Traditional Neapolitans started their New Year by throwing old clothes, dishes and furniture off their balconies. It probably wasn’t a dream-come-true for a health & safety manager. Instead it was a pragmatic way to start afresh and make room for the new. I learned about this tradition while living in Italy… long before my future as a professional magician was in sight. Today only a minority of Neapolitans may still heave their sofa into the alley below at the stroke of midnight. But the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions still lives on. I’m working on a new magic project these days that has me thinking about what it takes to make a resolution. In particular, how you escape your comfort zone to reach new horizons.
As you can imagine I’m usually booked as a magician for business events to perform as a close-up magician or to present an after dinner show. What you may not know is that there’s another side to my work. It’s speaking to usually corporate audiences or conferences about my experiences as a magician, to help them shake things up to think more creatively. I call it Project Illusions and the next talk I have this month is on this very topic of how to escape your comfort zone. In doing so, they want the delegates at the talk to make bolder and more creative choices as the year unfolds.
The comfort zone feels like a snuggle under a duvet on a cold night. It’s great to have it as a place to go back to every night but you know how far you’ll get if you stay in there. So here are a few ingredients that might help you find the courage to throw back the covers.
1. Get excited
Gin aside, it could be learning stone carving, a new language or in my case tap dancing. It might seem random for a magician to take a tap dance class to improve his game but I’ll get more used to the discomfort of gaining new skills and I’ll start thinking in new ways. Make a list of things that would help you cross the line into uncharted waters and help you feel that discomfort. Feeling it (and living through it – as you quite probably will) gives you quite a rush. The uneasiness of leaving your comfort zone will diminish when you get more used to doing it. Make the unknown your friend.
2. Don’t be bored
Maybe you’ve been in your comfort zone so long that you don’t even know where it is. If that’s the case, just ask yourself what things are boring you? If a magic routine for example is boring me then I know all my pistons aren’t firing in that category and I can push the envelope further. Add a new twist. Try a different approach.
Children have no problem with breaking through their comfort zones like daredevils while they play. There’s so much to be said for seeing what comes out of having fun without fear of what people will think about you, whether or not you end up flat on your ass. I played with magic as a kid – total immersion – with no view of being a magician. And there were lots of times that I was very (ehm, very) bad… but I didn’t care. It was play and nothing was at stake.
4. Don’t be a quitter
After the Christmas binge, my gym is full of new faces the first week of every year. By February, most are ghosts of fitness past. Ask yourself what it would take to keep it a steady ascent rather than a nosedive into crash and burn. Will a regular reminder in your diary help? Can a buddy or partner share the job of taskmaster? I’ve done this with a few magician buddies in the past. How can you look after yourself while feeling the fear? Last year I wanted to create a totally fresh routine that would work well for my magic bookings so I broke down the massive project into all the various steps so I could make sure I was staying on the path. Then I committed publicly to the debut of the new material so I couldn’t chicken out.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who make you want to reach further and ask better questions (to know more about this, you’ll like this post). For me it’s not just other magicians, it’s anyone who inspires me to up the ante. These are people who will make you want to escape your comfort zone.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anaïs Nin
I hope what I’ve noticed is useful for whatever you have on your plate this year. If you’ve got other ideas or tips, please do share them here. We’re all in this game together. Happy 2015. – CH
Post script: For more information about my corporate talks and workshops, visit Project Illusions.
Say hello and drop me a note in the comments below. Thanks for coming along with me and I hope to see you again after a few more turns in the trail.
Images by C. Barsotti and B. Waterson.