Solutions Against Bad Habits

Here the promised suggestions, tips and ideas to conquer the points I wrote up in the 10 Bad Habits article. I have mentioned a few sources. Google them and you will find more than you need. See what you can use.

1. Gimmicks

Easy to stop that:

Concentrate on sleight-of-hand magic. Select tricks with (almost) unprepared props where the magic is done by sleights, or subtle handling. Learn the basics and classics. They will serve you a lot better in the long range.

Avoid one-trick-ponies (most tricks on the market are). Invest that time spent with that one special gimmick into learning something that can be done with everyday objects.

Treat a good gimmick like a technique that has to be learned. With every gimmick, learn the proper handling, as with a sleight-of-hand move. It is clever and efficient to select gimmicks that can be used for multiple effects.


2. Advertising and false promises

Stop all newsletters from dealers at the time of your transformation. Concentrate on your change and give yourself the chance to install good habits. You can always look at them later. Same for the next two points.

Ignore the advertising in magazines.

Ignore ads on social media.

Avoid forums, and there especially, the discussions of new tricks. These forums are time thieves, and, often, energy vampires.

In short terms: blend out all advertising. You will learn to make your own selections and not let that to others and accept what they offer you. You are the boss. Laser sharp focus is the key.


3. No satisfaction

Here, trick yourself into some habits and try to make them more bearable for you. Practicing is dull. But it must not be (see also: point number 7).

A fun way that is satisfying is the use of the Pomodoro technique. Get an egg timer (I use as a dedicated Pomodoro practitioner, an egg timer in the shape of a tomato) and use it to time your practice session into 10-minute chunks in the beginning. Later, when used to it, you can increase to 20 minutes. In practicing moves, 15 minutes seems a good time, after that it gets more difficult to keep up the concentration level.

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. So, accept that and focus your attention on the finished omelette, instead of breaking the eggs.

Google “Pomodoro technique”.


4. Big salami

There is a funny proverb: “How do you eat an elephant?” and the answer is: “Piece by piece.” Nothing could be more true. In music, you will learn a new piece in single bars (mostly). First bar, when this is good, the next one, etc. Finally, you will have the entire piece.

Same in magic: learn a routine or even technique in small chunks. One after the other. You will arrive quicker in the long range.


5. Too early speed

A hefty bad habit, difficult to overcome. As in music. Music teachers blame the desire to play at full speed for being number one obstacle to achieve progress and mastery. But you can only play at speed if you have mastered everything so far as to have it in muscle memory. They say “to have the piece under your fingers”. Once this is done, speed will come almost automatically, and you can increase speed by tightening the screw step-by-step.

Same holds true in magic. When learning a new move, do it in slow-motion! Aim for precision and correctness of the moves. Don’t speed-up things. Speed will come once it is in muscle memory.

Therefore, practicing a bit of Tai Chi helps. In Tai Chi, you are doing the motions almost in slow motion, as if you were underwater. It will help you slow down your movements, which is the best thing you can do to learn magic techniques. Slowing down helps your lazy and stupid brain to understand even the most complex series of moves.

Don’t forget that the brain does a lot of the important the work whilst you sleep. That is the time the body builds the new nerves and connections in the brain. Make sure you have enough sleep to allow that. Therefore, it is better to practice every second day, to have that night in between, rather than practicing every day and forcing the brain to refuse because of overload. Give yourself time. Take it easy.

Remember the old saying: “Learn to walk before you run.” It takes some more time in the beginning, but in the end, you can run effortlessly at the speed you want. Otherwise, you cannot even walk. Besides that, in magic, we don’t really need speed, but precision.


6. General plan

Before you can make practice a serious thing, you need a realistic plan. A plan that outlines the what, when, and the time you’ll spend on it. But be realistic about your expectations. Better to be modest about what you want to learn in a realistic time slot, then being too confident and overestimate your capabilities. Latter invariably leads to frustration and sometimes to abandoning the whole project. Consult an experienced teacher about this, and have him work out a plan for you, or wok it out with him. A good (!) and realistic plan is your key to success.

Once your goals are defined, cut the material into eatable chunks, and set up a weekly practicing plan. Otherwise, it is hard to remember what to practice on a specific day.

Another good thing and is to start a bullet journal. Why? Because it is one of the simplest ways with the least effort to get organized. A bullet journal combines everything you want: practice journal, calendar, yearly, monthly and weekly goals, habit trackers, ideas collection, inspiration, daily log. And it is just a simple notebook.

No fancy bullet journaling here (look at YouTube about how far people go to make pieces of art out of their bullet journals). Chose the size so it fits comfortably into the handbag organizers, which you hopefully will use.

Google for “practice journal for musicians” and “bullet journal”. This will give you a kick start with no effort.


7. Lack of patience, persistence, stamina

There is really no magic formula to conquer that. Practice is hard, unavoidable if you want to make progress, and it sucks. Period. But there are some ways to make it more bearable, and—most important—help you start with the practice. Experience has shown that if you are into practicing, often the fun and motivation “suddenly” appears, and it all boils down to just get the wagon rolling.

Forget about the fancy motivation training books and videos. Most of them do not work. You read them, think it’s great, and with great elan dive into it and then, after some time, it fades away, and you end up practicing nothing.

Regular practice is nothing you can internally motivate yourself over a long period. It simply doesn’t work. Forget it. The only thing that works is a schedule and drill. Yes, drill! Nobody likes drill of one’s own accord. So, force yourself into that (hard force, right?)

A lot of humans functioning based on habits. Think of your morning routine. Making coffee, opening the door for the dog, searching your socks—all habit driven. You barely think of it. The brain saves energy, and that’s the reason habits are good. So, the best thing is to make practicing a habit. That means fixed time slots each day. The practice journal helps a lot with staying on top of it. You have written out what to practice on what day, so it is easy to pickup practice because you don’t have to think about. The idea is to make it as difficult as possible to open the door for procrastination because you have to search for your guidelines or props.

Have all the materials at hand. I use felt handbag organizers for that. In each organizer are the props I need for practice sessions (if possible). These organizers make it easy to start a practice session, and with the practice journal, this combination cannot be beaten, because it frees your mind and makes things a lot easier to cold start with the practice. The less resistance, the better.

In the organizer, there is everything you need for the practice: journal, props, egg timer. And maybe a small “gratification” that you allow yourself when you went through the organizer.

Don’t forget what I call “micro-practicing”. That means doing some quick practice session, i.e. doing a certain false transfer with a ball for 20 times quick. You can incorporate this micro-practicing-units almost anywhere into your day.

Google “handbag organizer”.


8. Overestimation

Social media and the internet make it possible to get instant feedback and tons of opinions in a matter of seconds. Likes on Facebook feel satisfying. But they will also make you resistant to constructive criticism. Too much over-hyping and “being nice” and “politically correct”. Poison for the mindset you need when learning new stuff. So, avoid social media in that respect. Don’t let others in on your learning sessions, failures, and progresses. All unnecessary distractions, and de-motivating ones, too.

Overcome your self-estimation and narcism and pretend to be an absolute beginner, not understanding anything when tackling a new technique. Overcome and forget what you already achieved in magic, kill your pride and narcism, and start fresh.

This strategy has helped me, and I follow it to this day when I want to learn a new thing properly: pretend you know nothing about magic and start from scratch. Of course, you will need the right instructions: a proper explanation and teaching of the correct technique, trick, or routine. That is where the next point becomes important.


9. Get a real teacher

Nothing beats an excellent teacher in person. He/she will be the person who guides you, corrects mistakes, and motivates you in the long run. A good teacher will take care you learn the right stuff, and will make sure you reach the goals.

As I stated in another blog post, do this: instead of watching a DVD, read one or two classic books on magic (marvellous advice from John Carney). I would add then, after you read the books, discuss them with your teacher and see what’s in them for you.

And one last thing: a real teacher charges for the lessons. It seems the only way to take lessons seriously is to pay for them. What costs nothing is worth nothing, as they say. Not always true, but most of the times.


10. Things For Free

Although we are getting used to many things being “free” in magic, secrets shouldn’t be for free. A secret increases in worth if it is hard to gain. You will treat it with more respect, and, hopefully, make sure it stays what it was: secret.

Stop the binge-watching of YouTube tutorials on magic. Most of them are crap, anyway, and only a waste of time and energy. Concentrate on quality material.

You either get free stuff or you get freedom.


I hope these suggestions were of help to get you started.