9 Lessons That Teachers Can Take from Mr. Beast

What does the world’s most successful YouTuber have to teach students and teachers about creativity, learning, and education?

Meet Mr. Beast, the most successful individual YouTuber in the world. With 140M subscribers on his main channel and dozens of other channels in operation, Jimmy Donaldson’s life has been defined by his creative work on the platform.

His videos earn billions of views annually across multiple languages, and his first retail products have met with mind-numbing success.

The scary thing? He’s only 24 years old.

I have questions.

As an educator and creator, I’ve been intrigued by Jimmy’s story for some time.

How does he view formal K-12 and college education?

What’s his approach to learning and creativity?

What can we take from his story as creators, learners, and educators?

Several videos and documentaries later, I’ve got some answers and takeaways to share. Some surprises, too.

1. Extreme learning guarantees extreme results.

“I would say since I was eleven years old, almost every waking hour of the day I’m thinking about YouTube in some form or capacity.”

Quote and Image from How Much Money MrBeast Makes | The Full Story (Graham Stephan)

One thing that becomes quickly apparent in Jimmy’s story is his absolute obsession with learning more about the YouTube platform and the art of video production.

It’s manic. It’s compulsive.

He’s been continuously learning about YouTube content creation for over 13 years and he just refuses to stop.

It’s a kind of frenzied focus that we’re not sure we’d recommend for our own students or children. As educators, we’re in the business of developing the whole child, but to hear him describe it, Mr. Beast-style obsession doesn’t leave much room for other life priorities.

Still, Donaldson seems to have a good relationship with his mother and brother. He has a girlfriend and enjoys long-lasting friendships. He’s a renowned philanthropist and seems driven by opportunities to help others. Balanced lifestyle or not, the world could use more Jimmy Donaldsons.

There’s a clear takeaway here: extreme learning leads to extreme results. Mr. Beast’s level of obsession isn’t the path for everyone, but there’s a powerful principle at work here that is worth emulating.

2. It’s still possible to start at zero and become a master artist.

“I had no idea what worked. I had to teach myself everything.”

Quote and Image from How Mr. Beast Became Successful on YouTube (PowerfulJRE)

Watching Donaldson entertain millions of global viewers each month, you might be forgiven for guessing that he grew up in wealthy suburbia, enjoyed the stability of a nuclear family, attended elite private schools, or was given the financial resources to acquire cutting-edge equipment as a teen.

That’s where you’d be wrong — on all counts. He enjoyed none of those advantages.

He started at zero.

Jimmy grew up in lower class neighbourhoods of Greenville, North Carolina with a single mother. His first computers and cameras were giveaways from friends and family — some of the lowest quality gear possible. He never attended a formal course or received specialized training.

He’s entirely self-taught. He scratched and clawed and experimented and failed and learned and failed again and learned some more to become the creative genius that he is today.

He’s another testament to the 10,000 hours hypothesis popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. Put in 10,000 hours at just about anything, and you’ll become an expert.

It’s an incredible story, and the takeaway is powerful: you don’t need a single external factor or advantage to become skilled in a creative field.

You don’t need a head start. You just need to start.

3. Accelerate your growth by learning with others.

“Most of my growth came after I graduated high school. Basically what I did was somehow I found these other four lunatics … We were all super small YouTubers and we basically talked every day for 1,000 days in a row and did nothing but hyperstudy what makes a good video, what makes a good thumbnail, what’s good pacing, how to go viral. We’d just call them daily masterminds … We were very religious about it. That’s where most of my knowledge came from.” How Mr. Beast Became Successful on YouTube (PowerfulJRE)

Image Source: Forbes.com

Think carefully about what he just described.

A group of teenagers decided to collaborate — in person and online — every day.

All day, every day. To learn.

And when he says “all day,” he means it. Jimmy describes connecting with his friends on Skype in the mornings and remaining in the calls for literally the entire day.

Daily masterminds. For years. That’s a lot of learning in community.

Here he describes why this level of collaboration is such a powerful hack.

“It’s like, if you envision a world where you’re trying to be great at something … and it’s just you learning and [messing] up and learning from your mistakes, in two years you might have learned from twenty mistakes. Where if you have four other people who are also messing up, and when they learn from their mistakes and they teach you what they learned, hypothetically two years down the road you’ve learned five times the amount of stuff. It helps you grow exponentially way quicker.” — How Mr. Beast Became Successful on YouTube (PowerfulJRE)

He’s right, of course. This perspective matches everything we know about the powers of collaborative learning, peer assessment, and the iterative design process.

Simply put, more brains are better than one brain. Accelerate your learning by learning with others.

4. For significant results, action is everything.

“Like, the entire room is a huge LEGO fort. He was intense, and he was passionate about what it was that he was working on at the time.”

Quote and Image of Jimmy’s Mother from The Origin and Rise of Mr. Beast (Curiosity Stream)

We’re all creative beings. For many, the trick is simply to identify their passions, unlock them, and give them the opportunities they need to blossom and flourish.

And by “opportunities,” I mean taking action. I mean creating. Publishing.

This bit about action isn’t automatic. Lots of people have dreams and ideas of creative work. But few people act on them.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes: “This is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

I like the scene of the little LEGO builder told by his mother in the excerpt above, because it gives us a valuable snapshot of Mr. Beast before YouTube.

He was a builder. He was an experimenter. He was a creator before he was online.

From LEGO to videos to businesses, Jimmy has had the courage to bring forth the treasures hidden within him.

His creative passions have led to consistent action.

And when it comes to results, action is everything.

5. Proficiency requires resilience through adversity.

“Every night before bed, I’d just be like, it sucks. It’s a lot of work. And I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, but if I just do it long enough, eventually it will click. Eventually, I’ll figure it out.”

Quote and Image from The Origin and Rise of Mr. Beast (Curiosity Stream)

Every successful creator has experienced discouragement and dark days.

Days when nothing seems to be going right. Days when it seems like the only ones who even see the work are laughing.

They’re going to happen.

Most creative spaces require considerable investments of time, patience, and focus in the face of difficulty. Quality content — regardless of the medium — doesn’t happen just because you’re present.

Mr. Beast doesn’t talk about his lows often, but listen to his story enough times and you’ll realize that he’s dealt with more than his share of adversity.

From equipment fails to editing disasters to dismissive comments to the theft of all of his gear, there were many moments when he could have thrown in the towel and moved on to other hobbies.

But he refused to let problems, setbacks, or failures defeat him. Refused.

And fifteen years later, he’s enjoying the results.

6. Failure isn’t just something to survive: it’s an essential part of the creative process.

“Just fail. A lot of people get analysis paralysis and they’ll just sit there and they’ll plan their first video for three months … Your first video is not going to get views. Your first ten are not going to get views. So stop sitting there and thinking for months and months on end. Get to work and start uploading. All you need to do is make 100 videos and improve something every time. Then on your 101st video we’ll start talking about maybe you can get some views.”

Quote and Image from MrBeast: Future of YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram | Lex Fridman Podcast #351

In Mindset, Carol Dweck taught us the importance of a growth mindset in learners of all ages.

Those with a fixed mindset view new learning and potential failure as a threat to identity. If X doesn’t go well for me, it will mean I’m dumb or a loser or both.

In contrast, those with a growth mindset embrace the challenges of X precisely because it represents new territory. Failures are interesting to those with this mindset. Failures are viewed as opportunities to learn.

“Make 100 videos and improve something every time.” For me, that’s the key phrase in the quote above.

Yes, we will make mistakes in the creative process, but that’s actually the point. Austin famously took six tries to draw a butterfly, but he never would have achieved proficiency without trying for the first time.

That’s the beauty of content creation online. There’s literally infinite ways [to improve]. Every little thing can be improved and they can never not be improved. There’s no such thing as a perfect video.”

Weightlifters welcome muscle failure because it means they are pushing their limits.

Creators should be no different.

Try, fail, learn, and improve one more thing every single time.

7. Traditional schooling isn’t a required path to success. For some students, it’s the obstacle.

“Even in high school, I never once studied. I literally wouldn’t even take my books home. I legit don’t think I studied once for all of high school at my house … I didn’t have the best grades … I hated school with a passion, but [my mom] forced me to go to community college. That was the worst thing ever. That made me hate life, like borderline suicidal. I just can’t stand having to just sit there and listen to this dumb stuff and listen to some teacher read out of a book.” — How Mr. Beast Became Successful on YouTube (PowerfulJRE)

Image Source: Tubefilter.com

As a committed educator, this one hurt.

“I hated school with a passion.”

“That was the worst thing ever.”

“That made me hate life.”

Mr. Beast doesn’t hold back when it comes to his school and college experiences.

Listening to this brought up all kinds of questions for me.

Did he ever enjoy any of his teachers in K-12 education?

Did he ever get any opportunities to experiment with media creation in school?

One thing becomes crystal clear here: the traditional K-12 school experience is not a required stop on the highway to success.

And by “success,” I’m not just thinking of financial freedom, although Mr. Beast certainly has that. I’m thinking of self-actualization, the ability to cultivate quality relationships, becoming a contributing member of society, and the practical power to make the world a better place.

Mr. Beast is just one of millions of creators, entrepreneurs, and leaders who didn’t need traditional education and never once saw value in it. He saw school as something to survive, to outlast, to get away from.

As a teacher, this is a little discouraging. But I also find it liberating.

You know that seventh grader who refuses to finish assignments and obsesses endlessly about creating games on Roblox? Yes, do what you can to push, support, and hold him to high standards. Encourage him, love him, let him know that he belongs and that he matters.

But once you’ve done all that, don’t lose sleep over him.

Chances are, he’s going to be fine.

8. Creative work can thrive where friendships fail.

“I was really shy, especially when I was younger. I really didn’t like being around people … Outside of sports, it was just literally YouTube. That was all I watched. No one in my school watched videos, so I kind of just felt like an outcast, ’cause I was just hyper obsessed over it.”

Quote and Image from The Origin and Rise of Mr. Beast (Curiosity Stream)

“I kind of just felt like an outcast.”

If you’re a teacher, you know these kids.

They’re present in our rooms and in our halls. But they’re disconnected. And as much as we try to do to include them, connect them, love on them, and help them engage in the life of our learning communities, we’re not always successful.

Here’s the thing. Friendships and relationships are incredibly important. But they’re not everything in a child’s life or development.

The story of Mr. Beast reminds me that in the absence of busy social lives, some students will dive deep into creative pursuits. I find that comforting.

Where does that leave me as a teacher? No, I can’t actually make middle schoolers build deep friendships with other middle schoolers.

But I can get to know the creative impulses of my students. Curiosity and encouragement from adults that students know, like, and trust can go a long way to fan those flames of passion.

We’re not giving up on relationship-building. But just maybe, while some of these students struggle along, we can help them develop a life-giving world of creative work that will boost their self-confidence, define their identities, and introduce them to others who think like they do.

In a world of obsessive gaming, vaping, drugs, and TikTok consumption, the path of creative work can be one of the healthiest for our students to walk.

Let’s cheer them on.

9. A creative life is a fulfilled life. Take time to create.

“If I’m not creating, then I don’t feel fulfilled, I don’t feel like I’m progressing, and I feel like I’m wasting my time.” — How Much Money MrBeast Makes | The Full Story (Graham Stephan)

Image Source: Variety.com

Adobe released a report in 2022 that confirmed what many of us already know: the more we create, the happier we feel.

Every human being has a creative impulse inside of them.

I do. You do. Everyone we know does.

Fulfillment in life comes in many forms: meaningful faith, family, friendships, generosity, gratitude, service, and alignment between values, identity, work, and play.

For an increasing number of people, including Mr. Beast, fulfillment is also found in creating.

There are a couple of important takeaways here for educators.

One is to weave as much creativity into our instruction as possible. Give students the tools and opportunities to design and express and create multimodal representations of their learning. There are a host of good reasons to do this.

The second takeaway is more subtle, and I don’t want to pile another should on already-tired teachers. But here it is.

Do you want to go from burnout to on fire as a teacher? Try taking some time to indulge your creative side.

Explore. Experiment. Draw. Write. Photograph. Speak. Share.

Punch fear in the face and hit publish.

When you share your creative work with the world, you’re giving us all a gift.

But you’re also developing yourself. You’re taking another step toward self-actualization. You’re building confidence and competence with every rep.

You’re hopping on an upward trajectory that will make you a better educator and increase the value of what you have to share with the world at the same time.

Creative work is fulfilling.

Mr. Beast’s story makes me sad and glad at the same time.

As an educator, Mr. Beast’s story is both saddening and inspiring. He’s experienced phenomenal creative success despite his education experience, not because of it.

School fail.

But his story has a lot to teach students and teachers about the nature of learning and creativity. Whatever your role in education, there are powerful lessons to be taken from his journey.

Self-directed learning. Collaboration. Resilience. Multiple iterations of work. Excellence. Generosity. Finding joy in the creative process. These are all values and practices that are easy to see in the journey of Jimmy Donaldson.

From student to teacher, classroom to district, we could all use a little more Mr. Beast.

The Tech Rabbi (Rabbi Michael Cohen): Creativity, Design, and Innovation in Education

Rabbi Michael Cohen (The Tech Rabbi)

Who is The Tech Rabbi, Michael Cohen?

RABBI MICHAEL COHEN is a designer, educator, creativity instigator, podcaster, YouTuber, speaker, and an Apple Distinguished Educator. He’s also the Director of Innovation at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys High School and the author of Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential.

⭐️ Use the timestamps below to jump to specific parts of this conversation in YouTube. ⬇️

05:09 – It’s story time! Please share with us about a low moment or an experience of adversity that you’ve faced in your teaching or education career, and describe how you overcame it.

08:54 – I can’t say enough about your book, Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential. So many good directions we could go here, and it’s been fun to hear you discuss your ideas chapter by chapter on your podcast. But let’s start with this quote:

“We want our students to believe that they have the ability to create something incredible, but for that to happen, they must experience the freedom of authentic learning. Our students must be allowed to take risks and be given the space to experiment, fail, and try again.”

Can you talk more about what you mean by authentic learning? How can school leaders and teachers move their practices and thinking in this direction?

12:15 – You also wrote that “I believe that creativity is a mindset, not an art set.” I love that quote because I hear the growth mindset there – the ideas that our identities and capacities to learn are not fixed, that we all have creative capacity.

What is your word to students and educators who have decided that they are not creative people?

16:39 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice next year? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?

19:55 – Outside of education, what’s another area of learning for you? What is it that ignites your passions outside of the classroom and brings you alive as a human being? Tell us why this area interests you and why you enjoy it.

20:38 – Share about one personal habit or productivity hack that contributes to your success.

Voices and resources that spark Michael’s thinking and ignite his practice:

On Twitter

EdTech Tools


1. What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 – 10th Anniversary Edition: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World by Tina Seelig

2. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brene Brown

YouTube Channels


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Song Track Credits

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Education Blog Reviews: Livia Chan, Rachelle Dene Poth, and More

In this unique episode, education bloggers and writers were invited to share their blogs for a free and LIVE review. Many responded – so much so that it will take an additional one or two shows to finish this round of reviews. The collaborative learning was rich as host Tim Cavey analyzed 12 different education blogs for content, design, navigation, stickiness, and the About Page.

  • Content: What does your site offer?
  • Design: Is the site appealing and easily accessible?
  • Navigation: Is it easy to get around?
  • Stickiness: Is it easy to subscribe, connect, and follow?
  • The About Page: Does it properly represent the creator in Google-friendly language?

Blogs Featured in This Show

  • 1:13​ – EduCalc Learning by Nora Wall
  • 7:20​ – Chromebook Classroom by John Sowash
  • 13:57​ – Mike Washburn by Mike Washburn
  • 20:50​ – Diving Deep EDU by Matthew Downing
  • 28:58​ – Learning as I Go by Rachelle Dene Poth
  • 34:51​ – Livia Chan by Livia Chan
  • 41:01​ – Authenticity in EDU by Karen Caswell
  • 48:28​ – Nicole Biscotti by Nicole Biscotti
  • 54:55​ – Saved by the Beldin by Allie Beldin
  • 1:05:08​ – RockNTheBoat by Laura Ingalls Steinbrink
  • 1:12:43​ – He Gave Me A Melody by Melody McAllister
  • 1:18:24​ – Grow Creative Thinkers by Jason Blair

Catch the Next Teachers on Fire Roundtable LIVE

As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTubeFacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Twitch at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!

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AnnMarie Thomas: Playing, Learning, and Making

Meet Dr. AnnMarie Thomas

DR. ANNMARIE THOMAS is the director of the Playful Learning Lab, creator of Squishy Circuits, author of Making Makers, co-founder of OK Go Sandbox (co-PI), and a professor of Engineering and Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas. Dr. AnnMarie has also given a number of TED Talks and was the 2020 recipient of the international LEGO prize.

Questions That Guided Our Conversation

3:34 – Let’s start off by digging a little deeper into your work at the Playful Learning Lab. What is your mission and vision there, and what does your work look like? 

7:36 – AnnMarie, in response to schools closed by COVID-19 in recent weeks, you recently co-created the The PlayLine Resource Guide, which provides play-based activity ideas and hosts supportive digital meet-ups for educators. Can you tell us more about the thinking behind this resource? Who is it aimed at, and what can educators expect to gain when they visit the site? 

13:15 – We also need to touch on your receipt of the $100,000 2020 Lego Prize for your work dealing with how children learn through play. How did you earn it? Tell us more about the work LEGO is doing in this regard.

16:40 – As you look across your professional learning network and your own practice, what else is setting you on fire about education and learning today?

19:19 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice next year? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?

21:13 – Share about one personal habit or productivity hack that contributes to your success.

Voices That Spark AnnMarie’s Thinking and Ignite Her Practice

Connect with Dr. AnnMarie

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Song Track Credits

  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*
  • Species by Diamond Ortiz
  • *tracks courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

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We Write for Life

The more reflective you are, the more effective you are. — Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

Last year I read Sparks in the DarkLessons, Ideas, and Strategies to Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in All of Us by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney.

Wow. What a powerful and inspiring book.

If you’re passionate about literacy, about promoting the place and pleasure of effective reading and writing in your classroom, I strongly recommend this title.

I said “in your classroom,” but one of the things that comes across so powerfully in Sparks in the Dark is the fact that literacy must be a lifestyle.

To be genuine, to be vibrant, to be contagious — reading and writing must spill out of our personal lives.

And this goes for all teachers — not just those who teach English Language Arts. As educators, as thinkers, as lead learners, we must model a life of constant reading and writing.

Literacy is Breathing

If we say that communication, creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking are the core competencies at the foundation of today’s education, we must practice what we preach.

In an age of digital amusement and easy-everywhere distraction, we must show our learners what it looks like to mentally breathe. To stop, be still, and practice the acts of mental inhalation (reading) and exhalation (writing).

One of the most important reasons that we write is to know ourselves. As Don Murray says, “You write to discover what you want to say.

It sometimes feels like the act and art of self-reflection is a vanishing habit. But we must show our learners that these practices are essential aspects of living a healthy and productive life.

When Our Reading Lives Are Shallow, So is Our Teaching

Speaking especially to educators, Crowder and Nesloney write “We prioritize what we value, and when we do not value reading or learning, it shows. Our instruction is a mixture of what we have read, and when our reading lives are shallow, so is our teaching. It isn’t an insult; it’s the truth.”

We cannot be effective educators if we are not regularly reading and reflectively writing.

Becoming a Writer

To those who feel defeated by identity before they even start (“I’m not a writer”), James Clear describes his own evolution as a writer in his recent book, Atomic Habits.

You may not be a reader or writer today. But you can and will become one — one paragraph, one page, one article at a time.

So pick up a book. Grab a pen or sit down at the keyboard. Score some small wins, and begin the gradual process of redefining yourself.

Start breathing.

Because the more reflective you are, the more effective you are.

person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug
Image Credit: Green Chameleon on Unsplash