I recently did an interview. Don’t worry! I’ll link to that when it goes live. But anyway, one of the questions in the interview got me thinking, and I have been thinking about this thing very intently for the past couple of days; that is, the prevailing, motivating, emotion that I have when I think about Magic. Once upon a time I mostly cared about winning; so I would say that my prevailing emotion was drive. Today, I am just very grateful to have had Magic touch me. Following are five reasons why…
- New York. I love New York. Which is strange because one of the most horrifying ideas to me is that LeBron James might leave the Cavaliers to come play up here. My wife sometimes asks me what I would do. The answer is that I would probably hole up and not watch basketball for a few years; she was equally horrified that I would not take the kids to see LeBron play at the Garden (both kids love LeBron James). So of course the first and greatest thing I am grateful for is being in New York.
For those of you who don’t know, I moved to New York in 1999 — ten years ago now — to hang out and work at The Dojo for a summer. I was on scholarship in law school at the time. But I ended up liking New York, and I stayed on to become the Editor-in-Chief of The Dojo, then Editorial Director at Psylum, Inc. (the company that owned The Dojo and that was eventually bought by USA Networks). Being in New York was the springboard to my career, where otherwise I would probably have ended up being some Cleveland-based attorney, and I wasn’t really built for that life. But more importantly, I met my wife here in New York, and I have two wonderful children by her, whom, again, I would not have met had I not been in New York… And I only live in New York because of Magic.
In a not-that-indirect way, I owe my family to Magic; my family, one of the only things I love more than Magic. So thanks.
- Notoriety. I enjoy a level of notoriety that probably would never have come to me but for Magic. When I last interviewed for a job, my eventual employers were tickled at the fact that I have my own Wikipedia entry. I have been lucky enough to receive a platform — series of platforms, actually, which includes this blog — that have given me the opportunity to express myself, and to express myself to a great many people. I have lived this way for so many years that I almost don’t know any other way to live my life but out in the open, warts and all, for the most part.
Not everyone has that chance — that freedom — to connect with the rest of the world, especially at scale, and I owe that in large part to Magic. Would I have been able to generate a similar following, or become some kind of expert, publisher, or media figure somewhere else? The answer is probably. I am actually much better at marketing strategy than I am at Magic strategy and I am co-writing a book on advertising and marketing for a major nonfiction publisher right now… But the fact that I might have been able to do something somewhere else does not in any way, shape, or form detract from the fact that the notoriety I do have, I got thanks to Magic. And for that I am incredibly grateful.
- Friends. It was Dave Price (Pro Tour Champion and King of Beatdown Dave Price) who, about ten years ago, first introduced me to the idea that the line was blurring between my “Magic friends” and my “friends” … At some point that line evaporated completely. Every man who stood next to me at my wedding, including Jeff Wu (my oldest and dearest friend), John Shuler, and Tuna Hwa, is or was a Magic friend. None of them really play that much any more, but with the exception of Jeff (who was instrumental in getting me into Magic), I knew them from Magic. Ditto with Jon Becker, the godfather (that is, my son’s godfather), who read at my wedding. Ditto to Matt Wang and Brian David-Marshall, who published my first book, Deckade (buy Deckade at Top 8 Magic!). “Magic” friends any and all. I would hazard that most of my friends are Magic friends, which is largely a function of spending so much time with specific people for specific reasons. For example riding up and down the East Coast with Paul Jordan (I was Paul’s best man at his wedding) and Josh Ravitz (Josh has been one of the most influential people, ever, in my life… I only listen to Rilo Kiley — today my favorite band — because of Josh). I have so many dear Magic friends I don’t mean to exclude any of them by not talking about them in this section. Instead, I just want to reiterate how grateful I am to have them.
- Career. Many people assume I do Magic professionally. I’d say “I wish” … but I don’t really wish that. There are many days that I would rather just do my job than play Magic, which is a rare and wonderful thing that I think most people never get to say (you can substitute their job for my job and whatever they like to do for example sitting around watching teevee and drinking cheap beer for playing Magic). Today I am a Vice President at a great marketing and media company in New York. I think of myself as really good at what I do, and I often get asked to speak about what I do, which I do quite well; I may have already mentioned that I am co-writing another book, this time on advertsing. In a way I feel much more “lucky” than I do grateful, at least with regards to the intersection of my career and Magic. But like just being in New York, I don’t think that I would have been put on the path that I eventually was, you know, put on but for the game.
So instead, I will just rattle off the names of a bunch of my friends, and how Magic may have influenced their careers…
Like Worth Wollpert, my first Pro Tour roommate, now boss daddy of Magic Online. To Worth I say two words: Well, duh.
Or Matt Wang, who used to be one of those buttoned up investment banker / MBA types. Now he basically rocks and rolls with Brian David-Marshall, doing incredibly interesting and impressive things (such as publishing Deckade, which you should buy from Top 8 Magic to show your gratitude)… Matt and Brian met via Magic, honed their eventual professional skills playing Magic, and have a staff of mostly all Magic players!
Or Dave Williams, millionaire poker superstar… Where do you think Dave learned how to play cards?
Or Jon Finkel, now the supreme overlord of a hedge fund. Jon was an English major. Where do you think he got his head for numbers and trading for value?
I can’t be the only one who is this grateful that Magic touched my life and had a hand in my career path.
- Helping Others. I often get asked the same question. A lot. If you’re so good at thinking about Magic, why is it that Jon Finkel can win with your deck and you have never made a Pro Tour Top 8?
Yes, as you can imagine, it can get old, that question (or variations thereof).
Today the prevailing emotion I feel about Magic is gratitude. But once upon a time it was purely compeition, and the idea that I had to prove myself (to whom I am not sure). I was obsessed with “being good” and being clever and being qualified for the Pro Tour.
Somewhere along the line, I think due to my relationships with players like Josh Ravitz, Julian Levin, Matt Boccio, Steve Sadin, Asher Hecht, and Will Price that I simply developed a different criteria for success. It was no longer about my individual performance, but about how I could influence and improve “the world” … even if the world manifested itself most directly through my Apprentice program. I think that some people probably misunderstand what this was or is about… At some point it was definitely about me just being the best deck designer on the planet, and that I could point at Apprentices’ success to prove that. But eventually it became about collaboration, seeing multiple viewpoints and really just making the best decisions for the collective.
Maybe it was about the time I started to become more active with Top 8 Magic. Brian often talks about how the audio format softened a lot of my critics, because that richer format — especially when you have the ability to hear someone’s tone and how they articulate themselves — can help clue a reader or listener in on the intent, or lack thereof… Something that is impossible in print (even when the writer is the world’s most talented deck designer / blogger / video producer / marketer / et cetera). But I realized through collaborations that came out of Top 8 Magic that I could be of more help — more value really — when helping a friend to develop his ideas than simply by hammering my own idea down someone else’s throat (even if it was good). That’s something that manifested most concretely working with Andre Coimbra, but overall it was something that came about over the years thanks to being with everyone from Apprentices long past to Will today.
It’s cool to write “helping others” as a bullet, in italics, but what I am really trying to get at, I think, is that I am grateful for personal change and growth, going beyond the idea that I am the center of the universe, to really serve by delivering good content however I can, whether that is by personal interaction, rich media that mimics that interaction, awesome deck design, collaboration, or the ongoing life storytelling that began over ten years ago and continues on Top 8 Magic and Five With Flores today. Obviously grateful. Again.
Amazingly I have gotten through five reasons to be grateful for Magic… without even once talking about playing Magic. Amazingly!
The fact is, Magic is about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
I would never have had any deck design success or Apprentice program if I didn’t love playing Magic, even for hours on end. I would never have become a prolific writer if I didn’t have a passion for Magic that I could exercise with words. And I would never have moved to New York — even for a summer — if I didn’t like Magic enough that I wanted to surround myself with a bunch of gamer nerds so I could play it 24/7 (which, incidentally didn’t occur). Magic is such a fun, enriching, way to spend your time that it is almost too obvious to be grateful for that. Anyway, we pay the manufacturers for the fun, along the way.
Currently Outrageously Grateful for: Fables Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1