Secret Powers: A Principle for Better Magic

From a very early age, we learn what secrets are, but we have an uncontrollable urge to share them with others. (photo by Clara Rico)

From a very early age, we learn what secrets are, but we have an uncontrollable urge to share them with others. (photo by Clara Rico)

Think about the last time a friend entrusted you with a secret. Remember how it felt? You possessed exclusive information. Knowledge given to only a select few. And good or bad, a secret is a powerful thing.

If the secret concerned another person, when talking to that person you probably felt like you had the upper hand. You might even have the overwhelming urge to spill the beans and share your secret with that person or with other people.

When secrets are exposed, they are often preceded by, “You’re never going to guess…” or “You’re not going to believe this…” That’s because we feel the secret is so surprising no one could possibly assume the details, or we have hidden the secret so deeply within our mental vault, there is little risk of it being revealed.

But not when it comes to magic secrets.

When a magician—especially a beginner—knows a secret, they automatically assume everyone else knows the secret too. I mean, how could they not? We convince ourselves the secret is right there in the open for everybody to see. We think magic feels like common sense once the puzzle is solved; even complex magic tricks rarely require rocket science to perform them.

This is part of “the loss of innocence” felt by every magician. Sometimes referred to as “thinking like a magician.” It is a feeling you must learn to control and eventually overcome.

Magicians feel guilty of their secrets. It’s like we think our hands are the local gossip blabbing on the phone to anyone who will listen. In fact, the secret—the method—is tucked away out of view, and it is our guilt that is obvious.

If you never take anything else away from my blog, remember [and live by] this fundamental creed:

“Magicians are NOT guilty of a secret, but rather empowered by it.”

A magic trick is not a game of charades wherein you gradually expose the method. Relax. Entertain. Picture your act like a good movie: the audience is so caught up in the story they forget to yell out, “That dinosaur is CGI!” or “They would have called the match as soon as Rocky had the first cut.”

Guilt will ruin a good magic trick more efficiently than bad technique ever could. Magicians are not judged by the sum of their secrets. Magicians are measured by their confidence.

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Some Secrets are Easier to Keep than Others

There are tricks on the market that require either very few moves and sleights, or none at all. While those tricks are easy to do, you want a routine that challenges you a bit more when practicing your secret keeping.

Here are a few magic tricks—a mixture of classics and new releases—where the secret is in the back of your mind, allowing you to focus on the presentation: