Why You Should Teach Along The Way

Photos by  Andre Rucker

Photos by Andre Rucker

This past weekend I went down to Philadelphia to teach my first official custom lettering workshop! I wanted to take this weeks post to reflect and share a few quick reasons why I am going down this unexpected path.

I'm sure there's a chance that when you found this blog post, you thought to yourself, "No way, I can't teach. I'm not an expert."  Here's what I learned though.

Teaching solidifies what you already know

When I was preparing for last weekend, I decided to create a section of my presentation that covered an abridged history of the alphabet, going all the way back to Egyptian hieroglyphics. This is stuff that I learned about back in grade school, but doing the research and sharing that knowledge was surprisingly refreshing. When I shared this history, it helped me to better understand and appreciate the significance of what we do with letters every day. This also rings true for techniques and processes. As you share them with others, you will learn too.

Personalized feedback is 10 times more valuable than general advice

If you are not feeling confident about teaching through a blog or running a class/workshop, that's totally understandable. I wasn't ready to do that for my first few years. Though if it is of interest, you can still share your knowledge directly to other people through one-on-one interactions. This can be friends around you or even to strangers through social media / forums.

When you can tailor your experience to someone else's specific situation or problem, the advice becomes so much more valuable.

You'd be surprised how many curious people there are out there asking questions. You just need to search for the opportunities. 

Photo by  Andre Rucker

Photo by Andre Rucker

But what if you haven't mastered your domain yet?

I don't claim to be the best lettering artist out there, and I am certainly not a master of my techniques. However, I was lucky enough to learn from a professor in college named John Langdon who had incredible command over his skills. Without his teachings I definitely would not be where I am today.

Still, there was part of me that felt like an imposter up there, leading a room of Graphic Design alumni through my process. I thought, "Is it wrong to teach if you are not a master, yourself? I've only been doing this professionally for a few years."

This reminded of an article I recently read. The overall thesis was that you should be careful not to confuse popularity with skill level. Just because someone has a lot of followers or attention on their work, does not mean it is good. I totally agree with this, but here's the thing:


Most of the true masters are too busy working to teach everyone.

Ideally we should strive to learn from the best sources but not everyone is ready to comprehend the advanced level of nuance that people like John demonstrate. Yes, you can and should still study his work and the work of other masters, but sometimes people just need somebody they can relate to.

There are people out there who are one or two steps behind you, and they want your help.

It can sometimes be hard to relate to those masters who have been doing their thing for decades. They are so far beyond that they probably don't remember what it's like to be in your shoes. After all, we shouldn't be taking everything we read/learn as gospel anyway, regardless of the source. Not everyone can be correct, so it's healthy to have a bit of skepticism.

Sharing the process will add so much value to your work and your brand.

We are living in a time where most people are just as interested in the process as they are in the finished product. When you give people that behind the scenes look, you are not only attracting more eyes, but you are effectively teaching how to you made it.

Photos by  Andre Rucker

Photos by Andre Rucker

We are all still learning.

Most people overlook this, but the professors, teachers and leaders we learned from in school are actually still students themselves. To stay relevant and helpful in this age, everyone must be constantly evolving their curriculum and trying new methods. It also helps to only focus on teaching things you are actively practicing. 

Teaching/sharing will position you as an expert.

This is not to be taken lightly. If you are going to share your knowledge, make sure you are only sharing the things you are very confident in. Your favorite teachers may not be in school anymore, but they are still reading, watching, listening, practicing and observing the industry.


It feels darn good to help people

Lastly, I'd say teaching is worth it just for the rush of adrenaline that you get from sharing and seeing others benefit. Everyone will teach differently. This means It's even more powerful than most gifts – because it's a gift that only you can give.

Go give it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Teaching will help you solidify your own personal beliefs.
  • You can teach people and help using what you already know.
  • Popular work ≠ Good work.
  • People who are one or two steps behind you want your help.
  • Not everything works for everyone. It's normal and expected to approach both teaching & learning with a bit of skepticism.
  • Share a bit of your process next time you share something you made.
  • Help people just for the fun of it.
Eric FriedensohnComment