Agents of Change: Harris, III

By Connect Staff, September 9, 2016

Harris, III
Illusionist; Storyteller
Founder, Istoria Collective
Director/Producer/Curator, Story Gathering
Nashville, Tennessee

Change-Making 101: Performing magic in church venues isn’t universally accepted says Harris, III (pronounced Harris the Third). “The secretive nature of magic leads to misunderstanding, skepticism and perceived risk of partnering with an event involving magic,” he says. However, this jack-of-all-trades—whose name catches attention at first glance—doesn’t let that stand in his way. He’s partnered with a long list of some of the biggest churches and events in the country (think Southern Baptist Convention and Willow Creek). “I think many of those churches wouldn’t have imagined partnering with an illusionist 20 years ago.”

How He Got Here: Harris, III began his career at the age of 11 when he did his first paid, professional performance as an illusionist. By 14, he was doing 50 events per year across the United States. By 21, he had performed in nearly every state and in more than 20 countries across four continents. And he’s come even further since then. “Now that I am producing events and conferences, in addition to being booked by those producing them, there are things that have contributed to the unique perspective and approach I now take as an event planner,” he says. “I was the guy onstage for over 20 years, and while that hasn’t stopped, now I’m also building the stages other people perform on.”

Inspired By: “My first child, Jude, who sees magic all around him. His imagination runs wild. The world needs dreamers and storytellers who can help restore order among all the chaos and brokenness.”

Why He’s Not Your Typical Event Planner: “There isn’t a model for what I’ve done. Every tour, event and conference has been breaking new ground and building trust by casting vision of what’s possible, trying to pave a way forward.”

What He’s Working on Right Now: Story 2016, which will take place this year at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. The attendee list ranges from Disney Imagineers to creative teams from some of the largest churches in the country. “To design a two-day conference experience for those who produce their own conferences and events is a huge collaborative effort by a lot of amazing people, and it’s a huge honor to lead that charge,” he says.

Secret to His Success: Put “wow” before “how.” “Never let the world rob you of childlike faith and imagination—it will try. You’ll get discouraged and burned; we all do. But keeping wonder alive is what keeps us dreaming about what could be. When brainstorming, always be generous with the times you say, ‘Wow!’ When all you do is respond to your team with ‘How?’ it kills imagination and discourages creative thinking.”

“Never let the world rob you of childlike faith and imagination—it will try.”

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Connect is seeking nominations for the 2019 40 Under 40, honoring the brightest minds in faith events. Nominations are due March 26.

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