As South Africa’s top mentalist, Larry Soffer knows a thing or two about successfully pursuing an unusual career
The average person will completely change their careers between five and seven times during their lifetime.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a fresh new start but what happens when you decide to pack up your normal nine-to five and opt for an utterly unique career that not many have heard of.
As a magician, illusionist and mystery-conjuring extraordinaire, Larry Soffer knows a thing or two about choosing a career that is completely off the beaten path.
Daring to believe in both the possible and impossible is the very essence of who Larry is; to inspire audiences of all ages and backgrounds to follow their dreams and be, and do, better so they can create a beautiful future.
He shares his five top tips on how to choose the career you have been dreaming about and make a success of it – even when others around you may think otherwise.
Prepare for pushback
This is especially important if you are a youngster, about to embark on your first job. In this case, grandparents, parents, friends, and teachers will usually be the ones putting the most limitations on you, purely because they want you to be safe and secure in your job.
It might also be that they failed at pursuing their dreams and now want to unfairly put that on you.
They may suggest that you have a plan B to fall back on if things don’t work out, but that is already setting you up for failure as you’re already thinking negatively.
Pursuing a career other than in magic was not an option for me, and I started experimenting with the fascinating realm of mystery when I was five.
Even though I have been reading minds and bending metal for over 27 years, people still get very confused or surprised when I tell them what I do for a living.
They often ask if this is something I do on the side of an ordinary job. They just cannot believe that I make a successful living from being a mentalist.
If I had given up the moment someone had questioned my career choice back then, I would never have accomplished what I have, nor been as happy or as successful as I am now.
Have realistic but high expectations
Starting a new career in an unknown field is not going to be easy.
You won’t necessarily be able to rely on a stable income for a few months and you may fail at many things, many times. It is important to remain persistent though, and not let small setbacks hinder your growth and success.
As with anything in life, including your career, you must keep fighting for what you want to achieve.
Honesty is so important here; be candid and objective about what is working and what is not, and then be willing to improve on that.
Some things will also be completely out of your control, so you will need to be prepared to get creative and find ways to tap into your resources when things are not going your way.
The pandemic was an especially harsh kick in the guts for performers, but rather than wallowing in self Pity, I did some brainstorming and was able to put on a world class, fully interactive virtual show. Within four to eight weeks I was struggling to keep up with bookings.
I was doing more shows, albeit virtually, and performing in more countries during the lockdowns, than I had in my entire career.
Turn negativity into positivity
Developing a thick skin is crucial if you don’t want to let comments from others affect you and deter you from reaching your goals, no matter how weird and wacky they are.
I have always tried to use the negative comments as fuel to fire my positivity and drive. My grandparents used to hate it when I told them that I was going to be a magician.
They would get upset and tell me I must become a lawyer or something similar.
I was quite cheeky as a child, and it became my life’s mission to tell them at every opportunity I had that I was going to be the world’s greatest magician like David Copperfield. All the negative comments just made me want it more.
Don’t be afraid to take the leap
While I have never had any other job other than being a magician and mentalist (I started performing kids shows when I was just 13 years old) I do know other performers who transitioned from a so-called ‘normal’ career to their dream one.
Usually, the transition is gradual, with people doing part time work in their spare time to build their reputation and client base and only taking the plunge once they make enough money. However, I think it is much more beneficial to completely switch over in one big brave go as a bit of fear is a good motivator to push us towards what we want.
Put in the work
We all know the famous saying of do what you love, and you’ll never work a day but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in any work whatsoever.
Ever since I graduated from The College of Magic in Cape Town at the age of 17, I have never thought of myself as a struggling artist hoping to get gigs here and there.
I have always actively worked as if I am running a business, completing courses, and further reading as well as learning about things like sales, pitching marketing and branding.
Putting in the hard graft now will ensure you consistently grow and are able to adapt and change with the times.
When I started performing professionally, there was still dial up internet and Facebook didn’t even exist so you can only imagine how his business has evolved over time.
The most important thing is to remain steadfast and committed. Keep learning about your chosen field, the competition, the economy and your clients or customers.
Don’t also be afraid to promote and keep putting your business and brand out there. After all, you are your best advocate.