I try always to steer clear of the phrase “self-working”. I don’t believe any magic qualifies. No magic routine does itself, so it follows that all magic requires some degree of practice. Most – sometimes even the simplest routines – require a lot. Yes, some roads will be harder to walk than others - but be very careful what you attach to the words “too difficult”. I mean...
The first tricks I ever created and sold had no information listing who made them.
Not my name, no company name, no logo, no address – nothing.
This was back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Back then, I believed if I was standing in front of a magician, demonstrating a product with my own name on it, there would be no way for them to give me an honest reaction. Obviously, it’s hard to deliver real criticism to a creator when you’re looking them straight in the eyes. So I thought the best way to get real feedback was to stay anonymous.
I learned a lot from that approach. Sometimes, more than I bargained for.
I discovered what people really thought of my ideas. It was a great way to learn what people liked and disliked, while working directly in the trenches.
I also learned it made the products easy targets for getting lifted. I’d show up at a convention one year with a new item – only to see it sitting on other dealers tables the next. This was way before I was making products available wholesale. Yet, there they were – same tricks, same plastic bags, with horribly photocopied instructions.
But over the years I’ve come to learn the most important lesson from this approach. It was the other reason I didn’t include my name on those early products.
Putting your work out there means that you can be the recipient of praise and accolades.
Keeping it anonymous means you can deflect the disapproval and rejection.
As time went on, I changed my approach but I’ve always been shy about self-promotion. I’ve tried to get better at it but to this day it often feels painfully uncomfortable. Someone once said, “If you’re not branding yourself, you can be sure that others are doing it for you.” That’s a great line. It’s too bad no one seems to remember who said it first.
We live in a noisy and crowded world. Often the only voice available to sing your praises will be your own. Don’t be afraid to.
In 2013, I produced a series of events called The Real Magic Roadshow. I invited a select group of the magic creators, producers, and dealers to join me for a one day retail magic event. It was a huge success and – as I’ve stated many times in the past – it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had as a magician.
The original core team included Mark Mason, Dirk Losander, Chris Smith, and myself. We had always toyed with the idea of bringing the event overseas but the costs and logistics involved always made it seem virtually impossible.
But hey, impossible is what we do – right?
I’m very excited to announce that the boys are back and gearing up for our first European Roadshow Tour! First up, is Germany with six dates and a number of special guests. Joining us for the complete tour is Christian Schenk from Card Shark, who has been an immense help as our main man in the field.
Dates and locations include:
Berlin – Friday September 21
Leipzig – Saturday September 22
Frankfurt – Sunday September 23
Cologne – Friday September 28
Essen – Saturday September 29
Hamburg – Sunday September 30
I realize this post has a limited audience but if we’re heading your way, we hope you’ll join us for what promises to be an amazing series of events. The cost is only 10 euros to attend and – if you register now – you’ll get that back in the form of a gift card for use the day of the event! But space is limited, so register now.
For full details and event registration, visit our website at www.realmagicroadshow.com
Last month I was one of the featured acts at the GeniiCon Convention in Sydney, Australia. It was a fantastic event and I was honored to share the stage with a wonderful assembly talent. As part of the event, I presented two workshops on creating magic for the marketplace - or just for fun. During the session, I shared not only my own insights but material I’ve collected over the years on the topic of creativity.
If you have any favorite books on creativity, drop me a line. I always love a good recommendation. There’s a lot of sameness in material written about the creative process. Ironic, right? But every once in a while I stumble on to something a bit refreshing. Currently, I’m finding some interesting ideas in the new book "Creative Quest" - where musician, Tonight Show bandleader, designer, and all around creative - Questlove, explores the topic. He shares an interesting anecdote about a short talk with one of my favorite musicians, David Byrne. He said Byrne suggested that to grow as a creative person it often helps to figure out what you are not.
I really like that idea.
I’ve long believed that limitations can help feed the creative mind. It seems counter to the idea of the open minded freewheeling artist – but, personally, I feel too much room can lead to a lot of unexecuted ideas. Having some guiding principles helps immensely. The problem is that coming up with guiding principles TOWARDS what we want to be and achieve can sometimes be hard to define. How exactly do we come up with the plan to become something we’ve never been - or created? A good place to start might be to figure out where we don't want to finish.
What do you NOT want to be – or create?
Coming up with those answers might surprise you. Establishing these types of guide posts can help provide a direction when you find yourself in a creative rut. It’s an interesting exercise and one that I’ve had fun exploring.
As an aside, neither Byrne or Quest had a name for this process. I’m calling dibs on “Going Dobler”.
Tomorrow, I hit the road for nearly two months.
I’ll be spending time with magicians in five separate countries during this tour and I’m excited to get the ball rolling. I’ll be sharing some of the experiences on my social pages, so click here if you want to stay connected.
During the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time on the road – in front of real people, creating real moments of magic. I’ve learned a lot and built a host of relationships that I cherish deeply. If I had to squeeze out the most important lesson along the way it would be this:
Nothing will make you grow faster and more fully as a magician (or as a human being)
than by sharing your work with new people in new places.
It doesn’t matter if it’s down an unknown street or across the state, the opposite side of the country or the flip-side of the globe. Just get out there and do the thing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Daryl lately.
And JC Wagner.
And Tom Mullica.
And Barrie Richardson.
And now Harry.
Thank you to so many people that guided me in ways they will never know. People that showed me ways to be better and how to be decent in a business that sometimes isn’t. People that taught me deep lessons disguised in laughter and wonder. My world is better because of you.
The world is better because of you.
The thing about magic that is hard to explain to the outside world - is how we often get to meet our heroes. More than that, we get to spend time with them and learn from them in ways that is unique to almost any other field. It’s remarkable really.
But it makes it all the more difficult when they’re gone.
I read once that silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. Time to speak up more
There’s a common bit of wisdom that the juggler will steal the show on any magic convention bill. Having been present at many magic shows, I can verify it’s often true. Jugglers also tend to be some of the happiest, most friendly people you’ll ever meet – and they’re generally pretty positive towards each other’s work. I can’t say with certainty why this is, but I have made some observations...
Jugglers have easily understood and recognizable skill.
There’s no bullshitting when it comes to a juggler. Either stuff is in the air or it’s on the floor. Jugglers can quickly assess the ability and skill level of another juggler. Likewise, the audience can easily see if the juggler is successful and responds accordingly. In contrast, when it comes to a magician’s skill, we can bluff - audiences, other magicians, and sometimes even ourselves.
Jugglers get accolades for their skill.
A juggler does something difficult - he then steps forward and receives his applause. The magician in contrast, often must keep his skill secret. He spends a lifetime mastering a skill that few people are ever aware of. It’s like learning to play an instrument that only a handful of people can hear. Worse yet, if someone accidentally hears it – it means the magician has made a mistake.
The juggler releases energy and works in the moment.
This one is less obvious but it might be the most important. The juggler’s work is physical and allows him to release nervous energy when he is on stage. The physical tension has no choice but to subside. The audience also permits the juggler to be present in his work. The audience understands the work is difficult. His focus on executing challenging moves is not only allowed - it’s expected. These things are far less common in a magic. I think this creates a “looseness” in the way a juggler works. A looseness that becomes even more apparent when contrasted with many magicians.
I have no idea if any of this is objectively true. I also don’t mean to imply that jugglers have it easier than magicians. I just like to look at fields outside of magic and see what they can teach me - sometimes I don’t have to look very far. So what are the lessons?
Whether you’re keeping balls in the air literally or figuratively, that seems like some pretty sound advice.
I just returned from the UK where I was attending the world’s largest magic convention. Each February for the last 66 years, the seaside town of Blackpool in northern England is flooded with magicians from across the planet.
THOUSANDS of them.
It moves fast and furious with oceans of magicians filling every pocket of the town. At some point in the midst of it, I always try to stop and be present to the sheer impossibility of it. This year, this quote kept coming to my mind:
“We of alien looks or words must stick together.”
― C.J. Sansom
Over the last few years, I’ve been at nearly 100 live magic events across the United States and abroad. I’ve made new friends, connected with old, and shared thousands of moments.
When I think back on every truly powerful magic experience I have ever had - it has always been in the company of actual people in real world environments. I am grateful that we have the ability to connect online but the experiences produced live and in three dimensions are hard to match.
I hear a lot about the demise of the live magic experience. I see magicians working desperately to create an online presence, sometimes at the expense of building the skills to connect in the real world. Conversely, I see our online interactions as threads to connect us until the next live encounter. I value these threads - but their primary purpose is to guide me back to the living breathing person.
Standing in Blackpool in the midst of so many magicians, I was reminded of a simple fact:
Magic’s greatest strengths appear only when we are next to each other.
I hope that happens again soon.
"Begin with the end in mind."
"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."
"The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you."
"To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard."
"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun."
"The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity."
"A year from now you may wish you had started today."
"If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said a faster horse."
"Animation is about creating the illusion of life. And you can't create it if you don't have one."
"Think like an artist. Dress like an insurance salesman."
I’ve mentioned previously that I’m not a big fan of December 31st as the ultimate night for resolutions and reflection. But as the year winds down, it’s hard not to contemplate the last 12 months – as well as the additional 552 months that preceded them.
I am ridiculously lucky to make a living doing what I do. Yes, there are times I complain. I’m human and I try not to beat myself up too much about that. But the idea that magic has provided me and my family a life is simultaneously astonishing, humbling, and terrifying.
Astonishing because who would have thought I could shape a world out of some cards, coins, and a pocketful of odd items? It’s remarkable where this unusual assortment of tools has taken me and who it has allowed me to connect with. Sometimes I find it bordering on the absurd that I’m still following the passion that I had as a child. I’ll admit it’s taken some unexpected twists and turns but, all things considered, it’s made a pretty fine compass.
Humbling because who would have thought I could shape a world out of some cards, coins, and a pocketful of odd items? In truth, I know it’s not those items - it’s you. The people that have continued to support me along the way. I’ve been able to build a career out of doing something I love and working alongside interesting people. That’s pretty awesome and I am forever grateful for your granting me that ability. I hope I can continue to earn your support and patronage into the future.
Terrifying because who would have thought I could shape a world out of some cards, coins, and a pocketful of odd items? The future is filled with unknown battles and my weapons of choice are those odd little tools and my knowledge of how to use them. That can be a little scary sometimes. Like Roy Scheider heading out to deep waters to take on Jaws – sometimes I feel like a I should have brought a bigger boat. Luckily, everything turned out alright for Roy - so I try to keep a positive outlook.
It’s weird how the same sentiment can conjure up so many different feelings – but indeed it does. Perspective is a funny thing and the capacity to use it is one of the most powerful resources I know. That may seem like a strange thought to end the year on – but it’s been a strange year. So I’m loading up the provisions and soon I’ll be hoisting the anchor. I’m pushing this boat back out to sea and with any luck our paths will cross soon.
I'm the guy from the homepage. You probably already know that.