• Ithaka
  • Posts
  • On Becoming a Wizard

On Becoming a Wizard

The problem of standing in your own way

On Becoming a Wizard

Once upon a time, there was an aspiring young wizard.

His name was Schmendrick, which also happens to be a Yiddish word for a naive overachiever. A schmendrick is a fool, but a comical and likeable fool.

Schmendrick the Magician fit his name. When he raised his hands to work magic, his friends would run for cover. The magic would usually backfire in some awful way.

You can read about Schmendrick the Magician in The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, or watch the movie with the same title.

(Spoiler alert. I’m not going to tell you how the story ends, but I’m about to give away one of the most significant twists in the plot.)

I’m telling you about Schmendrick the Magician because in our shared universe, I have been a schmendrick on many occasions. Then I discovered the same secret our aspiring wizard eventually did.

Let’s start with how not to fix a schmendrick problem.

I teach an online course in how to have adventures. One section of the course is based on a formula to reverse-engineer your most audacious goals.

There are tools that enable you to plot out each step in meticulous detail.

Once you complete this roadmap, you simply follow the steps in order and watch your wildest dreams materialize right in front of you…

Except… Schmendrick.

The whole system rests on the assumption that each tiny action you take will bring about the exact result you expect.

When I first put this course together in 2017, I skipped a critical detail.

How a Schmendrick Becomes a Wizard

Despite his ineptitude, Schmendrick the Magician successfully rescued a unicorn—the last unicorn—from captivity. But that wasn’t the end of their troubles.

Schmendrick, the unicorn, and one or two other companions were soon cornered by a much more powerful and dangerous enemy. It looked like the unicorn was doomed.

In a desperate attempt to save the day, Schmendrick raised his hands, called up his magic, and said something unprecedented:

“Magic, do what you will!”

It was a major turning point in the story, as well as in Schmendrick’s career.

You see, Schmendrick had been stuck in mediocrity because he was always trying to force things to happen his way. He had access to this wondrous power, but he wasn’t letting it do what it needed to do.

Trust the Adventure

Planning is essential, if only because it helps you visualize your adventure.

And the truth is, most of the time you have both hands on the steering wheel. Most of the time, you’re in control.

But when things don’t work out the way you expected, it’s better to let go and trust the adventure to turn out the way you wanted, or to become something even better.

When Schmendrick the Magician let go of his hold on magic, and allowed it to do what it needed to do, he leveled up his ability and status and understanding of magic all at once.

And he also saved the unicorn—the last unicorn—for the second time.

A few years after I made that first iteration of my online course, I had a Schmendrick moment of my own.

Taro Tarot Card GIF by Sagrado Tarot

Gif by sagradotarot on Giphy

I had been carefully following a detailed marketing plan to get more copywriting clients.

I got frustrated whenever I didn’t have time to post on social media, whenever I failed to drop a blog post on time, and even when I was making a video and the cat walked into the frame.

At the start of the pandemic, I let go of trying to control everything. And that’s when the copywriting clients started pouring in. Opportunities opened up right in front of me.

I changed my online course to reflect both sides of the coin. It became a part of the dance with destiny which is often the true nature of an adventure.

Ride the Wave

My wish for you is that you’ll always have a plan, but you’ll also be ready to let your plan go. If you knew every step of the path in advance, it wouldn’t be an adventure.

When your motor cuts out and your boat becomes a surfboard, the best thing you can do is ride the wave.

That wraps it up for this week.

If you’re enjoying these rants, lessons, tools, and talismans, I would love to hear from you.

If you’re not, I would like to hear from you even more.

Reply to this email and tell me what you think, what you’d like to see in the future, or just to drop me a line about your cat.

I don’t always have the time to reply to your message, but I read every one of them.