I guess I’m lucky. The biggest regret in my life thus far is waiting so long before I took the plunge to perform magic for real people. It took me a long time to get up the courage. The more I waited, the worse it got.
Whenever anyone asks me for any advice about how to learn magic, I point them in the direction of this book and tell them to learn three tricks from it and go out and perform them, over and over.
And then over and over again.
Jump straight in and do it.
If you’re at a bus stop and you have a five minute wait, do a trick for the other people waiting. Pizza delivery guy? Get him too! Anyone (as long as they are willing) is a potential audience.
I wish I’d done this, but I didn’t. I spent years as a bedroom magician, logging onto forums, mocking others and creating excuses, waiting for the “next trick” to come along that would be the one I would have to learn before I went out into the scary old world.
Just to show you how paralysed I was by this, here is, word for word, a question I submitted for a famous magician:
I’ve been interested in card magic for many years, purely as a hobbyist, performing for my own amusement. However, recently, I’ve wanted to make a change into performing close up, in pubs and bars. The trouble is, because I’ve only really performed for myself, I’ve no confidence in being able to perform for other people, the fear of failure almost paralyzing me from performing. The nerves, sweat and shakes make me hold back on performing, not making any progress towards my performing goal. What advice would you give someone like myself to help counteract this fear, to get to the stage where I can confidently perform without letting fear and worry hold me back?
That’s how bad it was. And I’d created all of it myself.
The truth is, I learned more from my first atrocious gig than I ever learned from a magic book or forum, and the worries I felt virtually vanished after I jumped in. I also discovered that a lot of the things I was most worried about didn’t even exist in the first place!
When I started stand up comedy, I had a flashback to this and it gave me the impetus to take the opposite approach. Because I had been so wrong with my approach to magic, I had to do comedy “right”. I made the decision I was going to do comedy and I booked a gig that same day. The next day I booked myself onto a comedy course, where I could perform in front of people and get my act critiqued, and also sought out more open mic performance opportunities. I forced myself to jump into comedy. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. I knew I would learn more by doing.
If I hadn’t felt so bad about my approach to magic, I probably would have been hesitant with comedy. I would still be awaiting my first gig, just hanging on for the one joke that I need to make sure I’m ready for the stage. I certainly wouldn’t have won a comedy award on my third gig (this is the only award I’m likely to win for anything, so I’m milking it!).
The bottom line is, that a year in to performing comedy, I’m miles ahead of where I was a year into thinking about being a magician. I’ve done good gigs and I’ve also stunk to high heaven, and both are valuable experiences (though less of the stinking would be good!). Rather than suffer from paralysis by analysis, I gave myself permission to mess up and fail; to make those silly mistakes, and I’m better for it.
I’m not going to wait until something is perfect.
If it’s good enough, it’s good…enough!