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In denial

I’ve been rejected a lot. If you’re in show business and you haven’t been rejected, you haven’t been here for more than a week.

The question is not if you’ll be rejected (or my favorite, straight-up ignored) it’s what you’ll do with it.

A few weeks ago, I reached out to a theater about booking me for a magic show. The booker said no, all magic shows at her theater have been busts. And even though I sounded nice, they would not consider me. Goodbye.

Fair enough. I happen to vividly remember seeing a sold-out magic show at her venue, but fine. Maybe she started working there after that show.

I could’ve moved on and found a more receptive theater. But I liked her venue. So I doubled down. I sent her reports of my ticket sales over the past several years. I offered to put down a deposit and eliminate her risk. I told her I have a large following in her city. I built a convincing argument based on evidence.

And now I’m performing at her venue.

In show business, “no” doesn’t actually mean “no.” It just means “no for right now. Or “no unless you give me a better argument.”

People are surprisingly malleable when you push a little, when you give them a convincing argument, and when you prove you are sincere. Most people expect “ok, have a nice day,” once they deny you, and anything else is a shock to the system. A little push makes someone reconsider you.

Trust me, I’m no master negotiator. I’m quite confident onstage, but like many performers, pretty shy offstage. However, I’ve learned to turn that confidence on and off. And if I email someone one more time, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Another rejection? Been there. Especially if you’re offering value (and I know I am), then what we’re looking at isn’t a rejection, is a misinterpretation of what I offer. That’s something I can fix. The fault isn’t theirs, it’s mine. This is ancient stoicism, people. Focus on what you can control.

I’ve written so many times that you have to fight for it. Sometimes it really does feel like the world is against you, when in reality, people are just busy. The world hasn’t conspired to be anti-Max. People have jobs and kids and they need to get groceries and see their in-laws and they simply didn’t have time today to fully consider your proposal. And even if that isn’t true, even if someone really does hate you, it’s far more productive to give people the benefit of the doubt and operate from a place of kindness rather than judgment.

Maybe every magic show at this venue really has been a bust. Maybe the one I saw wasn’t profitable for whatever reason. That’s entirely possible. And if that’s the case, then yeah, why take a financial risk? After all, this woman probably has very reasonable concerns–feeding her family, operating a profitable venue, and getting good reviews.

But I have concerns, too–I also need to make a living. I need to do my show to pay my rent (and frankly, I’d do my show even if I didn’t have to pay my rent). I don’t do magic full time because it’s practical or easy. I do it out of love. And it’s a lot easier to negotiate for something when you love it.


As usual, I have several live shows coming up. We just renewed An Evening of Magic through August, and the next Stand-Up Magic is in April (tickets for both will be available this time next week). I'm also doing a solo show, NOT A MAGIC SHOW, on April 20th. Each ticket includes unlimited beer and wine throughout the show, and you can get yours below:


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