I started learning magic and mentalism when I was six or seven, but I didn’t become serious about it until after a spontaneous wink at the audience during a high school performance.

When I was younger, I’d practice in front of the mirror for hours honing my skills and I’d perform for my parents constantly. But I never considered what it meant to really perform for an audience. At fourteen, I performed my first real show for a group of about 100 guests. The show began with a simple trick where a spectator picked a card, noted it, and returned it to the deck. As she did, I said to the audience “I have no idea what card you picked.” And in that moment, I could feel that the audience knew, on some level, that I probably already knew what the card was–and they were right. I could feel their skepticism. So I winked; without deliberation or planning on my part. I acknowledged them and I recognized their intelligence. I basically let them know that I knew that they knew that I knew what the card was. I didn’t give up the trick, but I showed them respect. And I instantly had them on my side for the rest of the show. They felt respected, at ease, and they went from skeptical to wanting me to succeed.

That moment was pivotal for me. I learned in literally a blink of an eye the importance of not just practicing in front of a mirror, but listening to my audience. And I further learned that the most important part of being a magician or mentalist is navigating the relationship between performer and audience. This is a lesson I consider to this day when I’m hired to perform as a corporate magician or at a private event–what is my relationship with my audience, and how do I continually show them respect and consideration over the course of our time together. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes for a more engaging show because the audience relaxes and settles into the entertainment.