"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" - The Fallacy of Complacency
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a popular saying which many abide by. It's been used in the context of everything from large scale political disagreements and social reform to high school debating and personal mottoes. One could even go so far as to say that in many, it is an ingrained rule.
Of course, "broke" implies that something is not working, that it does not fulfill its purpose. That, in its current state, it is utterly defunct and unusable.
In magic, we are looking to create an experience for our spectators. When done correctly, magic will be remembered as exactly that: an experience. It will, in a decade's time, at the mention of a magician, at the mention perhaps of a psychological study in my case, a woman will tell her friend of a moment she once experienced. It will probably be a wildly incorrect anecdote, granting us abilities we could only ever dream of. But that one experience was so meaningful, that specific images stuck with out dear spectator for many years. And whilst misleading, misremembered, these images will be recreated after those ten years, and an experience will be recalled from those images, and this kernel, this insignificant, fragmented kernel will have changed that spectator's life in some small way (or perhaps not so small). This kernel will be the essence of our magic, and its impact on our spectators.
This is almost impossible, but not quite, to achieve.
If we hope to achieve this sort of experience, what I believe to be magic amongst its most powerful, then we have our work cut out for us. This sort of experience is not easy to create. I have always felt that since magic has this potential, that this is what we therefore should consider our holy grail. Forget the moments of screaming. We need to look past that to see the true potential of our magic.
If we hope to achieve this sort of experience, it goes without saying that everything needs to be right. It means that what might first appear to be a small problem, will make the difference between success and failure in this attempt.
A repertoire which is not congruent with your performing persona will be seen as an anomaly, if only subconsciously. Our brains love patterns, and a break in pattern is especially noticeable. Subconsciously, it is very easy to shut down as a result. The path to a deep experience is a very narrow one, and easily closed. You may still get good reactions. You may still get the best reactions of your life. But you will still have failed in reaching your potential. Incongruous material interrupts the believability of your magic.
This is but one example.
A classic pass which does not flash, but simply results in you squaring up the deck when the deck is already squared, will create suspicion. Your spectator will probably never think, "Oh, something must have happened." They might, but they probably won't. And yet, in that second, a subconscious barrier shot up. And that means a wall which prevents them from ever experiencing what magic could be. All because you appear to be over handling the deck pointlessly - something a layman would not be able to associate with.
Presentation which is ill-worded, which creates confusion, confrontation, or is simply lengthy, will detract from magic. Presentation which is insulting, patronising, nonsensical, or otherwise incongruous will detract from magic. Presentation which is delivered at the spectator rather than engaging with the spectator will detract from magic.
If one of these things is not right, there goes the experience, out the window. It will replenish Tinkerbell's pixie dust in Neverland perhaps, but it will not return for your spectator.
So many things to look out for.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
I am talking, of course, about our tendency to be lazy.
See, the problem with this mantra is this: Just because something isn't broken, doesn't mean it doesn't need fixing.
Let me make that clearer, by rewording it slightly. Just because something isn't broken, doesn't mean it can't be improved.
How's that? My computer isn't broken. Doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't get faster internet speed. My bed isn't broken. Doesn't mean I can't get a more comfortable one. America's education system isn't broken. Doesn't mean that it can't do better.
And when you get to these sorts of things, why wouldn't we try to do better, when we're talking about the education of the next generation? If it can be better, why shouldn't it be?
Magic will never be as important as an education. But hopefully, you understand my point. If we are serious about performing to our potential, of giving our spectators, a gift, then we must do the best we can in every aspect of our magic.
And that means not settling.
Too many magicians are happy to settle with receiving the Stigmata DVD in the post and performing it straight from the DVD.
Too many magicians are happy to settle for a pinky break by shoving their entire finger inside.
Too many magicians are happy to settle by starting a trick with the line, delivered with utmost seriousness, "This card is a time machine."
In those moments, because of your laziness, you have failed to live up to your potential.
We work on something, and it's at a decent level. But we don't work on it enough. It's not perfect. It's not been performed a hundred times and tested in every situation. But that's okay. Because the next month, we're going to get the Genesis DVD, and the month after that, the next greatest magic DVD, and we'll always be occupied with new material to learn.
Besides, what we've worked on is up to a performable level - and I've never been called out on my pinky break. And no-one has ever directly told me off for patronising them with my patter. And no-one yet has seen a YouTube video revealing Stigmata.
It ain't broke, so why fix it?
This, my friends, is the Fallacy of Complacency.
If you are happy to settle for average, for normal, for decent, go ahead.
But if you, like me, believe that magic can be far more than that, then I urge you to look at magic a different way; to treat it critically, and to not stop simply because you've fooled someone, but to always strive each and every performance for that holy grail. The experience.
These things will not be spelled out for you. You won't have someone telling you explicitly that things are broken. Often, they won't be broken. But they can be improved. And if they can be improved, then they are not good enough, because if they can be improved, then you are not reaching your potential with your magic, and if you are not reaching your potential then you haven't a chance in hell of creating the experience I spoke of earlier.
Be happy of your achievements. Be proud of the work you have put in. Be satisfied with your results. But never let arrogance fool you into thinking that you've completed your job. Never settle for something because it is merely acceptable. Never rest on magic which is simply not broken, because try flying the Wright Brothers' first airplane from New York to Prague, and see how far you get.
Don't mistake "not broken" for "perfect". Even if a dozen magicians around you make that mistake, don't you be the thirteenth. Just be better.
And above all, do not settle for complacency, because that woman in a decade's time will be talking not of your magic, but of her new dress, of her yoga class, and perhaps, just perhaps, of my magic, of someone else's magic, instead.
But especially, I really liked the point you make there. Most of us are very arrogant and we are just happy with the oh so famous "woao! you are pretty good" or with just the compliments of our parents.
I once knew another magician where I live, and gosh he was arrogant, I saw him perform and talking later that day I asked him "hey dude? where was the patter?" he was like "wtf!? is that? didnt you see the reactions? I dont need that kind of stuff.."
Reactions. Thats the word we use a lot around here:
"Wich tricks gets good reactions??"
"Hey im so fricking cool, you should have seen my spectators reactions, they were insane!"
We are aiming for reactions when (as you say) we should aim for something more, an experience, or a moment at least. Not just a reaction.
Its all about your patter and presentation. And about not buying that often, buying a lot of stuff doesn't gives you room to improve the gold material you already have.
Very very good read. Thanks Prae I may try to contribute something later on .
Well said! Very well written, and good points too!
This thread should be flagged so that it can be referenced again easly even late into the future.
This is certainly one of those posts that all of our members should read.Winner SNC 6/5/2010 "What Magic Means to You?"
Winner SNC 8/22/2010 "Best Dramatic Work" for Theory11 Movie Night
But those are the reactions that are seen as the paramount of performing so they assume they're at to top of the mountain, though in reality, they are at the foot of it.
And then when they drive home after watching your "show", to them its all tricks and deception at the end of the day.
We must change. For the Greater Good."Soko kara nani ga mieru?" - Shiro. Tekkon Kinkreet.
[ She sais to Ceiling Cat "Ishmael = hiz name", He sais "U seez me", she sais "U sees me I sees U" ]
This kind of thread only got 4 replies, and got pushed to the bottom of the page so soon? Common guys...
There are two main reasons for magicians to not advance their own magic and presentation, and are satisfied with screaming reactions.
First is that magic don't really interest them THAT much, so they are just being lazy about it and honestly don't care.
Second reason is that they are scared. They are scared to try and they are scared to succeed, and most importantly, they are scared to FAIL. They are thinking "Omg, what if I'm really not that good, what if I can't improve myself so much, it is really hard to make that experience for my spectators....". They just wont come out of their comfort zone. Same reason why most of magicians stick with card magic only. Common guys, no one was born with knowledge and experience, you have to learn and you have to try, like everybody else on the planet. There is a great quote in someones signature, it goes like this "You try, you fail, you try, you fail, but the only true failure is when you stop trying".
Thanx Prae for this great read, you inspired me so much. Hope that you inspired some of those other 140 people that view this thread, and not replied.Magician and Hypnotist at Carnival Cruise Lines
- Join Date
- May 2008
Bravo! I agree with you 100%. I hate the fallacy of complacency. It keeps too many people from reaching their true potential.
Detraction of the moment from a pass or any mechanic is a result of timing and everything has its place. Good post I agree and generally most practicioners don't seem to show heart in their art since it's just that a hobby but what can you do?
- Join Date
- Sep 2009
i concur to the highest point mate, thanks for writing that..
sometimes the quiet reactions are the best... the ones where they are deep thought inside there mind, where they replay it, where they make the magic real..
when you make an experience for them, you connect with them.. you make it real..