s do it.” The uncle’s going to bring him out. The day that their uncles brought him out was the same day the film crew was coming from America’s Got Talent. They filmed the first moment of Sylas’s coming into our home and being united with his brother.

How special is that? You’ll have that for the rest of your life. He will too. He’ll show it to his kids.

What was wild was him coming into our home became the premise for my next act on AGT. For that next round, we got to do this. Life sometimes seems messy and I did this whole thing with cards, but seeing how someone’s in the randomness of everything, how meaningful things become, and the fact that we could never plan on Sylas’s coming when he did is a beautiful moment. We couldn’t have planned. If I had gotten on to AGT the season before that, I would not have been able to tell the story.

I would have thought watching the show, “Come on.”

Everyone’s like, “The magic is fake. The judges are in. They told them what to say.” There are people posting like, “That’s not even his real wife. They’re hired actors. That’s not his real family. It’s all for the show.” I’m like, “I know it feels like that. I feel like someone’s playing a trick on me.” What is wild is that we did that second round and had to come up with an act for the next one. It’s like, “What is the story that you want to be told now? How do we continue to encourage people?”

Each round was taking the story and what visuals go with the story of what we’re trying to tell, all the way leading up to feeling like the last round. We wanted to be about why this is important to us and I was like, “I want to tell my parents story.” What inspired me was people showing up. You don’t need money, resources, success, or fame to make an impact on the world. You just need to be willing to say yes. This is what happened to my family. These people stepped into our lives and changed everything. I was like, “This is what I want my last performance about my parent’s marriage, it falling apart, and these people coming in and changing my parent’s lives, our lives now, and our boys that we adopted on live television.”


CDRE 27 | Authentic Life


What’s crazy was I realized I did the performance on my parent’s anniversary. My parent’s anniversary is coming up. What a perfect way to be like, “In celebration of my parent’s anniversary, I want to celebrate their story and why.” It is the timing of all this stuff coming together. I didn’t just win AGT because of magic tricks. It was because of the connection with people and the timing that I could not have forced.

It is the beautiful orchestration and the hand of God in your life.

Also, the things falling apart prior to that to where I could have been like, “Forget it. This is a joke. Why am I even trying to be a magician as an adult? Why am I trying to be on a competition show where I’m competing with kids who are twelve years old singing? It’s weird. I’m a grown man competing with dog acts, other magicians, singers, and kids. It is such a strange place.”

It sounds like a Branson real estate career.

The thing that’s wild is we could not have orchestrated this time. We couldn’t force this. As an encouragement to the readers, the doors that shut in your past and the things that have discouraged you and made you want to give up might be the things thrusting you into the perfect timing that’s right ahead of you. I could have quit that last season and never would have done this. I could have said, “It didn’t work. This is stupid. I don’t know what I’m going to talk about.”

The thing is as we stayed open and willing, all of these things opened up from things that we could not have made happen. I want to drive home to people. In my show, this is what I talk about. In conversations, this is what I love talking about. Keep showing up and loving people. Those little urges we are talking about were God’s pushing you to do or pursue a thing or a person. Maybe you do and it seems to fall apart. Stick with it. Keep pressing. You have no idea what’s right around the corner.

For me, that’s been the greatest craziest wake-up call. I can’t force things to happen in my life. All I can be responsible for is the excellence, the obedience that I do it with, and the love in my heart to continue to serve people even when it’s difficult. To see what has come from that and what continues to come from that is the most exciting adventurous life we could have ever thought to live simply because we try and lay ourselves down to do this.

Let’s give people some tools here because that’s another thing about you that I was impressed with. It is one of the things that you are inspiring me to do, magnifying in my spirit, the things that I’m being led to do already but don’t have the training to do. I’m just doing the best I can to follow God. Like I was telling you on the phone a little bit, when I decided to expand, it was my plan at that point. God had told me, “Go out and be an apostle for the business world. Go and tell business people that I love them.”

There was a place in my life where I was feeling alone. I was overworked and worn out. There is a whole story that goes along with it, but it is strong. I heard the words in my head, “Do you know how you feel right now? Do you know how broken, empty, tired, and exhausted you feel? There are other people like that in business out there. Will you go tell them that I love them and not to give up?” I’m in tears. I’m outside. In my hot tub, I am asking to hear from God. I was leading 50 people on a massive change. I could feel the weight of their families on my decision-making. I’m asking God to show up and he didn’t until I took four steps out of that hot tub.

It hit me in the chest, and the emotion came out of me. I felt God’s voice in my head, and he was like, “Will you say yes to me?” I said yes. I went inside and told Kelly. I’m in tears. I’m walking inside the house and she’s like, “What happened? Are you okay?” I was like, “The most special thing just happened. God told me to do this, but then I didn’t know what to do next.” I did what I knew how to do, which was business strategy.

I’m like, “I’m an expert in the short-term rental world. Let’s go to Orlando, Pigeon Forge, and some of these hot international markets where everybody goes.” I tried finding people there. I tried going there. Having meetings business meetings. I came close to signing some business deals. I’m getting ready to expand a national brand like a short-term rental-focused brokerage because that’s what we had here in Branson. Not just for short-term rentals, but for investors in general, and that’s not the way God wanted it to happen.

I had been invited to speak in North Carolina on the topic with a group of agents. We’re flying out there. I bought a 1985 Prevost Motor Coach because I wanted to tour around, meet some of these agents, and do training and stuff. We were flying out to go get this bus and we’re going to drive it back. We had one-way tickets. As we are taking off, Chris gets this phone call from the guy who owned the bus. He’s like, “It’s not going to work. The turbo and the engine are shot. We only had a one-way ticket.” We started praying and we asked the Holy Spirit to guide us once we landed.

I felt prompted to call this agent that I knew in North Carolina. We got all this video equipment with us because we wanted to do some podcasts and tell a cool story there. We had some video equipment surrounding the bus. We decided to go into this person’s life and make a sizzle reel for her. She became our first network partner. Now we’ve got somebody from Wilmington to North Myrtle Beach that can serve investors there. It’s because we decided to go so, not because we wanted to have the notoriety of something big or grand. God’s like, “No, I’ve got a different plan for you. Go and serve people.”

I feel most people stumble around trying to do them. Sometimes, following God is like a blindfold in the dark. Sometimes, it’s very clear. Sometimes, you don’t see it until after it’s done and how well orchestrated it was. I say all that because I feel like you are more spirit-led than strategy-led. Maybe it’s both. I don’t know you well enough to say that. That’s my perception simply because you allow God in your life more so than most people that I have met. Help us.

One of the things you’re talking about that comes to my mind is generosity. Sometimes we hear generosity and we think finances, “Give your money. If I got more money, I’ll be more generous.” Someone’s money is the easy thing to give. It takes a second to write a check. When I think of generosity, I think of our time and our gifts. With any gift that anybody has, there’s a way to be generous with that gift to serve people. One of the things that keeps me going is the idea of having a purpose behind what I’m doing.

As I perform magic shows and do these things, I can generate income with these shows, but it’s also a thing I can be generous with. One of the things that’s the most fueling is going and doing some youth events. David hired me to come out and do this event. We were there, and it was fun. I was like, “It was such a great event. I got paid.” I had lunch the next day with my wife and her mom. In the middle of eating, I felt that nudge to give the money back. I was like, “That’s weird. I’ve done stuff for free where it’s established beforehand,” but God said, “Give the money back.”

I’ve never done this where I go in, do a job, and get paid. I’m relying on that money to pay my bills. I was like, “Give it back.” In faith, I’m like, “I guess we’re doing this.” I called David. I’m like, “Remember me? I’m the guy who performed last night. I’m going to give the money back for the event.” He called his wife and they’re super grateful and super stoked. We got to build a friendship from there. None of this I am trying to be like, “This is what we did.” Even when we win America’s Got Talent, and I say we because I include my family in this, I never thought it was me who won. I feel like it was these principles that won. It was us as Christians who have been beaten up and like, “Christianity is outdated. It doesn’t make sense.”

When you look at Christianity at its core and how we’re called to live, I feel like that was the win of, “There’s a life-giving thing that has been painted in a terrible light for a lot of people,” but it is life-giving. For me, to function in this space, we try every day, “How do we be generous with our gifts?” When you’re generous with your gifts, it means you’re adding purpose to the things you’re called to do, whether that’s real estate, the knowledge that you have in real estate, the space that you have to share, or blessing people with spaces.

When looking at Christianity at its core, it calls people to live in a life-giving way. Click To Tweet

There’s a thing there that God honors. The other thing that’s cool is I’ve experienced a lot of failure in my life in my music career and the magic stuff. What’s amazing is that even in that failure, I’ve always looked back being proud of what we accomplished in the way of like, “Do we bless people in this time?” I didn’t grow into what I thought it was going to grow into, but I know that we blessed people. I don’t know if there’s anybody would be more proud of than knowing that even our failure had a purpose. When you live a life where even your failure has a purpose, then how do you lose? You can’t lose.

Everything you do serves a purpose to add value to other people. That’s the thing that’s kept this going. People see us now with the America’s Got Talent journey like, “You won.” People don’t understand the sacrifices that we’ve had to make and the devastating things that we’ve had to go through as a family. It’s the only way we’ve become able to do these things. It is not because we’re stronger than anybody else or we have anything that other people don’t have.



We’ve held on to this idea of, “Everything we do will have a purpose,” because we can’t control the outcome. What we can control is this moment right now that we’re in. As far as tools, I always encourage people to make the most of what they’re in. That doesn’t mean you start having to give everything away and you can’t build stuff because, like we said, there’s a balance of true strategizing. I like what you said when you said about being more spirit-led than strategy-led.

That’s a big thing because when God speaks the thing that’s important, when I’m like, “My gifts matter to you. I can have a purpose with these gifts. Even if I’m a nine-year-old dressing up like a clown, this can have some spiritual purpose to it. What I do matters and I get excited about it,” I feel like that’s when the strategy comes. To me, the strategy comes second almost. It’s like, “Here’s what I love. Here’s what I’m proud of. This is what I will be proud of, whether it works or whether it doesn’t. Now let’s start putting some strategy behind this. If that strategy doesn’t work, let’s try a bit of a different strategy.”

What’s cool is the strategy doesn’t become our God. The vision itself is what we start being able to dive into, experimenting with, and exploring. I don’t know if that makes sense or helps at all, but how we’ve come to function is like, “Let’s be excited about the thing that’s been believing it, and then let’s start taking steps to get there.”

What’s next for you? What’s on your agenda?

I had to show up in Vegas for a while. We left there early because we felt like in the midst of everything happening, there was space that we were creating and tapping into. I like breaking systems, models of things, and structures. I feel like we’re in the season where like, “What’s a space that we can invent and create? Maybe the promotion and marketing model isn’t the same, but how do we create multiplication much like Jesus? How do we create something where what we’re doing from the stage is important, but the community that we’re creating around it is more important?” Maybe that’s where the longevity is going to come from.

We’re in this season where we’ve been dreaming up and building. This is why we met. We’re exploring some of the entertainment stuff happening here in Branson and some communities that we can build here. We’re diving into this chapter. We have a vision of what we want to do. We want to create something that blesses people, but we can be investing in the ushers, the people at the concession stand, and the merch tables.

We want every single role to matter and we want to raise people up to know that every job that they have matters, whether it’s the people in the seats or the people working with us on what we’re creating. We’re in this space, that’s the vision, and now comes the strategy. How do we do that? Where will we land? We’re here exploring some stuff in Branson.

Branson doesn’t have much of a middle class. There’s not a whole lot of jobs here. One of the reasons why I got into the short-term rental business is because the long-term rental market here is not super great. It would be in a bigger town like St. Louis, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. A lot of people make a couple hundred thousand a year. They can afford to rent. In here, they don’t. They make minimum wage. It is hard to rent, or they live in a hotel. They’re leaving their kids in the hotel room, a 7 and 8-year-old.

If the DFS found people’s kids by themselves, this is what they have to do because it’s a single mom who has to go to work and take tickets at the theater. You’ve got these haves and have-nots in Branson. You’ve got the people that own the theater and then you’ve got the people that work in theaters. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of generous people who own property and businesses here, but there’s a huge dichotomy, and it’s exactly like what you were talking about earlier.

My kids go to public school here in Branson. They’re either befriending somebody whose dad, mom, or both are in jail and they’re living with a grandma. They’re making bad choices and are hooked on drugs, or their mom and dad don’t pay any attention to them whatsoever and they’re all hooked on drugs and making bad choices. There is no middle class. There’s nobody for my kids to be friends with. My kids are sowing into people’s lives constantly because we’re equipping them for life.

We’re preparing them for life. Branson is a great town to do that. There are a lot of super great people, but there’s a lot of opportunity here as well. What if there was a show almost where the proceeds from the show co-opt in a way with all the people that worked there and there was this larger community that happened, even outside the show and things that and even when the show wasn’t going on? You’re giving me some ideas. I would love to jam with you.

This is exactly what I’m talking about as far as looking to models that exist and then being like, “What can we create that will bring life?” When you start thinking this way, instantly, you start thinking, “How can we do this thing?” People would want to give to that, which means we’d be able to be a greater blessing. All of a sudden, the strategy starts coming because you find a thing that’s meaningful and purposeful. Whether you’re passionate about magic or they’re passionate about real estate, people can get in on like, “Let’s do something that helps.”

There are people who are out there who have to sell tickets to be able to pay for meals for their kids. The idea is we created a space where it’s important that we can get people a job, but if that mom is working for us, how do we also make sure she has community and she feels supported and encouraged? If we’re working in a space that’s full of other people with the same heart, let’s help out with the kids. Let’s help get those kids in this space.

Watch them so you don’t have to leave them at home by themselves.

I want to create a magic kit that I would love to take some young people to train them up on like, “How to do a bunch of the tricks and the thing?” Have them in the lobby doing these magic tricks, performing for the people as they come in, and selling the merch then they get a percentage of the merch that they’re selling. You’re not just here working hourly. You’re here learning that when you engage with people, when you interact, try and train people up, also what business looks like and how to get better at something because the better they are, the more they engage, and the more they’re going to sell, which means the more money that they’re going to make.

The goal is to start to instill these things in people to help them get excited about what they’re doing and realize that you can be blessing people and finding financial gain all at the same time You can have a purpose as you start thinking outside of the box and not applying someone else’s strategy for how success happens but applying yourself into a moment to create space to where you win, the person that is encountering you wins, and then that gets multiplied. Now, everybody wins.

You can be a blessing to people and find financial gain at the same time. You can have a purpose as you start thinking outside the box and applying yourself. Click To Tweet

You have renewed my enthusiasm for people because there are many times when investing in people can be disappointing. I’ve often thought to myself, “Can I do this?” I feel like God called me to do this, but sometimes I don’t feel strong enough to do it. This is the thought that creeps into my head sometimes as I’m drifting off at night, “Maybe I should have invested in property, not people because I can evaluate and strategize the property.”

I’ve always chosen people. There’s a part of me that loves to invest in people. After talking to you, if you’ve given me this renewed excitement because you invest in a property, you get a finite return. When you invest in people, that return could potentially be infinite because how many people’s lives could be affected, like yours is affected by those people that decided to be in a relationship with your mom and dad. It changed the way you thought about church. It could have changed the direction of your life completely. Thank you for being here and for telling your story.


CDRE 27 | Authentic Life


Thank you for having me. I love to share. Thank you for taking the time as well. This has been cool. I’m grateful to have new friends. This is what it is all about. There’s a relationship and family. What’s going to happen after this show is the exciting stuff. We get to keep building relationships. If there’s any takeaway for readers, I pray and hope that people can continue to realize that now they get to have a purpose. This moment gets to have a purpose. When this interview is over and you’re going to go have lunch, back to family, whatever you’re doing, or you’re heading into work, you can make this next moment count by just showing up, listening, and seeing people. You have no idea what God can do with a willingness to be present.

Thanks for being here.

Thank you.

Thank you for reading. I know your time is valuable. I hope you got a few takeaways that are going to help you get a greater return on that time. I know you will. If you did enjoy it, I’d sure appreciate a share or a comment. Feel free to subscribe for instant access to new episodes and offers. There’s also a ton of free content and ways to learn more and engage more at Until then, we’ll continue to bring you recipes for success and real stories for real people who, like you, are living out your divine purpose. God loves you. No matter what happens, don’t give up.


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About Dustin Tavella

CDRE 27 | Authentic LifeDustin Tavella (born April 11, 1986) is an American magician and singer. He is best known for being the season 16 winner of the NBC show America’s Got Talent as a magician. Since 2010, Tavella has released numerous singles, and an EP in 2014.

Early life and education

Tavella was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Pottsgrove High School. As a child, he went to magic shows in Atlantic City with his grandparents, who were into gambling. Prior to starting his music career, Tavella worked for a humanitarian organization (Compassion International), aiding the homeless and mentoring in youth programs.

Music and magic career

Upon realizing the positive impact music had on people, Tavella made a shift to an entertainment career. In 2010, after writing and recording R&B-style pop songs, he began posting them on YouTube as dUSTIN tAVELLA. Since 2011, Tavella has produced multiple singles and an EP, via his independent record label Film and Music (FAM).

In early 2012, Tavella gained some national exposure when he appeared on CMT’s reality television show, Sweet Home Alabama. Mixing a bit of country (with his guitar) into his predominantly urban style, he released a few singles related to the show.

In 2013, Tavella released the single “Everybody Knows (Douchebag)”, which went viral. Pop singer Selena Gomez choreographed a dance video to the song, as a “dismissal” to ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber. Later that year, Gomez made a cameo appearance in Tavella’s official video for the song, featuring Danny Trejo and Francia Raisa. A five-song EP, called Phases 1 3, arrived in July 2014.

America’s Got Talent

In 2018, Tavella began performing magic professionally. In 2021, he auditioned for the season sixteen of America’s Got Talent. He made it to the finals, performed with Mat Franco and Rico Rodriguez, and consequently won on September 15, 2021. Beating out nine finalist for the million dollar grand prize, Tavella is the third magician to win the show, after Franco and Shin Lim.

In 2022, Tavella began headlining America’s Got Talent Live, at the Luxor Las Vegas on the Strip. His own magic show, Here Comes Trouble, incorporates his musical talent.

In August 2022, Tavella performed during the first live season 17 Qualifier Results Show, alongside Sofía Vergara and assisted by Sarah Hyland.

Personal life

Tavella lives in Las Vegas, after moving from Virginia Beach, Virginia. He married Kari Gibson in 2018. They adopted two sons, Xander and Sylas, both of whom he centered acts around.

A devout Christian, Tavella and his wife have been active with pregnancy crisis and homeless ministries.