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Profile of quinoa
Hi All: Kinda a novice question. I'm a hobbyist, but always wanted to asked professionals about this.

Did you choose to primarily focus on cards, coins, sleights, mentalism, etc based upon your interest, or based upon your skill set? Do you start by "trying" everything and see where you excel? How common is it that there is a disconnect between what you are really passionate about, and what you can realistically perform well?

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old things in new ways - new things in old ways
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Profile of funsway
Most agree that Presentations skills far exceed technical and mechanical skills as a factor in what is the best focus of effort.
Your choice of setting and venue can also be more important than what type of props one enjoys.

"Sleights" in your list of options seems out of place since they can be part of every 'specialization'.

What is your measure of "excel?" No effect should be performed unless it is mastered.

The answers you want, I suspect. So, in practical sense, avoid working on effects that cost a lot of money.
For example, you can do hundreds of incredible effect with natural coins or the simple gaffs of a C/S or Exp [.
There is no reason to buy a "special set" just to do a couple of unique effects UNLESS that is your chosen specialty.

I have packing boxes full of props and gimmicks I will never use. But I can do dozens of effects with Found objects impromptu
that do not cost a dime. That is what I can "reasonably perform" any time, any where.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Profile of Julie
Of course, buying a prop/gimmick "just for fun" is OK, too! Smile

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Pittsburgh, Pa
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Profile of davidpaul$
Funsway's advice is always helpful and deserves attention.

For me, I got bit by the "MAGIC Bug" over 25 years ago visiting a magic shop to buy something for a
family member. I didn't "choose" to focus on any particular genre, I was just enamored with with magic in general. The buying of PROPS and VHS tapes then DVDs followed. An eclectic mix.

After a few years of personal enjoyment and showing my new found love with family, I was lucky to secure some restaurant gigs and get PAID!!!! The restaurant venue guided my focus, which was " entertainment ".
I performed cards, coins, chop cup, packet effects, sponge balls etc. etc.----

I felt I excelled performing all the effects/routines, but as funsway said "presentation skills far exceed
technical mechanical skills" (although still important obviously)

It's good,imo, to be well rounded. In a restaurant setting, it was important to perform a mix of magic effects that appealed to all ages as well as effects that didn't require table space or that were too lengthy.

If you want to focus on parlor and stage, the same principles apply but the effects you choose will obviously be different than close-up material.

Hope that helped.
Guilt will betray you before technique betrays you!
David asecas
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Profile of David asecas
My experience in the first years was to try everything, apart from gaining a lot of experience that will help you in the future, you will realize what your skills and strengths are so that later you can enhance them.
Luke Jonas
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Yorkshire UK
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Profile of Luke Jonas
My love started really learning bar bets and things to fool people so I could win a few free drinks I really loved the play on words involved in certain types of the bets so from here a move into the linguistic style of mentalism, Book Tests, prop less etc was a natural one.
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Profile of TeddyBoy
I am NOT a professional but thought my story may be relevant in how I chose my specialty - cards.

After my brother-in-law passed away I wanted to do something to help keep up the spirits of his grand-kids. So I turned to magic tricks. I chose cards because I like them but importantly, card tricks were more approachable than, e.g., coin tricks. I had no interest in mentalism. For card beginners there are self-working tricks and tricks using pre-arranged decks, i.e., no sleight-of-hand required thus allowing one to immediately begin to astonish people. In contrast, coins require sleight-of-hand right from the start and I did not have the time, patience or sufficient interest for coins. Surprisingly, the self-working and pre-arranged card effects really sucked me in. My interest and development in card techniques exploded. I now have a book and DVD collection that would serve a younger man quite well for decades. I still love learning this stuff even though I have not performed outside the house or at work. Maybe one day, but for sure not professionally.
So many little time.
"Slow...deliberate...natural." Bill Tarr

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Profile of ALEXANDRE
Your specialization will oftentimes choose you!

Your level of comfort and joy with whatever routine you're doing shines through during performance so paying attention to those routines is important.

Adapting routines to fit who you are is key as well. If you want to be Lennart Green but you're not Lennart Green (who is?) you're just asking for trouble. You can do Lennart Green your way, and this will work.

There's no problem at all in mixing genres, just try to make it make sense in the way your structure your presentations where one thing leads to another like telling a story.

Fun stuff.
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MIddle Tennessee area
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Profile of rickmagic1
I am a part-time professional, and I can tell you the most important thing is to figure out who you are. Once you know that, that will determine a lot of what you do and what you don’t.
Richard Green
The Modern Conjurer
Host of the Haunted Magic show at House of Cards Nashville!
will lane
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Profile of will lane
On Feb 12, 2022, quinoa wrote:

Did you choose to primarily focus on cards, coins, sleights, mentalism, etc based upon your interest, or based upon your skill set? Do you start by "trying" everything and see where you excel? How common is it that there is a disconnect between what you are really passionate about, and what you can realistically perform well?

As someone who is currently and hopefully approaching the end of this process myself, for me it's just been trial and error. Throwing myself at nearly everything that catches my eye, practicing it, executing it, and seeing what works and what didn't work; and more importantly, examining why it did or didn't work. And then adjust your handling, method, script, presentation, etc... from there.

Interest and skill set don't necessarily have to line up for you do to be able to any certain effect. Your skill set just determines what method you'll use to accomplish the effect. You can accomplish the same effect with multiple different methods.

For example, I'm not very good or confident at doing sleights, especially under pressure. An Ambitious Card Routine typically involves lots of sleights, many of which are incredibly difficult- all the while people are burning your hands. So if I wanted to perform the ACR effect, instead of attempting to execute lots of sleights which would wrack my nerves, I could instead present a key card location, slop shuffle triumph, and an Invisible Deck all as my "ACR".

When there is a trick that I'm passionate about doing, but it doesn't perform well, most of the time it's not the trick that's at fault- it's me. How a trick is presented, the handling, even it's placement in the set can influence how the audience perceives it. And sometimes, we pick the wrong audience for a trick: Don't do a full-deck memorization trick for a kid's show, or maybe don't start with colorful silk scarves for a corporate event (or maybe you do).
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Profile of questort
I chose Mentalism because of the performance & psychological aspect of it. I also like the idea of prop-less effects, which is pretty much impossible otherwise.
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Profile of Mindpro
It all comes down to what you want to do and why. If you are just doing it for fun and are content just being an amateur, simply go with what interests you the most. However, if you have any interests in magic being a source of income, revenue, or profession, go with what has the most commercial interest and appeal, is most marketable and bookable, and what is best to achieve these interests.

Also a big question to answer is who do you intend to be performing for? If performing professionally you must work from the perspective, interests and appeal of the audience and market, whereas a hobbyist can operate from only their own interests and point of view.

I will tell you bizarre, coins, and cards are specialties that rarely produce the professional interests and profits as some other types of magic.

Pick or determine a goal and work towards it, otherwise you just be a generalist, mediocre at a little bit of everything, and find yourself spending time and money on everything rather than being more focused and directed.
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Profile of jxoto
I think you have to find things you are passionate about and find a way to link the magic. It creates a unique personality and authenticity that belongs to you.

For me, I'm a total psychology geek. Love human behaviour, body language and manipulation. I enjoy reading and learning about that type of content, so when I do magic, I create stories and position the tricks around these themes.

If astrology is your thing for example, it could be all based around stars and fate.
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So.California / Centl.Florida / retired Florida
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Profile of Russo
Any one know how to contact Magician Les Arnold - we worked together in the '60's-70's Los Angeles area- Lost address - email or ?? or have Les Contact Me. Just going through my Scrap book of / Autographed Photos of Magi Friends and wanted to say 'Hello" contact me by pm - thanks all Ralph Rousseau
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Profile of mlippo
I didn't choose cards ... the cards chose me ...

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Profile of RobertApodaca
Magic IS the specialization my friend.

From there you generally have close-up, parlor (AKA stand-up), and stage.

These are the three performance venues recognized by the Magic Castle.
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