Can you Learn Confidence?

Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 004

This podcast episode falls below my high standards of audio quality. Apologies!


- Hello and welcome back.

- Simple question for you this time.
- Can you learn to be more confident?
- I've spoken in a previous episode about a time that I felt nervous, performing stand up comedy, and I think that's actually a good thing, as it helps me to get to grips with how others might feel when they're performing magic.

- Generally, I don't get nervous performing magic anymore,
- And the exception to that would be an event that is really important to me.
- Like, if I knew there was going to be an influential booker in the audience then I sometimes do feel the pressure to put on a good show.

- I've got one of those events coming up later in the year
- And in those situations, I double down on the centering techniques I spoke about in the last episode.

- But there's a difference I think between healthy nerves that you can turn into energy and excitement on stage,
- And debilitating nerves that make you want to run away.
- I guess it's the fight or flight response.

- You know, I hope this episode is going to be useful for both beginners and experienced performers.
- As I've just said, there are always some situations we are more comfortable with than others.

- Maybe you've been performing close up magic for a long time, and now you want to perform on stage, or in a comedy club.
- Or vice versa, I know many stage magicians who are really comfortable with large crowds but find it quite difficult to perform magic to a group of two or there.
- That difference can sometimes be enough to throw you off.
- And it's my opinion, that if you want to be a professional magician, you should be able to have the flexibility to perform across a wide range of situations and genres.
- You might not always be doing everything, but it's good to have the option to be able to do so.
- As I'm going to keep repeating, you build a better business, when you become a better performer.

- So, how do you become more confident?
- I have a few things to say on this, and the first one is that confidence is a ladder, not a switch.
- No-one is good at anything the first time they do it.
- That's the thing you should write down from today's episode.
- And recognising that is a simple step, but one that I hope you can take away immediately.
- Let yourself of the hook.
- A new performance is likely to be bad, and that's 100% ok.
- But over the course of the first ten performances, you will start to improve.
- So, don't laser in on that first performance, instead take a look at the bigger picture.
- Of course, you absolutely should practice and prepare ahead of time, and I spoke about that a few episodes ago, but keep in mind that you'll never feel ready, you'll never feel fully prepared.
- So, at some point you have to give yourself a deadline and just start.

- And again, I'm talking to you, the brand new magician.
- And you, the hobbyist magician, who has only ever performed for your friends in the bar, why not push yourself out of your comfort zone and try performing to your work colleagues.
- And to you, the professional / semi-professional magician - which magic genre are you least experienced in?

- Of course, starting something new comes with the caveat that it might be a good idea to start somewhere the pressure is off.
- For close up magic, the obvious option is for friends.
- For stage magic, it might be a a general open mic night, and I've more to say on that topic later down the line.
- The basic idea though is that this shouldn't be anything important, and it certainly shouldn't be a paid event.
- If you want to learn to bake, you don't start with a wedding cake, right?

- And yes, you do have to perform.
- Magic is a performance art.
- It's fine to only perform occasionally, and it's fine to only perform casually for friends.
- There's lots of room in magic for all types of magicians, but I do think some form of performance is essential.
- And guess what? you'll learn more in a five minute performance than you will in years of practicing and reading by yourself.
- Here's a quote from, none other than Ascanio:
- "...of all the ways to learn magic, the only one that gives life to the art and educates the magician is performing in front of an audience."

- So, you've started, or decided to start, what next?
- Because there is another step.
- And at this point I want to reference one of the best books I read last year.
- I'm going to link to it in the show notes too - it's called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and I think it's very relevant to how magicians learn and study magic.
- There are a few examples in the book, which I'll let you discover for yourself,
- But one of the things he talks about and is relevant to us today is a school of confidence where they train people through a series of exercises including purposefully dropping a watermelon in a supermarket.
- Presumably one that they pay for, I hope.
- The point the author makes is that some people think confidence can't be learnt.
- He thinks it can be, and I agree.
- Confidence is a ladder - you just need to get better, one step at a time.
- No-one is shy or nervous in every single situation.
- You're relaxed with family and friends because you're familiar with them.
- So, it's just about becoming familiar in a new situation.

- One of the techniques mentioned in the book is to 'linger in the zone of uncomfortableness for a little longer each time'.
- And that's something I would encourage you to think about in your performances.
- If something feels uncomfortable, notice that, feel it, and then carry on.
- But in order to do that, it comes back to last week's episode again.
- You need to stay present.
- If it's all a blur, it will be of less help to you.
- And then afterwards you can analyse why you felt uncomfortable and what you might do differently next time.

- It's often said, we learn more from failure than we do from success, and certainly where I am with my stand up comedy right now, if something doesn't work as I intended, that's a good thing.
- Not only do I learn what not to do, but I also become ever more confident with, in this case, silence.

- So, embrace the mistakes.
- In the vein of the confidence school mentioned a few moments ago, here's a more performance related exercise that you might want to try
- Find a karaoke night and sing a song you know that you can't sing well
- Each uncomfortable moment is just another step along the ladder of becoming more confident on stage.

- OK, one final thing that's connected to all of this.
- A piece of advice I was given early on in my magic journey, and that I want to share with you too.
- There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
- Too many magicians, vastly misjudge the idea of 'fake it till you make it' and they become arrogant.
- It's easy to do with magic, where we're told that we have special secret powers, and the audience don't
- Another topic, for another day.
- Anyway, definitely tell yourself that you are confident, if that helps you, but don't step over into arrogance.
- It's hard to step back.
- Stay humble, and know that there is always more to do and more to learn.
- We can always become more rounded, better performers, regardless of how much experience we already have.

- Anyway, thanks as ever for listing.

- You can contribute to the conversation by finding the page for this podcast along with every other episode at and if you want to hear future episodes you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from.

- Until next time, thanks for listening.

Additional Show Notes

- One of the idea that jumped out at me recently with regards to this topic, is to linger in the "zone of uncomfortableness" for a little longer each time. I love that idea.

- I will say though, that I'm not sure how useful the karaoke example give above would be in practice. At the end of the day, you would know it was a false exercise that didn't mean anything. At least, that's how I would think. As I mentioned, I feel the most nerves / pressure, when it's an important event.

- Here are the books mentioned in this episode.

Check them out...

The Talent Code - Daniel Coyle


The Structural Conception of Magic - Arturo de Ascanio

Related podcasts

- Episode 002 - Luck or Preparation

- Episode 003 - Be Present for a Performance

- Episode - Open mic nights, link to come

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