Magic is about doing the impossible. Every trick we perform has to defy science, explanation or belief. If it’s explainable, it becomes a stunt or a weird party trick.
These tricks are a great example of something really cool; they look fabulous and amaze your friends, but you know it’s not magic, as there is a scientific explanation.
This trick by David Blaine, on the other hand, has to be magic. Even if you don’t believe in magic, the fact that you can’t work out how it is performed, makes it magic. You don’t believe in magic, but it still stays inside your head…torturing you…as you figure out how he must have done it.
When coming up with ideas, magicians have an unusual starting point; we start at “what’s impossible?” and then work backwards. We get the idea of how it would look to perform, how it would feel to perform it and then work out how to achieve that ideal, while sacrificing none of the “impossible”.
There is simply no room for a “that’s not possible” kind of attitude.
It IS possible.
It HAS to be.
Vanishing the Statue of Liberty, walking across the Thames or biting off a piece of a coin and blowing it back on are all “impossible”, but the “impossible” has been done. And then built upon.
If I want to create a magic trick where a signed borrowed coin magically vanishes and appears in your pocket, I start with what I know. I know a few good ways to vanish coins and I know a few good ways to make coins appear in different places.
So, lets start there…
I could sneakily pre-load an unusual, foreign coin, which has my initials on both sides, into your pocket at some point before the trick even begins (maybe as you’re walking round the drinks reception). When I come up to you later, I could produce a duplicate coin (without any signatures), have you initial one side of it and I would initial the other (test conditions stuff). I could then use some deadly sleight of hand to make the coin disappear. “Check your pockets” says I, and you reach into your pocket, where you find the duplicate coin I snook there earlier (the one with my initials on both sides). As you take it from your pocket, you can see it is the same coin as you can see my initials on there (that, and it’s a strange and unusual coin). If I take the coin from you, I can switch it for the coin I vanished a few moments ago and then return it, making it look like a signed coin has vanished from my hands and appeared in your pocket.
Let’s take this idea and move it away from magic. How about money?
Let’s say that you have a “trick” that you want to achieve that appears impossible, such as “earning £1,000,000”.
The next step is to sit down and work with what you know on how to achieve that trick.
Firstly, we know that the magic trick of earning £1m has been done before. There are millions of people all over the world that have done it (12m in fact according to The Telegraph), many of them not smarter, better built or better looking than you or I (OK, so they are mostly better looking than me).
Becoming a millionaire has been done, though sadly not be me…as yet.
Let’s take what we know and see if we can get to our goal.
How many ways could I, right now, genuinely think of to earn £1m?
1. I could sell about 18m copies of this awesome book. All I would have to do is find 18m people that have a lot of time on their hands, find me mildly amusing and are in the market to replenish their toilet library. It’s slim at best, but, given the amount of people on the planet, it’s likely that there are 18m people that would happily read, or pass on this book as an impulse buy stocking filler type thing. All I would need to do is find those people and put them in a headlock until they agreed to buy the book.
Note: I need to work on my headlock.
2. I could charge £1m for close up magic gigs, and do one a year. What the heck would I have to do to be able to justify that? Who would be willing to pay that for a magic gig? For this to work, I think I’d have to be mega famous (which I’m not), massively in demand (definitely not) and then make it publicly known that I’m only going to be doing one gig.
Unless any of you happen to know a mentally ill Sheikh?
3. I could create a magic trick that every magician in the world wants to do, or own. If we presume that there are 7bn people living on the earth and that 1 in every 140,000 has done, presently does or will do magic in some form or another, that would make a total of 50,000 “magicians” on the planet. If I could come up with an idea, effect or technique that most of those people would buy, and sell it for £25, I could earn a million. Again, the chances of this are quite slim, but, if I were to come up with 2, 3 or 10 different products…
4. If I don’t land that £1m gig (and it hasn’t happened while typing this), I could break that down further. £1m a year is £84,000 a month, or £20,000 a week, approximately. Could I earn £20,000 a week? If I charge £400 for a close up gig at a wedding or corporate event, I’d need to do 50 gigs a week.
I get tired in a weekend when I do 3 or 4..
Ok, how about I include stage shows or maybe develop this series of “Think Like A Magician” into a series of speeches, talks and events that I offer corporate audiences? Could I earn £20,000 a week doing that?
Yes, probably. Eventually.
If I could get to the stage where I could charge £5,000 for a days speaking engagement, or workshop…or whatever they are called, I could do 4 of those a week. I could also develop some back of room sales products that would ease the pressure on the live events, and also be suitable for sale over the web.
5. I could discover that I’m the secret love child of Alan Sugar and Donald Trump and they both willingly pay me £1m per year for my silence.
Yeah, that is a bit ridiculous.
As if someone is going to pay me £5,000 to speak at their event!
So, there’s 5 ideas that I’ve genuinely thought of while typing this (about 15 minutes). Ok, they are not all winners and some are a bit silly but, by talking to people, thinking more about these ideas and creating even more, I’m going to get closer and closer to a solution to my impossible challenge.
Either way, when you adopt this mindset of starting at the impossible and working backwards, you’re only going to get closer and closer to your “impossible” goal.