Project Slay-Them: Outer Preparation and Inner Preparation

[This is the second in a series of posts for people who would like to perform for people more but don't. If you're not in that category then some of this advice won't apply to you.]

If you don't perform much for people, maybe you think showing magic to people outside the context of an actual show would seem annoying or awkward or corny or like you're desperate for attention. You're absolutely right. It does seem that way very often.

But this is not something that's unique to magic. If you walked up to someone and said, "Hey, how are you doing? Mind if I sing a song for you? A-may-zing graaaaaaaace.... how sweeeeet the sounnnnddd... that saaaaved aaaaa wretch like....ah-MEEEEeeeEEeeEEE!!!" And closed your eyes, put one index finger in your ear and the other one towards the heavens, that too would come off as annoying, awkward, corny, and desperate for attention. If you asked someone if you could juggle for them, recite a monologue for them, or tap dance for them, you would get a similar response that people give when you ask to perform magic. You see this response frequently in online demos where the magician is performing for "regular people." And you can tell the person has acquiesced to watch the trick only because it would be more awkward to say no.

I bring this up because I think some of us get hung up on it being a little goofy to perform magic for people when you're at a party or at a bar or something. But actually it's a little goofy to perform anything in those situations. What we need to concern ourselves with is removing the "performance" aspect of showing magic in casual situations. We don't need to remove magic altogether. This is something we will explore more in future posts, but it's a foundational idea of getting out there and doing more magic in casual settings so it's something I want you to keep in mind as you go through this series.

In the initial post in the series I wrote about establishing a large repertoire of impromptu tricks by adding a new trick to your mental file every week for the next year. If you're playing along, you should have about 10 tricks right now that you are rehearsing regularly and would feel comfortable sliding into if the opportunity presented itself.

The next step is to look at the items you carry everyday or could conceivably choose to carry and catalog the ones that can be used in an effect. If you're carrying something anyway, there's no reason not to have an effect or two you can do with it. I'm not talking about having a wallet full of packet tricks or a pocketful of gimmicked coins. This is just about being smart about utilizing the things you would have on you anyway. The purpose of this is not so you can go into a 20-trick long show just with the items in your pockets. The purpose is that by having a number of tricks ready to go at all time you will find yourself with many more opportunities to organically get into a trick. And this goes towards what I mentioned above about making things seem less like a "performance" and avoiding the weirdness associated with that.

If we're hanging out and you say, "I keep losing my keys," I can effortlessly slide into an effect with keys, an effect where something appears on my key ring, an effect where things vanish and reappear, or an effect where your memory seems to be affected in some way. And I can get into those effects seemingly based on you bringing up the subject. All I need to say is, "Yeah, I hear that. You'll appreciate this..." And while you'll eventually realize it's a trick, it feels natural because you were the one who brought up the subject. 

If I don't have a broad range of effects to pull from then you can say, "I keep losing my keys," and I have to follow it up with, "Did I tell you about the time I played 3 card monte in New York City?"

Another benefit to having a wide repertoire of effects with the items that you carry is that it puts a little psychological pressure on you in a way. You're going to feel dumb walking around with a headful of tricks that you're constantly prepared for and never actually doing any.

So take a look at the items below, see which ones you carry with you everyday, and learn a trick you can do with it.

  • Wallet
  • Coins
  • Bills
  • Credit Cards
  • Business Cards/Loyalty Cards
  • Drivers license
  • Watch
  • Ring
  • Necklace
  • Bracelet
  • Shoelaces
  • Phone and it's component features
    1. Phone
    2. Calendar
    3. Web browser
    4. Audio recorder
    5. Camera
    6. Video recorder
    7. Calculator
    8. Timer/Stopwatch
    9. Flashlight
    10. Maps
    11. Music Player
  • Glasses/Sunglasses
  • Jackknife
  • Keys
  • Keychain
  • Lighter
  • Cigarettes
  • Mints
  • Gum
  • A small notebook
  • A condom
  • Chapstick
  • A hat
  • Rubber bands (I think even the Pope or Warren Buffett could have two or three rubber bands on their wrist and no one would question it. Just don't go full Joe Rindfleisch. Then it becomes a situation where you're clearly looking to go around doing rubber band tricks. Not a good look.)

Now, this is all about outer preparation. You've got a utility belt, like Batman, except it's invisible to those around you and is composed of everyday objects that you can go into numerous effects with when you're seemingly "unprepared."

The final step in this post is about inner preparation. I think it's valuable for everyone, but especially for people who don't perform much because they get anxious when they do. You need to imagine approaching people with a different mindset than you may have considered in the past. You can't think, "I'm going to fool this person," or, "I'm going to impress this person with this trick." You can't even think, "I'm going to entertain this person," or, "I'm going to give this person the gift of magic." These are things you can't control. Your mindset should be, "I'm going to perform this trick the best I can because I'm curious to see how this person will react to it." Your goal isn't to evoke something from them, you're just collecting reactions. There is no failure in this activity. Even if you mess up the trick you still get to observe their reaction. "They noticed when I dropped the palmed coin," is still a valid observation. The benefit of this is it will free you from getting hung up on needing a particular reaction and worrying if you are or aren't getting it.