WoW 036: On teaching and the path to mastery [Words of Wisdom]

If you want to become an expert and pursue mastery, there is a way to get there.

Here are the three steps to mastery: learn, practice, and teach.

First, you learn something, and it's theoretical while you see, hear, and read about a concept or a skill.

Another way to learn is simply by doing. Without a teacher, simply experiment. Try things out. You don't need to go to school or have a mentor to learn. You can get started and try things out immediately. Sometimes we limit ourselves by waiting for someone else to teach us instead of jumping in and trying something out.

Then you practice it. You put your learning to the test and repeatedly do the thing you just learned. Your theory begins to become a reality, and you inevitably learn more.

You might have learned something once, but can you do it again? Repeatedly practicing the skill or implementing what you learned in a new context requires deeper learning, understanding more nuance, and new skills.

Then you teach it. You help others learn the theory and implement the practice.

Teach your:

  • resources - videos, articles, books, recipes, etc.
  • tools
  • questions
  • passion
  • ideas and concepts
  • skills
  • curiosity
  • values

Teaching keeps you learning. When you teach, if you are not clear in your thinking or if your ideas are poorly formed, it will become apparent to you and others. So teach in order to learn.

Teaching improves your communication. You don't deeply understand something unless you can articulate it well, and you haven't mastered teaching it until you can communicate it simply.

To teach something well, you must prepare diligently, and you will likely only teach a fraction of what you know on the topic. You always learn more when you teach what you know.

Teaching keeps you accountable. When you teach, you will get feedback. You'll learn if your thinking is clear. You'll hear from others what is helpful, meaningful, confusing, or boring.

The more you teach, the more variables you are exposed to because you can see other people going through the learn, practice, teach cycle. You will face more variables and gain more insight as you prepare and get feedback from those you teach.

If you want to influence others, start teaching. Teaching is a form of generosity. Giving knowledge, resources, and skills to others is one of the most generous things you can do for them. It is a way to empower your community and shows that you trust and respect them. Compellingly share your passion, and you will profoundly influence those around you.

If you want to free up your time, teach others. If you slow down and take the time to teach others on your team or in your life, you will empower them to do what you once did and free you up.

The best teachers are still practicing. Once you reach a particular skill or knowledge level and you've gained success as a teacher, it can be easy to stop practicing your skills and fall back on your experience. But the best way to learn is to cycle through the learn, practice, teach cycle continually.

The biggest problem experienced teachers have is that they can forget what it is like to be a beginner. When you develop advanced knowledge or skills, it's easy to forget what it was like to suck at something. If you forget what it is like to be beginning to learn a new skill or concept, you will not be clear enough in your teaching. Break things down into small components and you'll be more clear.

Mastery is about practicing the fundamentals, so you must know the fundamentals and always be practicing them. Continue to work on teaching the most basic fundamentals and you will improve as a teacher.

What prevents you from teaching? Two apparent things stand in your way: a lack of people to teach or limiting beliefs.

You don't need an official role or title to teach. Teaching opportunities are all around you if you look for them. Many people want to know what you've known for a long time or even just begun to figure out.

Too often, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you must already be an expert before you teach. Think of yourself as a learner who is sharing what you know.

And it can make it less intimidating if you think of teaching as simply sharing what you are in the process of learning.

Teach individuals, small groups, and large groups. Each is a different format and requires different skills. If you have been teaching individuals, try teaching small or large groups to continue growing your teaching skillset. If you've been teaching large groups, focus on individuals, and your skills will improve.

Share what you know as you go, and you'll grow on the path to mastery.


"A good teacher does not teach facts, he or she teaches enthusiasm, open-mindedness and values."

Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscrete Thoughts


Who can I teach today?

Do I have a regular process for sharing what I know?

What can I do to grow as a teacher?


The teacher learns more than the student. Pursue mastery by learning, practicing, and teaching.

Live wisely,


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