“I guess what they say is true: teaching is the best way to learn something.”
That was from a newsletter that Jeff Goins recently sent out, and I couldn’t agree more.
When I sat down to create my first online course a few years ago, I listed out step-by-step how I achieved writing success.
I divided everything up by modules. I thought about how to make it easy for students to finish. I put myself under unneeded stress wondering whether any of it would be confusing.
But most of all, I learned.
I learned so much about writing from teaching it.
I analyzed so many articles, so many headlines — and I started to see all sorts of patterns that I never saw before.
Here’s why you need to consider teaching whatever it is that you think you’re an expert in.
You’ll Realize You’re Not That Much Of An Expert
First, you’ll realize you’re not as knowledgeable as you might think. Yes, maybe you’re successful, but you’ll find there’s a lot of ways to go about it in your field.
Take Baseball, for example. There’s a lot of different ways that pitchers can throw a baseball. Some throw side-arm. Some throw over the top. Some throw submarine style and bend their arms into shapes that arms quite frankly shouldn’t be bent into.
What works for one pitcher would not work for the other. The key as a teacher is to educate your students about all the possible ways they can find success. Cover all the bases. Give them everything.
And in the process of researching everybody else’s style, you’ll realize your knowledge is actually quite limited.
You’ll Start To See That Only A Few Things Really Matter
What’s good writing?
Good writing is stripping away everything that doesn’t need to be there. Good writing gets to the point. While the ideas may be complex, the writing itself should be simple — easily understood.
There’s a difference between the terribly boring, overblown research papers written by extremely educated individuals and the writing of Stephen King.
One is straightforward and the other meanders through gigantic words and grammatical quicksand.
I’ve realized since teaching writing that success with this is actually pretty simple. Like the 80/20 rule, 20 percent of the work is responsible for 80 percent of the results.
When someone sends me an article, there are only two or three things I look at: I look at the headline and how they space out the article. That’s pretty much it.
I don’t really care if their article has little to do with their headline. I don’t try to work with them to strengthen their argument that much either.
I mean, I care about that obviously, but most of the time when I edit an article the author does a good job thinking (and writing) clearly.
If I read the article until the very end then guess what? I’ve forgotten the headline by that point. And if the article gradually takes me through a sound argument, then my brain forgets a lot of the small details that so many writers and editors tend to focus on.
But I’ve realized since I started teaching that there’s so much unimportant crap that people make a big deal of or ask questions about, when in reality there are only a few things they need to focus on to succeed.
Mastery is a process in which things get more simple in your mind, not more complicated. That’s what I believe.
You’ll Help Other People
Obviously this is the biggest benefit to teaching. It goes without saying, but to see my students succeed, even in a small way, brings me a lot of joy.
You’ll Become Much Better
It’s weird that teaching can be considered a method for self-improvement.
Self-improvement is all about getting things done, right? And isn’t there a saying that those who can’t do, teach?
Both of those sentences aren’t entirely true.
Teaching forced me to look back on my journey as a writer and helped me resurrect some of the things I used to do. I also got to study some of my peers and learn a boatload from what they did, too.
There’s a difference between taking a course and making a course. Making a course requires heavy research. This research and creation process made me internalize everything in ways I never could’ve done just by writing.
It made me significantly better because of it.
How Can You Teach?
You don’t need to sell something to teach. Here are a few free ways you can teach:
- Write a detailed blog post
- Make a free email course
- Give a free webinar (with no sales pitch at the end)
- Start a podcast
- Post on LinkedIn
You can also offer paid options when you get really comfortable (and good at teaching) like online courses and coaching sessions.
Some creators even offer in-person retreats. That’s some high-dollar stuff right there.
At any rate, I suggest everyone tries their hand at teaching. It’s a great way, ironically, to learn.
Get a few free writing tips from me here.