By Joshua Jay - Sunday, November 22, 2020
If you could travel through time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
This is the sort of loaded question motivational speakers and movie trailers pose to us. It’s supposed to give us pause. To make us think. Well, I’ll take the bait. Why not?
At first my mind races to the quick wins: to tell myself not to concentrate so much on one thing, or to think about another. But that seems too specific.
Then I get greedy, and go full Back to the Future in thinking about what stocks I could invest in to make me filthy rich. But that’s not productive.
Here’s where I’ve landed on this hypothetical: I would tell myself not to take shortcuts.
When we’re young, we’re in a hurry to get results: to land a big show, to get on television, to publish magic, to make a lot of money. But ambition, itself, isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s an essential part of a magician’s journey. I can’t think of any magician who achieved their potential without a healthy dose of ambition.
But when that ambition overshadows real growth, it’s problematic. The cracks aren’t always visible in the moment, but in my experience, they eventually cause problems.
If you’re working on your technique, don’t skip over important sleights just because you think you can get away with it. I’m not suggesting everyone needs to learn a bottom deal--I’m suggesting that you approach sleight-of-hand with the intention of giving yourself a broad, sturdy foundation of the fundamentals. I once got to sit in on a meeting with a prominent television magician, and with only hours to go before filming, he had to learn a host of close-up effects (which wasn’t his forte). Because he skipped over many basics of sleight-of-hand as he was developing, he was unable to do these moves at a critical juncture, and the production team had to abandon some great magic to accommodate his skill level.
There are countless other examples in my own career. I wish I could take back my earliest appearances on television, and rewrite my earliest book. I had the will, but not the way. And in my rush to get there, I lacked the expertise to pull it off. In the end, you have to put in the time and care to be your best. And any shortcuts you take early on usually come back to bite you when you look back.
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