Making Your Best even Better
Have you ever read a great book or seen an amazing movie that made you think “The author or director might as well retire now because they will never top this”? And then a few years later they have another bestseller or Academy Award winning film that surpasses their first effort? Were they just lucky? Or were they following a process to make their best even better that we can all learn from ?
I’ve been thinking a lot about those questions over the past 2-½ weeks and re-examining what I consider to be my very best magic tricks. Can they all be made better? The question came about because 16 days ago I was motivated to search for a new ending to one of my favorite magic effects. This is a trick I have been doing for more than 40 years and I considered it to be one of my best… a piece of magic that could not be improved. To me it was perfect. Surely if there was a better ending I would have discovered it in the last four decades or during the more than one hundred thousand times I performed the trick right? But I never even considered it because to me it was MY BEST. And I never gave any thought to the idea that perhaps it could be made BETTER. But a great new ending was sitting there all the while just waiting to be discovered… I just needed the right motivation to find it.
The truth is anything we do… even our BEST… can be made BETTER. It all comes down to motivation and effort.
The first step is to find something that will motivate you to relook at your existing act and make it better. Book an important gig, charge a higher fee, invite an important meeting planner to your show, whatever it takes to move you out of your comfort zone. Put a little pressure on yourself, you’re a pro you can handle it.
Now at this time I’m not at liberty to reveal the motivation that caused me to look at the trick in question with a critical eye (that will be the subject of my next blog post) but I will share a little about the process I used. I think this is important in an industry that features websites and magazine advertisements that tout the latest new magic illusion as: Easy to Do, Self-Working, and No Skill Required.” If you are looking for innovative solutions and interesting new illusions they won’t come in a box with a DVD and they won’t be easy to do or require no skill. They will come from within you, your knowledge of magic, your willingness to practice, your years of experience and your ideas. YOUR IDEAS… that is a great place to start.
When I decided I wanted to consider a new ending to my favorite magic effect I spent the first ten days just thinking about it in my spare time. How could I make what I considered my best even better? I knew I was going to be at a trade show performing and also taking a short 5-day vacation with my wife and I would not be able to fully concentrate on a solution, but I wanted to keep my creative juices flowing. In between trade show performances, while lying on the beach, before I fell asleep I would brainstorm different ideas and possibilities not even writing anything down. I just let the ideas percolate no matter how silly or crazy the solution sounded it was given full permission float around inside my head. The trick is to brainstorm first… you edit later.
On day eleven I narrowed it down to the three best ideas and began to research and order online anything I did not already have in my workshop that might be required to build the finished props. When I returned home from my trade show & beach vacation the boxes where all there and the real work began.
The next four days were each 15-hour days from 7am-10pm. The first two days building the prototypes of the three possible solutions, testing them with the trick and then determining which one had the greatest potential. The last two days were spent building the winning solution and making what might be the final version of the props. I say might be, because the final version is still subject to tweaking that will be discovered in the rehearsal process. If one tiny detail is uncovered during rehearsals that could make your performance more surefire or make the trick more deceptive then you build the prop again from scratch. Details matter.
The next day (day 15) was another 15 hour day was spent bringing the magic routine together with the props and making sure the vision in my head of how this should all work was even possible. I was happy to discover that it was.
The final day (day 16) was spent videotaping the effect to share with some close friends to make sure it looked as good and as deceptive to them as it did to me. So far so good, they like what they see.
The final step will begin in earnest tomorrow… the rehearsal. Since it’s a trick I’ve been doing for more than half my lifetime I think about seven days should be sufficient time for me to seamlessly blend the new ending and the existing routine together before I have to do it for a live audience.
Is it self-working? No. Is it easy to do? No. But with the right motivation and by putting in the necessary effort I just might have taken one of my favorite tricks and made it even BETTER. Or I could have just wasted 2 weeks of my life. My audience will be the judge of that. I’ll let you know how it turns out in my next blog post. Fingers crossed.