This is a situation that is by no means unique to Phil. In fact, you are probably still reading this post because at some point you have experienced this very same feeling. You have bought a brand new magic trick, set about learning how to perform it, and then out of nowhere – you lose confidence in the trick and your own ability to prevent the magic tricks secrets being exposed or going wrong. Some of the time, this loss of confidence leads to you abandon the trick altogether.
So Why Does This Happen?
You care about your performance and want it to be the best it can be. You don’t want there to be ANY chance that the magic tricks secrets are exposed by mistake. For that to happen, you know you have to make sure everything is just perfect. For everything to be perfect, you need to be in control
Control is one of the main differences between magic tricks that rely on sleight of hand and magic tricks that use a gimmick. The success of a pure sleight of hand trick relies almost entirely on you as a performer. Generally speaking, the more time you put in to rehearsing your moves, the more control you will have over the mechanics of the trick in performance.
Gimmicks, on the other hand, represent risk. In order to clean up a routine or achieve something that looks genuinely impossible, you put your faith in a gimmick to do some (or all!) of the work. You are giving up some control for the promise of a better, more amazing piece of magic. If the gimmick fails during a rehearsal and the magic tricks secrets exposed, it can make you less confident that it will work in performance. You start to feel that by including the gimmicked trick in your set, you are risking an imperfect performance – and that you would be better off looking for a new, more reliable magic trick to perform instead.
Feeding The Beast.
If you lose confidence in a magic trick at the rehearsal stage, you may never find out if the gimmick works in performance because it is too risky to try. You decide not to perform your new magic trick, and instead tell yourself that you will learn from this experience. You don’t want to waste your time, and money again on another ‘impractical’ magic trick. You raise your guard. The next time you buy a trick you scrutinise the method closely, drawing on your experience to decide whether or not this new magic trick is worth pursuing. You may even find yourself discarding the new magic trick before you have even rehearsed it because you just know it won’t work 100% of the time. You tell yourself it is not worth bothering with and move on.
And so it continues…
Breaking The Cycle.
You have decided that your gimmick is worth working on, and you take it with you the next time you perform. In the back of your mind, an uneasy feeling begins to creep in. You start to tell yourself that now is not the time, and that you should stick to your sleight of hand tricks that you can guarantee will work.
Your confidence is starting to disappear… it could all go horribly wrong!
Fear is natural. It drives us all. If everyone reacted to their fear of failure by not trying, we would probably all still be living in caves!
What is driving this fear? Possible Causes:
- What is the worst case scenario?
- Are the magic tricks secrets exposed?
- Will you get laughed at?
- Will everyone think you are a bad magician?
When you think about it, nothing that can happen as a result of a magic trick going wrong is THAT serious!
Yes, in the short-term you may feel embarrassed or foolish and that is totally natural. In the long run, it is essential to remember that when a magic trick that fails, and the magic tricks secret is exposed, it is not the end of the world. It happens to everyone at some point. What is important is how you DEAL with the situation.
The Worst Thing You Can Do Is Nothing.
Small Mistakes may only be visible to YOU. Sometimes a coin flashes, sooner or later you will pick up a double and accidentally drop it on the floor. Small errors may seem to shout out the whole world that you failed and exposed the magic tricks secret. However, often this could go by the audience completely. Unlike you, they may not have noticed or even understand that something has happened that wasn’t part of the plan. Small errors can often just be passed over, by paying them no attention and moving on quickly and smoothly. Don’t pause and do nothing, just keep the flow and performance moving along.
Sometimes a magic trick may go entirely wrong and can’t be continued. You MUST REACT to your mistake. Reacting makes you look human and breaks the tension that is felt by your audience. Nobody can tell you the best way to react- this depends on your personality and performing style.
Humour is usually a good way to go. By drawing attention to your mistake and making a joke, you turn a personal disaster into a shared positive experience.
No magic tricks work perfectly every time. Therefore, the best way to have absolute confidence that you can give a perfect performance is to be prepared to fail. Think about it- everything you rehearse, you rehearse because it is going to happen in performance. By accepting that something could go wrong from the outset, you can rehearse ways to deal with the situation so that if the situation ever occurs, you are ready to deal with it, with confidence.
DO THIS: The next time you practice with a gimmick and things don’t happen quite the way they should, don’t just discard it. Write down:
- What went wrong and exposed the magic tricks secrets
- Why you think it went wrong.
- How you might stop it from happening again.
- What you might do if it happened again in front of a spectator – how might you react?
By TAKING ACTION, you can minimise any negative impact that a small failure may have on your overall performance. You will develop the confidence that you can deal with any situation without fear. Without the fear, you will become a much better magician.