Over 10 years ago I asked a group of prominent magicians the question “If you only knew then what you know now.” I was thrilled with the responses and it became one of the most well read articles ever on www.MagicCoach.com . (Read the original here)
Recently, I decided to do the exercise again and this time fired the question to some of the most respected and busiest mentalists on the planet. What I found interesting was their different approaches to the question, some looking at the big picture, some, the important “little secrets.”
What was also significantly different this time around, was that I knew all of these performers at a much different level. I had met them all previously, had shared meals with several over the years, some had even been to my house here in the Blue Mountains and with two I had spent a memorable night at the baseball. This lead to much fuller or revealing answers than the last time I did the exercise and I really appreciate their insights.
As Jon Stetson remarked “ I hope this helps someone down the road.”
Big thanks to -
Max Maven – Legendary performer, creator & writer
Craig Karges – Thousands of performances around the world on TV and at Colleges, Corporate Events and Performing Arts Centres.
Marc Salem – Star of TV and his own theatre shows around the world
Ken Weber – Veteran College performer & author of the must read book “Maximum Entertainment”
Chris Carter – A legend in the College market and at Corporate events
Jon Stetson – Consumate performer & creator of the unique ” Stetson Experience”
# … the role of practice, in any venue, at any price
# … appearance and grooming are a real turn on … shine those shoes
# … the latest trick that will make you famous does not exist
# … build your act to climax, gradually reveal your abilities
# … Post show is more important than preshow, get out there and be a nice guy, but perform nothing, your show is over
# … know you effects well , and their history , this keeps the inventors eyes on you
# … make the love of your art bring joy to your face, the audience will see it
Some background. I’m a 56-year-old full time mentalist/mystery entertainer. I began performing magic at 12, mentalism at 16 and turned professional at 22 when I graduated from college with a degree in broadcast speech and journalism. So it’s been 34 years of running around the world (5000 appearances in 22 countries on four continents as well as in all 50 United States). My primary markets have been corporate and college followed by some casino, theatre and special event work. I’ve made over 40 national TV appearances in the US, starred in two, syndicated, one-hour television specials and authored three books for the general public. So that’s who I am in a nutshell.
I honestly don’t know that I would have done anything much different. I can look back at choices I made and question them. For example, I went to college so I would have a “fall back” plan. Turns out, I didn’t need it. But I’m very thankful for my college education. I learned things that I apply in my business still today. I paid my way through college by performing and those extra four years of experience were invaluable. I matured and I got much better so that when I graduated I was better prepared to hit the road. By finishing school, I also had the answer to the other question I might have been asking myself — “What if I didn’t turn pro out of high school and went to college first?” I think my life might have been very different had I chose that life path and I don’t think in a good way. But who knows?
Corporate versus college work is another area where I can look at my choices and wonder. In the 80s I marketed to both — I marketed to anyone and everyone! My fees in the late 80s were similar for college shows and corporate events (with the big difference being that the corporate clients paid all travel and the college dates were pretty much all inclusive except for hotel). Then the college dates took over my calendar and there were very few openings to take corporate bookings. I was averaging about 175 one-nighters a year, mostly on college campuses. In the 90s the corporate market exploded and fees shot up. I missed the start of that parade! But by the mid to late 90s I was back into the corporate market pretty heavily and eventually, early 2000s maybe, I was doing more corporate than college work. So, should I have consciously cut back on my college shows? Should I still be doing them now when they pay less than half as much as corporate appearances? I don’t know. But I’m glad I didn’t abandon the college market as it got me through 9/11 when the corporate market just shut down and meetings were canceling left and right and it helped get me through the recent (current?) recession. Plus I enjoy the work — it gives the calendar a different dimension and in many ways it keeps me young!
Personal management is another area I could question. I never wanted to be famous. I just wanted to earn a good living doing what I love to do. However, in the mid-90s, I signed with a personal manager who believed he could turn me into, if not a celebrity, a media personality. I stayed with him for, I think, ten and a half years and paid him over half a million dollars during that time. I eventually terminated our contract when, to me at least, it appeared that we had done all we could for each other. I probably should have walked a year or two before I did but I have no regrets about the relationship or the money paid. My manager opened a lot of doors for me and he created contacts that are still very important to my career today. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have been on The Tonight Show or had my first book published by a mainstream publishing house. So, overall, no regrets.
I may however have a future regret if you revisit me in 5 years. That’s social media. I don’t use it at all. I know, it’s shocking! If I ever get heavily involved in it and discover what I’ve been missing all these years I might say, “If I only knew then what I know now…”
One thing? That’s a tough one, there are so many.
One thing that stands out in my mind. That would be my being somewhat reluctant to step out of my comfort zone and take greater risks. Having more faith in my own abilities. I didn’t get to that point until I was 40!
That along with not getting a college education. Particularly not learning enough about how to properly run a business and manage money. All in all, I’ve done well. However all I’ve learned has come at a cost.
Hope this helps someone down the road.
Next Issue – The answers from … Ken Weber, Chris Carter, Max Maven.
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