Delos Chang talks about Magic here..
Upon first glance, sleight-of-hand magic and life might not seem to be very correlated at all. Yet, take a deeper look and you will see similarities between the two: some, including Kasparov, a chess champion, find it reasonable to view life as a sort of strategy game. Indeed, our lives are essentially decorated with interactions balancing career, romance, and at its core, basic fundamental human interactions that we've picked up since grade school. In the middle of it all, our success in our lives hinge on the crucial aspect of simply how we interact with others, how we communicate, how we present our thoughts. In magic, too, the entirety of the effect lies mainly on the words of the magician and how well he can construct a simple illusion into a feat of impossibility. In life, careers are built not solely on academic knowledge or specialized skill but instead of interpersonal connections, networking, and again, building something truly great in another person's eyes out of nothing! The adage goes: if you treat something like nothing, then the world will see it as nothing. Indeed, this has been repeated by famous late magician, Tommy Wonder, whose ambitious card routines involved copious amounts of psychology and of course, misdirection. With these two tools, magicians create grandeur and awe out of simple sleight of hand. And here, too, misdirection and psychology play an integral part of the human equation: with simple words and simple actions, we can influence others and present ourselves in a better light. Take for instance, the amateur magician, who while can perform a miracle Ace-cutting routine, cannot supplement his trick with necessary communication. He may be able to perform the trick cleanly and purely but he does not necessarily entertain. Compare him to another magician who perhaps may not have as much raw talent but surely makes up for it in his presentation and communication abilities. He engrosses his audience with his slick patter; he really engages them and leads them into his own universe. In life, too, the constructs of our everyday interactions hinge not upon plain academic ability and theoretical prowess but instead in our personality and the communication of those skills. After all, when one practices magic, it's almost tacitly acknowledged that one expects to present the trick in the near future.
So where does misdirection come in? With misdirection, a magician can perform the simplest sleight of hand – say the double-lift in his Ambitious Card routine – and come through as a wizard. Pure genius. He presents to the audience something of importance while he concentrates on his real agenda. Here, too, life imitates the art of misdirection. In basic social psychology, scarcity reigns as an adjudicating technique of influence: present scarcity to someone and their immediate desire for it skyrockets. Salesman use it all the time – life's version of misdirection at its finest. In chess, we move one piece to perhaps mask the agenda of another piece. We wish our opponent to interpret the move wrongly, assigning it of great value that he moves to counter. And in doing so, he fails to notice the more important move. A classic version of misdirection involves capturing your opponents' chess to distract them when you really intend to attack their king. Perhaps in business and the political atmosphere, people often say one thing only to do another.
Whatever our ends, communication and presentation are our means. In magic, too, the strength of the effect relies squarely on the performer and his charismatic ability to maintain suspense, create artful misdirection. Simply watch any street magician perform his routine as he flexibly interacts with an ever-changing audience. You can almost imagine him in a business suit closing out a sale.
Delos Chang is a sleight-of-hand magician, a stand-up comic, and a Dartmouth humor columnist. Click here to read more Delos Chang.