Is New Better?

Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 005


- Hey, welcome back to another episode.

- This is one of those ones that starts with a really short story, that caught my attention, and then there's a lesson, or comment, about how that relates to magic.

- So, I was watching something like, Countryfile, which for my international listeners, is a weekly farming and rural affairs programme.
- It's actually quite enjoyable!
- Anyway, they had this feature about one of the islands off the west coast of Scotland, where this lady was the third generation post master for the island.
- Her father and grandfather had done the same job before her.
- Then they mentioned, that while they did the job by horse, she uses a different kind of horse power now.
- Cut to a clip of her travelling around the island on some sort of quad bike, buggy type thing.

- I was watching this and I couldn't help thinking, wouldn't a horse still do the job?
- Yes, you have to feed it, and look after it, but you have to fuel and maintain a buggy.
- And I bet a horse can travel over rougher terrain than the buggy could.

- My prevailing thought was, just because something is new doesn't mean that it's better.
- And there's a lesson there that relates to magic.

- I often get calls asking about magic lessons, and when I ask what they know already, the response is often something like, they've learnt a few tricks from YouTube.
- Now, don't get me wrong, it's great that someone is showing an interest, and maybe you can learn a trick or two from YouTube.
- But it's not a great way to go about the true study of magic.

- In a recent blog post where I gave 25 tips for new magicians (yes, I'll include a link in the show notes),
- And I mention that the secret to all of magic can be found in books.
- To some you that might seem, like a very old way of learning how to do magic
- But it's still relevant today.
- The secret to all of magic is in books.
- And books have consistently shown to be the best way of learning because they force you to go through a process.
- You have to see the moves in your minds eyes, and then with the props in hand, you have to try them out.
- You might fail at first, or for a long period of time, but that's actually a good thing.
- It's called learning.

- The written word is also static, which means that you can re-read anything that doesn't make sense initially.
- With a video, you have to skip back, or rewind.
- In fact, when I want to learn a trick that is only taught on video, the first thing I do is transcribe the moves into my own notebook, so that I can learn from that, rather than from the video.

- Another major advantage of books is that many of them have a structure to them, allowing you to follow them step by step, building your skills as you go.
- When I wanted to learn to bake, I spent a long time researching which book to buy.
- I wanted a book that could act as a course book, not just give me 1001 recipes without any context or details about what worked and why.
- I eventually found that book, and in case you are interested, I will leave a link to that below too.
- at the very least it will give you an example of what I mean.
- I think, the best example in the magic world is, Card College, a fantastic resource that is like a degree level course in card magic, yet broken down into, books, then chapters, then individual lessons.
- You wouldn't go far wrong, if you worked through 5 to 10 pages a day over the course of a year.
- And that's a tip for the pro magicians too.

- Instead, what we often get these days are one trick downloads, that to me seem as if they are rushed out to meet a schedule,
-They seem more like a cool idea, rather than being the result of a lifetime's work.
- What's often missing is the real world subtleties that make them truly fooling for a non-magical audience.

- I know the next thing I'm going to say is like I'm wishing to pause the ever moving spheres of heaven, but in the past a magician would write one book at the end of their career.
- Or a few if they were particularly prolific.
- The point is printing 500 books costs more than making a 12 minute video, so you've got to make it better, and it was.

- And I would even say the DVDs and yes also VHSs that I learnt from were better than single trick downloads.
- My teachers were people like, Jeff McBride and Daryl and Lennart Green and David Stone.
- And their videos, again, seemed like a course in one genre of magic.

- I know that for some, magic will just be a hobby, either because through choice or because of other pressures such as work, family or other hobbies
- But even if magic is only something you do occasionally it's still worth making the effort to do it right.
- I firmly believe, you'll enjoy it more if you feel like you're making progress.

- In the last episode I recommended a book called the talent code and I want to shout that book out again.
- In it, the author encourages the reader to seek out difficult situations.
- We learn by going through a struggle, by having to figure something out for ourselves.

- We don't learn through baby brain DVDs that keep us busy, without teaching us anything.
- They entertain us with trick after trick and explanations exposed but rarely taught in any depth.
- This also by the way seems to be the case for most (but not all) magic lectures.
- That's another topic for another day.

- So, that's almost it for today.
- I hope this episode has given you some food for thought.
- If there's one thing to take away from it, it would be embrace the difficult situations, that's where you start growing!

- In an upcoming episode I'm going to lay out a plan to study and improve your magic, but I want to know from you, how do you learn, study and improve.

- 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

- There are a quite a few resources for this one, so let's jump straight into them.

25 Tips for New Magicians - A blog post I wrote, that many people have told me they have found useful, and again, it's not just for beginners. Take a look. At least it may reconfirm something for you.

The Art of French Pastry - Jacquy Pfeiffer - If that's your thing too, of you just want to browse an example of a great course book.

Card College - Roberto Giobbi

The Talent Code - Daniel Coyle

and finally, I really like the writings of Jamy Ian Swiss. He talks about the difference between learning magic from books vs on videotape in the article Sleights, Lies, and Videotape from his book Shattering Illusions. I will probably be referring to this book again. It is highly recommended, for the magician who wants to think about their art more (and why wouldn't you?)

Shattering Illusions - Jamy Ian Swiss

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