What's the Most Important Trait for a Magician to HOld?
This article is very much so a sister article to the "Relationships Over Magic" piece with the final reveal of what I believe the most important trait is. I think this is an interesting discussion and I am wondering what others think on this specific topic.
Magicians come from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Almost any line of work that is seemingly unrelated can be applied to the realm of magic. It takes a unique skillset to become an effective magician that cannot simply be explained outright. The best at our craft stand above the rest as being able to breathe amazement and awe into almost any routine. Taking a close look at what being a magician entails, can we pinpoint exactly what is the most important trait that makes a great magician stand out from the rest?
The easiest answer that many will jump to quickly is mastery of skill. If a magician has no firm understanding of the moves they need to execute, then are they really a magician? Yes, this is necessary to call yourself a magician but I don’t think that it is the defining trait that makes a magician great. The better the skill, the better the magician yes but skill can only get you so far as a professional.
Another trait you might look towards is proficiency in public speaking. After all, this is the biggest fear in America today. There is definitely something to be said for the people who have the guts to get up on stage and don’t let the potential of bombing stop them. Although public speaking to some degree is necessary for every magician, it isn’t what makes the greats. There are many stories of some of the world’s most famous magicians puking before getting on stage out of fear of public speaking. These people loved magic so much that they didn’t let their crippling fear of talking on stage get in the way of performing every night. This is not generally true for most magicians, but it illustrates that public speaking isn’t the most important trait a magician needs to have.
It’s also easy to point to originality and individuality as making a magician great. I would argue that if you zoom in on any performer’s sum of work you would see pieces of many great influences over the years. There may be a certain cadence that they adapt because of one performer, but also an aptitude for twist endings that another performer holds dear. These are all technically stolen parts from others, but at a point so many stolen pieces of others' performance styles start to blend together and become your own. Ask any act whom you think is completely original who their top influences are and you’ll start to notice the similarities in their performance. It is important that there is a wide number of influences because if you only have one or two, you are blatantly copying someone else. Originality is still incredibly important for magicians, but still is not the trait that is most omnipresent in the biggest names in magic.
So you’re probably wondering, where does this leave us? If we have factored out technical skill, ability to speak in front of crowds, and originality then what is it? The most important trait for a magician in my eyes comes in the form of emotional intelligence. This may come as a surprise because this is not often a term that is related directly to magicians, but I believe it is the most prevalent trait in the top magicians of our time.
A big part of emotional intelligence or EQ is relating to your audience. I’ve written before about how the best magicians prioritize the relationships with their audience first. This is a big part of EQ because the closer you are with your audience, the more they allow themselves to be vulnerable with you and experience true wonder. On top of that, EQ is understanding what your audience wants. It doesn’t matter how good your technical skills are, if the audience is not interested they will not be amazed. The best magicians know when their audience is invested and capitalize on every little moment. All of the magic lies in the spectator’s eyes because we know the inner workings of each trick, so if a magician doesn’t properly relate to them it doesn’t matter what they do because it will fall on deaf ears.
Sadly, emotional intelligence is not something that can quite be taught or learned by anyone. I believe EQ can be looked at like Tommy Wonder looks at talent. Everybody in the world is born with a specific amount of emotional intelligence, big or small that can be represented as a diamond. A diamond at its conception has rough edges and doesn’t have an organic shine. It’s our job to refine that diamond so people see the beauty that it could become. Even if your diamond is small or your understanding of other people starts at a lower level, the more you work towards refining that skill the more it shows. You can never make the raw diamond itself bigger, you can simply work on making it look better. It shows when you can connect with people on an emotional level because a simple trick turns into a miracle.