How to be a better magician, and why you need to know, even if you don’t do magic


I was in Barcelona recently with my sons, and we stumbled upon a magic show, for amateur magicians. Essentially, the performers got the chance to perform for real people in a small theatre, and the audience got some magic at a really low price. I’m a magic nut so I really enjoyed the show, but if I’m honest, it wasn’t a very good show. IN fact, it reminded me of when I went to a magical club in the UK and had almost exactly the same experience. Let me tell you about it, and then let me tell you why it’s important to you.

Some of the performers were nervous, some were old hands, some knew what they were doing and some plainly didn’t. For the most part though they ranged from competent, to really very good.

And yet … and yet … the night itself really wasn’t actually that enjoyable unless, like me, you were “into” magic.

You see, the problem with magic and the people it attracts, is that there is always a yearning to do something new. Something a bit clever. A little bit of showing off. And whilst that is fine in itself, the issue is that the magic wonks get so caught up in being “clever “they forget the key reason an audience is there.

People go to see magic so they are entertained. Simple. They want to laugh, be surprised, shocked, affected, moved, astonished and a whole range of other emotions, but principally the reason people pay good money to watch some magic, is they want to be entertained.

And isn’t that the same in any other performance – dancing, a concert, theatre, films, sport – whilst the people watching may well appreciate the skill of a dancer, the musicianship of a band, the clever camera angles and so on, principally they are enjoying being entertained.

And this is exactly where magicians go wrong – they forget their key role is to entertain and instead get excited about the clever sleight they just performed, the really difficult secret move or the special effect they are trying to create. You see the shockingly simple difference between a great magician and the legions of amateurs is not practice, budget, skill or scope (though all of those things may be part of it) … no … the biggest difference is the awareness and focus of understanding what the audience wants, not what they the magician wants from the process.

This is so similar to how many of us spend our time in work and life situations – so we go to another country and never even try the local language because we get bogged down in the details, rather than trying the overall impression of speaking the language. Wannabe business owners never actually start their new business idea because they want to get everything ready and be fully skilled instead of trying the idea in its rawest form. Hopeful Romeos spend all night drinking and plucking up courage (until its way too late) rather than simply asking …

And those who do start, focus on all the little details they imagine are important – just like our amateur magicians. How many times have you seen a speaker at your work wetter on about the font on the PowerPoint slide, rather than simply conveying his idea to you in a moving and powerful way? Restaurants that seem so bogged down in the right cutlery, topping up the wine (after you’ve smelt the cork, admired the label etc.) and the constant “faffing” around you, when all you want is a lovely meal, well served? You want to ask for raise from your boss, and get caught up in all the details and specifics and reasons (which might be needed I agree) whereas maybe it’s as simple as … asking for the order?

I’m curious, what are you putting off to perfect, and when you do try you make worse by focusing on the wrong things? What can you do better, by doing less?


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