People Are My Problem

Sep 2, 2007
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118
28
Houston, TX
I really love this art. I'm 24 now and have been practicing since I was 7 or 8 (save for a break or two here and there). It's a part of who I am as a person now. For a little while I was only performing full time. Eventually things just got too hard and I had to work-work. I've found myself growing in a career outside of magic - web security. I love it. Now that I've got this going, I've been trying to get back to performing as a side income but it's been insanely difficult and I wanted to talk about it.

I love giving people that sense of wonder. It's an escape from the everyday norm and for the most part, people love it. My mom used to tell me that was the REAL magic - that I could connect with so many people and provide something that not many others can. It's really a beautiful thing and it's why we do what we do. Well, it's why I love it anyway. But I'm finding it hard to perform for people. I don't know how else to explain why, so I'm just going to lay it out:

I hate people. I mean, I love people - I've met so many beautiful people and they're amazing. But as a whole, I hate us all. I look at strangers and feel a sense of insecurity. I don't know who they are as a person and that forces me to have a negative outlook on them until I'm proven wrong. How could I know? They could make fun of me, they could adore me, they could completely hate me or be a huge fan, instantly. I'm getting anxious just typing about it. I have to assume the worst will happen because if I don't, I'm setting myself up to be hurt.

I want to perform so badly. I don't have much of a problem with close up. I can talk to people and get a feel for them. I can get away whenever I want if things go bad. These feelings I have have only been a problem since I started inching closer and closer to a stage. I've done stage shows in the past, don't get me wrong. But it's been a very long time and it's SO hard getting back up there. The most recent show I did was several months ago at the local coffee and wine bar. I didn't think I did so well but according to literally everyone else that I talked to afterward, I killed it. It's crappy that even still, this is insanely hard for me to get over.

I don't know how else to end this. I just needed to type it out and am hoping to have a meaningful discussion about these things.

 
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DominusDolorum

Elite Member
Jul 15, 2013
894
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I am in the same boat as you. I love magic. I love performing. I just have a hard time trying to push myself to get out there in front of complete strangers and put yourself out on the line. I don't think it has anything to do with hate towards people, but more overcoming the language barrier we have here in Quebec. I am an anglophone in a sea of French speakers, some of which are quite rude if you speak English in front of them (which can trigger some hateful thoughts and feelings), but the majority are quite understanding.

I usually never go into a trick when I am approaching someone, though. I usually talk with them for a bit and build a report with them because I want to come off as a casual and ultimately friendly person. If all I am when I go up to someone is nice, warm, and personable, I am usually met with the same feelings and then go from there. I don't want to engage with someone who seems annoyed with me being there so it's all about gauging reactions.

I try to keep this quote in my head when I am about to perform my first trick for someone:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” - Benjamin Mee

You seem very capable of performing for complete strangers, more so than I, so try not and let your preconceived notions of someone get in the way of something you love. I will try and do the same.

Also: Love the Bo Burnham skit.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,754
2,860
That's rough.

The thing, though, is it is also entirely in your own head and entirely in your ability to change. You just need to recognize those negative thoughts and reframe them into positive ones. Eventually this becomes second nature and you do it automatically, and eventually after that you stop having the negative thoughts at all.

People aren't your problem. Your attitude is - so all you have to do is change your attitude and you're fine.

Good luck!
 
Aug 31, 2007
40
14
I'm very Anti social myself and I always find it difficult walking up to complete strangers. However at the same time it makes me challenge my inner self, constantly going out of my comfort zone to get over my fear... and that fear is people ..
 
Have you considered stage magic? You will have complete control with who you are interacting with if you choose to bring a spectator up on stage. Another benefit is the crowd won't seem like individuals of hundreds of people but rather hundreds of people that seem like an individual (sorry if that's confusing but it's the best way I could describe it). You won't ever make a personal connection with people that way unless you choose to so maybe it could help you in your issue.

I can't relate to much to this problem since interacting with people is more important to me than the magic itself. The entire reason I got into magic was to have a reason to engage with completely random people and have a moment with them that I will never have again but at least I have a reason to give them a moment. The beauty in it is that since chances are it will be the only time in my life I interact with that person, my performance will be their one and only memory of me so I have to make it a good one.

I can however understand your bitterness that you feel sometimes to people you don't know. I guess the best thing I could advise is to just give people the benefit of the doubt. In my live street magic compilation video I put out on my YouTube page there was a guy that seemed like he was drunk and homeless. He yelled at my camera man and myself since he saw we had a camera and wanted to see what we were up to. At first I was a little hesitant but later I figured he might be a good subject for me to practice some material on. The overall performance went pretty well and he seemed to dig the little routine I put together for him. The best memory I have of that performance is when I asked to borrow a dollar and he trusted a complete stranger with the only dollar he had on him and I felt a little awkward when I realized this as I stabbed his dollar with my car key. He still didn't get mad and trusted that I knew what I was doing and I was able to restore the hole I punctured in his dollar. It's the little things like that stranger trusting me with his only dollar that encourages me to give people the benefit of the doubt as well when performing.
(Performance starts at 1:05 if you were curious:
)

Still haven't trusted anyone to examine actual money when I'm performing Prophet though. :D
 
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Dec 31, 2016
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That sounds to me a lot like the manifestations of bad perfectionism (whether you think so or not, hear me out. Most people dealing with perfectionism don't think that's what they're dealing with...)

I went through the same thing at almost exactly your age, and I think many, many performers do, and unfortunately a lot of them just wind up quitting as a result. You are old enough and experienced enough to now have taste that exceeds your skill and experience, (a normal state at that stage) and it can really make you hate your work and hide from people if you don't get a handle on it. The thing that literally rescued my artistic career (which is principally as a musician and juggler) was reading "Feeling Good" by David Burns, one of the fathers of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I swear, that book is worth it's weight in gold. Get it, read the perfectionism part, and think about it. Talk to other (older, I'm 42 now) performers about perfectionism and the troughs we've been through. I know hardly any musicians who didn't at some point go through a real bad trough of hating their work and thus hating performing too. Many of us did quit (I did, for a year or two) and then came back when we got our heads together. It's actually pretty normal, but it's hard, and it'll screw you up if you let it.

This essay will help you realize it's a problem faced across all the arts and you're not alone on this! http://writerunderground.com/2011/0...ty-or-the-gap-between-our-taste-and-our-work/

One thing you're doing that I personally think is smart is developing a secondary way of earning money. I too make cash doing IT work, and it can really help you mentally to be able to separate your need for cash from your sense of self worth as a performer. It allows you to take only the work that is good for you as a performer and artist and not get sucked into soul destroying gigs or feeling like you aren't a real artist if you aren't gigging constantly at some arbitrary price point. Just my opinion, but I'm very happy having two half-time careers, gotta say.

Good luck man!
 
Dec 31, 2016
30
11
Better version of what I was linking to here:

Here's the Ira Glass thing in complete:
 

Justin.Morris

Elite Member
Aug 31, 2007
2,731
826
Canada
www.morrismagic.ca
In high school, I felt a similar way in Drama class. Our teacher shared this poem with me and it has always stuck with me when I set out to do hard things.

"To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,
before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
...
Only a person who risks is free."
 
Oct 19, 2015
317
220
Some of the best magic performances I have seen was done without any thing being said! Background music, hand and facial expressions communicated what was going to happen, what happened, and a key to surprise, laughter, or sadness if you lose something!

Magic like most art forms allows for your own interpretation and application so that you can adapt to your own strengths and weaknesses...

Also, you are still very young. Until I was 18-19 I was a stutterer. Public Speaking was a killer, and in High School we were required to do one announcement over the PA system and give a speech to our History Class. I did it, but it was not pretty..... It was after that, that I finally worked and overcame my speech problems. by the time I was 30 I was doing public speaking all the time and it actually became something I enjoyed.
 

ProAma

Elite Member
Jun 13, 2013
214
103
Their is no answer for any of your questions because everything depends on everything. In order to approach people you just have to do it. I believe someone who puts it best (at least I relate to it) is that Calen Morelli said in a youtube video that he has around 5 seconds to just walk up to a stranger and perform. If the approach doesn't happen in those 5 seconds he won't do it because of the anxiety. You gotta just do it no matter how you feel. Whats the worst that could happen? Thy say no thanks? Doesn't seem bad to me. Next, the best way to get people interested if we are talking about walk around is to do something quick and visual. With this you don't even need to say "Hey watch this" you just do it sometimes and they will notice if you are in their line of sight. It is really hard nowadays with everyone always on their stupid cellphone. Do not start out with a card trick ever unless you are making cards disappear with a back palm. Thats one of the only things that works as an opener. Card tricks do not work as walk around openers because they are not visual and they involve the spectator. You can't involve the spectator on your first effect because you are assuming they want to watch. Lastly, being courageous and confident comes with actually doing it like in my first point. You WILL GAIN CONFIDENCE when you just keep approaching and actually performing to everyone, no matter how you feel. I know how hard it is to approach and perform for strangers but you gotta fight the bad feeling you get in your body and push past it. Become a new person and grow with the experience. You will become confident.
 

Stu-pendous

Elite Member
Nov 1, 2010
247
401
Perth, Australia
www.facebook.com
As an antisocial magician myself, I don't see it as people being the problem. I am the problem. More to the fact, me overthinking everything in my head is the problem. It can take me so very long to make my first approach.
Once I've made my first introduction, regardless of success or not, my character takes over straight away. I immediately start having fun and forgetting all the problems I had before.

Of course the other insentive is if it's a paid gig. I will be much faster to perform and enjoy myself because I don't want to let down paying customers.
 
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JPS

Dec 21, 2016
75
43
Do not start out with a card trick ever unless you are making cards disappear with a back palm. Thats one of the only things that works as an opener. Card tricks do not work as walk around openers because they are not visual and they involve the spectator.

^^^^This^^^^^
I like Odyssey as an opener because its incredible visual, impossible to mess up, and its not a card trick.
If you aren't an established magician already, opening with a card trick just feels awkward unless someone sees you handling a deck and approaches you. I hate hearing this type of advice but rejection is something you literally just need to ignore. If someone doesnt want to see a trick, dont take it so personally. Easier said than done, but just remember that you might think they dont like you. But they most likely just dont care.

Perform because you have fun, not because you feel some obligation to amaze everyone you talk to
 
Sep 13, 2014
52
34
My charisma and extroverted personality makes up for my shortcomings in sleight of hand/handling techniques.

Though I did a small set recently for a group of kids and the mother of one of them decided she would tell everyone how the trick was done. She was wrong and I wanted to say something but I had nothing to say. I froze up as I didn't want to insult her, I didn't want to challenge her and encourage her, I didn't want to humor her or give her any attention. I couldn't fathom a parent ruining the joy on her kids face by trying to give away a trick. I ended up ending the set early and said I had to go. The woman seemed to think she won, but the kids were the losers in the end I felt.

My point is there is no shame in politely walking away. If you feel weird or uncomfortable or someone is being agressive then end the set or show early.

As far as perfection goes, I look for a smile and figure if I see a smile then the trick (or performance) was a success.
 

RealityOne

Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
3,583
3,857
New Jersey
But as a whole, I hate us all. I look at strangers and feel a sense of insecurity. I don't know who they are as a person and that forces me to have a negative outlook on them until I'm proven wrong. How could I know? They could make fun of me, they could adore me, they could completely hate me or be a huge fan, instantly. I'm getting anxious just typing about it. I have to assume the worst will happen because if I don't, I'm setting myself up to be hurt.

There is a line in my favorite book, Illusions by Richard Bach:

"If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem."
It doesn't matter how they react to you. Imagine that they will love your magic. If they don't it is a problem with them and not you. Their reactions are up to them, but you decide whether to be hurt or upset by their reactions. I'd recommend picking up the book Illusions - it has nothing to do with magic or religion (despite the title) but everything to do with how you view YOUR world.

Second, watch the video Our Magic. Juan Tamariz's discussions of the seven veils of magic is worth the price of buying it. If you can stream it on Amazon or Netflix, even better. The first and last veil are "love." Love of magic and love of the people you perform for. Another is about having an internal magical world view. If you love magic and have this amazing internal view of how the would could / should be, then your sharing that world view with others expresses your love for your audience. Just like in all other areas of love, it might not be reciprocated, but it is the audience that ends up lesser for the experience, not you.
 
Dec 31, 2016
30
11
Mm, going to look that up. Tamariz's writing is so good.

Darwin Ortiz wrote a book I'm reading right now, "Strong Magic", with some fantastic deep thinking about your relationship to the audience, to the art, and making that work for the best performance you can do. I highly recommend that too.
 
Sep 2, 2007
1,182
118
28
Houston, TX
My point is there is no shame in politely walking away. If you feel weird or uncomfortable or someone is being agressive then end the set or show early.

As far as perfection goes, I look for a smile and figure if I see a smile then the trick (or performance) was a success.

And I've walked away from several not-so-good close up sets, I suppose there's no reason I couldn't do the same with a stage set.

Have you considered stage magic? You will have complete control with who you are interacting with if you choose to bring a spectator up on stage. Another benefit is the crowd won't seem like individuals of hundreds of people but rather hundreds of people that seem like an individual (sorry if that's confusing but it's the best way I could describe it). You won't ever make a personal connection with people that way unless you choose to so maybe it could help you in your issue.

Stage magic is what I'm wanting to do more of. I've done close up since day one and individual people or smaller groups are actually easier for me. I feel like I can get to know them better, gauge how things are going with them and get out fast if I need to. Alternatively, I do catch myself being nervous about walking up to certain people just because of preconceived notions I may have, which is wrong.

That sounds to me a lot like the manifestations of bad perfectionism (whether you think so or not, hear me out. Most people dealing with perfectionism don't think that's what they're dealing with...)

I went through the same thing at almost exactly your age, and I think many, many performers do, and unfortunately a lot of them just wind up quitting as a result. You are old enough and experienced enough to now have taste that exceeds your skill and experience, (a normal state at that stage) and it can really make you hate your work and hide from people if you don't get a handle on it. The thing that literally rescued my artistic career (which is principally as a musician and juggler) was reading "Feeling Good" by David Burns, one of the fathers of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I swear, that book is worth it's weight in gold. Get it, read the perfectionism part, and think about it. Talk to other (older, I'm 42 now) performers about perfectionism and the troughs we've been through. I know hardly any musicians who didn't at some point go through a real bad trough of hating their work and thus hating performing too. Many of us did quit (I did, for a year or two) and then came back when we got our heads together. It's actually pretty normal, but it's hard, and it'll screw you up if you let it.

I've quit a couple times over the years but damnit, I always come back to it... I love it way too much lol I think it'd be good for me to be more okay with mistakes. I've let (what I thought to be) a bad show completely ruin my weekend and that's really not okay. Especially when other people are telling me they liked it! I'd be better off just learning from the mistakes and moving forward. "Feeling Good" sounds great! I'll be picking that up soon.

"To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,
before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
...
Only a person who risks is free."

I really like that, I'm going to write it down somewhere I can see it often. Thanks for sharing that.

Their is no answer for any of your questions because everything depends on everything. In order to approach people you just have to do it. I believe someone who puts it best (at least I relate to it) is that Calen Morelli said in a youtube video that he has around 5 seconds to just walk up to a stranger and perform. If the approach doesn't happen in those 5 seconds he won't do it because of the anxiety. You gotta just do it no matter how you feel. Whats the worst that could happen? Thy say no thanks? Doesn't seem bad to me. Next, the best way to get people interested if we are talking about walk around is to do something quick and visual. With this you don't even need to say "Hey watch this" you just do it sometimes and they will notice if you are in their line of sight. It is really hard nowadays with everyone always on their stupid cellphone. Do not start out with a card trick ever unless you are making cards disappear with a back palm. Thats one of the only things that works as an opener. Card tricks do not work as walk around openers because they are not visual and they involve the spectator. You can't involve the spectator on your first effect because you are assuming they want to watch. Lastly, being courageous and confident comes with actually doing it like in my first point. You WILL GAIN CONFIDENCE when you just keep approaching and actually performing to everyone, no matter how you feel. I know how hard it is to approach and perform for strangers but you gotta fight the bad feeling you get in your body and push past it. Become a new person and grow with the experience. You will become confident.

I'm pretty good at approaching people in a strolling/close up environment, and I'm confident in the things I perform. It's almost like my cynical outlook on people in general makes me not want to do it on the off chance they hate me or might turn out to be jerks. But I do want to do it because I love to. But I think your idea of doing it no matter how I feel still holds true. Because really I can never know until I actually meet them. And over the years I've gotten really good at being charming and meeting people and being able to get out of a bad situation at any time. That's much harder to do from a stage with a large group of people which is why I think it's psyching me out so much.

There is a line in my favorite book, Illusions by Richard Bach:

"If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem."
It doesn't matter how they react to you. Imagine that they will love your magic. If they don't it is a problem with them and not you. Their reactions are up to them, but you decide whether to be hurt or upset by their reactions. I'd recommend picking up the book Illusions - it has nothing to do with magic or religion (despite the title) but everything to do with how you view YOUR world.

Second, watch the video Our Magic. Juan Tamariz's discussions of the seven veils of magic is worth the price of buying it. If you can stream it on Amazon or Netflix, even better. The first and last veil are "love." Love of magic and love of the people you perform for. Another is about having an internal magical world view. If you love magic and have this amazing internal view of how the would could / should be, then your sharing that world view with others expresses your love for your audience. Just like in all other areas of love, it might not be reciprocated, but it is the audience that ends up lesser for the experience, not you.

I'm going to pick up "Illusions" as well. It sounds like something that would benefit me to read. I also just turned on Our Magic, it's been a while since I watched it but I had it ready to stream on Ellusionist :D
 
As a full time professional and an introvert, I love the art of magic dearly but there are weekends by the end when I've done so many shows and I'm so worn down that it's completely reasonable to me why so many artists are depressed and commit suicide. You're doing what you love and always wanted to... but you're not happy and if you can't be happy doing what you love then what's the point? I'm not depressed or suicidal but it makes sense to me and anyone who is should get help.
 
it's completely reasonable to me why so many artists are depressed and commit suicide. You're doing what you love and always wanted to... but you're not happy and if you can't be happy doing what you love then what's the point?
I've never thought about that before. It actually makes a lot of sense now once the whole reason/vision behind something no longer has that passion. What a scary situation.
 

ProAma

Elite Member
Jun 13, 2013
214
103
Well I am far more cynical about people and my country's population promise bud. But good luck with your struggle. Its internal and you will make it through just fine.
 
Sep 2, 2007
1,182
118
28
Houston, TX
I really appreciate everyone's thoughts and ideas. These kinda situations really suck but it's refreshing to see so many people willing to talk and help each other out.
That's rough.

The thing, though, is it is also entirely in your own head and entirely in your ability to change. You just need to recognize those negative thoughts and reframe them into positive ones. Eventually this becomes second nature and you do it automatically, and eventually after that you stop having the negative thoughts at all.

People aren't your problem. Your attitude is - so all you have to do is change your attitude and you're fine.

Good luck!

You know, trying to combat negative thoughts with positive ones has always been a struggle for me. It feels like I'm lying to myself but I'll keep trying. I think you're 100% right though, changing my attitude about things would probably make a worlds difference. Thank you.
 
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