Actor Christian Bale lost an astonishing sixty-three pounds to play the lead role in The Machinist. Standing six feet tall and normally weighing one eighty-five, he dropped to a weight of one hundred and twenty-three pounds. If you haven’t seen the film, he turned himself into a living skeleton.
Even more amazingly, for his next role, playing Batman in Batman Begins, he gained one hundred pounds and got into peak physical condition. When he first landed the role he was unable to do a single push up. For the next three months he lifted weights three hours a day.
How was Christian Bale able to achieve such remarkable physical transformations? In a word, dedication. He began each project with a specific conceptualization of what the character should look like then took drastic measures to realize his vision. He was dedicated enough to the outcome of his vision to do whatever was necessary to make it a reality.
Go to any magic forum and you’ll find magicians complaining that they can’t get the muscle pass down.
When you take a look at what some actors, dancers, athletes, and others do in pursuit of their goals, magicians can look like a lot of whiners. I think much of the reason for this can be attributed to the misconception that magic is easy.
If you’re over the age of ten, you probably already know that anything worthwhile isn’t going to be easy. That’s the nature of magic and the nature of life. Yeah, you can get some boxes that make coins disappear and that kind of thing – props that all but scream fake – and go out and conceivably fool people with them. You can do that pretty easily, I would imagine. But to transform the experience of being fooled into one of being entertained is going to take some work. It’s going to take some thought and practice. You can’t just walk into a shop and buy a self working trick and be a magician. You have to become a magician.
How do you become a magician? Dedication. You begin with your conception of what a magician should be and work to make it a reality. There’s no secret formula or arcane bullshit. You want the thing you have to do whatever it takes to make it real.
Many don’t want to do the work. They seem to think that kind of good is good enough. They reason that if they fool someone they were successful. Doesn’t matter if they hemmed and hawed around or cracked corny jokes or had the shakes or whatever else.
Listen: This isn’t about being a professional or amateur. Being a professional doesn’t mean you’re any damn good. It’s about doing your magic professionally even if you never make a cent from it. And you really have to be dedicated to achieve that aim. It’s not always fun doing something over and over until you have it perfect, but nobody ever said it would be. And if they did they were a liar.
Every single time magic is done badly, every single time a magician gives a mediocre performance, another spade full of dirt is added to the grave of magic. Each of us has a responsibility in this – we’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. The things we have to master are really pretty simple when compared to the rigors practitioners in other disciplines go through. We need only exercise our dedication to make our magic the best it can be. See you next time.