We all love to watch true masters of their craft doing their thing. It is a beautiful thing to behold. Being in the hands of a true master is awe inspiring.
Most of us have heard the oft repeated notion from Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” that says if you practice one skill for 10,000 hours you become a true master of that skill.
I've been thinking about this because I am devoted to the craft of magic. Magic is such a deep rabbit hole, and while there is much commonality in all of this wondrous artform, there are also countless areas of specialization. Stage magic, parlor, close up, card tricks, coin sleights, rings magic, rope magic, mentalism, escape magic, fire magic, etc. children's magic. In each of these areas there is a multitude of effects and routines. If it were to take 10,000 hours of practice in each of these areas to be called a master, it would take several lifetimes to become a sorcerer supreme. And magic is theater too (Or especially so by my way of thinking.) So one needs to also learn to be a master entertainer and not just a master technician.
Some practitioners believe it's all technique but mastering the sleights for 10,000 hours without mastering theatrical entertaining presentation does not equal greatness. The great magician must also get the hours in as a theatrical entertainer. Both are equally important.
As of late the conventional wisdom suggests that Gladwell’s bold statement, while provocative and profound, is also a great oversimplification. Not all hours are equal. Hours studying and learning correctly with great teachers are high quality hours. My piano teacher once said that “practice makes permanent.” Not perfect. Permanent. So it is very important to learn the correct way to do a thing before investing hours of practice. Quality over quantity. Also, let’s face it, aptitude is a huge factor.
Then there is actual time in front of an audience and not just in front of the mirror. The audience is such a great teacher. They will write your whole act if you listen to them over many many performances.
I feel quite fortunate to have had a varied career as a performer. Music, magic, comedy, theater, film and television acting, writing, and producing. Plus, as of this writing, I now have several decades of experience being a human being that I can draw upon in my work. Father, husband, son, brother. All of this goes into the soup.
So...Am I a master magician? I have learned enough to know that the minute one is arrogant enough to call themselves a master - they will be confronted with a performance situation that kicks them swiftly in the rear end. LOL. I am a professional though. I can say that with all the certainty in the world. I am also definitely a student too! It has been said that the brilliant cellist, Pablo Casals practiced dilligently well into his eighties and even his nineties. When he was asked why he still practiced so much, he answered, "Because I think I am making progress." WOW. I am 55 as of this writing and I can say that too. I am making progress. Most people I perform for seem to really appreciate that I have put in the countless hours that it takes. And I appreciate their appreciation! It took a long time to get here. My passion hasn’t waned. On the contrary my love of magic and theater has grown. The greatest joys are getting it right and knowing I will never run out of things to learn. Just yesterday I practiced a three minute piece of magic theater for 14 hours. I honed the moves and kept working them as I carved out the “script”." I re-wrote it over and over as I married the words to the actions. Once I put this up in front of an audience it will change again and adapt to the room and the people who I share this with. The fantastic thing about having it down cold is that you are then free to improvise. You have that great track to run on and can just let go and play.
I have a grateful heart for the opportunity to live my craft. Whatever lights your fire I hope you live it too. Best wishes, "Sharpo!" The Magician