Connection

Something I struggle with a lot is where my chosen profession fits in the world. At best it seems entertaining and at worst it feels silly and trite. But there’s one thing I keep coming back to that keeps me from quitting. 

Connection.

The key to my success as an entertainer has been finding a way to connect with my audiences. I’m not talking about laughter or applause. That’s definitely important and I want those things, too, but I’m talking about something more specific.

When I connect with an audience member it means that they saw themselves in my work. It means they found some kind of underlying message or truth that resonated with them more than any mind reading demonstration ever could.

It’s taken me years to realize this, but once I did I’ve felt more fulfilled and more successful in my career than I ever did before.

Think about it. I bet that your favorite movie or book or song probably connects with you in an utterly profound and personal way. It may have a beautiful melody or a hilarious plot, but the truth is you probably found yourself saying “That is so true!” or “I thought I was the only person who felt that way!”

That’s what connection is all about.

The best inspiration for what I do never comes from within the confines of my art. Rather, I look outside my discipline to find people (much smarter than myself) with ideas that apply to my chosen art form, too. The great thing about seeking inspiration is that the answers you seek are already there - you just have to keep looking.

And I’ve been looking in some really unique places.

Legendary choreographer and dancer Martha Graham has a great interview where she talks about connection. It’s worth a watch just to hear her perfectly sum up why art matters and is so important.

“There is always one person to whom you speak in the audience. One.” she says.

In an interview with Seth Meyers, tennis icon Billie Jean King compares being on the tennis court to being onstage in a theatre. I’d never thought about it that way before.

“It’s about the audience,” she comments. “My job is to connect with them, so they go home at night and say ’That was unbelievable!' They connected and they want to go back.”

When I feel especially low or wonder if what I do really matters, it always helps to think of those quotes and remind myself that it can be very important, as long as I connect with others.

Anything I do onstage has one main set of criteria: it has to be about other people. It’s all about the audience. When your work is in service to other people you can’t go wrong.

When I set out to write this blog I wasn’t sure what shape it would take. Originally, I had two goals - to be positive and to post every week - but, over time, a third goal emerged. 

Somehow I found a way to make the experiences of being a mind reader about more than just performing. Now my main goal is to take what I do and find a way to connect it with you.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many people have written me to say “Wow, I read your blog post today and it really spoke to me! I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and really appreciated your thoughts.”

That’s the connection I seek and, I feel, the secret to being successful in anything you do.

Mystery

I can pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with mystery.

It was entirely unrelated to theatre or performance or mind reading. It wasn’t a movie or a book or a play. It was much simpler than that.

It was a game.

A favorite childhood game in my family was “Hide The Thimble” where you take a thimble and, well, hide it. The object of the game was to keep the bright, shiny thimble in plain sight so that you could easily see it from anywhere in the room.

We had dozens of favorite hiding spots. The thimble easily balanced on a picture frame or fit over a lamp switch. You could sit it between piano keys or rest it high atop a ceiling fan. The possibilities were endless.

We mostly played “Hide The Thimble” when visiting family, so we were full of anticipation upon arrival. We’d take turns hiding and finding the thimble, without a care in the world. There were no iPhones or internet back then so we were content to play as long as our relatives would put up with us.

On one occasion, someone (I can’t quite remember who) hid the thimble while the rest of us waited in the other room. Then the seeker (I wish I could remember) led the rest of us into the target area.

Minutes passed and the thimble had yet to be found. We were all stumped and excitedly waited for the “seeker” to discover its whereabouts.

Another ten minutes had passed and still no thimble.

“Show us!” we begged, but the person who hid it had forgotten where it was.

We were a patient family. It was in our blood. We would play chess and tennis and board games for hours. We would design extravagant scavenger hunts for each other and organize massive rounds of Capture The Flag.

What I’m trying to say is that we would have looked for that thimble for hours. We would have stayed in that room and kept looking if my dad hadn’t told us it was time to head home.

“But we haven’t found the thimble yet!” someone said.

“Well, we’ll have to find it next time then,” my dad said, as we followed him to the driveway.

There was no next time.

Time passed, and so did relatives. Things changed and we grew older. 

The thimble was never found.

I think about that thimble often. I wonder where it was hidden and what might have happened to it.

Did it fall off a light switch and roll under a shelf? Was it resting just above our eyeline and we had forgotten to look up? Did the future owners renovate that room and discover a small, shiny object underneath the floorboards?

Or maybe it was never meant to be found?

Over the years I’ve learned to be okay with not knowing. I like it that way.

Stop Believing In Bullsh*t

People approach me after my show and want to know if I can read their palm or speak to their dead relatives. They’re convinced I’m actually psychic and ask “When did you know you had this gift?”

I politely explain that I’m an entertainer - a mystery artist - and that everything they witnessed is the product of 20+ years of work. Just like they’ve spent a lifetime acquiring a skill, so have I. I’m trained in the art of deception. But at least I’m being truthful about the lies I keep telling.

And yet, even after they’ve spoken with me they insist on believing. I see it on their faces. They’re positive I’m lying and that there must be more to it than trickery. They need to believe.

But can we stop?

Seriously, it’s 2017. We should all know by now that magic isn’t real. Your crystal necklace won’t heal you, fortune telling isn't real, and that salt lamp is nothing more than just a really cool light.

Isn’t that enough?

Some people insist I should be flattered with the feedback I receive. “Wow! They think you’re the real deal!” they tell me excitedly.

But there’s nothing to be excited about. When people think I’m real, I cringe thinking I might be getting included in the long list of bullshit in this world.

And boy is there a lot of BS. It’s everywhere I go.

Psychic readers are on every block and evangelicals are on every channel. Companies promise a miracle weight loss pill or balance band that will change your life. There are frauds purporting to be mediums from Long Island to Hollywood and celebrities claiming they have all the answers.

But all of this - and more - has been debunked hundreds and hundreds of times.

A common rebuttal to this topic goes something like this: It’s not hurting anyone, why not just let people believe in what they want?

WRONG.

It does hurt people to believe in nonsense. That’s how lies like “fake news” spread and people wrongly stop giving their children vaccines.  Bad beliefs lead to wars and travel bans. Believing in alternative facts means we’d rather stay in the past than protect the planet.

Your BS is hurting everyone.

I couldn’t sleep at night knowing I wasn’t being honest. I’m in this field because I discovered it at a young age and realized I was good at it. Later, I fell in love with theatre and put it all together. But I’ve never wanted to start a religion. I don’t want you to think I’m real.

I’d prefer you to see something you don’t understand and listen when I tell you I’m fake. Then maybe you’ll consider how other people may be deceiving you in the world and realize that they’re not being quite as honest as I am.

It will take a lot of work to wade through the goop and the misleading tweets and the conspiracy theories, but I promise it’s worth it. The truth is important and we should all work a little harder to find the facts.

I won’t tell you how I read minds - some of the best things in life should be kept a mystery. But the next time you see something you can’t explain, pause and think for a second. Perhaps you don’t need an explanation.  Maybe seeing something wondrous or beautiful or unbelievable is enough.  Maybe it’s better not to know.