Push Through “It’s Done”

My wife’s late Grandfather made cabinets for a living, and he was extremely well-regarded for his craft. When my mother- and father-in-law were cleaning out his shop, they made sure to keep the very large sign in his shop that read: “Good Enough Just Isn’t Good Enough.” I am reminded of that by¬†Tim Holt, who shared this amazing video of artist Kyle Lambert creating a photo-realistic finger painting of Morgan Freeman. Tim writes:

Have you ever wondered just how far one could go with an iPad? This guy did. Check out his incredible Morgan Freeman finger drawing. makes [sic] you wonder how much our students could do if given the right device huh?

–Tim Holt, holtthink.tumblr.com

When watching this, a whole different line of questions came to mind for me: when is it done? It looks like Morgan Freeman pretty early on in the video. It gets incredibly detailed even halfway through. Look at the tiny edits that Lambert makes towards the end– watch his work on the eyes alone. When would our students have stopped and “turned it in?” When would it have been “good enough?”

Artists, athletes and creative-class people internalize that “Good Enough Just Isn’t Good Enough.” For these people, the heartache sometimes isn’t putting in the 285,000 brush strokes and 200 hours– it’s sending it out the door without putting in the next 3,000 strokes that really could have made the nose even better. I don’t know Kyle Lambert, but I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one part of that painting that he looks at and thinks it needs a touch more polish.

The message for me out of this video is to push through “it’s done” into “it’s great.” We’ll be talking about that in class tomorrow morning.

What do you see in this? How do you coach students (or yourself!) to put in the time necessary to make work not just complete, but great?


Update Dec.6: Just after I posted this, I learned that Nelson Mandela had passed. With this post still fresh in mind, it seemed only appropriate to post this from Mandela’s autobiography:

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered that after climbing a great hill one only finds there are many more hills to climb.

–Nelson Mandela, “Long Walk to Freedom”

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