As many of you embark on your own magical journey and begin performing your magic, there will come a thing called CRITICISM.  Some will come from friends, from other magicians and even family members.  This can be very discouraging, especially if magic is a new hobby or profession.  No one likes to be criticized.  It hurts.  Given our wishes, we would probably want showers of praise all of the time (I know I would).  Of course this isn’t realistic and the way you handle criticism deserves some consideration.  My problem comes when I really want to impress a fellow magician or friend with something I’ve been working on.  What I want is praise and instead I get constructive criticism.  Why don’t I feel elated?  That’s because the benefit comes much later.  David Copperfield, this century’s greatest conjurer, is said to have begged for criticism in his early days.  If you didn’t offer it, he’d come out and get it from you.  He’d ask, “What didn’t you like?”

I once saw a professional theater and TV director being interviewed by a group of kids.  One of them asked the director about his view of criticism, and her response demonstrated a real understanding of the subject.  She said that when you are in show business you WILL receive criticism.  She went on to say that there are two forms of criticism: constructive and destructive.  If the criticism is constructive you should consider it carefully.  If it is destructive, you should ignore it completely.  If the criticism is constructive, do not say, “How dare they!  What do they know?”   You don’t know what they know.  They just might be right!  Ask yourself if their suggestion (constructive criticism is always a suggestion) applies to you, to what you want to do,  to what you want to be.  Do you think it will improve your performance?  Be very honest with yourself.

I dare say that all criticism has some constructive nature to it.  It’s like sand in your face at first.  It stings, but after a few minutes you can sift through it and find some nuggets of gold.  When criticized, always ask, “How can I use this”?  The great close-up magician Michael Ammar says, “Everyone needs a place to be bad.  In my case, I had the entire state of West Virginia to be bad.”  By following the process of asking the above questions of yourself, you can gain benefits from criticism.  If, on the other hand, the criticism is destructive, ignore it completely.  It will still hurt, but you can disregard it completely because destructive criticism serves no useful purpose whatsoever.  Most of what I’ve just said will also apply to praise.  Consider it carefully.  Is it merely flattery or is it honest?

Criticism may start very early in your career.  As I’ve said, it can come from family, friends or other magicians.  Even this can be viewed positively in the sense that it can train you handle professional criticism in the future.  At the time, however, that is easier said than done.  For example, it is the one closest to us that sometimes causes us the most difficulty, by perhaps saying things like, “You will never make it in your new career.”  They might even bring up some projects of yours from the past that failed.  Whatever the case, when it comes to the business side of making a living at magic, never forget to apply the following principle:

Don’t be influenced by other people who know less about magic than you do.

Consider what makes these people qualified to give advice about making a living from magic.  Have they personally tried what you are doing?  Even if they have, it doesn’t mean that you will fail too.  Sadly you will find plenty of disgruntled magicians in every magic club who will blame everything but themselves for their lack of success!  The principle mentioned above applies to anyone of course.  Not just friends and family.  Friends also like to give advice.  “Well I know a guy who tried what you are doing and he failed miserably.”  Does that mean you will automatically fail too?  No!  Of course not.  The person they knew is not you!  It’s pointless to make such comparisons.

For example, did you pass your driving test the first couple of attempts?  And how long did it take someone else?  Some pass the first time, others on their second go, still others on their third, and so on.  How would you react if someone who failed on their first attempt said to you, “Don’t bother going for your test, there is no point – I went, and I failed!”?  Did you pass exams at school while others failed?  Did you get more badges in Scouts than other kids?  Sometimes we are able to do things that others have not yet done.

I should also mention some ettiquite on offering criticism.  It is important to make sure that the person wants the criticism.  Remember they’re just like you.  They want to know what you liked about their work.  It’s rare that they want to know what you didn’t like.  As a personal rule I never offer criticism of someone’s work unless they specifically ask me for it.

Accept that we’re all different, but realize that you can succeed, because it’s your attitude and determination that make all the difference.  These blogs have tremendous input from people who have taught countless others to make a success in their lives, regardless of their finances, circumstances, education or background.  You get the benefit of my 30 years of experience in magic, and from hanging around other magicians and attending countless magic conferences.  So please don’t be influenced by others.  Determine right now that you will be successful regardless of what others think, say or do. This will take persistent positive action on your part, but YOU are in control of your own life; no one else is!

So you have decided to be successful.  You have decided to be a magician.  To be the top of any profession you have to know more about it than anyone else on the planet.  So determine to suck magic dry of its lessons and roll your sleeves up and get your hands filthy with the real-world experience of presenting live magic to people.

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