My first big performance was a huge disappointment.

I was in first grade when I found out they were holding auditions for the school talent show. They shouldn’t have made the announcement in the morning because I couldn’t focus for the rest of the day. All I could think about was getting to do magic in front of the whole school.

I remember bursting through my front door and calling to my dad, “I’m going to try out for the talent show! Will you help me practice?”

He helped me read the rules for the audition, then we pulled some tricks from my shelf of magic props and headed downstairs. He plopped down on the couch and patiently watched me as I stumbled through my makeshift performance.

I had asked my friend Tim to perform with me. He was the only other person I knew who liked magic as much as I did. So we worked on our tricks nonstop, hoping we would get a spot in the talent show.

A week later, I packed my props into my backpack and left for school. The big day had arrived. I was more nervous than I’d ever been before.

All of the hopeful performers were ushered into the gymnasium. We sat in clusters around the room as each of our names were called. People sang and danced and hula-hooped and did skits. I heard the other students playing outside and wondered what my friends were doing. For a split second I zoned out - and then:

“Up next are Mark and Tim, the magicians!”

I heard my name and suddenly I couldn’t stop shaking. Luckily, I had my friend Tim to back me up. We walked to the front and began our performance.

Our showstopper was a numbers trick. I wish I could remember the exact trick but I’ve mostly forgotten. All I know is that when I went to reveal our prediction, my principal just looked up at us with complete disappointment.

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t my number.”

We were crushed.

Something had gone wrong with the trick. I had failed in front a hundred other students and embarassed myself. When they called the final acts, our names weren’t on the list.

When I got home, I shoved my props on the shelf and swore I hated magic. I told my dad I didn’t want to do any tricks ever again. When I calmed down and wiped the tears away, I went outside and shot some hoops to calm down.

Then I heard a voice. It was my dad saying I had a phone call.

I walked inside, said hello, and was surprised to hear my principal’s voice on the other end.

“Mark, I have an apology to make. I messed up your trick. When I got home from school I tried it again and realized I made a mistake. You were right and I don’t know how you did it!”

I didn’t know what to say.

“We want you and Tim to be in the talent show. Can you guys do that?”

Of course I said yes, then hung up. I’m sure I screamed at the top of my lungs or something of the sort. All of our practice had paid off.

Not only did we get to be part of the talent show, but we actually ended up getting to be a featured act at the entrance of the school. As everyone entered for the show Tim and I were there in the lobby doing tricks for anyone who would watch. It was easily the greatest night of the first six years of my life.

If it wasn’t for my dad’s encouragement or my principal’s phone call, I might not be writing this essay. You might not be reading this post. And I might not be a professional mind reader.

Some of life’s lessons are intuitive, some are learned, and some are just downright lucky. I’m not sure where this one falls, but what I do know is that it’s impossible to fail if you never quit.

Mark and Tim's Magic Show.jpg

Stick With It

This is my 45th “Thursday Thoughts” entry. Between 44 and 45 something interesting happened. I got an email from someone that started with the following:

“Hi Mark,

I stumbled across your blog and was fascinated with your love of theatre, writing, and mentalism. I’d love to have you perform at our upcoming event in New York…”

That's right. It took me 44 posts but I just booked a show from my blog.

That was never the intention, of course. I just started writing because I enjoy it. I’ve had multiple blogs throughout the years, covering a wide range of topics, but this is the longest I’ve stuck with it. It just feels right, like I’ve finally started to find a voice and have important stuff to say.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes I write next Thursday’s post on last Friday. Other days I don’t get around to it until I’m at the airport early Thursday morning. But I haven’t missed a day and I guess people are actually reading.

I’ve considered putting the blog on hold so I could focus on other things. It takes a lot of time each week to craft a post that I’m proud of. I could easily spend that time working on more important, lucrative, tangible projects. But I enjoy it, so I keep writing.

And after 45 essays, 239 drafts, 106 abandoned topics, many late nights and early mornings, that’s the best advice I can give you.

I’m not saying you should start a blog or try to be a writer. I’m just saying that whatever you’re doing, you should keep at it. 

There will come a time when it feels pointless and you don’t want to keep doing whatever you’re doing any more. When that time comes, that’s when you need to work even harder.

That’s the moment when you have to give whatever you’re doing all you have because that’s the moment that matters the most. If you persevere and push through your roadblocks then there’s something great waiting for you on the other side.

Whatever you’re doing, you’ve gotta stick with it.