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Why I stopped doing Magic

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

I was a street magician for many years, performing for passersby in countless different cities across the country. I could always draw a crowd easily and knew what routines filled my tip hat the most.

I knew how to be confident and charismatic, and I knew how to impress people with my sleight of hand skills. But in my late 20’s, I had an experience while performing that led me to walk away from Magic and re-examine everything I thought I knew about being a magician.

It was a summer night in Boulder, CO after a long, hot day of performing for crowds of tourists. I was performing a card routine where I spread the cards across the table and asked a spectator to grab a chunk from the middle. This guy had been watching my show for several minutes from the front, and to my surprise, proceeded to smugly knock the entire deck of cards off the table, scattering them across the pavement. The crowd of people watching the show just stood and stared as I awkwardly crouched down and gathered up the deck. Nobody offered to help.

In that moment I felt such a deep sense of separation from my audience. Why was that guy so rude? Why didn’t anybody kneel down and help me pick up the cards? How was the way I had been performing actually creating this sense of separation, preventing my audience from connecting with me and therefore my presentation? How did this impact their ability to experience the true beauty of magic?

These questions would eventually change the way that I created and offered magic, but I didn’t know that yet. After that day I was convinced that deception had no place in offering myself to others in a genuine way. I quit magic and embarked on a journey of discovery that changed the way I related to my entire life. Those years were transformative for me, but that’s a story for a different time.

After two years away from magic, a friend asked me to perform for somebody I'd never met before. I was reluctant but agreed to show something. To my surprise this experience was not what I expected. In that moment, I was no longer doing it for me--I’d quit for me. I was doing it for them. I found myself performing solely for the other person’s enjoyment, not as a challenge to their intellect or a boost to my ego. I had no interest in fooling others, and therefore they had no interest in not being fooled. They weren’t fighting me, treating magic like a puzzle. Instead, they were full of laughter, tears, and a deep appreciation of not knowing...of mystery, of wonder, of magic.

My time away from Magic helped me discover a new mythos for my life, and this naturally translated into a new mythos as a magician. I saw that Magic, if performed properly, has the potential to actually connect us even more deeply to others, and invoke states of wonder that can have a huge impact on people’s lives. It turned out, deception had a place in offering genuinely afterall, but only if approached with humbleness and generosity. I found that we are all deceiving ourselves on a regular basis and that the deception of magic has the potential to show us that and open us to a more genuine experience of life.

It’s taken me four years to transform my magic through those insights and to distill it in a way that I could share it with others. My new project, Mythos, is the fruition of this journey. Not only is it a collection of my best routines, directly inspired by these insights, but also a deep dive into our own relationship to the artform and how that affects our impact on our audience.

You can learn more about Mythos and my journey here:

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1 Comment

Jim Fitch
Jim Fitch
Mar 23, 2022

@DannyGoldsmith thank you for sharing what must have been a painful experience and the transformation in approach that it precipitated with us. It's challenging, it's beautiful, it's instructive. Thank you!

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