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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Magic and workOver the years I have been to a lot of conferences – either as an attendee or as a speaker. At most events, the formal education portions ends by 7pm, usually quite a bit earlier. A banquet or gathering in the bar typically follows.

I recently attended a magic convention with 700 magicians. Unlike most events, formal classes went late into the evening. I was in one workshop that went to 1am. My brain was full and I was tired. When I left the conference room I was ready for sleep and I assumed everyone else was too. Wow, was I wrong! When I walked into the hotel lobby, it was packed with people practicing their magic and performing for others.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

This got me thinking. Some people can’t wait to leave work. If you ask an accountant to do your taxes one night while sitting around having drinks, they would look at you like you had two heads. There is a dividing line between what is work and what isn’t.

Magicians are different. The line is blurry.

While sitting at the airport in Las Vegas waiting for my plane, I spotted Jeff McBride, recently named one of the top 10 magicians of our time. He sat down with me and taught me a few new tricks. He could have easily taken the time to do something else. But I could tell that helping others with magic gave him immense pleasure.

The magicians I know never stop working. Or maybe they never started working. It is their passion. Their life.

To be clear, I am not saying “follow your passion and the money will follow.” I don’t believe that to be true. What you offer has to be valued by others in a way that you can make a living. Having said that, I believe that the more you enjoy your profession, the more time, money, and energy you will put into it.

True success = something you love + something you are good at + something others value.

What about you? Is there a clear line between work and the rest of your life? Or is the dividing line blurry? Do you look forward to the end of work? Or do you spring into action, eager to play?

Does work feel like work? If so, it may be time to make some magic happen in your life.

  1. Michael Wiederman says:

    Stimulating observations, Steve. 🙂 I suspect that there are those rare individuals within each profession that experience such passion that the line between work and leisure is similarly blurred (so, there has to be a tax accountant out there somewhere that would enjoy doing just one more tax return after dinner). One reason I suspect that there is such a preponderance of passionate folks among magicians is that it is one of those few professions that selects for individual who are inherently drawn to it. That is, to be a pro or passable performer requires lots of practice, and no one stumbles into being a pro magician because of parental or societal expectations, or because “that’s where the good jobs are.”

  2. Anna Styopina says:

    It’s a great post, and for me it so much resonates with my personal experience. Years ago when I started my first job as customer service rep, I was so excited about it that I worked almost 24/7, I was just happy to do what I was doing. I made a good career in that company, eventually becoming a top-manager. Later, as I noticed that my values didn’t match the values of the owners, I went through the stage of disillusion and emotional burnout. And then the job became just the job, not the passion. However, a year ago I made a sharp turn and re-discovered my other forgotten passion (by the way, Steve, thank you for your Goal-Free Living, that was one of the triggers to help me make up my mind). I became an artist, and I try to make my living from it. Now, again, I work 24/7 though I wouldn’t even dare to call it work – because I do what I love the most, and I think this is a blessing… I wish I had more than 24 hours a day. I should admit that even though my personal income last year was much less than it used to be, I obtained something that can not be measured in dollars or any other currency. I guess, I know how these magicians feel, and it’s cool:)

    • Anna, thank you for the thoughtful comment! I’m so glad that Goal-Free Living was useful. And I am thrilled that you are now doing work that is not work. I love your word “blessing.” Perfect. Thanks again!

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