Matt Farley is my hero

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by bledsoe on January 29, 2014

If you've never heard of Matt Farley, you need to. He's a guy who's been writing about a hundred songs a day (you read that right) since 2008, and made $23,000 last year as a songwriter via royalties from iTunes and Spotify.

Matt writes and records songs about almost any topic you could possibly imagine; household appliances, car horns, shoes, wormholes, conspiracy theories. If you have 12 minutes, you should totally listen to this podcast from NPR's "On the Media," in which Matt talks about his songwriting and his relationship with his fans. (If you go to the 7:52 mark, you can listen as Matt writes a song for the interviewer to give to his stepmother as a Christmas present.)

I identify with Matt really strongly. I have a bit of musical talent, and have spent a fair chunk of my life playing and singing with various musical groups in my spare time. When I was younger I tried my hand at songwriting a few times but I always gave it up pretty quickly, for one simple reason: my songs weren't very good. I didn't realize at the time that that wasn't all that unusual; not every song someone writes is going to be a blockbuster hit, and it makes sense that to get good at songwriting you're going to have to write a few before you start to get the hang of it. But I only wanted to write "good" songs, and I was a little embarrassed by the poor quality of my songs, so I decided I wasn't any good at songwriting and I quit doing it.

Fast forward a few years, and I find myself a high school math teacher and I discover this teaching model called "flipping the classroom" which I decide to try. So I start putting some of my class lectures on video and I discover that, much like my early songwriting attempts, my videos weren't very good. They weren't horrible, certainly, but they definitely weren't great. Some were too long, some were confusing, some had mistakes in them. Plus it just felt really awkward and uncomfortable putting myself on video.

But this time I decided, perhaps like Matt Farley, that I was going to make them anyway. And if every single video wasn't awesome, that would be okay. And maybe if I kept making them, I'd get better at it. And maybe my students would find them helpful, and maybe even some other people would find them helpful.

And it turned out that's exactly what happened.

I suspect that there are people, maybe lots of people, who see one or more of my videos and think to themselves, "Well, they're okay I guess, but they're not great." And yet, rarely does a week go by that I don't have someone (a student, a parent, another teacher, etc.) who tells me how much they appreciate having my simple videos online. Students use them to learn about a math topic they're struggling with, parents use them to help their kids with homework, other teachers use them to get ideas for their own classes.

I'm gonna just go ahead and say that if you're deciding not to do something because you're afraid you won't be very good at it, then I think you should try it anyway. Nobody's good at anything the first time they try it, but if you don't go through the "not being very good" stage, you'll never get to the "being good" stage.

I don't know if Matt Farley will ever win a Grammy or write a song that becomes a huge hit, but that's not really the point. The world is a better place because Matt Farley writes 100 songs a day and puts them online for the world to hear. And he reminds us that, very often, before you can do something really awesome, you first have to just do something. Even if at first it's not that good.

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