In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, the design director for Apple, explained that when developing a new product, Jobs “wants to see and feel a model. He’s right. I get surprised when we make a model and then realize it’s rubbish, even though based on the CAD [computer-aided design] renderings it looked great.”
This may seem like a small point, but I think it’s what sets Apple apart as more artistic than most tech companies. And it’s an important lesson for artists: If you want to see if something actually works, just try it.
I can’t tell you how many times I thought a trick would work in theory, and upon trying it in real life, it flops. It’s not because the ideas are necessarily bad–it’s because it’s really hard to picture something that’s meant to be performed. Comedians decide that a joke works based on the reaction it gets from an audience. Chefs iterate their meals after someone actually tastes them. Magic, comedy, painting, cooking–they’re not like physics where x=y on paper and in real life.
Of course, it’s easier said than done to “just do it.” I’ve messed up magic tricks many times on the first attempt, and it’s hard to work myself into the headspace to try it again. But a can-do attitude is necessary for success, because success requires failing, and failing requires attempting it in the first place. We’ve talked many times about how practicing art calls for vulnerability, and in his discussion of Apple, Ive makes it clear that that is how the best companies operate–they aren’t afraid to break things.
Later in the quote, Ive says that at Apple, “there are no formal design reviews, so there are no huge decision points. Instead, we can make the decisions fluid. Since we iterate every day and never have dumb-ass presentations, we don’t run into major disagreements.”
It’s not to say that all presentations are bad–but when you’re actually creating a product, whether that’s an iPhone or a magic trick, we would do well to heed Ive’s advice and actually try the thing. As an artist, your currency is what you put into the world.
This is a point that James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits: The difference between being active and being productive. It’s active if, to increase sales for your magic show, you have a meeting with your producers about advertising and agree to “circle back” in a week once you’ve all thought about it. It’s productive if you each put an ad out, and use your meeting to analyze how it performed.
The best companies are the best because they iterate, because they fail, because they make themselves vulnerable and get feedback on those attempts.
Apple figured out the process, but Nike said it best: Just Do It.
Thanks for reading! By the way, I've got two more public shows this summer, both in Denver. I can't wait to show you what Scotty Wiese and I are working on. Tickets below: