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PhotobucketThe trouble with learning a new magic trick is that there’s so many tricks to learn.  The list of tricks a magician would like to add to his repertoire is so long he usually finds it hard to decide which one to learn first.

And there, in the preponderance of tricks, lies the difficulty of learning magic.

Since magic is mostly self-study, the usual learning method we use is to learn the sleights of one trick, write the script of another, practice the move of yet another while watching television, research the potentials of more tricks, and so on. In short, we try to learn as many tricks as we can at the same time.

By the end of the day, or even of the week, or of the month, we end up with not a single trick learned, let alone mastered. The result is that our repertoire remains the same, stagnating inside our old box of tricks.

PhotobucketWhat is wrong with learning several tricks at the same time?

Well, it is called multi tasking.  It’s doing many things all at once in the delusional belief that we can do more by performing parallel tasks simultaneously.

Wrong way of learning, say the scientists. The human brain can’t multi-task efficiently.  In fact, studies found out that people who allow themselves to be distracted by several ongoing tasks lose brain efficiency. In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that, “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” (BBC News)

While computers and electronic gadgets may be built to multi-task, humans are not. A good example of the folly of multi-tasking is driving and talking on the mobile phone at the same time. Authorities say this makes the driver prone to accidents.  The potentials for accidents are so real and alarming that some cities in the world prohibit the use of cell phones while driving.

It may be true that the modern world has embraced multi-tasking as a way to efficient and productive work. Yet, the sages of the past had seen through the folly of performing simultaneous works.

In 1740, in one letter to his son, Lord Chesterfield wrote: “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time…This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.” (The Myth of Multitasking by Christine Rosen)

So what has all Lord Chesterfield’s sage wisdom to do with learning a trick?

It means that you have to learn one trick at a time, not several at the same time.

PhotobucketMake a list of three to five tricks.  List the one you want to learn first and tackle it.

Go up to your ivory castle if you have one.  If you don’t, then lock yourself up in a room, turn off the cell phone, the TV and the radio and study the trick.  Practice it, and rehearse it until you can perform it.  Keep on practicing and rehearsing without looking at other tricks or thinking of other sleights or how intensely you want to build the Origami illusion.

Once you have learned and mastered a trick, then that’s the only time you give yourself permission to learn the next trick on your list.

Pretty simple and sensible huh?

Yes, but many of us sometimes are not sensible. Too vulnerable to interruptions, we surrender our attention to all sorts of distractions.

I know.  I don’t follow my advice.  While learning a trick, my cell phone is switched on, the TV is showing the news, my browser is surfing the Net, the ITouch earphones are fastened to my ears. All at the same time.

The result?

PhotobucketI’m still stuck on trick number one on my list of tricks to learn.

That’s the trouble with learning new magic tricks.  Getting unstuck from trick number one.

Stay magical,