Teacher and coach

Matt Farley is my hero

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.

4 Responses to “Matt Farley is my hero”

  1. bledsoe says:

    Hi Alex,
    Thanks for the clarification. I listen to both “On the Media” and TLDR regularly, and enjoy them both. Keep up the good work.

  2. Alex Goldman says:

    Hi! My name’s Alex Goldman and I’m a radio producer. I actually helped produce this segment with PJ, who hosted it. I know it’s on the on the media website, but the segment is from our spinoff podcast, TLDR. You should check it out! And thank you again for posting it!

    -Alex Goldman

  3. bledsoe says:

    Good for you, Pam! Making a video is really not that hard, and I bet your students would love it. (When kids see you on youtube, they think it means you’re a superstar.) Keep up the good work.

  4. Pam says:

    I love this post. I teach music to a group of children of all ages every Thursday afternoon. I always have an idea to make it better, to help it replace what they are now missing in school. However, that insistent hesitation of will it be perfect always steps in and gives me doubt that they will be interested or the parents will think it is too much coupled with STAR testing and whatever other test the state can come up with to make our days even more frantic and stressed. But how could it be? It’s music! I am going to pinky promise to try a couple of things… and big toe promise to actually make a video someday. But most of all, I am going to try.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by WordPress | Designed by Elegant Themes