July 2009 :: No Doubt About It

Discussion in 'Cerca Trova' started by jonraiker, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. We thought we'd switch things up a bit and post this month's Cerca Trova in the General Discussion forum. This month's topic was inspired by two posts in our ideas thread. It is undoubtedly something we've all come across at some point in our magic journey - self doubt. "Am I any good? Surely, there are many who are better in technique and performance than myself. I don't have that much talent."

    To expand, why even perform magic? Are there people who are just not cut out to be magicians, despite hours and hours of dedication and practice? If so, how would you even be able to judge such a thing? How can we overcome self doubt?

    Interested in hearing all of your thoughts.
  2. You are good when you're spectators say you're the best magician they've ever seen,(if they have seen a lot of magicians.) Also when other magicians begin to mimmick you.
  3. This is really interesting. Well I think the main reason we perform magic is the same as many other hobbies. Why do we play instruments or yo-yo? There are a number of reasons why.

    1. To entertain. When we learn a new trick the first thing we think is probably "Oh sweet this one's really going to fool my Science class."

    2. It's a hobby. Having a hobby like magic is great because it gives you something to work for, builds character, yada yada yada.

    3. It's FUN. I don't just practice to practice. I practice because I like to do so. I love practicing sleight and new flourishes I've learned.

    Anyway, I just thought I would share my opinion.

  4. Why?

    Anyway, self-doubt is the sound of inner demons acting up. And like all demons they need to be objectified, dragged into the light, and rendered powerless. It requires self-analysis and self-awareness.

    Millennia ago, we developed our fears and doubts because even in the most mundane situations the stakes were insanely high. Risk didn't equal reward nearly as often as it does today and you seldom got a second chance. Today's society has overcome most of the hurdles but it's still ingrained into our DNA through millions of years of evolution.

    Magic in particular is a social pressure, and as such has a social demon attached to it. That demon is trying to warn you that failure to win the crowd, humiliation from a mistake, or any number of other negative outcomes could result in exile from the tribe and a diminished chance of survival. The tribe doesn't exist anymore with the advent of cities however. And rejection from one social pack does not spread throughout the city and result in ostracism and exile like it did in the Neolithic times.
  5. Incredible post Steerpike. Care to elaborate a bit more (only because I think it's important other members soak up every bit of information in your post)? How does one overcome this anxiety? Feel free to share any additional thoughts.

    Great start to this one.
  6. Oh man, I typically don't participate in these discussions, but this is a good one.

    Anyone that's been doing this long enough, professional or amateur, has without a doubt had those feelings. Wondering if they're actually good, or are people just being polite. Wondering if the method to a certain trick is completely obvious, or is it actually fooling people. Of course, self-doubt can go far beyond that, but ultimately I'm just being vague.

    Myself, I've had times where I've had no gigs lined up. Times where I was in a slump and just wasn't feeling like I was worth what I was charging. Times where I've wanted to do anything BUT magic. The longest slump I've ever had was about a month... during that time, I hated magic. Every little thing about it. Forums, cards, dvds, performing, everything. But I plowed through it. I had to...no choice in the matter. Things in life aren't free, and I needed to earn a living. But during that month, I let my mind eat away at me. Maybe I wasn't as good as I thought? Maybe magic just wasn't for me? Maybe I was just fading?

    How I got out of that slump, I don't really know. Things just clicked all of a sudden. Gigs started getting plentiful, my audiences were digging the magic, I was working on some new material, life was good.. Self confidence is very important to be successful in this art. You have to believe you're good, in order for that vibe to transfer to your audience.

    If you're at a low point in magic, where things just aren't going good, quit for a bit. Cold turkey. No forums, no cards/coins, no dvds, nothing. It can be as short as a week, or maybe a few months. A break helps me even now and again, just another way to keep things fresh. New material, new types of magic, etc.

    Good topic this month. :)

  7. No, really you're not. I get people telling me this every time I perform. From audiences telling me I would win 'America's Got Talent' to 'You should be performing in Las Vegas!'

    Not to brag, but it really is a common occurrence for me. If I let that get to my head, I would never have to work on the little things that DO make me good. If I believed what I actually hear, then eventually I'd get so bad, I wouldn't hear the compliments anymore. LOL.

    Your audience can be the best to judge you, and also the worst. If they're responding well to certain tricks or a new joke, great. Keep it in the act. If the reactions aren't there for a new routine, it probably needs work. That's how they're good judges. But the compliments...just thank them and move on. Don't believe what you hear, trust me. Sure, they're impressed, but they really don't know any better. You're great, the best magician they've ever seen... but what scale is that on? So they've seen David Copperfield or Criss Angel, great. But IMO, they're just reacting to the magic in the moment. Be polite, thank them, but don't believe those irrational comments. I don't.

    And besides...d o you really think you'd be making $$$thousands$$$ in Las Vegas at 15 years of age? Doubtful... LOL.

  8. (sigh) Where to start.

    Well, the most obvious thing is to become aware of it. You have to become aware of the fact that you have these demons and that they are a part of you. They are also a part of everyone else. The demons never go away, they can only be silenced. The most socially stand-up people have learned to silence the demon and simply thrive off the adrenaline rush it provides.

    "Anything that gets your blood pumping is probably worth doing."
    -Hunter S. Thompson

    The path to reaching this point is built on a foundation of self-awareness and the little things that make all the difference. When you're at a restaurant, don't just mechanically order your food. Ask the server how they're doing. "Oh, hey. How's it going. Slow night tonight, isn't it? (they answer and ask if you're ready to order) Yeah, a burger with fries and a water with lemon. Thanks." Easy. And yet after a month of doing that, you'll notice it getting really easy to do the same to anyone you meet.

    Learn to maintain better eye contact. If you have to put your hands in your pockets try to keep your thumbs visible. Set a goal for yourself to master short conversations (30 seconds) and step it up from there.

    You have to internalize the understanding that the literal tribe no longer exists in the developed world. Social ostracism and exile or almost entirely self-imposed. And while it's still not a good idea to try and make friends by getting drunk and waving your junk at passing cars, there are very few things you can do that will make you a social pariah anymore.

    Find the socially stand-up guys and imitate them until you get a handle on this.
  9. #9 Nikki, Jul 10, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 28, 2009
    I think it all comes down to dedication, love, and an open mind. We perform magic for all different reasons, I do it because I love it, I love entertaining people and making them happy, cause that makes me happy.

    I think the people that are "not cut out to be magicians" are the ones that don't try to chase their dream or achieve their goals...ones that don't bother to put in the time to make their magic beautiful. People who just try to find the easy way out without all the hard work and sacrafice.

    I think what we could do to over come self doubt is just to come to realize that in life you need to take risks if you want to get somewhere. no risk, no reward...sure theres gonna always be times when we wanna quit [maybe] or just give up. Times when we're pushed down to the ground and kicked, but if we never give up. After all that the result would be worth it. I think we all need to sit back and realize our future is in the palm of our hands and its up to us to make it happen.

  10. Great responses so far. :) Let's keep them coming.

    Anyway, I perform magic because I love it and i don't let all the downsides get to me. Sure, things may come easier to others and others have natural talent. Take a look at Dan & Dave, two great examples. They both practiced on an average, at least 10 hours every day in high school. I think that, combined with natural dexterity, turned them into what they are today. Most don't have that kind of time (and don't want to) and others don't have natural talent like that.

    I now want to shift focus a little towards myself as an example. I was born with... I don't even know the name, mainly because I don't care. It's some long name and I don't even see it as a disability as I think it's just one of those things that doesn't deserve a name and is just named by doctors because it can be named. ;) Anyway, I was born with lower muscle tone than most other babies. I also was born with bad coordination. (Still can't catch those stupid Hot Shot cuts. :p) Yet through my time with both magic and XCM, I never even once thought about the fact I was born with this. One day just a few weeks ago I was doing some XCM while bored and my mom said to me "Kind of ironic that you managed to get this good considering you were born with *insert complicated useless name here*. " That was the first time I even thought about that when doing magic or XCM.

    Also, take a look at Rene Lavand. He's a magician with one hand. Now if that's not something that would hold just about all of us back, then I don't know what is.

    The point is, I believe that anybody can do anything as long as they put the time and effort in. It may come easier for others. Even so, everyone needs to practice. It's like performing. Some are naturally better at it, but the more you perform, the better performer you'll become. No one has the gift of performing right from the start. It takes tons and tons of performances to become a good performer.

    Sure, there will always be someone better than you. You'll never have the best card technique or whatever part of magic you do. There will always be someone better than you. So why do magic? You do it because you love it. You'll never be the best. You can only try to be. When you look at the pros, you should try to be like them. Whenever I feel discouraged, I watch performances. (I recommend you check out Lee Asher's site. Forgot the link. Gotta hunt for it now. Well, every weekday, he adds a new magician. He gives a little bio and includes a performances video of them. Very nice. Not sure if it's still updated or not, but it has tons of magicians on there.) As long as you keep learning and strive for what you want, you'll get there. I do XCM and magic that I never thought I'd be able to do.

    Always put in the time and practice for everything. When there is a guy out there performing professionally with one hand, you have no excuse.


    EDIT: I should also add my brother was born with the same thing, but he's actually pretty jacked. He makes me want to exercise more. :p
  11. Allow me to play the Devil's Advocate for a moment. This is not necessarily what I believe, but in advocate fashion the opinion should be represented in an effort for greater truth.

    Perhaps if you have self doubt, it means you should not be performing. It is a helpful fear that keeps you from doing something stupid, like that sleight when it isn't ready, or that joke when you really don't have the delivery for it. I have come across several acts, presentations and effects over the years and sometimes I would add something from those acts in, because it worked so well for the performer I saw. However, there was this little voice in my head that said "This really does not suit you, it will not match up with the rest of your act". Sometimes, that voice would keep me from performing a new trick I had recently learned even though I was in the moment and wanted to perform it so bad. But I would have failed.

    But sometimes you have to just grow a pair...

    You have get out there and perform. Doing it five million times in your room does not mean you wont shake like a dave matthews band monkey when you are in front of someone else doing it. It is like with music, when the band practices on there own, that does not mean that they can perform it live without at least a few times together. You have to add all the elements, before you can be comfortable in those elements. Self doubt and fear is a good thing, too an extent, but when your fears become phobias and start interrupting with your life then you have got a problem. I have a fear of spiders, but I dont just sit in my room all day. No. I go outside, hike in the woods, sit on the grass do whatever, despite the fact that black widows and brown recluse are heavily populated in my area. You should not let your fears overcome you, because then you are nothing but skill sitting in a room, like firewood sitting in a pile which will never be burned.

    Balance in all things, have your fear, but have your fun. Using both equally you will find a beautiful medium through which you and all the people you amaze with whatever talent you have will share wonderful moments of life that everyone will remember.
  12. i want to touch on a small part of this big question. With ALOT of the members in this magic community. they are still in middle school or high school. I think that causes a lot of pressure on them. Many of these younger magicians started doing magic in school, and are still in school, even after 3 or 4 years. This doesnt help them when it comes to perfecting a trick. They will practice the biddle trick, perform it to a few of their friends (poorly to say the least) then get rated on it then and there. after that they will make a judgement of themselfs and decide if they are worthy to go on. They do the trick correctly, then they learn a new one, they perform poorly, they forget it and move on. Its much like a class, you need cornerstone knowledge to continue. if you dont get the basics down, you wont succeed.
    Another problem with school magic is that sense your friends have seen you perform sense day one, they will also learn with you. so you show them a new trick, they'll be like, Oh you just did a DL or a pass. THis will discourage the performer. They will think they are no good, they dont get reactions like the movies on T11 or on TV.
    Another problem is that you show a "popular" crowd a trick. It goes a few ways. Either they blow up and think you are awesome, see what happened and think you suck, or they have mixed feelings.
    If they like your magic, then they might tell their friends and make you seem better than you are. so the friend will want to see magic, but they may be dissipointed.
    If they think you suck. they may tell their friends you suck, and your rep will travel around the school. Or they wont say anything till they see you doing a trick again, then say something.
    If they have mixed reactions, it all depends on the "leader" of the group to make the desicion.
    so you see how that goes.

    School is a complex place, where magic is alright in certian aspects, but can also be very discouraging.
    To get better, you have to leave the school grounds, adventure to unknown turf, and perform there, to people who have never seen magic, or at least seen your magic.
    Go to a park, or a crowded mall, or just somewhere everyone is chilling out ( like a coffee place) and perform to as many people as you can. Just ONE trick. if your biddle is somewhat choppy, do that. After 20 performances, you'll improve THAT much. practice makes perfect, and what better way to practice then right in the battlefield where people are taking shots at you.
    Also, DONT worry about school. it'll be over, and you'll be glad that when you get to college (hopefully everyone can go) then you'll be more seasoned for the people that really matter. friends, college profs, TAs, RAs, presidents of the school. random parents, and basically whom ever else you meet. and you'll also be old enough to get a job and work on your magic even MORE.
  13. Right on, right on.
  14. I want to quote a coach of mine, it was the first year my high school had a lacrosse team and I was on JV.

    "They're more prepared, have been playing longer, are undoubtedly in better shape, have better skills, and you know what? You all are going to beat them tonight." -Coach T.

    After losing the first 5 or so games that season our morale was pretty low. Even when you know it's your first year and these guys have been playing for at least 2 or 3, it still gets to you. Seeing someone who is head and shoulders above you in skill can intimidate, demoralize, and even scare you, in both sports and in magic.

    You practice and practice and watch self-recordings and think 'hey, I'm getting pretty good at this cups'n'balls thing' and two minutes later on youtube see Michael Ammar perform his routine and just think of how Bad you are at yours.

    On top of that you have to compete with magicians that other people have seen, David Blaine, Criss Angel, Copperfield (to name a few.). These thoughts are not good thoughts. Try, try again...fall flat on your face, brush the dirt off and still can't get it right.

    It's moments like those that make you want to quit what you're doing. There is no profit, people are heckling and making fun of you, there are so many other performers who are better, and you just know you won't make it.

    Want my advice?

    Go perform a self-working miracle to some people at a coffee shop. Do something amazing...ly simple. Self-esteem is easy to build up. Perform a key-card effect or the glide and build it up into something impossible. Take the praise and let it feel good.

    The down side, praise will go to your head. Ego's destroy successful people. It's easier to destroy rather than to build up. Magic is a cruel mother...well you get the point.

    The difference is attitude. Positive feedback brings you confidence and a positive attitude towards magic. Negative, unconstructive, criticism leads you to doubt and sometimes you get angry or hate the art.

    In essence:Your mind is your most powerful tool. Thinking positive thoughts will help you to act positive. Thinking negative thoughts will only bring you down further. The world is exactly what you make of it, whether good or bad, and every situation for that matter.

    I hope that all binds together, as it's almost 1 am.


    Oh! We lost that game, but we did score the first goals of Northern Durham High Schools JV Lacrosse team that night. :)
  15. I see self doubt as a good thing. It's part of the life cycle of every performer.
    Self doubt can best be summed up as 'taking stock of your performance'.

    When you have doubt you usually break yourself down to your most basic self through analysis. This is a good thing. From this you learn what the root of your doubt is. Once you know that you can conquer it and begin the rebuilding process. Only this time you have one extra 'lesson learned' on your side. Thus you will be better the next go around.

    The biggest thing is, that you have to understand what caused the doubt in the first place. If you can't do that, you can never rebuild.
  16. I think that it doesn't really matter if you think you are awesome or awful, as long as you know you can get better. There's no level cap to this. The best get better the same way the worst do.

    Sure, someone else is better than you, but you aren't in competition with them. The goal is to have fun and to cause others to have fun.
  17. Some amazing responses here. Feel free to continue to discuss and expand guys! How can we overcome this demon?
  18. ahhahahahaha
  19. July 2009 No Doubt About It

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  20. Humans naturally look at the negative standpoint of things. What ever the "other person has that I don't", or "what I can't do as opposed to what I can." Being able to get past those thoughts, is what separates magic from more than just a hobby.

    You have to push yourself past "what good I am now" to "how good will I become." Everyone has or will feel doubt of their abillity, but it will be the confident and dedicated one that will arise successful. Never give up.

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