It is tempting at the outset of your online endeavor to try and make things “perfect”. Editing and re-editing every blemish, every hiccup, and every mistake. Perfection is crippling, and if you don’t deal with it quickly, then you might give up. This would be a tragedy because you have the ability to help people.
I am a classical musician, and in our world the advent of recordings, more specifically edited recordings, has given rise to unrealistic expectations of perfection from performers. Much like the photoshopped images of men’s and women’s bodies in magazines that send ripples of doubt and unnecessary shame throughout the world, our perfectionism has prevented many musicians from presenting themselves to the public with confidence and individuality.
Don’t let perfectionism hold you back from helping people with your teaching.
The funny thing is, and this really applies to any of the great artists that we admire, it is the courageously imperfect that make an impact.
It is the artists that allows their personality, their idiosyncrasies, and their quirks to shine through that we admire. It is counter intuitive, but if you allow your true self to shine though your work online, then people will be drawn to you. The right people. Your people.
Perfectionism seems to me to be an extension of the human need to please people. The truth is, however, that if you try and please everyone, you will end up pleasing no one.
When I was a youngster, living back in Sydney, I was having a tough night after bartending. A fellow co-worker was upset with me, for what, I have no idea. As I was going home on the train, one of the older bar tenders listened to my woes and rolled his eyes.
He said, “Simon, you are not going to like everyone in the world and not everyone is going to like you. So deal with it.”
For an early 20 something, this was the beginning of a revelation to me, and I am still trying to remember that advice. Ten years later, in the early days of my online teaching, I was back in Sydney, and I randomly bumped into the same old friend. I told him how much that advice had meant to me over the years, and he smiled. He said, “Ok, then I have some more advice for you”.
“About ten percent of people will love what you do, ten percent will hate it, and the rest simply don’t care.”
This was (again!) incredibly liberating for me and very applicable to my online teaching. I have passed on this advice to several people, and I would like to show you why this is so important to your online teaching.
Apart from liberating you and allowing you to create content that might feel less than perfect, this little breakdown of our global audience alerts us to the fact that there is a specific group of people with whom we actually want to work.
If you put yourself out on the internet as something that you’re not, you are going to attract people who are not really your people. This means that your work is going to be a lot harder.
When I was studying, I would practice for long hours each day. I often received comments about my practice hours and people would say that I was “such a hard worker”. But it didn’t feel like hard work to me. In fact, it didn’t feel like work at all. I was doing what I was passionate about and I would do more if I could!
If, however, I spent that same amount of time doing menial tasks (I think some sort of Sisyphean library cataloging task would be a good example) boy, would that be hard work.
The same goes for building your audience. If your audience comprises of people who are not a good fit, it becomes hard work because you have to be someone you are not.
So, we are coming to the clichéd conclusion of: Be yourself.
This somewhat millennial infused idea is true to a great extent online. It means that no one can imitate what you do, because they are not you. It means that no one will explain concepts the way you do, it means no one will resonate with your audience the way you do, and it means that all the work you have ahead of you (and there is a lot) will not feel like such hard work because you will find being you comes naturally once you give yourself permission.
Take action right now and write down three lists of:
- what you enjoy
- what you do well
- what people would pay for
These are the ingredients for a venn diagram. The overlapping components are what you should teach and how you should teach it.