March 2009 :: What Drives You?

Nov 29, 2008
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What drives me? I am driven by the experience, or at least what i experience. I want to entertain my friends in ways no one else can, stimulate their thinking a little more then when they drag themselves through school. Magic doesn't have to be done in a certain place or with some special expensive object(in most cases). It allows me to be a fun person to be around no matter where you are.

But, honestly, one of the things that drives me to do it is trying to master the moves, really just trying to learn sleight of hand, and get it by others. That test of the human eye and mind is one of the main things that drives me. Anybody can blow a double lift by somebody, but when you try a Bluff pass, or some sort of shift, a move done out in the open, or one that you have to do invisibly, it makes for a challenge i enjoy.
 
Dec 3, 2008
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Surrey B.C.
I would have to agree with most posts in the respect that most magicians love to do what we do because of the true astonishment and wonder written all over people's faces. Magic has a certain power to be able to ensnare our minds and make us start to think illogically, making what we do seem even more real than what is truly happening. I love the thrill of performing a new trick, or an old trick, in front of people. I work at a children's ranch camp, and being able to take an "empty" soda can out of the recycling, seal it, and then refill it always makes kids pester me for more or to do it again. The joy on their faces holds all the motivation I need to continue practicing after dropping a deck or getting too frustrated to even think of trying again. I think this is true for all magicians. We use reactions to drive us forward, to strive to get a new and better reaction than we've ever gotten before. I think that is also why magic has progressed so much in the past decade. We push ourselves farther and farther, trying to get that one perfect performance where the audience believes something truly magical happened.

We all live for popularity, strive for excellence. Without our audiences, we have nothing to endeavor towards.
 
Sep 2, 2007
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My motives are three.

First and foremost, I like to stand out and to demonstrate that I have abilities that other people don't. I like to look clever and be the centre of attention. Essentially, I like showing off, and for people to tell me how talented I am. Surely every performer must be motivated by this to some extent, however much they feel it should be all about the smiles on the faces of the audience or making an emotional connection or stuff like that. If we weren't motivated by ego then we wouldn't perform, we would simply engage people in conversation.

Second, I'm addicted to knowledge. If I see a new sleight I don't just want to learn it, I want to know its history, who invented it, which book Ed Marlo claimed it in, what were the influences on it, what did it influence...etc. etc. I'm like this in all aspects of my life which is why I own a horrific amount of books on all manner of subjects. I say "horrific", but I only really see it as a bad thing when I move house. I can try and fool myself to say that I'm improving myself or growing as a person by imbibing this knowledge, and maybe I am, but that isn't the primary reason for reading so much. I just like knowing stuff.

Third, I actually want to make a difference in magic. I feel that I have a contribution to make, and I feel that the time I've spend thinking about and practicing magic would have been wasted if I don't share it with the community at large, and with audiences.

Fundamentally, though, all these three come down to ego. I believe that anyone who strives for success in any area is only doing it for themselves. This is especially so with performance art, in which applause and adulation are more readily and directly achieved than in other walks of life. Why do we do this? Well classically, the answer would be that we feel detatched, we see ourselves as different from those around us. We are perhaps lonely, and are therefore desperate to prove ourselves and be accepted by "normal" people. We are probably unsure of ourselves, and feel that our personality is not strong enough to stand up to scrutiny by the world, so we mask it behind performance so that people will focus on that instead of the real us.

Just a thought.
 
Sep 1, 2007
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Fundamentally, though, all these three come down to ego. I believe that anyone who strives for success in any area is only doing it for themselves. This is especially so with performance art, in which applause and adulation are more readily and directly achieved than in other walks of life. Why do we do this? Well classically, the answer would be that we feel detatched, we see ourselves as different from those around us. We are perhaps lonely, and are therefore desperate to prove ourselves and be accepted by "normal" people. We are probably unsure of ourselves, and feel that our personality is not strong enough to stand up to scrutiny by the world, so we mask it behind performance so that people will focus on that instead of the real us.

And thus the shadow self is finally brought out into the open.

This can go one of two ways. Indignant denial, or the complete death of the thread from this point on.

Let me join you in the honest minority and confess that I'm a complete egomaniac and my endeavors in magic and my production company in general are largely self-absorbed. If good things come of it, that's great and I certainly turn them away. But when it comes right down it, I'm just like everyone else here: I'm looking out for Number 1.
 
Sep 2, 2007
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This can go one of two ways. Indignant denial, or the complete death of the thread from this point on.

I hope I haven't just murdered the thread. There is definitely a valid counter-argument to belief in the innate selfishness of mankind in general and performers in particular. I'd be interested to see if anyone sincerely and reasonably holds that opposing view.
 
Sep 1, 2007
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I question whether or not they'll attempt to argue it because it still puts them in a rather uncomfortable place.

I myself believe people are selfish, but for the most part they are inherently good. Performers aren't bad people, they're just egotistical. They have to be to live such a lifestyle. The problem comes when they don't admit this to themselves because they perceive that trait as negative and unacceptable. So instead they deny the presence of their egos and dress up their motivations with claims of altruism and charity or at the very least a lot of pseudo-intellectual idealism. Most of the responses in this thread are proof enough of that.

It's very Jungian if you think about it.
 

Lex

Dec 18, 2007
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I question whether or not they'll attempt to argue it because it still puts them in a rather uncomfortable place.

Hm. I'll bite.

I think the assertion sweeps too far, and incorporates too many assumptions to do much useful work.

TeeDee said: "anyone who strives for success in any area is only doing it for themselves." I guess I think that depends on how much you credit what someone says their motives are.

If one is suspicious of what anyone says about their motives and searches for some inherent self-interest, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: self-interest will always be found. That approach makes the statement true, but pretty irrelevant: under those conditions, everything anybody does is only for themselves, so it's pointless to single out magic or performance from, say, breathing or eating.

On the other hand, one could credulously credit anything anyone says about their motives. That leads to equally untenable conclusions.

Heading someplace in the middle, one can critically engage someone's answers to the question. This is where I think TeeDee sweeps too wide: any blanket statement will be at least partially false, because some folks might credibly be able to show that they have at least some more or less non-selfish motives.

For example: to pick on an assumption in Steerpike's post, not everyone "live such a lifestyle" (of a performer). Some people are amateur performers and do not want to make it into a lifestyle. The selfish motivations there are more complicated: "wanting to have fun with friends," for example, is both selfish and altruistic in that context. It involves a shared good rather than something that the performer alone enjoys. In order to make the argument, one would have to be a bit more nuanced in talking about who benefits and how.

Is this to say that nobody performs for their own ego? Of course not. This thread and others prove the contrary. But this is to explain why I hope some of the conversation turns a bit more to critical reflection on the whys.

It's very Jungian if you think about it.

I was thinking more Goffman, but to each their own.
 
Sep 1, 2007
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I was thinking more Goffman, but to each their own.

Jung's writings of the shadow self had a profound effect on me. Hence my bias.

That said, I would argue that self-interest lies at the root of most actions. However, that is not to say the individual receives sole benefit. Why do so many people faithfully recycle? What's good for the environment is good for them, which is self-interest. But it's also good for the human race and their habitat, which is also good and is an altruistic motive.

To nuance it a little more, I believe that people are selfish as a survival mechanism, but by extension they also look out for the greater good when their basic needs are covered. When they don't need to fight to survive, they'll tend to the needs of others out of a desire to strengthen their community whether on a small scale or large.

Performers occupy a niche in which they provide entertainment, which is good for the group because boredom is a threat to the mind of a sentient creature. But they also have to enjoy doing that, so to one extent or another they have to crave the approval of others. Provided it isn't taken to an extreme, this isn't a bad thing.
 
Jan 28, 2009
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First I would like to say this was the best thread hijack in the history of thread hijacks and secondly I'd like to agree with a certain sentiment in this thread.

We can dress up what makes us perform with stuff like, "Smiles" (Maybe we can add rainbows and sunny days to the mix too) or any other number of complete innanities. Maybe we could put some nonsnese in about the "betterment of mankind by causing them to self question the fundamental nature of reality in a method that transends the need to read a book etc." Any one of those reasons in my view is a justification that only comes later based on your subjective experience of the way you perform and the reactions that you have received for that performance.


What drives me to sit there night after night talking to myself in a mirror, working on sleights and misdirections (right down to my patter) and hand positioning to insure I don't get rumbled by periferal vision, and working out new ways of doing effects and always having a deck of cards in my hands, or on my desk or somewhere near me, isn't because I want to better the human race. It's because I enjoy doing it, and because I like the fact that when I perform to a group of people, irrespective of who I actually am, or what I look like, or what I say, I am the most interesting person in a room. Period.

Sure when I first got into magic I came with the same nonsense I've read in this thread, "The expansion of human wisdom," or "making people self question" or any other amount of fluff that I now use as tongue in cheek patter.

The turning point for me came when there was an incident involving a hammer and my right hand (It was self inflicted, accidental and involved alcohol and the concept of constructing a shed left handed despite being right handed...) My hand is still not fully functional. I stopped performing magic from the age of 18 - 25 (about 4 months ago when I picked it up again.)

You know why I started again? You know what I missed during that time period that's driven me to get back on the wagon and actually start practicing, working around limited movement in two of the fingers in my right hand?

It wasn't the desire to receive smiles and anything else. It's because I love to entertain, and you know why I love to entertain, its because it makes me the center of attention and it gets me off. That's fact, and anyone that says different is either too young to know better or so deluded that it's beyond a joke.

Sure as a side effect of performing you may achieve a higher aim, but that higher aim is not in my opinion the reason that anyone here picks up a deck at the expense of doing other things and just hammers away at it. Some may practice a lot through sheer compulsive need to be able to do something. They likely start and end their careers on YouTube. Others have a compulsive need to do something so they can perform it.

Can people be alltruistic? Probably. Do people select what is in essance a hobby for most people here (or a part time job) or a career (for the people that are actually magicians here, and I am -not- in that bracket) based on altruistic motives? No. If I work for a charity its because I get to go to bed at night and think....wow what a great guy I am. If I play guitar its because I enjoy it. If I practice and perform magic its because practicing and performing magic gets me off. That's what does it for me.

Now having gone on my egocentric rant I would also like to second the fact that this thread is ridiculous as a topic in general. The only interest I'm going to derive from it is seeing if anyone can convince me that they don't see, deep down, magic the same way I do.
 

Lex

Dec 18, 2007
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Chicago, IL
Jung's writings of the shadow self had a profound effect on me. Hence my bias.

Good stuff, and not incompatible with Goffman's writings on the everyday self as performance/mask--which is pretty salient to this discussion as well as others.

Performers occupy a niche in which they provide entertainment, which is good for the group because boredom is a threat to the mind of a sentient creature. But they also have to enjoy doing that, so to one extent or another they have to crave the approval of others. Provided it isn't taken to an extreme, this isn't a bad thing.

I think you're right about the niche performers, such as magicians, occupy, but I think we can be a bit more nuanced about the nature of that entertainment and the motivations for it--and this is where I hope everyone snoozing through the psychological discussion wakes up, because this is more directly relevant to magic.

"Entertainment" is not a unitary concept, and itself works toward different ends. Some entertainment is to distract: I would suggest that most sit-coms fall into this category. Some entertainment is to enlarge: this is why public television is still around. Some entertainment is about transporting the listener into another place and time: this is what makes movies, plays, and opera distinctive. Some directly aims to inspire: this is why artists have workshops for each other. So it isn't just about avoiding boredom.

And note: I am consciously framing this as an end to the activity, not the desired outcome of the performer. Those may or may not be the same. The motivation for entertaining may be entirely different: the entertainer will (hopefully) enjoy entertaining, but to say that they "crave approval" is to assume too much. Some people entertain because they enjoy the technical aspects of displaying that proficiency: this is where I would put many skilled visual artists. Some people entertain because it is just part of their personality and they cannot do anything but: this can range from the class clown to the attention whore to the studied wisecracker. And some entertain almost for polemic reasons, to make a larger point: some say, for example, that the first cards had pictures precisely in order to illustrate a morality play.

And none of this directly answers the question: Fine, so why magic as opposed to, say, the piccolo? Different methods of entertainment carry predispositions toward different ends or motivations. (This is Morgician's "Goth sponge balls" point in different makeup, really.) And as pointed out before, just saying "it's what I do best" doesn't answer the question--why did you spend the time to make it what you do best, rather than your budding piccolo career?

Why choose magic as a method for entertaining, above all else? I don't think self-interest, ego, popularity, technical skill, or many of the other answers get to that question at all, really: take up the piccolo instead. "Because I think it's cool" only pushes it back one level--why do you think it is cool?

Just changing the emphasis in the question slightly--"Why magic?" instead of "Why magic?"--makes it vastly more difficult.
 
Nov 10, 2008
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Upstate NY
I think Paul Harris put it best to what drives me,


"If you listen carefully you'll also hear thing's like "that made me feel like a child again" or "you made me feel like a little kid at the circus." And if you think about this, you'll see that what these astonished adults are really trying to say, even though they're not consciously aware of it, is that for a brief moment, they experienced a clear primal state of mind that they associate with a child's state of mind. Somehow the adult experience of astonishment triggered some feeling of what it felt like to be a child again."
~ Paul Harris


To make people experience that shear feeling of bliss is all the reward I will ever need from an average person. Having someone amazed and astonished is possible the best feeling in the world.

If your not "the best magician they've seen", you're not doing your job properly. Effects that involve making a person astonished makes everyone feel good, and keeps them coming back from more.

Experiencing that feeling of making a person feel that way, is like a drug to me. I can't go a day without preforming because of this amazing feeling.
I preformed thread for a group of about 11, and couldn't stop shaking once it was done, because those were some of the best raw reactions I've ever gotten!

To know that all that hard work you've put into practice, and all the ironing out you do, makes it all worthwhile if you get that split second of wonder from an adult or child!

This is why Cardist do what they do, that feeling of accomplishment, and making other people want to be able to do it, makes every paper cut, and dropped card worth it!

All this could make us seem like we have an emotional issue, of wanting attention, which is pretty much why we do it. :)

But more drives me than just reactions, that feeling of knowing someone else doesn't is completely valid. Their isn't any reason why you shouldn't feel that way. " If I told you, you would be as smart as me" is a quote that rings true in this case. The need to improve yourself is one of the reasons I do it as well, because I'm a perfectionist! I'd say most of us are.

I bet if you ask a doctor why they do what they do including work long hours, have to tell people horrible news, they would answer with this,
If they just save one life it makes it all worth while.... that would be a lie, they do it so they can save as many lives as possible, just to make themselves feel better.

Being a magician is much the same as other jobs, except their is a lot of people here that will never go on to do it for a living and just use it as a hobby! Until you work professionally and have to use the same routine over and over again, you never truly know what it's like to be a magician. IMO

Our own goals are what keep us doing it, but the reason you started magic in the first place, is what will always have to drive you. Sure it may not sound pretty, but If your not doing at least some of this for the reactions, your lying!

A question you might ask, is why do I keep trying to learn harder and harder things... It's simple, you want to be the best, or at least your disillusion of what the best really is. Otherwise why don't we keep doing the same simple tricks, and never attempt to forward our knowledge!
~Shades fan
 
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Sep 1, 2007
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First I would like to say this was the best thread hijack in the history of thread hijacks and secondly I'd like to agree with a certain sentiment in this thread.

No argument here. Anything is better than listening to more flower-child babbling about smiles and altruism or variations on the pseudo-intellectual "dream the impossible dream" crap about perfection.

Good stuff, and not incompatible with Goffman's writings on the everyday self as performance/mask--which is pretty salient to this discussion as well as others.

I haven't read any of Goffman's writings in ages, so you'll forgive me if my memory is... well who am I kidding? I have the long-term memory of a rodent.

"Entertainment" is not a unitary concept, and itself works toward different ends. Some entertainment is to distract: I would suggest that most sit-coms fall into this category. Some entertainment is to enlarge: this is why public television is still around. Some entertainment is about transporting the listener into another place and time: this is what makes movies, plays, and opera distinctive. Some directly aims to inspire: this is why artists have workshops for each other. So it isn't just about avoiding boredom.

Granted. However, I used "entertainment" in the capacity I did simply because it makes for a convenient umbrella.

In other words, I'm just too lazy to type.

Why choose magic as a method for entertaining, above all else? I don't think self-interest, ego, popularity, technical skill, or many of the other answers get to that question at all, really: take up the piccolo instead. "Because I think it's cool" only pushes it back one level--why do you think it is cool?

It's a difficult question.

At the moment, the only things I can pin down are that I have a natural proclivity to public speaking and performance, and that magic is another artistic avenue for me. As scattered as it seems, I also work in writing, film, music and pretty much any other medium I can find the time to study. And there are multiple recurring themes throughout my work, typically revolving around the concept of beauty in darkness.

So why magic? It was there. It provided me with another medium to experiment with, so it got sucked up into the gears of my over-active imagination.
 
Feb 27, 2008
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Grand prairie TX
I was drawn to this medium(and also that of filmmaking and music) by a need, a desire, to
release the images and emotions, personal passion and pain(gosh,dramatic huh) that posses me so as not to
be consumed by them.
To give form to my inspiration.




P.S. It is for some magicians that I have seen that technique comes before art.:form seeks substance not substance form.
Examples:Liam walsh,brian tudor
Their magic exists purely in order to exist,they were spectacles, and the function is to excite the senses and expand the limit of the medium,not to stimulate thought, and certainly
not to express the artists unconscious.
 
Sep 9, 2008
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Philippines
In my opinion, I think that reactions and magic as being useful and advantageous. I guess like most magicians, they love seeing how they're spectator reacts after seeing a miracle. :D. Well, I guess I can call it an advantage because in the future, if ever you won't be a magician as your full time job, you can use that to make friends or get you a better job.

-NT
 
Mar 19, 2009
85
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Calgary, AB
Hmm

This why I find magic has lost alot of what it is and was. Doing magic or learning for your own ego is not what magic is all about. It about a brotherhood, it about learning a art that almost as old as time. It about making people believe that there more possibilities out there then most believe.

Now yes of course there always a bit of the yeah look at what I can do attitude but for the most part if you look at any well known magician, they love magic for the fact of entertaining. They love the look on others faces when they just smashed them over the head with a effect.

I believe alot have forgot why we learn magic or why we should be learning magic and that to take people to a different place and make sure they dont forget you or the experience they had with you. Not how many time you can cut the cards or how many knuckle busting sleights you can do.


Now to answer the question... what keeps me going after 20 years is just that... the people I show my magic to keep me going.

Magic itself also keeps me going because it on going always evolving (for better or for worse). I know when I learn something new,all I can think is man I cant wait till I have this down pat to show someone.

Because magic was always meant to be shared...... not just sitting in your room learning all these wonders and not putting them in the real world application.


Eh thats my rant...thanks for listening all!
 
Sep 1, 2007
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I believe alot have forgot why we learn magic or why we should be learning magic and that to take people to a different place and make sure they dont forget you or the experience they had with you. Not how many time you can cut the cards or how many knuckle busting sleights you can do.

The ability to admit that we learn at least partly out of ego doesn't mean we're irredeemable pricks who can't connect with an audience. On the contrary, I find that the dullards, narcissists, and wannabes who couldn't relate to an audience unless the crowd was nothing but clones of themselves to be the ones who claim an altruistic motive or that ridiculously masturbatory "trying for perfection that I'll never attain" crap.

(sigh) It speaks poorly of the magic community that honesty has no value.
 
The main driving force is this simple element, seeing someone smile, the reactions I get, and my entertainment value.
Don’t take the above seriously, do you really want to know the real reason I enjoy magic? Probably not, but here it is anyway; I love attention. I am a bit of a narcissist when I perform magic; I try to get as much attention as I possibly can. It is like a game for me, I like to see how far I can draw in people’s attention.

I love to perform experiments, performing a magic trick is like performing a working experiment. If I move my hand like this people look here, if I do this, this happens. People are strange in the way we predict things; you can create order in the palm of your hands a plan if you will. You show the top card and they see you put it into the center of the pack it stays in the center of the pack everything is going according to "the plan." It is when you make the card previously put into the center of the pack come back up to the top, you break the plan causing chaos in the spectators mind. Sometimes they simply yell or they stare in silence as their brain rattles and rolls. These reactions drive me, because I know I have there attention whether it is negative or positive. I might continue with increasingly personal effects such as a thought of cards across routine using a spectator where the thought of card can appear on a personal part of a person such as the pockets. This is like level 2 for me in this game of manipulation and social engineering.

I could then follow it up with an even more personal effect such as drawing duplication, mentalism or I could put all attention on someone else or something else and then curve the attention back to me. Game over I am the victor.

At least this is my thoughts on this subject, you can agree with it or disagree, criticize it all you want if you want. It is just how I think, it might be twisted but this is how I view what drives me to do magic.
 
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