Authors note: This began as a piece of inspirational writing for lock pickers, but it kept wandering into the realm of 'life' in general. At some points while writing it I lost track of whether I was talking about picking locks, or picking your future. Rather than abandon the project I persevered - I remembered the MAGIC of communication, and found a SOLUTION. I worked on a few themes and PLAYED with ideas. Then finally, after a few days back and forth, adding this bit, removing that bit, etc it was FINISHED. I hope you enjoy it...
"Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible"
- Francis of Assisi
The fact that you're reading this means you're ready to learn, to be better, to increase your abilities as a lock picker. You've taken the most important step; you've identified an area that interests you - lock picking - and now you're looking to increase your ability in that field. You're looking for knowledge, and as we all know, knowledge is power, right? Not really. Knowledge is potential power - to realize itself, knowledge must be used, ideas must be implemented. It's all about the execution. So sit tight, listen to what I have to say and I promise you'll get better, and you'll get better quicker. This is some promise, right? And yet, it's based on over a decade of experience, of teaching people how to pick locks, of teaching Impressioning, Single Pin Picking, Raking, Lever Picking, Bumping - and more. If you listen to what I say and do the few small things I suggest, you will be a better picker. Picking locks is a metaphor for life, and life a metaphor for picking locks. Let's go!
To understand the successful lock picker's mind, we need to take a look at our own mind, for it is that which we wish to transform. So, first a question...
What are you? OK, that's a bit broad in the time we have here. I'll rephrase it: What are you when you're picking locks? Are you 'killing time'? Is it a 'hobby', making you a 'hobbyist'? Yuk! Are you solving puzzles, are you an enthusiast? Doesn't sound very enthusiastic does it? Competition lock picking is rather generously known as 'LockSport', although in fairness that's probably more to do with beating the clock or the other pickers, rather than any weird athleticism, or finger muscles you may or may not be flexing. So, are you a sportsman? No! Hopefully, if you have any self respect you are none of the above.
Actual real life 'enthusiasts'. Do not be them, it's dull, you are not.
They are all quite vile and anyone who describes their interest in lock picking as a 'hobby' deserves everything they do not get! So the first element of the successful lock pickers mind is: The Magic. Lock Picking is truly magical and you should celebrate it as such. Lock picking, like life, is a wonderful treat, never forget that, and keep your engagement with both, electric!
"Any suitably advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic"
- Arthur C Clark
As a child I was completely hooked on conjuring. My hero was world famous escapologist Harry Houdini and I gave my high school oral examination about his life and act. I did not write it down for I did not need to. I knew it all off by heart, I was passionate about it and passionate about telling people, the ideal combination for such an exam. I smashed it. This is a lesson is passion.
The legendary Harry Houdini. An inspiration to me both as a boy and a man.
My interest in conjuring started long before that, aged about 10 at a friend's birthday lunch at a local burger bar. They had hired a magician and suddenly my friend was called to the little stage. I was so excited. The magician removed 4 large steel rings from a bag and began - amazingly linking and separating these thick steel rings. I was blown away. Right in front of my eyes I was watching solid steel pass through solid steel. At one part of the act he handed two rings to my friend, asking him to copy him as he continued linking and separating them in various ways. I shouted advice at my friend, everything I could think, and he examined and tried and tried and tried - to no avail. As soon as the magician took the rings back from my friend, they were part of the chain of four again, and I was absolutely transfixed. How the Hell did he do that?
It would literally keep me awake at night. I kept notebooks on all the possibilities. I worked with anything I could find like small earrings, ring-pulls, desperately trying to work out the secret. Remember, this is pre-internet - information was scarce, and the two or three 'magic books' in Dartford Library were your standard generic history of conjuring, Indian Rope Trick kind of nonsense. Finally, I managed to save the money and locate a store to purchase my own set of linking rings. And of course, was devastated. It turned out there was a hole in one of the rings and it was all misdirection. Ho hum. I thought I had been conned at first - you know what they say, it's easier to trick someone than convince them they've been tricked. What else did I think it was? Of course there was a gap!
So why tell you all of that? Because I wanted to remind you of that childhood sense of passion...that feeling of true magic. I talk to so many people about lock picking who seem to have forgot what they're involved in. They have pushed the magic of this incredible art to the back of their minds, in a place where it no longer functions. LOCK PICKING IS MAGIC! Remember, those locks, those tiny little cylinders and their tiny little pins and springs. These are often times what separate a man from the world. When you sleep at night, what is is that separates you from the world? How do we secure everything we have lived for, all that we have worked for? What divides our car, our property and our children from the brutal and unpredictable big wide world? A lock, a little lock. And this art of ours, the strangest of pursuits, it transcends those locks. It renders them useless. To become great at this skill requires you keep at the front of your mind exactly how miraculous it is, keep in mind the passion that first got you involved, the magnetism you felt from the idea when you saw it being done for the first time - perhaps in real life, perhaps on YouTube. Something lit a spark in you that caused you to investigate further. You waited eagerly for the post to drop, for your picks to arrive, for the journey to begin. In short - don't let your familiarity with picking weigh you down. Remember that feeling the first time a lock yielded to your trickery. Without the magic, there is no growth.
Stay excited, life's a treat and full of wonder!
FIRST RULE: Simply remember how wickedly cool it is to be able to pick locks.
When I set up a lock impressioning workshop somewhere around 2010 I had the pleasure of meeting world champion pickers Oliver Diederichsen and Jos Weyers. Two very accomplished people in this art, Oliver literally wrote the book on the subject, 'Impressioning' and Jos was the then World Champion competition impressioner. They came over and having invited a load of lock pickers from my then forum we were treated to an afternoon's teaching from the best. On the day I watched Jos Impression and open a lock in under 60 seconds. 52 seconds I think it was. If you don't know, impressioning is a lock picking technique that not only opens the lock but also provides you with a working key as part of the technique. And that in under 60 seconds!
Wanting to know how someone gets so good as something as counter-intuitive and unfamiliar as lock impressioning, I asked Jos how he developed his skill. Brash as ever, this rotund Dutchman in a kilt said in his booming, Guinness-laden voice "I locked myself in a room with a lock, a file, some grips and one thousand blank keys". What struck me was not so much what he said, as anyone can tell you practice is downstream from repetition, rather his expression. This was a man who committed to a goal. It wasn't a question of 'Can I do this?' 'Will I be able to learn' etc. He'd obviously asked himself 'How am I going to do this?' and 'How will I learn' and then successfully answered the question.
Jos Weyers - The man with a 1000 blanks.
Watching Jos and Oli impression locks is a dream to behold. All their efforts have paid off. Such is the depth of their understanding in their chosen field, to see them work on locks is like they've had the chance to shrink down to a the size of a flea and walk around inside the lock beforehand. They know everything they need to know to make the best use of the tools they have. They never asked 'If' they can impression a lock, they asked 'How'. They never asked 'Can I' they asked 'How will I?'
SECOND RULE: It's not if you can, it's how you will.
I made my name with Bump Keys. While the bump key has been around in one form or another for over 90 years, with various patents coming to light from the 20s and 30s, it took someone to have a fresh look to make them the awesome lock picking tool they are today. The shoulder was completely removed, the tip was ground down slightly, and the bump patterns developed. Most importantly was the addition of a dampener. This meant two things: One, that you could better work out where the key needed to be and 'fix' it there, rather than it move about in the lock, and Two - the key could be struck again and again without needing to be reset. Previously it took about 10 seconds to strike the key, fail to bump, remove the key, reinsert it and try again. Now dampeners (and springs) were being used you could strike the key 50 times in the time it used to take for one. And I did all of that.
Detail from a H R Simpson's 1926 patent for a Bump Key device.
These were changes I made, developments I designed, and they are now considered bumping standard the world over. No one bumps without dampeners any more, it would be like playing football without boots.
So the question is, how did I get it right where for decades no one else thought to? The answer is simple: I played about. As adults we tend to observe rather than question rules. Even when playing we tend to observe limits. But this is a surefire way of staying the same. For if you do not allow yourself to transcend limits you will always be governed by their restrictions. Why did I 'play' with the bump pattern? Because I liked the look of them. That is all. That is what we do when we 'play'. I had no fixed scientific design ideas to follow, I just wanted my personal set of bump keys to have different patterns. I was playing about with them. It just so happened, different locks responded differently to the different patterns, and so an area of research was born. To this day our set of three Universal Bump Keys comes with three different patterns, offering you more chance of a successful bump. Worn and older pins respond well to the more steeper angles of our 'V' cut. New or tightly pinned locks tend to respond better to out 'semi-hexagonal' cut, and stubborn tightly sprung pins respond well to the slightly arc-like cut. There were more, there were loads more. I have a set of bump keys with almost 10 patterns.
You can see these Bump Keys have three distinct patterns.
But further playing about rounded it down to the most effective three, and their praises are sung to the present day. The dampener was much the same. I first started using a pencil eraser, just holding it there as I struck the key. With the lock set in a door I realised I could hold the eraser in place and strike repeatedly at the key. Removing the shoulder meant I could hold the eraser in place with a spot of glue from a glue gun - and the Dampener was born. So when learning a new technique, or when using your new set of tools. Learn what people who came before you have done, for sure. But don't limit yourself. Play is the start of threatening the limits of your enclosure, transcending your enclosure is what makes something 'new'. Being proficient in a field makes you an professional. Contributing to a field makes you an innovator. Only experimentation can move you beyond what you know.
THIRD RULE: Experiment with your picks and locks through play. These are your tools, not your rules.
I'm always puzzled that people laugh at Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sure he has a funny forehead and a stupid voice. But hey, so what. Let's have a look at the man's achievements. He arrived in the USA aged 21 with almost no grasp of the language. He then went on to become a world famous millionaire for weight-lifting, something no one else had previously done. He milked it dry with sponsorship, endorsements, his own books, products and TV appearances. He then went on - with little or no actual acting skills - to become one of Hollywood's most famous and well-paid actors, leading the cast in one of the most successful movie franchises of all time, Terminator, as well as starring roles in many other classics such as True Lies, Commando, and Total Recall.
Silly maybe, stupid, no chance.
Not satisfied with all of that he then went on to serve two terms as the Governor of California. Wikipedia calls him an 'actor, producer, businessman, investor, author, philanthropist, activist, politician, and former professional bodybuilder.' - all with references and hugely successful at all of them. To laugh at this man is insane, he is a glowing story of dedication and success.
Then there's Uri Geller. Another man of much ridicule and laughs. But please, step back a moment. Not too bright, quite odd to look at, this man managed to travel the world, hang out with royalty and Hollywood A-listers, he had the CIA ask him for training. He is a celebrity in nearly every developed country in the world and is worth millions. How? By perfecting an old magic trick. ONE TRICK. He pretends to bend spoons. Just think about that. And it hasn't been a flash in the pan. He'll still turn up on TV now and again, getting people to concentrate on their old watches. Man, he even claimed responsibility after the fact for moving the ball just before David Beckham fluffed his penalty kick.
Who'd have thought this simple trick would have you rubbing shoulders with royalty, celebrity, and various presidents? Uri Geller, that's who. Amazing.
Now, these are two incredible stories, and I would advise you to read up on both of these interesting and inspirational people. Because what we don't see or hear about so much is the times they thought it wasn't worth it. The times when - as it always will - their confidence failed. The moments when it seems the whole world is against you and nothing is working for you. The times when you need to stand up, dust yourself down and start again. The days when you have to find the motivation from somewhere, anywhere, even when it seems there's none available. In short, you only get what you want when you choose - and that's key here, when you CHOOSE not to give up.
FOURTH RULE: Never give up.
You see, lock picking is a perfect metaphor for life itself. A lock is a series of problems and to pick it you need to find solutions. You can dwell on the problems, you can get lost in the questions. Or you can embrace solutions and start providing answers. Be successful at picking locks and you'll be successful at life. The rules of the game are identical. In summary...
ONE: Lock picking and life are truly magic. Never forget this.
TWO: Never ask 'if you can' - ask 'How you will'
THREE: Never stop playing - experiment
FOUR: Never give up - keep going.
NOW - I have a TREAT for you.