How do I stay motivated?

Here’s a question I get a lot. “How do you not burn out on practicing?” Truth be told, I have. A few years ago, I had absolutely no motivation to pick up a deck for months. I have the drive to want to be the best. But my brain just can’t handle the constant exposure. Our brains need a break. So, if you’re currently in that place, it’s okay. You’re not quitting forever. Just take a break. And that’s exactly what I did. Turns out all I needed was the break. When I came back, everything felt fresh again. Practicing the same moves or tricks over and over again can make you burn out. Think about your favorite food. Pizza is great! Eat pizza for 2 weeks straight and you’ll hate it. (Well, pizza for 2 weeks straight actually sounds pretty awesome.)

So how do you avoid getting into this problem to begin with?

Don’t practice for 5 hours straight every day. I practice for about an hour here and there. Sometimes more if I’m feeling good. Sometimes less if it feels like it’s a chore. No matter what though, I practice almost everyday. Even if it’s only 20 minutes here and there it adds up to several hours of practice at the end of the month. Something that keeps me very motivated is seeing positive results. A little practice everyday will yield results over time. I remind myself that even if I don’t see improvement right away, I know it’s coming.

For me personally, I want to be the best. This drives me. If I can’t do something it drives me even more to tackle it. If I’m hanging out with magicians and they want to see my bottom deal, I don’t want to say, “Oh this is something I haven’t done in months. Let me just warm up first.” I want it to be something I know will work perfectly. When you fail, it motivates. I met with Michael Vincent a few years back and the first three tricks I showed him didn’t work. You’d better believe that that will never happen again! Meet with your magic friends and perform some tricks. (Or better yet, perform for some laymen.) Before the performance you’ll be motivated to practice and rehearse everything.

Another thing that I like to do is keep myself inspired. Watching old footage of Mike Skinner, Fred Kaps, Ed Marlo, and any other legendary performer will get me practicing in no time. I’ll also watch my favorite DVD’s of Michael Vincent, Darwin Ortiz, and Jack Carpenter. But for me, it’s more than just magicians. Watching anyone at the top of their game inspires me. These people worked hard to be the best and I want to do the same. Watching people like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or a five-year old prodigy piano player will always motivate me.

Here’s another thought: Buy some new books or DVD’s. Not so much for the effects, but the ideas, moves, concepts, and/or the thinking behind the effects. I only perform with cards, however I’ve been inspired by everything from coin tricks to grand stage illusions. Explore some new artists. You’re bound to see something new and that can spark your interest again. And, let’s not forget about toys. When I lost interest in golf, I’d go buy new shoes, a new putter and a few boxes of brand new golf balls. The next morning I’d be on the practice green at 7am. With cards, I find that buying new accessories gets me practicing again. For example, I might buy a new card clip, a new brand of playing cards, a new close-up mat, or a new journal for taking notes.

One more great source of motivation for me is my own notes. I have notes on effect ideas since I was a teenager. That’s 18 years worth of ideas. Rereading these will always get me in the mood to be creative. One thing I’ve noticed with other magicians is that they either don’t take notes, or they do but never read them. Start taking notes and you’ll see that you really get much more absorbed in your craft.

So that’s it. If you find yourself hating practice, take a break or readjust how you practice. Find some new artists or buy some new things to help spark your interest again. Perform more and take notes. Watch people that have mastered what you’re trying to achieve. Remember, mastering your craft takes time, so enjoy the journey.

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