In karate training the number one quality of a black belt we look at when promoting up the ranks isn’t how high they can kick, or how many boards they can break. It’s how well he or she can teach others. I believe a pro-active teaching mentality pays dividends to anyone. It is not limited to just a martial arts context.
On the dojo floor we use the term “obligation” in regards to the necessity of teaching, but simply saying “the importance of teaching others” captures the spirit of this for any environment or situation. So, why should you teach?
If you are not teaching, you are not growing.
Are You an Expert?
There is a whole argument going on right now across the internet related to defining what an expert is. The ability to teach demonstrates a thought process of how well you understand something and can explain it to others. While being able to explain something well doesn’t make you an expert, if you can’t explain it or do it in a way where others can take action on it, it’s likely you don’t know what you are talking about. Or you haven’t put yourself in a publicly facing position to be able to articulate something. I don’t mean just be putting up a blog post (although that’s a good start and very beneficial). You need to go eyeball to eyeball with someone to get the full meaning of this. It’s not necessary to be an “expert” to teach.
Giving Back Brings Confidence
I am not covering the relatively obvious altruistic point of helping others. I’ll take that up in a future post. What’s not obvious is that most people that do share information (and I see this around the web a lot) don’t view themselves as teachers. They should. I don’t mean this as a way of demonstrating you superiority, just recognition to you that you have something to offer. One of the primary purposes of teaching is to build confidence in yourself and it’s a major part of why we do it in a martial arts context.
Advancing Your “Art”
The other major part of this is to further advance the overall body of knowledge of whatever topic you are discussing and to do it selflessly. In this sense you are sharing with others, just as much as you are teaching. We all see a lot of this around the web, notably in blogs with topics like how to sell, write better copy, do SEO, be a better cyclist – whatever your “art” is. Sharing Knowledge is one of the 6Elements, giving back to others through teaching. It’s connected directly to the tag line of this blog “Be Your Own Master” which is no accident.
Stop Learning and Start Teaching
A slightly provocative statement perhaps, I know. And I don’t mean “stop learning” literally – this is a life metaphor. I once had a PhD student that trained in karate with tell me he thought he needed to take one more class (he was an electrical engineer) in college before he felt he was sufficiently prepared to go out on his own. I told him to knock it off and not take the class and instead start teaching others. He didn’t need one more class, he just needed to get going. All I am saying is that if you are hung up on learning more, you probably should take a break and go out and teach something for awhile. Whether that is with a co-worker, a group of colleagues, or even just with your kids. This can be done subtlety; it doesn’t need to be framed as a way of your superiority over someone else. Share something that is important to you, why it is so and some steps on how to do it. You can also do this through your blog, and many do. That is a form of teaching but I really mean getting in front of others where you are put directly into a position of thinking through what you are teaching “on the fly”.
I’ll talk more about the mechanics of specific ways you can teach regardless of your situation in future posts. And a lot of this will deal specifically with teaching opportunities that present themselves in personal situations (read not through a blog).
If you are not teaching, you are not growing. You really need to teach. You can still learn by being a student to others, but taking a pro-active role in communicating concepts, ideas and methods really supports personal growth and development.
The actions we take in everyday life are no different than the ones Black Belts train by on a daily basis. You have an obligation to teach others. So tell me, are you teaching?