Are You Watching Closely?

The Pledge

“The real secret of magic lies in performance.” - David Copperfield

Magic, while the name of the greatest game ever, in the sense of this article is about making the seemingly impossible possible. I’m no stage magician. I have no Vegas show. Sure I’ve dabbled with prestidigitation, but I’m a rank amateur and even that may be overly kind.

The Prestige” released in 2006 starred Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Sir Michael Caine. In it, Sir Michael Caine plays a supporting character named ‘Cutter’ who has a fantastic quote explaining the three parts of a magician’s illusion:

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige".

In the movie, Christian Bale’s character has an impossible trick which vexes Hugh Jackman’s character, a competing magician, so much that it drives Jackman to amazing lengths to come up with his own version of even greater impossibility. The key illusion which these two magicians battle over has to do with disappearing and re-appearing in another location.

This article is my own version of their trick. My own disappearing act.


“Honey, I can’t do it anymore. I’m putting too much time into it and not enough time into us. I’m pulling the plug. I’m done.”

She took my hands in hers and said, “This is your dream. You can’t pull the plug. We just have to work on your... balance.”

That’s what Katie, then my girlfriend, now my wife, told me back in 2008 during the nascent days of ManaNation.com. Back then “too much time” was a paltry 10-20 hours after work over a few nights of the week after my day job.

That “hobby” which I was ready to pull the plug on in 2008 ended up saving us in 2009 when I lost my job and was hired by CoolStuffInc.com to keep doing ManaNation and work as their New Media Director.

It was a major turning point for me, and the point where the site really began to take off. We went from a few thousand visitors a day to tens of thousands of visitors a day. I had my vision and I poured myself into the site.


I’ve always harbored dreams of working at Wizards. But my repeatedly abysmal failure in the Great Designer Search tests, and in my poor showing whenever I poked my head into competitive play convinced me that there was only one path I would be able to explore as my way into the fortress that is Wizards: Working on the website or working for the Brand team.

Jobs in those departments are rare, I can count on my hands how many times I’ve seen the positions since I started the site. It’s not frequent. But it is a good path, Aaron Forsythe came in as editor for the site, and now he runs R&D. But, I mean what were the chances that that would happen?


The Turn

When word came out that Kelly Digges’ Content Manager position was opening up I got a number of messages from different people.

“Are you going for it?”

“You have to go for it.”

“You should do it.”

I was surprised. That the position was available and that there were that many people who felt that need to reach out to me about it. Opportunity was knocking and the universe was making sure I didn’t have headphones on.

This all coincided with Magic Weekend Philadelphia, making it a hot topic in the “press room.” I admit that I played my hand close to my chest. I didn’t know yet if I was going to go for it or not. But whatever my decision, it wasn’t something I wanted to make a big deal about.

Over the course of the weekend I snagged almost every Wizards employee at the Pro Tour for at least a quick chat about the job and working for Wizards. I tried to get some ideas about what working at Wizards was actually like. What I got was a largely singular voice from all these people saying: “It’s amazing, you should go for it.” I also got some cautionary words, warning me of realities of working at Wizards. It’s a business like any other company, so it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. But... it’s still Wizards.

One of the chats I had was with Ryan Spain (@modogodot), I was especially keen on his perspective as he and I shared a similar journey. He was a community figure known best for his part in the Limited Resources podcast before being hired by Wizards. And sure enough, as I had hoped, our chat was indeed enlightening.

More importantly those chats with Wizards employees, I had a number of phone calls with Katie. The job sounded amazing, a position I was perfect for, but it wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Both of us have largely grown up in or around Central Florida. We have family, friends, jobs. Many things to think about before even going for the job that requires a cross country move.

Katie is my anchor, without her I’d fly away with my head in the clouds dreaming of what might be. Through our hours of conversation we worked through the first round of what-if’s before ultimately deciding that I should go for it.

My job with CoolStuffInc.com is nothing short of amazing. I hustle and I grind round the clock because I love what I do. The people I work with are amazing. My bosses are awesome. I’ve been given basically carte blanche to pursue projects or ideas so long as they are a net gain for CoolStuffInc. That’s an amazing work environment and job description to have.

But...

It’s Wizards of the Coast. It’s been my dream.

So I went for it.

The resumé got pulled out of my Google Docs archive, dusted off and updated. After a review and writing a cover letter which would later be called ‘adorable,’ I sent it off.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in the process. So I turned to a friend who I knew was discrete and had some idea about how this all might go down: Mike Linnemann. I cannot overstate my thankfulness for my friendship with Mike. Mike bore the brunt of my thinking, worrying, wondering, and chattering through this whole process.

Wizards is a corporation. Which means things don’t usually happen fast. I was prepared for weeks without a reply, and then a month before a phone interview. And then I might hear back the next day or it might be three months when they decided who got the job.

That’s what I was prepared for.

What ended up happening was that the process felt like it took off like a jet, approximately 10 days after my application was submitted, I got the first email. And off we went launched from a cannon. Before I knew it I was flying out to Seattle for the interview. It was a whirlwind, one where my wife and I both would be shaking our heads in bewilderment trying to comprehend what was going on.

Perhaps the biggest mental hurdle is the idea of moving across the country, corner to corner. Literally.

We’re in Orlando, Florida which is here:

Wizards of the Coast is in Renton, Washington, which is here:

Traveling between these two places is like this:

Like I said, corner to corner.

I won’t write too much about the actual interview process other than the fact that I met with a bunch of people in a number of interviews. After the interviews were done I called Katie and said, “I think it went okay, we’ll see.” I wasn’t convinced I had nailed it. I can be cocky about interviews, but this one I didn’t dare give that treatment - I had no idea whether I’d done well or if I was just telling myself that.

Once the interview was done, I went into social media lockdown mode. Turned off my Facebook wall, made sure to not tweet anything even remotely suggesting I had been in Seattle. I reminded anyone who knew about the trip that this was top secret. In the world of Twitter, you can’t be too careful in the world of social media.

After being launched from a cannon to start this process, we slammed on the brakes and were left stuck in neutral. A month passed without hearing anything other than reassurances that no decision had been reached and that we’d simply have to “keep waiting.” And I did. Impatiently.

It’s time to announce the news I’m sure you’ve all already guessed.

I will be leaving GatheringMagic to join Wizards as Content Specialist, to replace Kelly Digges and take the helm of the Mothership. I’m beyond excited and also quite aware of the new responsibilities I’m shouldering.

My excitement at this news is tempered by a very real sense of sadness at leaving behind GatheringMagic and CoolStuffInc. I’ve worked round the clock for almost half a decade to build this brand and build a Magic resource website. For two years I’ve worked directly with CoolStuffInc helping the company grow and become more profitable.

I will continue on with GatheringMagic until Dec. 2nd, 2011, continuing my normal routine as well as searching for my replacement. If you’re interested in the position, here is the official job listing from CoolStuffInc.com:

Wanted: Content Manager

CoolStuffInc.com is looking for a dynamic, self-motivated, Magic loving individual with experience and skills in web content management, writing and editing, and basic graphic design to work as the Content Manager for GatheringMagic.com.

The Content Manager will be responsible developing the voice for GatheringMagic, recruiting and working with the writing staff for the site. In addition to writing, editing, and proofreading site content, the Content Manager will also be responsible for crafting site promotions, newsletters, social media and pursuing other advertising opportunities.

Responsibilities

  • Create, develop and manage content for GatheringMagic (using WordPress as the CMS)
  • Maintain a consistent voice for the site
  • Copyedit and proofread all web content
  • Oversee staff writers, guest writers and volunteers
  • Keep current with emerging web technologies through relevant trends in Magic and websites.
  • Track and report on site metrics
  • Work cooperatively with CoolStuffInc employees and development team
  • Be Awesome

Desired Skills

  • Exceptional communication and organizational skills
  • Advanced knowledge of HTML and experience with WordPress
  • Ability to manage multiple projects in a deadline-driven environment
  • Basic image editing skills whether through Photoshop or another graphic editor
  • Proven ability to build consensus and work effectively within a cross-departmental team
  • Bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Technical Writing or a related field, or relevant work history
  • A desire to continue to build an amazing Magic website

Relocation to Central Florida is preferred but not required. If interested please submit an up to date resumé and cover letter to jobs@coolstuffinc.com.

It’s hard to really describe what I’m feeling and thinking. It’s fair to say that my brain is pretty much overloaded with the logistical nightmare that is a cross country move.

In some ways, I feel like a stage magician like Harry Houdini or David Copperfield. I’ve just made the pretty assistant disappear. And now everyone is staring at me wondering what I’ll do next.

I’m about to change venues in a dramatic fashion. I’m going to be learning a new business, a new company, a new website, and a new staff of writers and perhaps most of all, the new rules.

And with all the ‘new’ stuff, comes the realization that my greatest tricks are still yet to come.

I hope you’ll read the introduction again to see it in a new light.