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Atlanta Magician – Mentalist – Speaker Joe M. Turner | News and Comments from the Chief Impossibility Officer

Posts Tagged ‘skills’

Foreground, Background, and Perspective

Posted by Joe M. Turner | on May 23, 2011

Amazing Randi Face Vase Illusion

The Amazing Randi
Face Vase Illusion
created by Victoria Skye

Last week I tweeted: “Hobby Lobby: where others see a craft store, I see a magic shop!” My friend Jeff Glaze (of MostCool Media) commented that he sensed the beginning of a blog post on perspective. Turns out he was right.

A major theme of my recent writing has been that reassessing and recombining the skills and resources that you have right now can uncover new, creative ideas and capabilities that you never suspected you had. Part of the process of finding the new capabilities is to change your perspective.

There are dozens of familiar optical illusions where different ways of looking at the image produce vastly different interpretations. One of the most famous of all is the face/vase illusion in which the contours of two faces in profile create the boundaries of a vase. By alternating your perspective with regard to which parts of the image you consider to be the foreground and background, the image looks like either a vase or like two faces. (The illusion was developed by Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin in 1915, and you can find out more about it here.)

The optical illusion to the right is a variation on the face/vase theme. It was created by a magic friend of mine here in Atlanta, Victoria Skye, and features the face of famous magician and author James Randi. Victoria’s illusion was used as the background art during one a recent performance by Mr. Randi, and a photograph of that event appeared in an article in the May 2011 issue of Scientific American Mind. Victoria’s creation is clearly visible in the photo, but alas the article is not available online. Fortunately she agreed to share her creation with me and gave permission for it to appear on my blog. (You can contact Victoria to find out more about her illusions and impossible objects by emailing her.)

Whichever version of the illusion you view, it illustrates my point with regard to giving a new look to the skills, interests, and activities that you may have neglected, ignored, or completely forgotten about over the years. By putting some attention on those things that you have considered part of your background, you can cause new things to suddenly pop into the foreground.

Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby: Craft store and Magic shop!

Hobby Lobby looks like a craft store because art-and-crafters have a specific idea in mind about the use of the objects they find in that store. Thread and fabric, various adhesives, different varieties of wooden blocks and rubber balls and silk flowers… these common items have uncommon impact when their properties are applied in ways that the manufacturers probably never contemplated. Putting those contours in front of a different background emphasized different attributes and uncovered new capabilities and applications. Because I know that, Hobby Lobby doesn’t just look like a craft store; it also looks like a magic store.

Your skillset is much the same. By looking at your combination of skills and occasionally putting emphasis on skills you might have left in the background, you are likely to find that the labels you have put on yourself are woefully insufficient to describe the true and expanding depth of your real capacity.

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Your Hidden Skills

Posted by Joe M. Turner | on April 11, 2011

I recently had the opportunity to perform a skill I didn’t even know I had until a few months ago.

I was at home after a conference where my presentation had included a performance of a staggering mathematical demonstration using an array of numbers which combine in a series of surprising ways.  I use this impressive demonstration of memory and lightning calculation to illustrate and emphasize a few key points depending on which keynote I’m delivering, and it is always a topic of conversation among the attendees afterwards.

Anyway, I had returned to  Atlanta and was playing the piano – one of my favorite ways to relax.  The piece I was playing that day was Robert Schumann‘s Romance in F#, Opus 28 No. 2, to which I was introduced by my college piano professor Dr. Geraldine Collins.  (Incidentally, I owe Dr. Collins much love and gratitude for using this piece to help me learn to appreciate the subtleties of tone and dynamics at the piano.)  The Romance in F# is a wonderful piece of music, and as I played it my mind drifted back to the recent speaking engagement.  I discovered that afternoon that I could perform the required calculations to present the mathematical demonstration… while simultaneously playing the Schumann.

“This,” I thought, “is the nugget of something special.”

Atlanta Magician and Mentalist Joe M. Turner performs his "Schumann Square" in Nashville.

Atlanta Magician and Mentalist Joe M. Turner performs his "Schumann Square" in Nashville.

Last week I had the opportunity to put this in front of an audience for the first time, while performing on a magic cabaret show at a Nashville theater.  While I’m still working on the overall staging, I can tell already that this could become a signature piece.  (If you’re in the Nashville area, you’ll get another chance to see this unusual performance piece on May 3; keep an eye on my Facebook page for details.)

One reason I have always liked my number grid presentation (even sans piano!) is that I often use it to talk about combining our skills and resources in different ways to achieve our goals.  When we face change or challenge, we may have to call upon multiple skills and experiences to reach our desired goal.  It may mean a team has to change to combine skills and talents differently, but it can also mean that an individual has to combine his or her own capabilities in ways they’ve never imagined.

Even though I don’t know you, I am convinced that you have amazing skills and capabilities that you don’t even know about.  They lie hidden in each of us, buried beneath layers of negative self-talk and false preconceptions about the nature of creativity.  Why am I so certain?  Because nobody else on earth has the specific combination of skills, experiences, and observations that you have.  Every person is, in the most meaningful senses, a “diverse” individual.  Even people who share common experiences perceive those occurrences as individuals and bring their own interpretations to what they have seen and heard.

Because nobody has precisely the same skill-set and experience-set that you have, nobody can replicate the combinations that you can produce.

When is the last time you tried combining two seemingly unrelated skills?  Did you have an interest as a teenager that you could try combining with what you do now?  How does your hobby inform your professional life, and vice versa?

Experiment with combining your interests and skills in unexpected ways.  You may discover the nugget of something special, too!

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