Why it's Important to Fail as a Magician

“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you're young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid. I’ve never had the feeling I couldn’t walk out and get a job doing something.” -Walt Disney

We learn from our mistakes more than our successes. Failing at a magic trick is an intricate part of learning how magic operates. Nothing forces you to think on your feet more than when you reveal a chosen card, and its incorrect. Or predicting a word, and you are wrong. You have been given the task to sink or swim.

These moments are terrifying, especially when it is a performance in front of a high paying corporate client. But in a strange way they are also freeing. When something goes wrong, it should be seen as a gift not a curse. That moment just became unrehearsed and real. They are gifts from the magic gods. You have been given the task to react to them and make them work.

One of my Second City teachers once gave us the exercise to go to an open mic and do stand up comedy with the intention of bombing. The purpose of this exercise was to see what it felt like to fail and rid yourself of that fear. Make no mistake, everyone fails. From the award winning professional to the well rehearsed hobbyist. It is how we deal with those failures that make good performers.

It is easy to get caught up in the trick’s intimate details. But truthfully you should know the trick inside out and literally be able to do it blindfolded before you should perform it in front of an audience. People often have this idea that magic is just about fooling someone. And yes, this is important, but really it’s about creating a memorable experience with you and the audience.

When you fail at a magic trick, you lean multiple lessons.

  • You learn why a trick works and why a trick does not work.
  • You learn how an audience can react positively as well negatively.
  • You learn (hopefully) not to do it again OR You learn a more exciting way to perform the effect.
  • You learn to think on your feet.
  • You learn to react to a situation.
  • You learn to breath.
  • And most importantly you learn to find an ending.

The most memorable magic situations I have been in all have the same theme: Something unexpected happened, and I reacted. 90% of the time it ends up working out in your favor…