One of the questions I’m often asked is if I ever get nervous performing in front of large groups of people. After all, approximately 75% of people suffer from a fear of public speaking. The answer is, well, yes. But not for the reason you think.
When I was a kid, I had severe social anxiety. I had a difficult time interacting with people, from classmates to teachers. My ideal day was sitting alone, reading a book or pretending I was living in my own imagination. Because of that, it was hard to make friends and build relationships. The idea of conversing with anyone beyond my immediate family was an impossibility.
This was the definition of my childhood, at least until my family moved from Michigan to Texas when I was just ten years old. I was attending a new school with new people. More importantly, this was an opportunity to do more. Be more. This is when I was first introduced to magic. I remember watching Criss Angel perform his famous levitation over the Luxor Hotel & Casino on his television show, Mindfreak. It was that video that inspired me to perform. That night I ran to my closet and dusted off the magic kit my grandparents had gifted me for my seventh birthday and proceeded to throw together an off-the-cuff magic show for the kids in the neighborhood the next morning.
It was from this pivotal moment that I began to study everything I could about the art of magic, eventually learning the fundamentals of sleight-of-hand from a YouTube channel that not only taught magic but also social dynamics and how to interact with people. I started using what I learned to break the ice with classmates and meet people in ways that I never had.
That was when I felt my confidence grow. My shell was breaking. I continued to practice, perfect, and perform my material for friends, family, and classmates through high school. I began performing for open mic nights in front of larger crowds and even auditioned for America’s Got Talent in 2015! Can you believe it?!
Fast forward nearly ten years and I now make my living performing card magic for some of the world’s biggest companies, entertaining tens of thousands of people a year. Never did I imagine, as a kid, that I would be able to travel nationwide doing what I love. And to be honest, I still do get nervous every time I walk on stage or work in a banquet hall filled with 4,000 people (true story!). But I’m nervous because I’m excited. As Adriana Lima says, “if you’re nervous, that means you care and you want to give your best.”
I want to give my audience the best possible experience when I perform. And when people truly enjoy what I can give them, it’s a reminder to that little kid growing up in Michigan that nothing is impossible.
In the world of magic, performers are presented with an array of props and tools to choose from, each capable of weaving its own narrative. Amidst this landscape, I have made a deliberate and passionate choice—to perform exclusively with nothing more than a deck of playing cards. In this post, I'll share the reasons behind my decision to dedicate myself to card magic and the remarkable journey it has led me on.
MASTERING AN ART FORM
For me, the decision to focus solely on card magic is an ongoing commitment to the mastery of sleight-of-hand. I'm captivated by the intricacies of card manipulation, the subtle sleights, and the endless possibilities that a deck of cards offers. This deliberate focus has allowed me to refine my skills, gradually unveiling the true depth of this craft.
PORTABILITY & SPONTANEITY
Although I spend most of my time performing in formal settings, the allure of being able to perform magic at a moment's notice is undeniable. By exclusively working with cards, I've embraced the freedom of portability. A deck of cards is compact and ready to create wonder wherever I go. This spontaneous element adds a new dimension to my performances, enabling me to surprise and delight audiences in unexpected settings.
With cards as my medium, I've come to appreciate the power of storytelling and presentation on a profound level. The absence of elaborate props encourages me to delve deeper into the art of communication. Every gesture, every word, and every interaction takes on newfound significance, forging an intimate connection between me and my audience.
ENDLESS CREATIVE EXPLORATION
Contrary to any perceived limitations, card magic is boundless in its creative potential. The seemingly simple deck of fifty-two cards is a canvas waiting to be painted with routines, each one offering a unique blend of mystery, emotion, and astonishment. If we look at classic effects in magic, it's easy to correlate their premise with an equally astonishing effect using playing cards.
Linking Rings (Cards or Deck through Table)
Coins Across (Cards Across)
Color-Changing Silks (Color-Changing Deck)
Cups & Balls (Ace Assembly)
$5 to $500 (Turning Kings into Aces)
Endless Chain (Three-Card Monte)
This endless variety keeps me constantly engaged, pushing me to explore classic and uncharted territories of magic.
CELEBRATING SKILL AND ARTISTRY
In an age where technological marvels often take center stage, my choice to exclusively perform with cards is a tribute to the timeless allure of pure skill and artistry. Every shuffle, every flourish, and every manipulation becomes a testament to the countless hours I've dedicated to honing my craft. This dedication is a personal journey that resonates deeply with audiences seeking genuine connections through wonder. When an audience truly appreciates my performance, then I know that those hours of study and practice weren't for nothing.
My journey as a card magician and sleight-of-hand artist is a deeply rewarding one. It's a journey of mastery, spontaneity, storytelling, creativity, and the celebration of pure skill. Through this choice, I've found a sense of purpose and a canvas through which to share my passion with the world. As I continue to explore the endless horizons of card magic, I invite you to join me in celebrating the elegance, simplicity, and everlasting astonishment that reside within the delicate embrace of a deck of playing cards.
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Max Zawacki is a professional sleight-of-hand entertainer who has performed for Fortune 500 companies nationwide, headlined at prestigious venues, and showcased his skills on major media outlets.