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The Magic of Self-Confidence

Teachers and parents, this month’s RIF blog is written by comic strip and graphic novel writer (and magician!), Brian Anderson. You may know him from his long-standing comic strip Dog eat Doug. Brian shares his passion for magic and the importance of reading – whether to become a great magician or a strong reader. It is a great read to share with the child(ren) in your life to get them inspired, to open a book and to uncover the magic in reading.

Want to learn the secret of magic? Cool, first, see this coin? Here, let me give it to you.

Cue dramatic music as my fingers open, slowly. Gone! Vanished!

It’s in my other hand you say? Look! It’s empty too!

How did I do it? I only pretended to take it. The coin dropped behind my fingers, and while you watched my other hand, I dropped it into my lap. Not very magical, huh?

Wait! Don’t go! That’s not the real secret!

This coin sleight is called the “French Drop”. The first time I tried it, it looked like I was handling the coin with mittens. Awkward, fumbling. I wouldn’t have fooled my dog. I was in second grade and I thought magic was the dumbest hobby ever. Yet, today, I can create gasps from onlookers with this simple trick. How? By using the true secret of magic. Ready? Do you have a drum? Great. Give me a quick drum roll. Thanks.

The secret is practice! Did you just sigh? Really, that is the secret. That’s what builds confidence. The discipline of practice. Like I mentioned, I learned that trick in second grade. With a cheap mirror leaning on a stack of books, I would sit at the kitchen table and practice. Doing the move over and over. The goal was to get to where not even I could tell if I took the coin or not. For an hour a day (sometimes longer) I would sit, taking the coin from one hand to the other, so that when I did the “move” it looked natural.

That discipline, adjusting a small pinky bend here or straightening a thumb there, ingrained the moves into my muscles. I could do it with my eyes closed. Because I didn’t have to think about what my hands were doing, or worry about dropping the coin, I could focus on my audience, which back then was usually my parents or my annoyed sister. If I had only read the instructions, then rushed over to my parents and tried vanishing a quarter, I would have failed and might have quit magic. Of course, reading the instructions was a critical first step. However, thankfully, I had also learned the secret of magic from my uncle. Practice, practice, practice.

I did that for every new trick and soon I was floating dollar bills and restoring torn napkins. I knew if I put in the work, I could create a moment of astonishment. That’s not to say you won’t make mistakes. Sometimes a thread would snap, or I would flash a red silk hidden in a thumb tip. Sure, I’d be crushed for a moment. Then I would get back to my mirror and practice. Learn how to prevent the thread break and why the silk flashed. That foundation of disciplined practice meant I could overcome those failures and improve.

While it sounds simple, there will be days when you don’t want to practice. Or maybe you’re frustrated and can’t seem to get the hang of a knacky sleight. That’s okay. Sometimes you need a break. This is where the discipline bit comes in. Make yourself sit down in front of that mirror and practice. Only you can do that. Self-motivation is the root of getting better. It’s the seed that grows confidence. It works. I know because I’ve done it. And I’ve used it for many goals outside of magic.

I wrote and illustrated three books in my Conjurers series. A ton of work. Bet you already guessed how I did it. Yep, the same magical secret helped me write stories about magicians. Practice and the discipline to sit down at my kitchen table every morning and write. Except I didn’t need the mirror.

Ever come across a book in the library you wanted to read, but it had too many pages and lots of big words? Try a little magic. Set aside ten minutes a day and read it. Every day. Only ten minutes. That’s not long. If you stick to it, not only will you finish the book, but you’ll become a stellar reader. Remember, if you can’t read, it sure makes it hard to read those magic trick instructions! When you can read, the magic is you can do or be anything.

Next time you see a magician on “America's Got Talent” or, hopefully, at a live performance, watch how effortless they make the performance. Think about how long they must have practiced. Even though you don’t know how the trick works, you know the secret. And you can use that secret to achieve any goal you want. Ta-da!

P.S. If you pick up a magic book and use this secret, drop me a line and let me know! I highly recommend “Now You See It, Now You Don't!” by Bill Tarr.

Brian Anderson

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An illustration I did for my series, “The Conjurers”. It exposes a sleight used in the story. But as you know now, that’s not really a secret.