I just finished watching the new John Carney Master Sessions, volume 1. Inspirational and educational on all levels. The explanations were particularly captivating, as Carney managed to transport me in history through the evolution of his presented effects. There's also a section where Carney offers insights on learning - which is the topic of today's post. In comparing DVDs to books as learning tools, he believes they are both necessary; but with books comprising the vast majority of knowledge out there, books have the power to propel our learning in unprecedented ways.
As students in magic, we never stop learning. We've probably all gotten started in similar ways...being captivated by a trick in our youth, but knowing nothing about it, or how to do it. We were at ground zero. This is where lay audiences reside.
But we became curious—we dived into a magic kit (in my day, it was ordering something from Marshall Brodine on TV). We got our feet wet, experimented and officially became apprentices—in pursuit of knowledge, even if our proficiency and ability was low.
But we didn't stop there. We couldn't. We made the effort and commitment to deepen our knowledge—reading, sharing, refining, and reading some more. And since magic is a performing art, we replaced the mirror with a live audience, eventually reaching a level of expertise—one that combines both highly developed knowledge and competence.
But, through continued experience, there comes a point where our competence extends beyond our consciousness. It's a state where we perform without conscious effort and with automatic ease. We'll call it mastery. You may have already reached this level in at least one aspect of your magic—perhaps in performing the Pass without consciously telling your fingers what to do. And often, your fingers begin teaching you a thing or two about stuff not even you knew you knew.
Caution. If you feel you've reached mastery, don't stay there for long, or else you might get stuck on an endless plateau where learning eventually ceases (think an EKG that flat lines).
So where to from here? It's time to add another rung on the ladder and start again at ground zero. It's where something can peak our curiosity, perhaps from watching a new effect that fools us, giving us a rush that transports us to the childlike feeling we had when we first got into magic. And even though we're back at the level where we "don't know what we don't know"—at least we know where we are. What great spot to be in. A rebirth. Putting ever-growing curiosity into action and moving through a cycle of constant learning and continuous improvement—the ladder to increasing levels of mastery.
I find myself on various rungs of the ladder. But no matter where I am, there's always a desire to move up. So where are you on the ladder? Answering this question is a great way to get a firm footing and take the next step.
There's a lot of knowledge out there on this topic. I found this site particularly informative.