As I write this It’s been two days since receiving the big news; I’ve been selected to compete in the FISM North America Championship. If FISM is the “Olympics of Magic”, this North American championship is where Team Canada (and Team USA) will choose their finest representatives. It’s kind of a big deal.
When I think of FISM, I think of Fred Kaps. To me, he was the perfect magician. The FISM judges must have agreed, presenting him with Grand Prix world champion honours three times. He was cool, calm, and composed. His magic was effortless. Every moment was perfect.
Maybe Fred Kaps is not your ideal, but surely you have your own magic hero who inspires you to reach their level of excellence. Much of the time, that level feels overwhelming and beyond reach.
How am I, a normal human magician full of faults, supposed to get to the “every moment is perfect” level?
Fred Kaps and his Smoking Thumb
I’m not. It can’t be done. I can’t just become great. It’s not in my power. What I can do, which is much more attainable, is to become less imperfect.
I aspire to be less bad.
As I prepare for the contest, I’m using a technique I learned from the team at Walt Disney. They call it “plussing”.
You take a hard look at your routine, find the worst part, then make it better. Now take another look and there is a new worst part, which gets the same treatment. Repeat. Over and over again.
Rather than trying to fix everything all at once, which likely ends in an overwhelming slump of bad feelings, you draw a red circle around a small area. That’s where you invest your energy. That’s a challenge you can conquer.
Every routine has those moments. Maybe it is a joke that gets a weak laugh. Perhaps it’s a bit suspicious when you do the secret move. Maybe your introductory remarks are long-winded. Look at the routine and find the roughest spot, then figure out how to polish it up.
Rewriting an entire act is hard. Rewriting one line seems like much lighter work.
A caveat; this strategy is only as good as your ability to recognize your weaknesses. You can probably name other magicians you know who think they’re better than they are. Careful, that might be you, too! It’s important to be open to outside perspectives, and hearing feedback. Let other people, magicians and audiences alike, help you identify the weak moments so you can improve them.
You can improve one moment at a time.
In the next two months leading up to the North America championship, I have 8 weeks to work on my 8 minute act. In practice it won’t be so linear, but the math suggests I need to polish one-minute of my performance per week. If I am selected for FISM next year, I have another 52 weeks to “plus” my act, which means working at a pace of 9.2 seconds per week.
If you see me do the act this year, and again in 2021, the best compliment I could hear is not “that was great!” but rather “you’ve really improved!”