mark toland mind reader

Where I've Been

It’s been about 4 months since my last Thursday Thoughts post, but I’m back!

Honestly, I needed a break. Writing each week was starting to feel like a chore. I was burnt out and overworked. And I didn’t feel inspired like I want to be. But, I've been missing posting these and, deep down, I knew it was only a matter of time before I couldn't resist getting back on the grind.

So, here’s what I’ve been up to:

• I’ve been getting closer to my 10,000 hours - 10 minutes at a time. I have a super-focused approach to improving my script, performance, and creative ideas. (If there’s enough interest, I could turn that into a future post.)

• I was invited to perform at the Orlando Fringe Winter Mini Fest back in January. Both of my shows had packed houses and I even won a small award at the end of the weekend. (I won 12 awards at 12 festivals in just under 2 years, but it’ll probably be my last fringe festival for a while. It’s been a fun ride, I just need to focus on some other projects for a while.)

• I did a show in Dubai. It was my first time in the Middle East, but I made the most of it. I saw the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Jumeirah Island, Atlantis, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the Dubai Mall, visited a mosque, and did nothing but eat amazing food. I can’t wait to go back.

• I just did a couple TV spots for Windy City Live and Good Day Chicago. Check out the WCL clip below!

• I was also on the Bill & Wendy Show on WGN Radio. It was super fun!

• After MIND READER won a Chicago Theatre Award last year, the Chicago Magic Lounge asked me to be their artist-in-residence this summer. The show just started this month and I’ll be performing there every Wednesday through the end of June. (Get your tickets here.)

Photo by Trainman Photography

Photo by Trainman Photography

• Also, I just announced my other show dates through the end of the summer. I’ll be performing six shows a week for six weeks at Liberty Magic in Pittsburgh, PA. (Tickets available here.)

• I haven’t really been going on social media much. Chances are you probably clicked this link on facebook or twitter, but that’s only because it automatically posts to those networks for me. I’m not going to see or respond to your comments there, so if you have something to say please comment below this post or send me an e-mail.

• I’ve been taking time for myself. To get through the miserable Chicago winter I’ve been running and working out more. I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K last month and am working towards a 10K next month. I took some trips to Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas. And, I just finished the second season of The OA in time for the NBA Playoffs to start.

• Finally, I’ve been searching for more mystery. More on that next week.

It’s great to be back. See you in my audience soon?



Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.

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.



Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.

Move On

Fact: The more you put yourself out there, the more criticism you will receive.

Some of that criticism will be useful. It will be helpful and needed. It will make you think and make you work harder. It will make you better.

But the other criticism? That will be nothing but negativity. It will be from people who don’t get what you’re doing and make no attempts to try. Call them haters, naysayers, your parents, whatever. They will knock you down because they can and nothing you do will ever please them.

Not all criticism is useful. I’ve had bad reviews, poor feedback, and negative comments that bothered me for days.  I didn’t learn anything from them. They didn’t help me improve my craft. They didn’t inspire me to better myself. If anything, they just made me feel horrible.

Once I was even greeted by a reviewer before the show who was very clearly not excited to be attending.

“I hate magic shows,” they told me.

I was on edge for the entire performance, worried they were going to give me a horrible review. Luckily they were kind with the write-up, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

One reviewer wrote that “Mark Toland is at the top of his game” and my show is a “MUST SEE” only to give me 4 out of 5 stars. It was good to know that when I’m at my best, it’s still only an 80%.

Honestly, I don’t care about the reviews. It’s nice to have a pull-quote or an award or a five star rating to add to the poster, but that’s not why I’m onstage.

I’m doing a show for other people. It’s entertainment. I want people to be completely enthralled for my entire performance. I don’t want them looking at their watch or texting their friends. I don’t want them coughing or shifting in their seats. I want their undivided attention so I can transport them somewhere else for an hour.

That’s not to say that a below-average review doesn’t affect me. It absolutely does! But I’ve learned how to deal with criticism so I can move forward and keep progressing in my career.

Negative feedback is expected and uncontrollable. The more you put yourself out there, the more you forge your own path; the more criticism you should expect to receive.

If you’re doing it right then you’re going to stir the pot. You’re going to provoke a wide range of reactions. The best thing you can do is to not respond.

No matter what happens, don’t acknowledge your criticism. Don’t complain, don’t argue, don’t fight fire with fire. There’s no need to go on a tweetstorm or write a long rant on your fan page. That looks petty and unprofessional.

I’ve faced more rejections than I can remember, been turned down on more projects than I can name. For every gig I’m booked for, another 20 events go in a different direction. But I refuse to let those failures keep me from succeeding.

Ignore the criticism. Shake it off or find someone you can vent to in private. Then move on and get back to work.



Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.