• Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast – 3 areas you should apply it in your life

  • May 11, 2020

  • I don’t remember when I first heard this expression, but it is one of my all-time favourites when it comes to all things magic. And I do mean all things magic. It has a way of applying itself to all kinds of areas; here are my three favourite places to do just that.

    Practising

    Applying this principle to practice is where I believe I first came across it, though I really can’t confirm it one way or another. I still remind myself of it to this day when I am working on a new effect or learning a new bit of sleight of hand.

    There is always the temptation when first learning a move, to do it as quickly as possible, hiding behind “the hand is quicker than the eye”. I don’t think this is an excellent way to learn to perform your effects, though. If you have ever watched a great magician, you know that they move very slowly and seemingly carefree, at least the ones I love to watch. I’ll get into how this old adage comes into play with performing in a minute though. Let’s keep an eye on how we practice for now.

    If we practice in that rushed manner, I just described, our performance will come off as rushed and nervous, ruining all of those potentially magical moments that our audiences’ love so much. This also comes back to another topic I’ve talked about in the past, which is “deliberate practice”. By practising a move incredibly slowly, we can see at each moment where a finger needs to be, where another shouldn’t be, how our arms are positioned and all those other little details we need to consider.

    Once we have done a few “run-throughs” of the entire move, our muscle memory will start to develop, and we will have to actively think less and less about performing the move, as everything will start to happen automatically. As this automation builds, eventually, the entire effect will be able to become automatic. Because we have put in the time to run through everything slowly, when we perform at speed, the presentation will be smooth. And having a lack of erratic or sudden movements will create a flow from start to finish, allowing our audience to follow along the journey we are laying out for them.

    Performing

    Since you have now learnt all your sleights and secret manoeuvres so they happen smoothly and without that uncomfortable jerkiness that can jolt an audience out of their “trance”, we can apply this principle once again, to our entire performance.

    Time is a funny thing. As Albert Einstein said, “When you sit with a pretty girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours”. This is the same with a good magician’s performance. If the magician is enjoyable, engaging and fun, the performance will be over all too soon. Now, without going into every single facet of what can make the performance entertaining, smoothness is a crucial factor.

    If a magician is unhurried in their performance, it shows they have confidence in their own abilities and the show they are putting on for you. And despite the hand being quicker than the eye, when the hand moves at a snail’s pace instead, it can leave your audience utterly convinced of your “magical abilities”. The contrast being, if your performance is full of lots of quick and jerky moves, they will be left with suspicion and blame “those moments” as when you made the “secret moves”, rather than just using magic.

    “Dress me slowly; I’m in a hurry” – Napoleon.

    I’m slightly cheating with this last “field of application” since I’m going to suggest you use it everywhere you can. Whenever I find myself in a rush, that is when I panic, make mistakes, forget things, and often end up being even later. So, lately, I’ve been forcing myself not to do this.

    “Worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.”

    I can’t tell you how much I love that saying. And when it comes to being in a panic, it is at its most accurate. So now, whenever a similar situation that causes that sense of rising fear to bubble up, I take a deep breath to calm myself, (I might also count to ten as slowly as I can if I’m particularly stressed). Then, once my heart rate has calmed down a bit, I think about the best course of action and attack it head-on, one step at a time.

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