You don't know what you don't know!

Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 020


- Hello and welcome back.

- There's a trick that I do which is basically a three card monte routine for children. It uses A5 size cards with cartoon characters on. I either buy these cards pre-made or print them up with the cartoon characters of my choice. I've got various version, including one for adults too. It's a fantastic trick and one of the tricks that I perform a lot.

- I'll put a video of me performing the routine in full on the blog post that accompanies this episode, and if you want to learn it, it's described in my lecture notes, Jumping Off Points, which I'll link to in the notes for this episode.

- During the part of the routine I have two similar cards, and one odd card. I ask the children to see if they can guess where this character is. In the video it is the dinosaur Rex from Toy Story. The fun element it that during the first few rounds all the cards are face up, so it's very easy to see which card is which, despite my attempts at shuffling the cards.

- And then I say, "OK, now for round two which is more difficult. This time we'll do it... face down."

- And guess what, I've started to notice that in some cases, the children have been bowing their heads and staring at the floor, "No, no, no, what I meant was the cards will be face down." I would say, "keep watching here."

- But it made me realise, that often we don't know something is a problem until it becomes a problem.

- You don't know, what you don't know, right?

- Now the line I say is, "This time I'll turn the cards over, so you can't see it. Now it's more difficult, right?"

- And, you know, this routine is one of my favourites because there have been lots of small incremental changes as it's been improved, or as I like to say polished, over time. It's amazing to think that I must have performed this routine over a thousand times and there is still more to improve.

- I also know that anyone else who has performed magic as much as I have will have other stories similar to mine, where they thought a trick was done and then something happened out of the blue or someone in audience saw it and made a comment, that as I like to say, was the caramelisation on top of the icing sugar on top of the cherry on top of the cake.

- Can you tell I'm into baking too?

- Anyway, and this is the point that I also make in my lecture notes - Never Perfect Anything. It's wrong, I think, to think that a routine is somehow completed. Life, and magic tricks, aren't like computer games that can be completed. There's always more that can be done.

- If you're a regular listener, or you've been catching up in order, then I feel like I've been bashing you over the head with the saying, "People are more interested in people than things," but today I want' to return to the saying that I had in mind when I started this whole podcast journey, and that is, "We build a better business when we become better performers."

- Staying alert to your performances, being present in the moment, as I've spoken about before, will help you to notice those moments where a change could be made.

- In a recent blog post, I mentioned that the best way to learn magic is to do it for real. That's how you learn anything, by doing the thing for real.

- And importantly by making mistakes.

- Want to learn to bake? You have to burn a lot of cakes, make pastry that's too sticky, too crumbly etc. You can't learn to bake by reading a recipe, and neither can you learn magic just by reading a book.

- It's refreshing, I think, to know that even at my level we learn from failure.

- Of course, there's going to be many of you listening who haven't been performing for twenty years. Maybe you're only a few years into magic, and still don't feel very confident. I would encourage you to keep going.

- I've spoken about gaining confidence in a previous episode but one thing that I heard recently was to keep performing even if the material isn't quite there yet. This was actually in reference to my other current pursuit of stand up comedy, which I've spoken about previously. But the advice was keep getting on stage, even if the quality of joke writing isn't there, yet!

- I think that's an important piece of advice we can apply to magic. Keep performing, even if you only have a handful of tricks, even if you're still just doing the stock lines, even if you don't feel like it's perfect, yet!

- What I'm trying to encourage you to do is to recognise where you are. Don't compare yourself to someone with years more experience than you. Instead focus on where you are. Focus on what you can do, not what you can't.

- Now, of course, don't get stuck at that point. Keep polishing your routines, keep working on adding more of yourself into your routines, (take out one of the stock lines and add in one of your own) and keep looking for moments that you can polish. I often ask myself what went well, and next time it would be even better if...

- And finally, keep having fun, stay present in the moment and be there with your audience. It's honestly the most enjoyable way of performing.

- Ok, there's a lot there to unpack today. I hope it's been useful to you.

- As ever, if you're enjoying these episodes share them with your performer friends, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from, and don't forget you can find all the resources mentioned and every previous episode at

- Until next time, thanks for listening.

Additional Show Notes

- See my Jumping Off Points Lecture Notes.

learning new magic











- Here's the blog post on How to learn magic, (or anything else)

- And below is the double take video (that is really loud! sorry!) [link to come]

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