When I was a child, I was really into magic. Birthday cash always went to new magic books, gimmicks, and card decks. I performed for friends and family. For the sixth grade talent show, I did a ten minute set of card tricks, coin magic, and vanishing objects. I capped it with an escape from a set of chains that drew gasps and a standing ovation.
And then I just… stopped.
I stopped learning new tricks. I stopped performing. I gradually got rid of all my magical paraphernalia or sold it off at garage sales.
Fast forward four decades.
About a month ago, I decided that I wanted to learn one good card trick. YouTube has tons of them. I found one I liked that didn’t require advanced sleight-of-hand and practiced it every night while I was traveling on business. When I thought I had it down, I performed it for a coworker. It drew exactly the reaction I’d hoped for. Wide-eyes, a gasp. “How did you do that?”
There’s no reaction more gratifying.
I learned a few more and performed them at a party. Fun for everyone. I asked myself, Why did I ever stop doing this? A few nights later, I got my answer.
I was watching another instructional video on YouTube. The trick requires a technique I’d never done. As I watched it for the third or fourth time at reduced speed, a thought surfaced:
I’ll never be able to do this.
And just like that, I was twelve years old, and I was hearing someone tell me all the flaws in my routine. I never really thought about why I stopped, but this gets to the heart of it.
Success hadn’t mattered, applause hadn’t mattered. What mattered was an adult, who should have known better, telling me, You’ll never be good at magic. That stuck. That wedged itself into my mind, and I quit doing something I loved.
That happened a lot. Regardless of the endeavor–guitar, singing, acting, even mathematics–I easily became convinced that I wasn’t any good at it, and that I never would be. I’d get only so far before I’d become discouraged and quit.
I’ve had enough of that.
I purchased videos on a few fundamental techniques of card tricks: false cuts and shuffles, palming methods. I’m watching them, practicing, and learning. Most of all, I’m paying attention to what happens in my mind. Not only am I renewing my love of magic, I’m using it to reprogram those old mental tapes.
Next time you see me, don’t be surprised if I ask you to pick a card.
Photo by Alfred Twj on Unsplash