“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore
We are fortunate today to have a few words from our friend and Dean of the Magic & Mystery School, Eugene Burger. Enjoy!
TURNING OUR EXCITEMENT INTO A DEMON
During the course of a year I do a great deal of traveling which, happily, I still greatly enjoy. Recently I was in Jacksonville, Florida, where I gave a lecture and conducted a small seminar. Secretly, my reason for the trip was to spend time with my friend Simone Marron who not only set up my appearances in Jacksonville but also arranged for me to give additional talks in Miami for her friend, Maria Ibanez. Maria, in turn, engaged me to perform at their annual SAM Banquet and, to my deep gratitude, also arranged a visit to a place I have always wanted to see: the most mysterious Coral Castle. It did not disappoint.
After my time in Florida, I came home for a few days and then left again — this time for Tulsa, Oklahoma, with my friends magician Robert Charles and Mike Burke, where I gave two talks for my friend, Steve Lancaster who owns Top Hat Magic. During the course of the small seminars I ask the participants to write down questions or topics they would like to discuss. Not surprisingly, questions are often repeated in the different cities because magicians, if they think about it, have some basic questions that need attention. And sometimes the very way in which the question or topic is expressed tells us a great deal about our presuppositions which often diminish our success.
As I read through the topics submitted at the Tulsa seminar, one instantly made me stop. It said simply, “Conquering nerves before a performance.”
Short and direct. It is an issue that both Jeff and I are asked about repeatedly — in country after country. Put as a question: How shall we conquer our nerves before our performances?
Stated as a question, of course, this is not unique to magicians. It is a question that many, many individuals who must present anything before a group of people would like to have answered. “Nerves” before a performance, as the writer expressed it, are not unique to magicians.
Seeing the universality of this subject for anyone who must speak or sing or dance in front of others, I repeat: How shall we “conquer our nerves before a performance?” Here, in this brief space, I will offer not so much an answer to this question as suggest some questions that may help us deal with this situation.
To answer this question, most crucially, do you see that the very way the question is raised (“How can I conquer my fears before a performance?”) colors — and perhaps even determines — how we might respond to it? The form of the question itself limits and influences my response.
Allow me to make three brief points here.
First, let’s talk about “nerves” or whatever it is that we want to conquer. It is called by many names. Some have called it “stage fright.” One magician I spoke with referred to his “terror of performing” and another spoke of his “fear of being in front of an audience.” There are many terms that can be used to refer to this “nervousness” before a performance. My point is simply that what I call it will in large measure determine the kind of “battle” I will need to wage. Calling it “my terror of performing,” for example, creates a rather impressive demon against which I must then wage this psychological war.
Personally, I choose to call this state “inner excitement” and I think it is a good thing and not something over which to wage a war. I experience this inner excitement because I want to do a good job. I want to give an excellent performance, and because of this, there is an inner excitement that keeps me alert and awake and ready to go.
If I didn’t have this inner excitement before a show, I think I would be a poorer performer. And I think you would be a poorer performer without it as well. A good part of our inner excitement, then, is related to our desire to be really good magicians.
Second, let’s step back a bit and ask ourselves why our aim is to “conquer” this feeling of inner excitement? In general, we all seem so intent on conquering things — and often they are things over which we have very little control. Think of some of the things we typically speak of “conquering.” We want to conquer space, nature, unbelief, anxiety, depression and, in large measure, each other. The opposite attitude to this desire to conquer things is have a relationship with them based upon respect and perhaps even friendship.
Before a performance, can I make friends with my sense of inner excitement?
Let me summarize the two points I have been making:
First, are my words — the way with which I describe this state — transforming my inner excitement into a demon that terrorizes me? “Inner excitement” seems to me to be manageable state. On the other hand, using words like “fear,” “terror” or “stage fright” seem far less manageable and even threatening. These words can become virtual demons to torment me.
Second, why do I think I need to conquer everything or wage some kind of inner war or battle with my feelings?
I think these are two questions that anyone who gives presentations in front of others would do well to contemplate.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not add a third point. If I am supposed to give any type of presentation — and if I am not prepared — perhaps I should be nervous. And nervous in the worst demonic sense of that word! If I am not adequately prepared and rehearsed, if I did not do my homework, fear and terror might indeed be the most realistic and honest responses I can have.
Thanks, Eugene! I find I always learn something from Eugene’s talks, and that I’m really looking forward to spending a week with him in Las Vegas this month. As luck would have it – it is not too late for you to decide to join us. We still have two slots left before that class is filled, and if you go to www.magicalwisdom.com right now, you could get one of them. It promises to be a great week, with Jeff, Eugene, Bryce Kuhlman, Larry Hass & myself, and visits to Mac King, Paul Vigil and The Wonderground…and that’s just the “highlight reel.”
A bit further down the road, but also timely, is our course for Career Enhancement, scheduled for September 17-25 — a serious 9 days of work in learning to build a strong business and career in magic. Not for everyone…but if it is for you, we can pretty much guarantee that the week will change your life for the better. Building systems, creating strong, consistent marketing, making sure your act is up to snuff, and much more. Much more than a transmission of information, the class is designed as a complete experience that will change the way you think and behave in order to become the full-time successful professional you want to be. We will only do the class if we have 10 people registered by the end of March, though, and at present, there are only 5. So…If you’re ready to make a serious investment in your future as a professional magician – now is the time to act.
That’s it for now. We look forward to seeing you on McBridemagic.tv, in our Locked Room sessions, and “Live in Las Vegas,” soon!
Best to all,