Friday night, my wife and I went to a high school football game to see our niece perform in the halftime show. During the third quarter, I turned to our other niece and said, “Do you know any magic tricks?” She looked at me skeptically and said, “No…””Do you wanna learn one?” “Sure…” So, I performed Mark Wilson’s Sucker Torn-and-Restored Napkin from his Complete Course.

It was a good experience. Afterward, she said, “That freaks me out!” which is a pretty good reaction from a ten year old.

On the way home, I asked my wife if she saw our sister-in-law’s reaction. I was wondering how it played with her. She said she wasn’t watching. She was just focused on the little girl. That’s when I realized that I should be doing the same.

In their talk from SxSW back in 2009, John Gruber and Merlin Mann talk about finding an audience for a blog. More than that, though, when writing a blog post, have in your mind a picture of someone that you want to delight with it. The guys at Panic bust their ass to make their software “keynote-good” because they dreamed of making software good enough for Steve Jobs to demo1 on stage during one of his famous keynote presentations.

With magic, I’ve been trying to delight people in this way. When I’m practicing a trick or learning something new, I think of people like  John Carney, Ricky Jay, and the late Tommy Wonder and try to make my efforts something they would like. Closer to home and perhaps more realistically, I think of Patrick and Devon at the magic shop, the guys that showed me cool stuff the first couple of times I ventured into the store.

But, now I think there’s another kind of delighting that I need to focus on. When the practice and preparation are done and the performance comes, I want to pick out someone in the audience to delight. Yesterday, in the bleachers of a high school football game, I had one little girl with rapt attention letting me show her something cool. I don’t know if I flashed. I hope I didn’t but if someone down the row caught a glimpse of something, that’s not my concern. The wide eyed look from the little girl to her mom was more than enough to make the performance a success.

  1. Sadly, that’s no longer a tangible goal, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it an ideal to make something he would have liked.