Learning is a process of trial and error. You try something. It fails. You identify what went wrong. You try something else.

Learning progresses quickly when you can reliably identify what went wrong. The best way to guarantee you'll know what you did wrong is to isolate a single variable. Start with a process that works. Change exactly one thing. If the new process works better you'll know exactly why. If the new process fails you'll know exactly why.

The hard part is "start with a process that works". Suppose you want to be a magician. "Start with a process that works" means "perform a magic trick guaranteed to fool your audience". But if you're not a magician yet then you cannot perform a magic trick guaranteed to fool your audience. You cannot learn misdirection from books alone. You must practice on real people.

You cajole your friends into watching you. You perform a magic trick you read about in The Amateur Magician's Handbook. It falls flat. Why? You don't know. Maybe you goofed up the mechanics of the slight. Maybe your misdirection is mistimed. Maybe you are boring.

Magic tricks are finicky Rube Goldberg machines. The whole deception shatters if you get just one critical component wrong. There is no guarantee you did just one thing wrong. Novice magicians often do everything wrong simultaneously.

A better approach is to learn acting first. Acting is simpler than magic. Actors have to entertain an audience and direct the audience's attention but actors don't have to do it while palming objects and messing with invisible string. Acting involves fewer variables than magic. If you learn acting first then when you learn magic you'll know you're not failing to entertain your audience or direct their attention. If the trick falls flat you'll know it's because you did something wrong that's specific to magic tricks, like goofing up a sleight.

Acting is prerequisite skill to magic tricks. Magicians are a subset of actors; all magicians are actors but not all actors are magicians. It is possible to learn magic and acting simultaneously (I did) but it is more efficient to learn acting first and then magic.

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3 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:26 PM

It's many years since I played a version of Civ, but this sounds analogous to to tech trees.

Yep; lsusr please draw a tech tree of useful skills (including the communication skills mentioned in you previous post). The lines between the skills should somehow reflect how much time it takes to get skill B assuming you already have skill A.

Other options:

1. Perform in a context with low standards, such that even your current skill level generates a somewhat positive reaction.

Examples:
a. be 9 years old
b. do your magic trick for a 2-year-old
c. mention to your friends that you've been working on learning magic, they say they want to see a trick, you tell them it's not very good yet, they cajole you into showing them a trick

Challenges: finding these contexts, having the feedback still be sufficiently correlated with the quality of your performance, finding enough of these contexts to have repeated feedback loops

2. Perform in a context with richer feedback, which tells you how particular aspects of your performance went, rather than just giving a single overall rating of how the performance went on the whole.

Examples:
a. Talk to audience members after the show who can tell you more about their experience ("the trick got me, but I didn't really feel much tension in the buildup to it")
b. Perform for a more skilled magician who also has some skill at training new magicians, and get feedback from them
c. Videorecord yourself performing and watch it to study how different aspects of your performance went

3. Have some models of different subskills or aspects of performing, and some training approaches to work on different ones.

Examples:
a. Read or watch a guide to becoming a musician which breaks things down into subskills & provides training exercises
b. Think about what different subskills are involved, try to build your own models & practice the things that seem relevant
c. Pay attention to your performance as you're performing / as you're practicing / as you're watching videos of yourself do magic, try to notice different subskills or moves within your performance

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