Steve Faulkner - Distinctive Magic
27 Feb

Welcome to my blog :)

Hi and thanks for looking at my blog. This is a collection of my thoughts and feelings on magic, life and this funny business in which I find myself. Many posts here may not have anything to do with magic, but  you will get a good idea of who I am and how I work and think. These are all things that effect my work and ultimately give you a good idea of the man who will be working for, or with, you. I have had some great feedback on the blog so please keep checking back or sign up here so you dont miss any new videos or posts.





5 Feb

Book Review. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl


Man's search for Meaning

Man’s search for Meaning


I have read many, many books on self-development. Probably because I find myself wanting to achieve things that don’t come naturally to me, and it helps. When browsing the shelves – sometimes virtual- I will tend to look for books that answer a specific question. A book that makes me better at… or will teach me to…


After reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, I have realised that this can be a mistake. I usually would not have chosen to read this, because at the time, I was not really searching for ‘meaning’.  Also, Viktor Frankl’s experiences of being in Auschwitz and losing his entire family were so much more extreme than anything that I could possible be needing any help with. So what could it possibly provide me with other than another harrowing story? In fact, I only came across this book after asking a mentor of mine to provide me with a list, of his top books to read that may help me develop my coaching skills even further. This was the first on the list and for it I am thankful.


Whilst a concentration camp inmate – not knowing of the welfare of his wife, parents and siblings – Frankl began to study the differences of those who fought for survival and those who gave up. What was it that kept some people going when seemingly all had been stripped away from them? Frankl’s conclusion was that of meaning. Those who gave up had completely lost sight of any future meaning for their lives, they had given up hope of ever seeing their families again, and had succumbed to their non-human treatment. Whilst those who were fighting on would see every day as a challenge to overcome and feel a sense of achievement of surviving another day. Even as I write this I can’t help thinking I may have been part of the former group.


Whilst in Auschwitz, Frankl took on an informal role as psychotherapist and helped many fellow inmates who were suicidal reconnect with a future goal, usually using a family member or a future project to give them meaning, a reason to carry on and a future visualisation. Frankl himself would visualise standing at a lectern, speaking to rooms full of people, on his past experiences of being in a concentration camp. A number of times Frankl quotes  Nietzsch “He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.”


The first half of the book is a recollection of his life as a prisoner, and even though I have seen and read a fair amount on the subject, it provided a profound insight for me. Frankl gives a dignified recollection of his time as a prisoner, without bitterness, to recreate the environment and experience. Of course no writing  could really recreate the experience, as some experiences can never be put across in language, but this came closer than many of the books I have read on the subject, mainly because of the inclusion of specific memories providing a deeper perspective on the situation. For example, in one instance, a fellow inmate was in the middle of having a nightmare, thrashing and moaning. Frankle leant over to  wake his then suddenly stopped,


“…no dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as the reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which I was about to recall him.”


Though an incredibly positive man, Viktor Frankl was a realist, he writes of the disastrous effect of being overly optimistic. Whilst having a future based outcome was essential to survival, inmates convincing themselves that “they will be home for Christmas” would result in bitter disappointment, leading on to rapid deterioration. According to Frankl, it was an acceptance of the situation, with a solid future goal that made life as bearable as it possibly could be.


Frankl’s story provides riveting reading, but more importantly and impressively, links his experiences to those of us who will never experience such horrors. It would be easy and understandable to always see others as having no reason to complain because of this. However, Frankl mentions early on that suffering is relative to one’s life. That whatever our life situation is, it will involve suffering and indeed needs to. It’s what makes us human, but it’s how we react to that suffering, which, to me, is the central theme of this book.


He writes of the experience of being reduced to an animal and part of a “herd” and that,


“the generous and heroic actions of a minority offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”


I have always truly believed that we can train ourselves to be more resilient and to learn  to react to circumstances differently. However, with this I am usually speaking or writing about the day to day challenges we face in our work and home life. Not about something so horrific and life altering as those experiences described by Mr Frankl. I have always been fascinated by how people can do anything but give up when faced with something so catastrophic. This book shows that there is another way.


The second half of the book delves into Frankl’s Logotherapy. The essence of which is that finding meaning, rather than power or pleasure,  is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans. I was worried that the book would maybe lose me in the second half as I had scanned the content and thought it maybe a little too academic. However, it’s in Frankl’s description of Logotherapy where the book really came together. For me, being the age I am (40), the book was providing answers to questions that I had only asked myself. Here we are really delving into the Meaning of the title and rather that dwell on finding one, the main concept here is that we must accept the choices we make, and know that happiness is to be found as a result of experience and of working towards a cause greater than ourselves, be it our family, society, or a larger cause. As Frankl writes,


“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue and it only does so as an I intended side effect  of ones personal dedication to a cause greater than ones self or as a by-product of ones surrender to a person other than ones self”


Also, for those prone to worry, with whom I can empathise, Frankl’s ideal of Hyper-intention and paradoxical intention make enlightening reading. The former being the worry of problems occurring (anticipatory anxiety), which in turn causes the problem to present itself. For example, the classic insomniac who worries about not getting to sleep, and therefore cannot because the  worrying causes the mind to become stimulated, and sleep therefore to be impossible. Then there is one of the ways of combating this, hyper-intention, where the sufferer hits the problem head on, rather than try to cover the issue, with humour and acceptance. By joking (maybe just with oneself) about the issue the individual becomes detached from the problem.


Personally I found the second half of the book helpful and insightful, providing me with many “it’s not just me!” moments. It has become one of my recommended reads for anyone facing any of life’s challenges. Far from being a negative and depressing book, Man’s Search For Meaning is a book full of genuine positivity. Viktor Frankl provides so much hope that it’s impossible to not be uplifted by his story, and that of his view of our ability to rise above the situation and maintain our own humanity and meaning. Even if you are not searching for any type of meaning in your life, I highly recommend this short book, you may just find one anyway.






16 Jan

A Little Catch Up for 2014

Well it’s been a long time and a time of so much change, development and progress for me. I know I have not been in touch much so this will be one of those blogs letting you know what I have been up to. I think many of you will be interested as you have asked me in some form or another, and for those others, I apologise for the indulgence.


I began writing newsletters a couple of years ago and they have taken a fairly random course. Some have been about my work and magic, many have been linking to my blog and the odd one has been letting you know of a new product I have available. When looking back at these emails, it’s easy to see that there has been a lot of variety and it can, from the outside, beg the question, what do you actually do?


My work is varied to say the least. Here is a rundown. Please note that I am not doing this to sell you my skills as you know me already, but it’s important for me to share this to enable me to clarify where I now find myself.


Steve’s Jobs  

close-up magic

I perform close-up magic, which has been my bread and butter, and will no doubt continue to be to some extent, for many years.


I perform after dinner and cabaret shows for organisations and private events.


I perform ‘parlour’ shows for small groups of people, the smallest audience was a family of four. I love the intimacy and focus of these shows, much fun.


I produce and host Steve Faulkner’s Magic Show. A very successful live show. This is been held at the Greystones and annually at the bigger and just as lovely Memorial Hall. Both in Sheffield.


Science talk


I have spoken, along with Gustav Kuhn, on the science of magic. Thanks to National Circus Archive’s and University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind and TEDx River Calder.


I have written an ebook on productivity and motivation. Click here to have a look


Through my online Card Magic Course I have decided to share everything I know with those who are willing to practise. This will develop for the next few years. Click here to have a look :)


I have appeared at various conferences and universities sharing my thoughts and findings on motivation, resilience and success, which all have different meanings for each of us.


Conference speaker


I have, in the last year become a professional coach, joining the Integral Leadership team. I.L. is a very powerful developmental program designed specifically for senior managers, team leaders and directors, but has been life-changing for me and many other individuals who need to manage themselves and others. It’s a real pleasure to join Richard Field OBE, Peter Field and Peter Mcnab.


I have a blog which seems to be about my work but with a heavy emphasis on personal development, business and motivation, productivity and even marketing. I have also just started another blog on card magic.


I continue to learn new magic and explore the wonderful craft.


Moving into 2014


There’s a lot there isn’t there. And even though I wouldn’t change a thing, I would be lying if I said that sometimes it doesn’t take it’s toll. Professionally I can’t keep focusing on everything and coming into 2014, for the first time in a while, I don’t have to.



My live shows have developed through performance so I need less time in the rehearsal room. Not no time, but less time. I need to polish my existing routines, which I will continue to do for the rest of my life. Steve Faulkner’s Magic Show was created to provide audiences the opportunity to see acts that they wouldn’t usually see, but also to provide me with a place to develop new routines. It has worked beautifully and I now have over 2 hours of material to buff up and share with those who enjoy such things.


My close-up magic is still a constant source of joy for me and I want it to continue to be so. I love it and this will always not only be a living for me but part of who I am.


My focus in the next two years will be my live performances, my Card Magic Course (and other upcoming online courses I’ll keep you posted) and my coaching with the Integral Leadership program.


It’s an exciting time and the last two years have involved lots of hard work and I have needed lots of support form my lovely family and friends.


I know this may seem like a self-indulgent email but I felt like I needed to let you know what I am up to as many of you have been reading these messages for a long time. This is very much appreciated. Very much.


So I ask you one thing. Please comment, share and have a closer look at the Card Magic Course and Integral Leadership.


Card Magic Course Website (free foundations course)
Integral Leadership Website

I will endeavour to write more soon.


Thank you so much







17 Jul

How to perform under pressure. Part 2




One of the things I continually bang on about is my firm belief that in our culture talent is a very limiting ‘excuse’ for achievement.


If we see someone excel at something, we tend to attribute it to some innate ability or gift. Therefore there is little point in us trying to achieve something at a similar or higher  level if we have never noticed this gift within ourselves. We’re off the hook.


This talent mindset is so embedded in our society that often, regardless of the mounting evidence, I have found people arguing rather passionately against the idea that peak performance is a result of determination, dedication and hours of practice. In the past I have done so myself, because the work I thought I may have to put in terrified me.

Don’t wait 

For years I sat at home with all the juggling and magic skills I had learned, getting no bookings because I thought myself  “an artist, not a businessman”. I am embarrassed to say that these words actually came out of my mouth. It was a long time ago so don’t judge too harshly. Of course “I am an artist, not a businessman” translates as  “I want to sit practising magic and I’m too scared and can’t be arsed to do much else”. I had no talent for business, therefore it wasn’t for me.


So we are immediately at a huge disadvantage if we just depend on our talent, at some point in our lives, springing out from us as a lovely surprise. One day we may wake up, our hands for the first time ever hitting a computer for something other than Facebook and email, and we find ourselves writing the modern equivalent to Moby Dick. I’m a child at heart even as I reach 40). I think not. Success for all is the result of trial, error, failure and frustration.


If we are not lucky enough to find our passions at a young age, usually through play and exploration, then by adulthood it is common for many to end up believing that they are incapable of achieving anything other than their day to day skills – like parenthood, driving, walking and working. All of which took a great deal of practice and dedication. Even more of a worry, for society as a whole, is that we can very easily pass this onto our children. If little Johnny is still struggling with something in the first few months, then maybe it’s not for him, even if he loves it.


If I’d had this belief there is no way on earth I would have ever succeeded as a street performer, magician or parent. All of these things I found a massive challenge on the outset and one of them I still do and believe I always will. But challenge is no negative thing – actually I believe that challenge is one of the ingredients of happiness and boredom avoidance, but that’s for a different time. Let’s just say that I, along with many others I know, are living proof that this talent stuff is nonsense. I have no talent whatsoever, in anything.


So what does all this have to do with performing under pressure?

It is these thoughts of insecurity and doubt in our ability that are the root of poor performance under pressure. If we don’t believe ourselves able to achieve the same as those who inspire us, we are going to find it difficult or impossible to excel in our field. Whatever your occupation or life situation, you will be called upon every now and then to do something that sits outside your comfort zone. Something that doesn’t come naturally. Again parenthood, an interview, driving, exams, exercise and a new job spring to mind. These instil fear in most of us when they are new, but we tend to accept them and get on with it because we are surrounded by other people doing these things. We are subconsciously and perpetually inspired. None of these things comes naturally to anyone but we see the struggle and the pay off all around us. We need to try to treat every skill in the same way. So if you want to, for example, learn the guitar, treat it in the same way. Don’t wait for talent, get to work and enjoy it.


The upshot of this thinking in my view (and I have seen/read much to support it), is that we can pretty much achieve anything, within our human and physical abilities, that we choose. The only thing that prevents us is mindset, lack of passion and fear of failure. All of which can be altered within us, again I am living proof of this. The closest thing I have witnessed resembling talent or innate ability is innate desire, resulting in the amounts of practice, time and effort required.

It’s just another skill

 Let’s take the example of public speaking, but this applies to anything that puts you out of your comfort zone. If we are called upon to do this many of us will have feelings of fear, insecurity and vulnerability which in turn can leave us with the believe that we are not cut out for such things. We have no evidence to tell us otherwise if we have only done this a few times or if it’s the first time.


So the first thing we need to do is nip this in the bud and replace this with the belief that it’s just something we have to learn. Like driving a car or riding a bike. It’s something we can’t be good at yet because we haven’t practiced.


So the next step is to practice. But to practice with purpose and with no doubt in our ability to succeed. Also to practice effectively (more in another post).


Then we find inspiration. When I died on my arse in Covent Garden the first few hundred times, I watched those who were successful and I learned (and yes, sometimes copied). The same with magic, jugging and even renovating houses (shudder). I saw that normal people were achieving the thing that I wanted to achieve. Intimidation was replaced by inspiration.


Don’t look up

 In our culture we do a lot of ‘looking up’ to people. The problem with this is that it immediately puts us at a lower level. I began thinking of it more as looking across at people as equals, even if they had achieved something seemingly super human. With this thinking we can begin to break down what it is we need to do to perform well and not just panic. In a nutshell we need to alter our beliefs, replace fear with possibility and the embrace excitement of a new challenge.


Pretty easy to write I know.


This is starting to sound dangerously like ‘think positive’ and of course this is the desired result. But to tell someone to think positively, apart from being like nails on a chalk board, is like telling a heroin addict to quit. There is a whole process here. As humans we are pre-programmed to take the path of least resistance and to take the easy route. To achieve a more positive outlook in the face of external pressure takes practice and hard work. But with repetition it’s very very possible. Like driving a car or riding a bike.


When we look up at experts, performing under pressure or not, we need to understand that their relaxed demeanour and seemingly incredible coping mechanisms are a result of learning, practise and mindset. Skills we all have the ability to develop. The first step is believing it. I hope this post has helped you to do that. Please let me know.


I hope you enjoyed this post. These things don’t come naturally to me so please share this with whoever you can.


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8 Jul

How to perform under pressure-Part 1.

Steve Faulkner Cheltenham Racecourse


People often ask me the question, how do I deal with pressure? I do magic for a living, so how do I deal with the fact that it may go wrong? That I may build up to the crescendo of a trick and end up looking like an idiot? These are valid questions – and annoying ones when asked seconds before trying out a new trick, or indeed even doing an old one.


It’s not all about the magic

 Of course I’m only using a magic trick to make this point but we all have to deal with pressure every day. We all undertake tasks which could have severe consequences if we get them wrong. We all have to perform to a certain standard or we may lose our jobs, not get paid, put the safety of our family or friends in jeopardy (especially if you drive or have kids) or, heaven forbid, look like a dick. If you think about it, we have to be pretty ‘on it’ to get through the day and most of us don’t really worry too much about it. But when given a new task that really matters, many of us choke or crumble. So back to the magic trick which, for a magician, has the ultimate in consequences if failure occurs, looking a bit silly.


I’ve had problems with fear of failure in the past and it has hindered my career and prevented my growth as a performer and human (yes the two are very slightly different). This irrational worry has caused me to ignore huge opportunities because ‘I wasn’t quite ready’ and, though it’s a lot better these days, it still rears its ugly head and messes with me every now and then.


My aim in these posts is to help others who may have had the same fears in work or life, these little nuggets have helped me massively and I hope you get something from them. Please let me know your thoughts.


Practice like it matters, perform like it doesn’t

 Recently I did an after dinner show at a lovely wedding for a small number of people. I was to do 20 minutes before speeches. It felt a little like I was part of the speeches, on one of the most important days of somebody’s life. To make it worse, lots worse, there were only about twenty people – one of which whom, the father of the groom, was an existing corporate client.


For the first time in a while I had a bit of fear. Not the butterflies that are needed and will never go away, but fear. A dirty little voice in my head said something like “If you f*&k this up, the whole day is ruined. They will remember you forever, ruining a perfect wedding, in a castle”. I then switched off the voice and all was good (sorry about that, it would have been a better story with a disastrous ending but I have plenty of them for another time). I knew that if I focused on the importance of the show, I could choke.



 It took a while to be able to do this and it’s easier said than done. It’s an aquired skill and can be learned by anyone with persistence. The main thing we have to do is perform like it doesn’t matter. And the more it actually does matter, the more we have to convince ourselves it doesn’t.


This seems to go against everything we know about what we do and it is indeed a paradox. Surely if we don’t care, we will perform badly? You would think, but after interviewing Olympic sports competitors, coaches and psychologists in his fantastic book, Bounce, Matthew Syed discovered this was a common thought process. Termed Doublethink, this quote from Sports Psychologist Mark Bawden sums it up


“In order to make the sacrifices necessary to reach world class levels of performance, an athlete has to believe that performing well means everything. They have to cleave to the belief that winning Olympic gold is of life changing significance. But it’s just that belief that is most likely to trigger a choking response. So the key psychological skill is to ditch that belief in the minutes before competition and to replace it with the belief that the race does not really matter. It is a form of psychological manipulation and it takes a lot of work”


Be in the moment

When I read this it was a real light bulb moment. I started thinking about many of my worst performances. They always occurred when my thoughts were focused on performing well and not screwing up. Right back to my Covent Garden days, I would sometimes be so worried about how the other performers would perceive me, that when I went out, nothing would flow and my audiences would dwindle. Even later when I was consistently pulling in large audiences, I would struggle greatly when people whom I knew, or even worse, a potential booker, came to watch the show. Conversely I would always do great shows when I was late and I just had to run on to the pitch or when I was hung-over and had no energy to worry.


A classic example are my two close-up magic competition performances. In 2009, in the magic circle close-up magician of the year competition, I did OK with second place. But in comparing that performance to others performances within my comfort zone, it is like watching two different people. My rhythm is completely out and I don’t look relaxed. My speech is even more rapid than usual and there is no sense of ‘flow’. In the middle of the performance I dropped the cups on the floor! (You’ll notice the edit). This had never happened in the 10 years I had been doing the routine. In every moment of that performance my mind is saying “don’t screw it up”. It is only the years of doing the same routine that got me though.


Similarly in 2012 I competed in Blackpool and this was even worse. I didn’t even feel like me up there. I was talking to the audience and my volunteer in a way that I would never usually do. And again I was thinking too much of the consequence of either success or failure. It was a passable performance but I was not for one minute in the state of flow that performers and presenters will recognise when they are having a good show. I was all over the place.


So we need to get into the habit of doublethink. Of knowing the importance of our performance in both work and life, and at the right time, just letting it go. Again from the same book Bounce we have a great quote from multiple World Snooker Champion Steve Davis-


“I’ve learned the art of playing as if it means nothing, when it means everything”


The key to this is to first make sure that we have the capabilities to perform well and that we have practised properly and effectively. This is what I will cover in the next post.


If you are not a performer, this may not seem relevant, but more and more often I have found myself going through this process outside of my performances. In business meetings, interviews, presentations and anything that requires preparation and a relaxed manner to communicate effectively. Performance isn’t just about being on stage entertaining people or competing in events, it’s about how well we perform outside of our comfort zone and if you don’t find yourself outside of your comfort zone very often, give it a try you may find yourself achieving something that you always wanted to do.


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Have a lovely day and thanks so much for reading.






22 Apr

Inspiration and practice make perfect

Just about to jump

One of my favourite parts of the week is when I take my 8 year old daughter Gracie diving at Ponds Forge in Sheffield. She has a 40 minute lesson and for those who are not local, the diving facilities are amazing. Boards of various heights up to 10 meters and an amazing diving pool, complete with a large video screen with a 10 second delay so you can see your last dive from a side angle. Joyous.


Anyway there are two reasons I love to watch Gracie dive.


One reason is that I love to watch Gracie do anything. It seems like yesterday that she was a baby. So to watch her nervously step out on the three meter board and jump off it is a joy. Every week she improves and becomes a little more confident, and I love to see improvement in anybody. It fascinates me how our minds and bodies adapt to the challenges we throw at them. The process of practice and improvement is a pleasure to see. Everything that I see my kids get a buzz from gives me a lovely feeling of wellbeing.

Anyway, the second reason I love to watch is that at any one time, there will usually be three or four people diving off the various boards. It’s a hive of activity and the rhythm of the plunging bodies twisting and somersaulting through the air into the water is both meditative and satisfying. It’s also very important to my daughter’s progress and improvement.


I was watching this and thinking about my life (as you do when approaching 40), of the little things I have spent time trying to learn and improve.  Many of which have shaped my career and my happiness. Also, I was thinking about new challenges I have excitedly taken up, only to quit after a few weeks. My wife will attest to my weekly ideas and obsessions. Without her to steer me, I would be a jack of, literally, all trades.


If we think about the main ingredients for improvement in any skill, we think about the practice. Practice does indeed make perfect, or the closest we are able to get to it depending how much it means to us and how much time and work we are willing to put in. But there is an ingredient we often forget about which will mean the difference between success and failure. Without it there is no long-term success and only short-term improvement. Unfortunately, many of us don’t even think about the importance of it when we embark on a new learning experience and therefore burn out, get bored and move on, wasting all those hours we have previously spent practising.


The secret ingredient is Belief. We must have no doubt that we can achieve those things that seem so overwhelmingly difficult when we start. Playing bar chords on a guitar, juggling 5 balls, olleing on a skateboard (a very difficult jump using momentum, coordination, leg power and pure knack), fanning a deck of cards and of course diving off the 10 meter board. Oh, and driving a car.


When we look at driving it seems like an easy thing to do. Why? Because we are surrounded by people doing it. We are given evidence that it is possible and therefore we have Belief. We are programmed to believe that we can do it because we all know so many people who can drive. Regardless of talent, upbringing or culture. But it’s not easy. Remember your first few lessons? I have no doubt that if we were learning to drive a car and had never seen a car or seen anybody driving a car, it would take a lot longer to master and most of us would probably quit. But we don’t – this is the power of belief.


So back to the Diving. My Gracie is surrounded by people pulling the most amazing moves off of the 10 meter, the 7.5 meter and the springboards. It’s incredible to watch but now she takes it for granted. To her it is a given that she can achieve the same. These people are not super-human and have no amazing innate talent. They have just taken the same journey as her. It’s just a matter of time, practice, passion and of course belief.


I can honestly say that anything I have ever done, learned or achieved is a result of being inspired by others. In seeing that anything I want to achieve is possible, from learning to walk to performing a challenging magic trick, belief has helped me succeed and deal with reoccurring failure. If you are learning anything or embarking on a new chapter in your life, please find others who have succeeded in the same field. See the possibilities and I promise it will make a huge difference.





3 Apr

On being a professional close-up magician 1

  amazing magic

As a close-up magician, it is easy to take for granted that everybody knows exactly what a close-up magician does, or how he or she would fit into an event, especially a high-end corporate event. But I have met a fair few people recently who have never seen a live, close-up magician. The cheesy of 1980′s style magician, or the jolly but bumbling uncle that knows a few tricks, do seem to be the default images that spring to mind for many. This can, for me, be both a gift or a curse. A curse because it can be tough to convince someone that I can enhance their event, so tough in fact at I tend not to bother anymore. Think about it, I could bang on about how good I am but my opinion would be naturally biased. So I tend to let the testimonials and a videos speak for themselves, answer as many questions as I can and be completely honest about what I do.


The negative magician stereotype can also be a gift. A gift because when people do see me (or one of my ‘type’) work, they can immediately see the difference. Usually this is a mix of skill level, communication and a feeling of confidence with that all important lack of arrogance. For me, these are the key ingredients for being a successful close-up magician. You can be the finest card and coin handler in the world, but the second you add a bit of ‘look how clever I am’ into the mix, you alienate your audience and become nothing more than a show off. In a time of YouTube, we can see all manner of everyday folk doing extraordinary things. The mark of a true professional is to be able to use your skills and make people LIKE you at the same time. This is usually a case of just being yourself, showing your human side and not trying too hard to be ‘cool’.  Easier said than done I know.


There is also the flip side of the coin. Some people believe you should show no skill at all in your magic as to make the magic more,well…magic. The argument is very valid. However, I do feel that when someone has paid good money for your performance, it’s good to show that you are doing stuff that doesn’t simply rely on knowing a secret or having a gimmick. The sad truth, that we magicians need to admit, is that most people know that what I do is an illusion and that I have no real magical power (and if I did I wouldn’t tell anyway). But it is heartbreaking to walk away from a table and hear someone say ‘my son has one of those trick decks’. Especially when you have just performed a card routine that you have been honing for the last 10 years. Again there is a fine line between showing off and showing a bit of skill. If I feel a bit flash I find it good to add a little self-depreciation after my indulgence, as a softener. I also like to know that if someone goes home and looks on YouTube to see how one of my tricks are done, they still wouldn’t be able to do it without ridiculous amounts of practice. But each to their own.


So one of the many distinctions between a professional and an amateur (neither being positive or negative) does seem to be the work we put into how we present our magic and an understanding that the routine we have worked on tirelessly for years may still die on its arse if we present it in a cocky, arrogant or even insecure way. This can only really be achieved by a lot of trial and error and an acceptance that failure is part of the journey. A good lesson in both magic and business and a rule by which I live.





28 Feb

Practice makes perfect..ish

Magician Steve Faulkner performs the Classic Miser's Dream


I’m writing this in Blackpool, where I am performing four shows a day of relatively new material. It’s a HUGE learning curve, both rewarding and frustrating in equal measures. There are a few routines I perform that I have spent years polishing and adjusting, so that they play well pretty much every time. The problem is that I have about six other routines that are fine but need a little ironing out, plus two more that are all over the place and need some ‘work’. So I decided to bring three of these to Blackpool.

Performing four shows a day for ten days gives me a rare opportunity. The tricks are good enough to not be rubbish, as the audiences need to be entertained. But I know that the timing and delivery could be better. I have three tricks, the Miser’s Dream (producing coins from various places), a rope routine and a needle swallowing routine.


The needles routine is the most solid, having been performed the most times. The rope routine is fine, but the Miser’s Dream is a real challenge. Each time I have performed this routine it has been different and I can’t seem to stick to a set format. It’s a challenging and frustrating process and goes like this -


1. Practise at home
2. Practise loads more
3. Get bored and leave it for a bit
4. Feel guilty and practise some more
5. Perform live, badly
6. Practise again with notes
7. Perform again, usually still badly
8. Repeat until improvement occurs


The hardest parts are numbers 5,7 and 8. It’s the most infuriating thing. Hopefully, most performers will be able to relate to this. You get a routine or trick so solid in the practice room that you feel like you don’t even have to think about it. Then you take it out on stage and it all falls apart. Your skill level drops instantly by between 20 and 40 per cent!


Nervousness has a lot to do with it but that seems to be only half the story. I have felt completely relaxed on stage and yet when I start the new bit it can feel and look like I’m a beginner again. Maybe another factor is that in a rehearsal room you literally don’t have to think about anything but the trick. You are totally focused on just the mechanics. And of course there is no pressure.


A relationship with an audience is a conversation. Even if you are performing silently or to music communication needs to be established and maintained. This takes effort and that effort dilutes the focus you can have on a trick. But there is still something else that is so frustrating.


I’m performing the Miser’s Dream every day and I feel fine beforehand – which is one massive bit of progress as, due to the routine dying on its arse in front of 1000 people at a big corporate event, I am usually terrified at the thought of doing it! Also, I have rehearsed the moves over and over until I’m not really having to think about the order of the routine as such. So why is it not clicking?


Last night, just by chance, I think I found the answer. I was watching the amazing TED talk by Dan Pink, The Surprising Science of Motivation. In this amazing talk, Dan discusses the findings of numerous scientific studies on how our motivation affects our performance. The results are indeed surprising.


The findings are that when given a task that is anything more than basic – usually a logic puzzle – the higher the reward (usually monetary) for completion, the lower the performance. Have a look at that again – the higher the reward, the worse people become at completing the task. The ramifications of this are huge and I will refrain from going into it in detail here – have a look at Dan’s talk – but it pulls into question every reward scheme used in many of the companies with whom I have worked.


The upshot is that performance improves only when the motivation is internal – when it means something to you that is deeper than just external gratification, massage to the ego, or a bit of cash.


So what has this got to do with me and my Miser’s Dream routine?


At the moment I am surrounded by other performers and members of the public who I would like to impress. Putting it bluntly, I don’t want to look like a tit. Also, some magicians have watched the show so this adds another external factor – ego. To look like a coin magic master is a huge reward, but an external and ultimately shallow one, and it will earn me nothing in the long-term. Therefore, a big but ultimately short-lived reward has resulted in decreased performance. Looking back on all of my performances, I can now see the times they started working. Here is the usual order of things.


1. I go out with a new routine and it’s a bit of a mess because all I’m thinking about is looking good for peers or bookers. Mistake! I should be thinking about the enjoyment of the audience. Not how professional or clever I look, but how much they, and I, are enjoying it.

2. I go out another few times with the same routine and things improve a bit. I am growing more confident because I now know how it feels to perform the routine on stage. I’ve become familiar with the level at which it’s at. I have something to work from.

3. Things start to improve because I am subconsciously making adjustments. The process is becoming internal or between me and my audience, not between me and my ego and peers. Of course I still want them to like it but IT becomes more important than ME. For example this week many of my friends and colleagues have seen me mess up or perform something that isn’t that tight. I’ve got that out of the way now so a huge weight has been lifted from me. I can feel my focus becoming about the coins and the audiences’ reactions and not about how clever I am, or how I look.

4. The trick or routine becomes more relaxed and with time and becomes a solid piece of performance of which I can be proud.


Throughout this process the motivation for my performance becomes a little deeper and meaningful. The whole thing becomes more relaxed and, more importantly, my performance level increases. This obviously takes time. It can take years. But to be aware of this has made a huge difference. For some time now I have been trying to reach a level where I can go on stage and take my ego out of the equation and just concentrate on the relationship between me and my audience. I feel like I am getting there. If anyone else is interested in the same journey, let me know. It would be fun to compare notes.


Thanks for reading.








17 Jan

Here’s a little video of me talking about my eBook

[youtube dzV9k1Kqeno Go Do - A short book on Productivity and Motivation by Steve Faulkner]





28 May

I’m Scared


Blackpool Grand
Performing at Blackpool Grand. A routine I hadn’t done for years. Terrified.


As a performer and a self-employed person, fear has been a part of my life for a while now. Not real fear you understand. Real fear, I imagine, is being on the front line just about to go over the edge, or being on a plane that goes out of control, or being in any situation that provides you with every right to be very scared indeed.  No, I’m on about the fear that is shared by most of us in our society. More of a phobia than a fear because of its irrationality. But fear is quicker to write so we’ll stay with that.


It’s a fear that can stop us dead in our tracks. It can stop us from (more…)





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