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Dear <<First Name>>,

The next time somebody describes you as “talented,” my advice is to accept the compliment graciously and keep the real secret to yourself. Because personal experience has taught me that announcing “talent doesn’t exist” is a sure way to freeze the conversation. Go ahead and try it. I predict that most people will smile and back away slowly. Who invited the crazy guy?

Like any good magic trick, the way to leverage the talent illusion is not to go around explaining how the trick is done. A magician doesn’t correct the audience by saying, "No, it’s not really magic. It’s just a trick." 

Except for Penn and Teller. They have been known to break the rules by revealing secrets. Watch them explain the cup and balls trick as they perform. It is hard not to be more amazed than if we didn’t know the secret.

Teller has said that the secret to the most convincing magic tricks is to invest more time and effort than any normal person would think is reasonable. When your effort is “a lot more trouble than the trick seems worth,” onlookers can only assume one thing: it’s magic.

That sounds an awful lot like something another artist said:
“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” —Michelangelo

That’s the hard truth about wanting to be good at something. You can’t expect talent to carry you. Or magic. Or mice that poop gold. You have to do the work. Practice. And then if you are able to produce something of quality, nobody will be able to understand how you did it. Instead of acknowledging your hard work, they will instead credit talent, luck, or an abundance of free time. Let them keep believing in magic. We know the real secret.

I’ll practice writing you a letter again next Sunday. Stay creative.

Your friend,
Copyright © 2020 Adrian Hanft, All rights reserved.

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