I didn’t initially intend to restart these blog posts just after new year but, it kind of feels right.
Quite often people reflect on the past year and their achievements (or shortfalls) but more importantly, we start looking to the future and set ourselves goals. Over the past year, I’ve invested a lot of my free time, usually making gimmicks or driving to events listening to audiobooks and podcasts. I’m a firm believer that time shouldn’t be wasted and if I’m walking somewhere or driving somewhere, that is wasted time. Why not put on something to help broaden my mind and help me grow as a person.
I LOVE hearing about other people thoughts and beliefs on the world. My first piece of advice for you in 2023 is, when things feel tough and everything is getting on top of you, find a positive podcast and listen to someone else’s life. Truth be told, 2022 was a particularly tough time for me. Those who follow my work would have seek a stark dip in my productivity from 2020-2021 into 2022. Less products were released, I was less publicly visible and I injected myself far less into the community. I withdrew a little bit.
In 2018, I went full time as a magician. It was forced decision after my ‘stable employment’ ended abruptly. But, I had the foundations there to really ‘go for it’. And I did. I had some Wonderfull people around me helping me, Peter Nardi, Marc Spelmann, Liam Montier and Sarah Stott all being sounding boards for idea’s and thoughts. I put everything into action and it worked. My income started rising and I knew I could make it work.
There was one issue however, I was thinking about life from a purely money based point of view. I was assuming that if I could make enough money doing magic, I’d be happy. The truth was, I was sitting alone most days on the computer. Then going out one or two evenings in the week to perform at restaurants and then going to a gig or two on the weekends. Life became very disjointed for me. My whole life I’ve been a busy person. My previous jobs meant that I has to be constantly on the ball and busy and now, I’m sort of programmed that way. I find it really difficult not to be productive in someway and amongst my close friends, i'm known as the one who doesn’t stop.
So whilst I was making a living with magic, it felt lonely and life felt a bit up and down. Days were boring, slow and quiet and then a few evenings a week I had to be upbeat and lively before crashing back down to earth after. That’s just not me. So, later in 2018 I looked for a job I could do in the day time which ended early so I could focus on magic in the evenings and weekends and it just so happened that an old colleague worked in a local school as a Learning Support Assistant. So, I went for the interview and got the job. That meant I would still have the daily interactions with people and then in the evenings and weekends I could answer emails, film things, edit them, produce magic and do everything else my business required me to do.
It is a bit frantic doing things this way but eventually, I got my head around it all and made it work. That is how I’ve lived my life since. Even through the pandemic, I was working with key worker children for the most part and then running the magic business the rest of the time.
But this past year, my job role took an unexpected pathway when I started to mentor some of the young people where I work. This means having daily or weekly check ins with them and trying to pin point struggles or issues they might be having and working with them to resolve those issues. And for the first time this year my eyes were opened to things like, the amount of children who are in the care system and the impact being a looked after child has on their life. The affects of covid on young peoples mental health and just how little funding there is in areas we really need it.
Working with some of these young people and hearing about their lives is incredibly heart breaking. Some of them have been dealt such a profoundly unfair hand in life and are just trying to survive. But as you can imagine, learning about some of these things had an impact on me and in the middle of 2022, I started to find it particularly difficult to deal with everything and my motivation began to dwindle. I realised then I was having anxiety issues and I started finding it hard to sleep, concentrate or talk to people.
I turned to podcasts to help take my mind off things for a while. Listening to other people lives and thoughts on things can often help give things in your own life some clarity. Derren Brown's book “Happy” is a wonderful book that comes at life from a Stoic perspective and some of the thoughts from his book have really impacted the way I think. Equally, comedian Jimmy Carr has a wonderful book which is part autobiography and part self help called “Before and Laughter” which also has a really poignant perspective on life and giving that Carr is a performer, his views are particularly relatable.
Over the past 4 months or so, I’ve slowly been regaining my productivity not only in magic but also my work with young people. I’ve engaged in a large number of courses about trauma and development in young people and how to help them and began updating the VIP Study system so it is bigger and better for 2023. I've also began planning lecture tours, producing several new effects, working with new companies, have several big opportunities presenting themselves and everything is looking a lot more positive going forward!
What is the point of telling you all of this? Well, 2022 was pretty damn awful. Or so I thought. I felt like I wasn’t productive, that I was struggling to cope with anxiety and lost my way a little but in reality, I grew more as a person in 2022 than any year previous. I have put down roots for the future and become a more open, accepting, empathetic person with more drive and determination than ever. I am more driven to grow my business and give magicians as much help, advice and amazing magic as I can.
But I wan’t to quickly zoom back to the beginning of this post about resolutions. By now, it’s likely you are making your resolutions and determining what you’d like to achieve for the coming year. In Derren Browns book ‘Happy’, he talks about the dangers of making targets and resolutions and that often not only will we set ourselves up for failure which can be detrimental to our mental health but also, our determination when trying to reach those goals can blindside us to other opportunities and stop us from being ‘present’. If I’m honest, I can see it from both perspectives and I have another idea/solution I'd like to put to you.
We live inside our own relative reality which is often governed by our own prejudices, beliefs, pressures from external voices and any number of other factors. We think we know whats best for us but often, it’s our closest friends and family members who really know what we need.
“Sometimes, we are too close, too involved and too focused to really understand. Imagine you are in an art gallery and there is a huge painting. At least 4 floors high and as wide as 3 double decker busses. Now imagine you are stood only 3 feet from the paining. What can you see? You will likely see a small section of the painting with just a splash of colour.
But there is no context for you. No meaning. Now, walk backwards so that you are right at the back of this gallery, so that you can see the whole painting. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like just a splash of colour but rather, a vibrant scene where hundreds of people are stood on a field looking up into the night sky.
Had you not have taken a step back, you wouldn’t have seen everything. Sometimes, we are too close to a situation to truly soak in every meaningful piece of context”
So here is what I propose for you. Set goals, absolutely! But present them to your closest friends, family and loved ones. Allow them to edit and adjust your goals for you based on what they have seen, know and feel would be good for you. Be led by those at the back of the gallery with a broader outlook.
Don’t be stuck just looking at a pretty splash of colour.
Happy New Year!