Houdini or Houdiniesque?

When you use the term ‘doing a Houdini’ you don’t have to explain. He’s synonymous with escape. Only the most thrilling performers become a verb. Houdini, was perhaps the best known escape artist ever. The etymology of escape is a union of out and cloak. Sometimes magic happens behind the cloak. Other times by dramatic sleight of hand swishing to create distraction and …. I often say we are living in a revolution of revelation — universally and personally as more and more taboos and truths, corruptions and #metoos are revealed; the journey of our lives reveals more and more of ourselves to ourself. And as we ‘out’ ourselves to ourself, we can serve our growth by more fully owning our personal power to offer our gifts in service to the world – more clearly, elegantly and shamelessly.

The brilliance of Houdini was in his skills and his appetite to push his own limits. People would come to his shows to be held in rapt attention as he appeared to risk life and limb. His audience watched him be chained. They gasped as he was suspended, entered the tank, cage, jail and entranced as he wriggled to escape. Look at these audiences. They were enraptured, completely invested, there with him in every moment until he was free again, willing him to escape, to survive. Willing him to succeed, willing him to emerge again as they entered their own fear and anxiety, their desire to breakthrough their own limits, feeling and feeding off the collective tension they were creating to vicariously meet their death and transcend it. (maybe, not consciously of course but unconsciously). Houdini kept pushing the boundaries. Needing to do bigger acts, take greater risks. Pushing our limits is how we grow. We all do this. But are we fully in it like he was? What Houdini did of course was inconceivable for most mortals. It wasn’t normal to want to continuously endanger your life like that. It wasn’t normal but it was mesmerising. His fans loved it and kept coming back. The audiences kept getting bigger. He was the highest paid performer in the US for a time. They loved the vicarious thrill. They came alive in his drama. Exultant in his success. And we all love a good drama. And, we all love a hairy escape. Do you have any Houdiniesque behaviours in your life? What do you push to its limits in your work, your relationships, your health, your physical body? What do you test to see if you can make it through to the other side.

Do you fight with your lover/partner to test their love? Do you leave your projects to the last possible minute before you get started? Do you give yourself enough time to get where you need to be? Do you do your taxes long before the deadline? Do you pay your bills on/after or before their due date? Do you give yourself time daily for your self-care, exercise, to eat good food? Do you squeeze in just one more thing? Do you give yourself plenty of time to prepare for dinner, a date, bedtime? Do you over commit to overwhelm? You see when I started in this online business it brought up all my stuff that I hadn't met in previous businesses. Shyness (who knew :-), fear, shame, not enoughness— knowledge, beauty, wrinkles, presenting. . . . Having a bold or contrary opinion was easy face to face but declaring it publicly to the whole wide world – even if no one was reading; well that wasn’t ‘how we did things’ and bridging the subtle and the material world well that was even weirder to admit. And so I created wisdom rich and rewarding information and tools: blog posts, programs and workshops but no matter how good they were I waited until the last possible minute to tell others about them. I knew when and how they would happen and who they were for but if I never told anyone or directly asked them to sign up (or often enough), well, then how could people join or rock up? For sure, no matter how little notice I gave, people turned up and confirmed the work was mind expanding, and paradigm shifting. I have a plethora of great testimonials to confirm this but by not marketing my work properly or consistently I was not honouring its value and limiting its success and horror or all horrors, unconsciously willing it to fail. If I had followed the well-known marketing processes and practices for letting the world know so their needs, wants and desires and as importantly calendars aligned with my workshops and programs then I would have • helped more people do their great work and • made more money which would support me to do my work. And worse, I realised I not only did this in one area of my life but so many others. Testing just how close I could push it and still ‘get away with it’. Addicted to the thrill of my stress-inducing sabotaging shenanigans. You can’t sell a secret and you sure can’t make your success inevitable by showing up in a half-hearted way. Creatives in particular are actually trained to work this way. They live and die by deadlines. How many all nighters are pulled in the name of great creative work and how many stories of deadlines barely met — the ink barely dry (or click released) before the client sees it. It's a recipe for adrenal fatigue, self-doubt, burnout and never feeling the joy of your work or worthy of the bounty it brings. I saw I was pushing everything to the last minute so I didn’t have to take full responsibility for the results. If I was only half-trying well then I would only half-fail. It was a painful moment to see how Houdiniesque I was but not the full Houdini, in his awe striking, show-stopping, death defying way but in silly pedestrian anxiety and burnout producing habits. It took doing my own shadow work to see this was fear of rejection, of not enoughness and that old soldier and passion killer perfectionism. And f***king hell the result was piss weak less than magical results and the person who most suffering and distracted by my escaping skills was me and the people who could have benefited from my great work. Distracted by less money, less time, less creative freedom and less joy (because I so love to share wisdom and support others in their growth). Instead I created more paralyzing self-doubt, more fear, more self-flagellation, more scurrying to make ends meet. Nothing good was coming from this. So while I was being Houdiniesque I wasn’t being Houdini. What made Houdini the master he was, was what the audience never saw. Behind every great show is planning, rehearsal, review, refinement, practice and more practice so the illusion was perfect. He could focus on being the shining star because he had the technical skills down to the finest of details. Mastery makes it look easy from your local barista, pastry chef, CEO, Creative Director, photographer. The audience never saw the practice and the precision of his process that ensured he emerged exhilarated and more liberated every time. The tension was created and planned, the gasps of the audience and their anxiety was built in and built upon for maximum sensation. Showmanship is vital in every show. It is the projection of every brand. He was a master and the audience were putty in his hands. As the 'performer' your job is to show up and do your best every time with the embodied confidence and panache as though you were just ad libbing. You can be that way because you have mastered your practice. When you know the process so well you can step into the role in reality. You are presence. You are holding space for the client’s experience, holding space for their breakthrough and transformation. But that takes a willingness to do the deep work of owning your fears so you can transcend and integrate them. So before you present, polish your show. If you want guidance and support with that, book a free 15 minute call to explore working with me 1:1 You can find out more about that here.

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