I’ve been working on a couple of card tricks lately from Royal Road and been feeling pretty good about them. Today, I performed them for an audience of acquaintances that didn’t know I was a magician. Put simply: I totally bombed. Not in the sense that the tricks didn’t play well or even in the sense that they figured out the method. I bombed because I completely botched the tricks. I didn’t get the deck into the proper position for “Topsy-Turvy Cards” so the ending had the cards face up instead of face down except for two cards at one end. Then, I incorrectly controlled the selected card in “Design for Laughter” and ended up with the wrong card in the revelation.
There are a couple of lessons I was able to learn from this experience. First, even though the tricks bombed, the audience didn’t really care. Of course, of it was a paying gig or something, the stakes would have been higher but in an impromptu situation, there’s very little risk. They can’t eat you no matter how badly you do. Really, no one cares about my magic as much as I do. That’s oddly reassuring.
Second, I need to learn how to handle the situation better when things go wrong. When I revealed the wrong card at the end of “Design for Laughter”, it was a happy accident that the user’s selected card was the king of clubs and the card I revealed was the ace of clubs. I panicked a little bit about the trick going “wrong,” and didn’t recognize the opportunity to say something like, “Oh, look at that! Your king got a promotion,” or some other such patter that wouldn’t have meant the trick “didn’t work.” More study about performance will certainly help.
Even though I bombed, I am glad I tried. I forced myself to ignore my lizard brain, and no one ate me. No one even laughed at me. And to top it off, I learned a couple lessons that I could never have learned sitting at my desk at home practicing alone.