I absolutely devoured this profile of Teller (of Penn and Teller fame) from 2008 that John Gruber posted on Daring Fireball earlier this week. There is so much to glean about craftsmanship, the creative process, collaboration, and respecting your audience—just the things I think about most!
The profile centers around Teller’s exploration of a 100 year old trick called involving a simple red ball and they actually reveal how it’s done, yet still surprise people. I love how hard and how long Teller worked to perfect it; he’ll spend hours on an empty stage after a show getting it just right. He says:
When the theater is empty I like to go out on stage. It’s lonely and beautiful. I look at your empty seat and think about you being in it. … Then I practice. I often practice stuff you’ll never see. For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a hundred-year-old trick called the David P. Abbott Ball. It is a very, very hard trick, almost like juggling. I put in an hour almost every day. I try to get the tricky moves so deeply into my muscles and brain that I can forget I’m doing a trick. Soon I’ll know whether the ideas I have for this trick are possible. But I won’t know that till I learn all the moves and invent my own. If the trick doesn’t work out, you’ll never see it, and I won’t be sad. I had fun every second I was working. I love the stuff you never see.
This obsession with his craft makes it obvious how he became one of the masters in the field, yet he is never satisfied and is always thinking about how to improve, perfect, and add to:
[R]ather such total dedication to craft and art in a Las Vegas show causes me to admire the incredible focus Teller still has on improving, revising, thinking over this one brief trick. More than two years since he first began playing with the Abbott ball, he is still professionally obsessed with it and he loves every moment spent practicing and pondering improvements. How long will this last? Near the end of his lecture he says, “In six months or a year, it will start to settle into my bones. … In 10 years it’ll be perfect.”
And then the piece ends with a great quote from Teller that made me want to jump right out of me seat:
I am never bored. I never understand people who say they are bored. I wish they could just wrap up those hours and give them to me.
Me too, Teller. Me too.