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Don’t let perfection stop you from making your mark on the world

Educated By Design Blog

Don’t let perfection stop you from making your mark on the world

Michael Cohen

There are so many incredible people in both the world of education and other industries that I interface with. I see incredibly talented people succeeding, many times in the very same niche that my work falls into. They travel around the world, they’re sought after and always ranked in “top innovator” articles, and have huge followings and engagement around their work. It’s outright intimidating and sometimes has you doubting yourself and what you have to offer. The truth is that voice in your head is the fallacy of perfection. What it’s doing is preventing you from making your mark on the world, because you’re too busy comparing someone else’s middle to your beginning.

Dont Compare Your Beginning To Someone Else's Middle

In June I had the incredible opportunity to be one of the keynote speakers at the ISTE conference. I want to first preface that while I acknowledge my expertise and good work, this is without question a miracle move from G-d. I believe the one of the reasons for this is that when you do good work, are honest, and desire to help people, then G-d gets you where you need to be. What was trying to prevent that success was the voice inside my head still demanding perfection, and that if I failed to deliver perfection, that I would let down thousands of people.

Michael Cohen, The Tech Rabbi as the ISTE Keynote Speaker

Thinking creatively is full of challenges. There is no way around it. Whether it’s a limit on resources and tools, or location, or even access to collaborators, there will always be some reason that you either aren’t ready to start, or won’t ever be ready to act. One of the most powerful examples of this lies on the world of Youtube and its stars, influencers, and successful creators. When you look at incredible creatives like Marques Brownlee, Peter McKinnon, or Sara Dietschy, you see three talented people with hundreds of thousands to millions of subscribers and views. In short, they get to basically do what they love and get paid for it.

So let’s become a successful Youtuber right? Then after ten or so videos, you might give up or compare yourself in frustration. Why aren't people interested in my work? I must not be creative. I must not be talented. I must not be interesting.

Wrong.

The reason I use Youtube creators as an example is that many people don’t respect or take serious the industry of content creation. If a 6th grader tells you they want to be a Youtuber and create videos around their passion would you have your doubts? I once read an article that a school actually banned students from putting that as their top choice for a career day event. Meanwhile not only is it a billion dollar industry, most other industries are looking at these creators to learn about storytelling, product reviews, how to tutorials, and...

Teaching.

Yes teaching. Most of the successful Youtubers including the ones above are educators. They don’t realize it (or might even deny it) but they are teaching millions of people the whys and hows around technology, media creation, and storytelling and have fun while doing it.

Perfect Is the enemy of done

Students need to believe that they can do whatever they want. We tell them this with dreams of being doctors, lawyer, and astronauts. Today the Internet allows anyone who is passionate and willing to put in the work to find a profession around what they love. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to, should, or even can become a “famous” Youtuber. When you look at the success stories each one of them produced anywhere between 100 and 300 videos per year for at least two years before they reached the level of success that you see when first discovering them and watching their content. Think about that. How many students or anyone for that matter is ready to produce 2 videos a week for nearly 2 years that take hours to produce and get minimal views and engagement the first 18-24 months? That is their recipe. Hard work, persistence, patience, and a never give up attitude. How’s that for another descriptor of what makes a great educator.

I want to emphasize though that it’s not about views or stardome. It’s about value. Those creators provide value because they are talented at researching, planning, actualizing, and refining their communication and literacy skills around what they’re passionate about. You must have exemplary communication skills both verbal, visual, and written to succeed on the world of content creation. I once spoke with a friend who works on the world of advertising. I was telling him about this incredibly entertaining product ad that I can’t remember the name of the company or even what service they were selling but it was still an awesome video. He said to me that is the difference between a creative ad and a creative video. You can have a great script and storyline, and a humorous and ironic tone, yet still create something that doesn’t effectively  communicate the information you are trying to convey and make that the memorable part for your audience. I sat for a moment thinking his words over in my head. I then realized that so many times our students are encouraged to create media content in class and “be creative”, but the core message of the topic is lost in a sea of entertaining fluff. His words reminded me how critical it is to help our students understand how to create a powerful story that is memorable for an audience. Another great antidote of the power of being a strong educator, facilitator, and teacher. These creators thrive because the internet has provided them with a platform where a global audience comes to find value. You don’t have to wait for a college degree, support from a network insider, or a solid resume. You just have to want to create something that provides value for others.

The reason I become an educator was to dispel the myth of perfection. This myth of 4.0+ GPAs, and that school must revolve around a specific set of skills and scope of knowledge that is the universal recipe for success. That approach to education contributes to an “I can’t/You can’t” mindset where the idea of becoming a successful entrepreneur who creates videos that others love to watch is borderline preposterous, yet the idea of becoming a person trained by a spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft is not just legitimate, but admirable.

*Note that aspiring space walkers have around a .1% chance of becoming an actual astronaut.

The fallacy of perfection is dangerous. It can prevent us from giving our students opportunities and instead  prepare them for that “one day”. That one day when they will finally be ready to seize the day and solve a problem or improve society. By dispelling the myth of perfection we give our students and ourselves an opportunity to strengthen our creative thought process, our ability to be proactive and resilient, and to become empathetic and responsible members of our communities and beyond.

My experience at ISTE was a life changing experience, mostly because I did my best to make it a life changing experience for every educator I connected with. There are so many incredible mentors, colleagues, and even critics that I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. If it wasn't for them I might have waited for perfection keeping my work as an educator locked up tight in the four walls of my classroom.

creativity is a mindset not an art set

If I waited for that moment of perfection, then I wouldn’t have:

Started blogging...

Started sharing on social media...

Started presenting at conferences...

Started running workshops for educators...

Started creating flexible learning spaces that weren’t about high priced furniture...

Started developing programing around entrepreneurship that is hard to assess and turn into data but life changing for students...

Started writing a book...

Started to connect with an incredible group of educators, and build a community around creativity and design in education...

There are so many opportunities for each and every one of us.

All we have to do is start.