Last week, I sat on my floor with magic books and a deck of cards and learned new tricks. I don’t do that very often anymore, and it’s easy to forget that that’s how I got into magic. Before I did a single show for money, I spent years sitting on my floor learning trick after trick.
At the end of the week, I hosted an Instagram Live stream for the first time. (You can watch it here). It wasn’t the best work I’ve ever done, but I had a blast. My friend Jake and I created a magic trick live on camera, and for those who were there, I hope it offered an interesting insight into the creative process.
Sometimes, being a professional magician is too much “professional” and not enough “magician.” But the “professional” aspect is only a means to being a magician.
When I saw a magic trick for the first time when I was six, my first thought was not “So cool! How can I turn this into a career? How do I set up my LLC? Which credit card should I use to maximize points for business expenses?” No. My thought was “I have to see more of this.”
I fell in love with magic because it was fun. And it’s crucial to capture that fun whenever possible. It’s easy to default to performing only the tricks I already know, but the joy of discovering something new far outweighs the comfort of the familiar. And, iterating and changing is the only way to grow.
Furthermore, there is a difference between working on magic and playing with magic, and it’s important to maintain the distinction. The former is for a clear goal–I have a show I’m getting paid for that needs to be ready–and the other is defined precisely by the absence of a goal–I’m doing this because I’m interested in it, not because I care about the outcome.
In Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes, “When we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives…we learn to be more than what we were [emphasis mine]. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of our concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable.”
Think about that. It’s not what we do but how and why we do it. We grow when we test our own limits, when we overcome challenges, and when we create something new. Our intentions matter as much as the action itself.
Ryan Holiday writes that we are not called human doings, we are human beings. I’ve spent a lot of time doing magic, but not enough time being in it. It’s a challenge I’m working on. My solution is to set aside time on the Deep Work section of my to-do list specifically for play.
So whatever you love–and it probably won’t be work-related–set aside time this week and do it. You don’t have to succeed. You don’t have to post about it. You just have to do it. Onward.
Denver--you only have two chances to see my new show with Scotty Wiese! These are my last public shows of 2022. Tickets below: