• How can I be a better magician? Pt. 3 – Talking to Strangers

  • November 25, 2019

  • This is quite possibly one of the most terrifying things that we can do as human beings.

    I’m always reminded of Jerry Seinfeld’s bit where he talks about how people are more afraid of giving a speech to a crowded room than they are of death. I used to be one of those people, terrified of talking to people I didn’t know without a proper introduction from a mutual friend. Let alone the fact that I was even more petrified of the idea of walking up to people I had never met to ask them to watch me perform magic, let alone the idea of going out onto a stage to present to a packed room (or would it be worse if it wasn’t packed?).

    So, as with any seemingly impossible task, we start small. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and all that.

    As much as I wish there was a quick hack, or trick, or tip, anything that could instantly make it easier to go up to strangers and ask for their time, there isn’t one. Believe me; I went looking for it. After a while I was lucky enough to realise that I was wasting so much time trying to find the shortcut, I would be better off just putting in the work.

    By this stage in my “career” as a magician, I had only ever shown magic to my family and friends at university, or occasionally after a few drinks at a party. There was only one way to get over my fear of talking to strangers and performing magic for them. I wished so hard for there to be another way. There wasn’t.

    I would have to go out onto the streets of Sydney and walk up to people to ask them if they wanted to see a magic trick. I got to Martin Place square, which had a large open place that people would often use for lunch breaks; it was in the city centre, near a train station and had lots of foot traffic. An ideal location for what I had in mind.

    I arrived in the early morning and sat on a bench, frozen in fear for about an hour. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had all my effects set up, I was ready to go, but I just couldn’t stand up and walk up to anyone. There was always a reason in my head as to why I shouldn’t go up to this group, or that group. Eventually, I knew I just had to do it, what’s the worst that could happen?

    So I approached my first group of people. Nerves aplenty, I asked them if they would like to see a magic trick, to which they responded with a very resounding, “No” and returned to their conversation. On to the next group it was then, after a bit of umming and ahhing about who to try, of course. “No, thank you”, was what they said, so I wished them a good day and kept moving.

    “Fuck off mate, we’re busy”, “magic, god no”, “we’re in a rush, sorry”, “not today thanks”, the list of rejections I heard goes on and on. It may not have been as bad as I recall it, but it sticks out in my mind as being around two hours of people basically telling me to leave them alone. I stuck with it though; I had to perform to someone, anyone, I just had to find someone willing to let me show them what I could do.

    I was just about to give up when I saw two ladies walk out of a building, sit down at a bench and open their lunches. As I was walking over to them, I told myself that I could go home after performing to them. Notice, I didn’t say I could go back after “trying” to show them magic, but after performing. I didn’t notice at the time, and it was only afterwards I saw this shift in my mentality, but it made all the difference.

    As I started talking and explained what I was doing, I could see that they were into it, they wanted to see a few bits of magic, and so I started performing. The performance went as well as I could have possibly hoped. I’m sure if I were to go back and watch, I would be my own harshest critic and cringe like nobody’s business, but the important thing is, they loved it. When I was finished, they asked me a few questions about what I was doing and why. So I explained it to them, and they were so impressed, they both gave me a $50 note. I thanked them emphatically and went home.

    I could not believe it; I had actually made money from performing magic!

    It may well have been this experience alone, that taught me, to just always go for that little bit longer than I thought was necessary, to get the results I wanted. And while I may not have given it enough attention here, it also taught me all about the importance of the stories we tell ourselves as the performer. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that!

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