Teach What You've Been Taught

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” - Annie Dillard


For nine months, roughly corresponding to the school year, I mentor a group a women who are still early in their careers. I call it the "Beta" Group because there's something inherently experimental in the process. Most of the curriculum I use I'm making up or piecing together from the people who've taught me. My favorite sources are Andy Stanley's Leadership Podcast, TED Talks, and my husband (who is an amazing leader, but doesn't have a link!). Much of the remaining material that we cover comes from lessons I've learned during the 25 years I've spent in Corporate America.

In the the process of "Teaching What I've Been Taught" (a phrase straight from one of Andy's podcasts) to others, I've discovered the wisdom of the Annie Dillard quote above. As the years have racked up, I have accumulated a knowledge base that I believe I am entrusted to (aka, must) pass along to others. This knowledge is a gift that has been passed down to me by others. To keep it to myself and not give it away to another would, in fact, not only be selfish, but would also be destructive to its intended lifespan.

The more I teach the lessons I learn, the more I solidify the insights for others and for me. When someone asks a challenging question, I'm forced to state my rationale in concrete, logical terms. That helps the lessons improve. By addressing questions, I learn more. The process of teaching and learning becomes cyclical, and the growth for both the mentor and mentee builds on that momentum.

The principle of teaching others is simple, but the discipline of actually making that happen (figuring out WHO to teach, WHEN to teach, WHAT to teach) is the more challenging part. Admittedly, I don't always move through life at the pace of a teacher. Often, I value efficiency more than investment. I want to do my thing and move on without bothering to explain myself. This has to change if I am ever going to pass along what someone else slowed down long enough to give to me.

Even amid my challenges to be a disciplined teacher, the Beta Group teaches me that the payback for investing in others returns much more than any time spent; that it would be a loss for me were it not to happen. Slowly, I've discovered the joy of teaching. Paying it forward isn't about benevolence, but about promoting growth all around.

How do you invest in others? How can others learn from what you've learned?

Think about it, then let me know. Slow down and tell me about it. I would LOVE to be taught by you!