The Chocolate Scale: Why Mediocre Things Still Impress People

Ever had this experience? You see a show (or read a book, or see a film, or whatever) that you think is pretty average. It may not be horrible, but there's nothing particularly special there, and there are other shows you've seen that do the same thing far better.

Someone else, on the other hand, sees the show and raves about it, praising it as being original and/or the best they've ever seen. Many performers find this frustrating and confusing. "How can you possibly enjoy that show? It's a generic unoriginal mess."

It can be hard to explain what's going on here, because many people don't really know much about magic or other performance arts. Almost everyone however, understands chocolate. So let's look at this in terms of what I usually call the chocolate scale:

On the left you have the low quality mass-produced stuff that's only really good for cooking with, and on the right you have the truly spectacular hand made artisan stuff from master chocolatiers in Belgium who create things that aren't so much chocolate as pure mind-exploding pleasure distilled into a small brown package.

If we make an analogy to magic, for example, the cooking chocolate is your uncle doing a bad card trick, and the Belgian stuff is someone like Armando Lucero performing his Coin Menagerie. Obviously the scale is subjective to personal taste, both for chocolate and performance art, but the basic concept of a quality scale still holds.

Now, thought experiment time. Imagine someone who's never tasted chocolate before. They've heard people raving about chocolate and how great it is, but they've never tried it themselves. They happen across some cooking chocolate, taste it, and really can't see what all the fuss is about. "This is chocolate? It's a bit shit." It's not their fault. They've never experienced anything better. As far as they know, this is what all chocolate is like.

When most people think of magic, they're usually judging it on the cooking chocolate end of the scale. They've seen magicians before, who were statistically probably pretty dreadful. It's understandable that they might dismiss the whole art form as the same. But quite frequently, for any one of several reasons, someone who either hasn't seen magic before (or has only seen bad magic) will come along to a show despite their preconceptions.

And that is why it is so damn important to treat every single show as significant and worthwhile. There is a good chance that someone in your audience is about to judge an entire art form by what they see you do.

It's not fair, and it's not reasonable, but that's how most people's minds work. On the plus side though, it can be an amazing opportunity. If you can give a cooking chocolate person their first taste of Lindt or better, you are about to completely blow their mind.

And needless to say, this doesn't just apply to magic. There are plenty of people on the low end of a chocolate scale in businesses, relationships, and all kinds of other areas, just waiting to have their horizons broadened by someone who pays due care and attention to the metaphorical chocolate they make.


(Photo via Flickr user Siona Watson, licensed under Creative Commons)



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