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.
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.