The Myth of Magic

Do you believe in magic?

If you answered yes, I have some bad news for you: You’re dead wrong.

Magic is a myth. Not real. Doesn’t exist.

How do I know? Well, I’ve long had my doubts, but it was confirmed for me last week when I had the pleasure of attending a very excellent talk given by Kevin Gillese, the artistic director of Dad’s Garage, an improv theatre in Atlanta. (BTW-If you aren’t on the Creative Mornings bandwagon yet, get on it).

The theme of Kevin’s talk? Magic.

His thesis? Magic is bullshit.

The idea that every time he gets on stage to create art he just magically spits out hilarious improv comedy is a complete farce, and one that actually kind of pissed him off.

Im paraphrasing here, but he took real offense to the idea that he got where he was today by being “a funny guy”. He claimed he wasn’t extraordinarily talented either, he just took what talent he did have and worked hard to improve his craft. Most successful creatives, he said, did the same.

Paradoxically, those that are actual performing magicians don’t have to fight this magic myth. There is an implied agreement to suspend disbelief when you watch a magician perform. No one thinks “man, that guy actually read my mind” or “holy cow, I truly wonder how David Copperfield made that aircraft carrier disappear!?”.

Instead, we assume that the magician spent hours and hours practicing and honing their ability to perform the trick.

But why is it so different for everyone else?

We assume the best artists, painters, singers, coders, leaders, or basketball players all just wake up each day with an innate ability to create magic.

This is a fallacy, and a dangerous one.

How many out there just sit at the coffee shop all day browsing the internet, waiting for magic to strike and the next great novel to come shooting directly from their fingertips, through the keyboard and onto the page? How many of us see a great employee and think “She has a magical ability to lead, I could never do that!” Meanwhile they never read a single book about leadership or attend a single seminar to improve that skill.

Without discounting innate ability (which helps, of course), it’s important to understand that to create magic takes real work. There is no shortcut.

It’s the same here at King of Pops, a company I and many others find pretty magical.

Most assume that the idea for starting this business came to us in a flash of magical insight. They picture us sitting around thinking of pop flavors and that no matter what we do, people will flock to our carts and stores to buy popsicles.

What they don’t know about is the year spent researching everything that could be learned about popsicle making and the many rejected company name ideas. They will never know about all of the failed recipes that resulted in very unmagical (okay fine, gross) pops. What they don’t see is the 80 hour workweeks in the summer. The 14 hour days in a cramped, hot kitchen. The dirt, sweat and tears (literally) that go into making this “magic”.

But all of that adds up to the occasional moment that is, I must admit, pretty magical.

I recently walked into a classroom of kids, pushing one of our pop carts. As I did, the entire room erupted into a chant of “King of Pops! King of Pops! King of Pops!” The teacher could barely get them to contain their excitement and quiet down enough for me to pass out popsicles.

So yes, magic is a myth, but my advice is to keep this to yourself. And to keep working.

UPDATE: Kevin’s entire talk is now available on the CM website. Check it out here.