What follows is a point I’ve made in passing before, but as the year winds down, and this season of the Jerx begins to come to a close, it’s good to make it again as it may help you with your goals in the new year.
This post will tell you how to use magic to “get stuff.” You’re not going to be satisfied with the answer, but it’s something I know how to do, and now I’m going to pass the secret along to you.
Now, I’m not a big believer in using magic to achieve some other sort of tangential objective. As a kid, I used to be. When I was, like, 11, I would have fantasies of doing a trick that was so amazing and romantic that it would just overwhelm the girls who would then collapse into my arms with lust for this dashing man of mystery. Or maybe I’d show a trick to the class that was so amazing that they would all cheer and carry me out on their shoulders like Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Thankfully, I sprouted a few pubes and grew out of those notions by the time I got to high school.
As an adult I performed less and less, specifically because I felt weird getting any sort of acclaim for a magic trick. Sometimes they might think it was some legitimate skill or power when it wasn’t, which was awkward. But even if they knew it was a trick, I still didn’t like being acknowledged for how “clever” I was given that it wasn’t even a trick I created and anyone I performed for could probably pull off the same feat given somewhere between 5 minutes and two weeks of instruction.
Only in recent years have I become comfortable receiving acclaim for anything magic-related and that’s because I’ve fully switched over to the audience-centric style of performing. At the heart of that style of performing you have these three understandings with the audience.
I’m not claiming this is real.
I’m not claiming to be doing anything you couldn’t do if you had devoted yourself to the study of magic.
The purpose of all this is your enjoyment.
This is as opposed to the magician-centric style which comes off as:
This is real. (Or it may be real.)
I have unique skills. Maybe they’re supernatural skills, or maybe they’re just superhuman skills (of memory, influence, reading body language, etc.)
The purpose of this is my validation.
Some will quibble with that last bullet point, but I do believe it’s almost impossible to come off as anything other than someone in need of approval if you perform amateur magic in a magician-centric style. In a professional show, it’s not as bad. But that’s a different context.
Think about it like this… If you went to a circus and saw a Strong Man perform, it might be entertaining to watch him bend steel and lift weights and dangle an anvil from his scrotum.
But if someone were to do those exact same things in a casual situation you’d think, “Well, this guy is desperate for attention.” The same thing that could be seen as entertainment when on a stage can be seen as desperate or self-indulgent off of it.
Here’s an example of a strong, but not unusual reaction to the audience-centric style of presentation.
Below are some texts that my friend Andrew who helps out with this site received from a woman he met and performed some magic for last month. I’ve blurred her name because it’s a unique name and his responses because they gave away some personal information. The “gifts” she refers to are our friend Stasia’s Tarot Deck and Cat Oracle Deck.
I’ve noted how long after the interaction the texts came in…
As my friend writes,
The tricks she saw are some of the same tricks I’ve performed for years, but the reactions were never as intense and long lasting as they’ve been since switching to an audience-centric style.
You might say, “So what? One random chick really liked some magic? Big deal.”
But here’s the thing, I have a phone full of texts like these (I just try not to post primary sources here, as a rule.) Andrew and my other friends who have adopted this style get these reactions regularly as well.
But I thought you weren’t in it for the kudos, Andy?
I’m not. And if you look at the texts above, you’ll see that most of the comments aren’t complimenting my friend, instead they’re talking bout the “events” or the interaction.
It’s much more difficult for traditional magic performed in casual situations to generate this sort of reaction because the response it seems to be asking for is, “You’re so amazing!” “You’re so clever!” And unless someone is already really into you, that’s not the sort of thing they’re going to think about hours or days later.
And even if they are comfortable lavishing you with praise, most people I know who have decent self-esteem don’t want to be lauded for their fake abilities.
In my work, I suggest blurring the lines between where reality turns to fiction, because that’s a way to engender a feeling of mystery. But the audience should know, ultimately, that the experience as a whole is fiction, thats it’s a story, that it’s make-believe.
I’m stressing this because getting your audience to understand what you are and aren’t claiming is the first step if you want to use magic to appeal to people or to “get something” from people in some way.
So how do we use magic to win friends, influence people, land a job, or get that girl or guy to like us?
The approach people typically take is to do a trick that makes it look like they’re clever or powerful or interesting or mysterious. Then, hopefully, people will want to be their friends or hire them or fuck them because people like to do those things with clever, powerful, interesting, or mysterious people.
That’s a dumb approach.
Think of it this way, what if our hobby wasn’t magic? What if it was storytelling? How do you win friends through storytelling? The answer is not, “Make up stories that make you seem fun, friendly, and exciting to be around.” The answer is, “Be a good storyteller.”
There’s a quote by Steve Jobs that I will butcher in my paraphrasing, but it goes something like this: He was asked why the iPod was such a huge success when Microsoft’s music player was a total failure. His response was, “It’s because our goal was to make an insanely great product and their goal was to make money.”
Similarly, if your goal is to “use” magic to get something, you will almost certainly fail. But if your goal is to generate the most magical experience you can—one that takes the focus off yourself, and instead attempts to create intriguing fictions for others to experience— then you will gain friends, influence people, get jobs, and charm men and women merely as a byproduct of achieving this goal. I know because that’s been my experience in the last few years.
The truth is, when you show people a good time, they want to reward you, they want to acknowledge you. But you actually undercut that desire when you put the focus on yourself and when you try and be coy about the nature of your abilities. This is something I’ve heard from many laypeople when talking to them about magic, especially people who say they don’t really like magic. They’re often confused what the magician wants from them. Does he want to be praised for reading my mind? Does he want to be praised for making it seem like he’s read my mind? Does he want to be praised at all? What type of person does stuff in casual situations to be praised?
Here are the steps to get what you want with magic:
Disabuse yourself of the idea that you’re going to “trick” people into liking you or rewarding you in some way by using magic to present a different version of yourself.
Work on creating experiential tricks that have a story line that’s something other than, “Behold my power,” or, “I’m so clever.” If you need help with this, read this blog over from the start. Read my books and the JAMM. I wish I had other references for you, but I don’t.
Practice presenting these tricks on real people. It will feel strange at first. If you perform for the same people all the time, it will be strange for them as well. They will have to adjust to a change in style too.
Eventually people will get it. This is supposed to be a fun, strange experience for them to take part in. They can choose to sit by and watch it unfold, or they can play along a bit more and really get into it.
Don’t accept praise. They’re going to give you credit for what happened, but you don’t want to encourage it. If they say, “You’re very clever,” be like, “Huh?” If they say, “That was amazing,” don’t say, “Thank you,” say, “Yeah, it was!” Your reward is in their enjoyment of the shared experience, not in their praise. Think of it like sex. You don’t really want someone to say, “Thank you,” afterwards. You want to teach them to express their appreciation during the interaction. That will force them to be more in the moment in the future.
If you get really good at this, then you will be the person who orchestrates these interactions that are totally unique for people just for the sake of their enjoyment without asking for anything in return. They will want to reward this because that’s human nature. If you have any personality at all, they’ll want to be your friend; if you have any confidence and authority at all, they will be influenced by you; if you seem competent and savvy, they’ll give you a job; and if you’re not a total troll, you might win their heart.
If you’re like, “this doesn’t resonate with me at all,” that’s okay. I’m talking about presenting magic in a very different manner with very different ends in mind. You might not be coming at this from the same direction. I remember early on someone saying how shitty this site and my ideas were on some message board. Then his next post was like, “Here’s the chop cup routine I do for my corporate audiences.” Of course he and I aren’t on the same page. I’m okay with that.
If you don’t connect with the ideas in this post, and you still want to use magic to get chicks (for example), you may have better luck with something like Rich Ferguson’s, Tricks to Pick Up Chicks. It’s probably more your style. He has what I would consider to be a more traditional magician’s understanding of how to appeal to people with magic. Here’s an excerpt (a fucking honest-to-god real excerpt):