Article 5: On Advice

On Advice

Ethan Schleeter - Round Table Member Since 2018

One encounters a lot of advice in magic. A primary feature of groups like CML’s Round Table and local magic clubs is the acquisition of advice — about methods, performance techniques, equipment, and business strategies. Our magic books are full of advice about magic. Magic lectures are essentially a couple of hours of advice.

As a serious beginner in magic several years ago, I frequently sought out advice on many topics. As some of you can probably guess, the usefulness of the information I was given often turned out to be questionable at best. However, even the bad advice proved to be somewhat helpful, because I learned things from attempting it or researching it or even outright failing with it (and I’ll certainly never forget those lessons). Fortunately, we’re also free to ignore any advice we get.

These days, in spite of the fact that I’m hardly an expert magician and continue to ask regularly for guidance and recommendations, I’m surprised to find myself sometimes giving advice about magic. Recent studies have suggested that this act — giving advice, rather than receiving it —might be of particular benefit to the giver. Researchers at MIT found that, in certain contexts, people who gave advice actually became more motivated to achieve a goal when compared to similar people who received expert advice instead. The theory is that we often have a pretty good idea already what we need to do to tackle a specific challenge, but we’re hesitating and procrastinating. Giving advice helps us build up the necessary confidence to finally take action.

Bear in mind that unsolicited advice is rarely wanted. And even the solicited kind should be conveyed in an encouraging and conscientious manner that avoids harsh judgment and being overbearing or negative. (This itself is an art.) Old sayings such as the Yiddish “seek advice but use your own common sense,” and the Italian “teeth placed before the tongue give good advice,” still hold much wisdom. That said, I invite you to dole out some advice to me and I’ll happily return the favor. Maybe we’ll both end up motivating ourselves to become better magicians —even if our advice to each other is terrible!

Where do you go to seek advice?