Steve Faulkner - Distinctive Magic
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







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.





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.





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