Walk The Earth
Darwin Ortiz said this about Jack's magic, "However good you think it's going to be, you 'll soon find it's even better." We couldn't agree more, and he's at the top of his game (in fact, he's been at the top of his game for over 20 years). Take a peek at some of his latest work on his YouTube channel.
In this article you will find his opinions on how great performers become great. Do you agree? Disagree? Post your comments below the piece.
The most important thing I pass on to young students (after beating into them the way I think a certain sleight should be done) is "Don't be a one dimensional person." Paul Harris told me many years ago, "You should read a lot of books, and most of them shouldn't be magic books." I couldn't agree more.
You've got to live a life. A real life. If you don't, the shallow depth of character you will undoubtedly possess will be more than apparent in any "performance" you seek to deliver.
The absolute worst thing you can do (if becoming a great performer is actually your desire) is to make your whole life about magic. About tricks. About "knowing" about "tricks".
I know more than a few magicians whose entire being revolves around magic; around every miniscule, esoteric bit of knowledge and/or "networking" within the fraternity they can obtain or attain. There is no question that they know "everything" and "everybody" and are absolutely scholars. But they will never be more than average to competent performers. That's it. Tops. There is no alternative and they will never know why.
All the "greats"—all of them—love or loved magic, but it was never their entire life. Never. They all lived full and varied (and sometimes risky) lives.
Dai Vernon was a one dimensional man. He was a competent performer. That's it. He was a great innovator and genius of magic, but he had nothing to share with his audience, because he was unaware of real life. He never participated in it.
Ed Marlo, while not as one dimensional as Dai, was not far behind.
I don't mean for the term "one dimensional" to necessarily be derogatory. On the contrary, it's a characteristic of many people that I would consider brilliant, if not downright geniuses.
Being primarily focused on the art of magic to the exclusion of almost all else, including many things than many would agree are normal facets of life, makes it difficult to be a great performer. This does not preclude the fact that a person with this trait could very well contribute great things to magic: ideas, premises, new subtleties, and breakthrough approaches and methods (Dai Vernon!). But it does generally mean that person will not be a great performer.
People who live full, big lives, give full, big, memorable performances. I've found that people who live a narrow life (one deliberately stripped of relationships, events, people and things that aren't directly related to magic) give an average, competent performance at best.
I remember reading that Vernon made the point that the most important thing in life is to "avoid stress at any cost." Fair enough philosophy, but certainly one that cannot be implemented without consciously stripping your life of distractions like people, family, obligations, loyalty, etc - all things that can bring unwieldy levels of "stress." Real life, if you choose to live it, can often be "stressful."
I must be careful here to note that I make no judgements here. This is just an observation.
Now, the obvious question: What about magicians who live big, full lives, and their performances "stink on ice?"
Simple answer, they lack talent. Magic is a theatrical event. It takes a talented person to participate in that event. Here is something we don't like to talk about: I'd say roughly 1 in 500 magicians who perform magic "professionally" or as amateurs, has actual "talent." (I pulled that number out of the air but it suits the point I think I'm making.) "Talent" is quite rare. That's why we call it "talent."
Practice hard, yes, but live a full life.
Take a sincere interest in other things in life—anything. Then if you have the talent to go with it, it will be possible to be a great performer. If all you read about and participate in is magic, your limited "life repertoire" will be more than glaringly obvious in your performance. You may entertain them, but you'll never reach them because you don't know them.