Teaching Others

5 Things I Learned From Teaching Others

A few months ago, I started a series of workshops. One is about doing online business (which I call the “mentorship”) and the other one is about blogging. Both are pretty demanding in terms of focus, energy and time. Mentorship is 2 days in a row and blogging is split in 3 days, usually 3 Fridays in a row.

I really enjoyed doing these workshops. Interacting, teaching and always being challenged are so different than blogging. We will never replace human interaction, I suppose, regardless of how much social media we will create. And as much as I value blogging as a personal development channel, I’ll always be amazed by the results you get from direct interaction with another human being.

But what amazes me the most, is how much I learned during this process. Didn’t even realize I’m actually learning from it, because I was totally focused and immersed, but after the initial thrill dried out, I noticed a different approach. The concern of “am I going to deliver today?” was slowly replaced by “what would I learn today?”.

The biggest secret of teaching is that you constantly learn from it. You’re constantly being challenged even if your main teaching themes are the same. The mere act of getting out and share your experience will always get you out of your comfort zone. I teach roughly the same topics (with some improvements from one series to another) but every time I do it it’s different. Every interaction is unique.

Now, let’s see what are the 5 things that I got substantially improved by teaching others:

1. I Rebuilt My Interpersonal Skills

Every person is unique. And every time I interacted with another person during my workshops, something magic happened. Couldn’t describe it and I won’t even try. Suffice to say that I drastically improved my interpersonal skills.

Before the workshop a normal interaction would usually last as long as the physical interaction: after we exchanged some information, the other person was out of my radar. But after I started to teach, I created a sort of a loop.

Each time I interacted with someone I projected his or her image into a very near future. “I understand how you are now, but here’s how you’re going to be in a very short time if we’re going to learn this or that.” And that made a huge quantum leap in our relationship. We literally grew together: he, as a performer of new tasks, and me as a witness.

And witnessing other people growing has this strange effect of triggering growth in yourself too.

2. I Remodeled My Organizing Skills

Preparing a workshop is totally different than preparing a blog post. To be honest, is more complicated than preparing a business meeting too, and I know that because I  had literally hundreds of business meetings in my 10 years as an entrepreneur.

It’s not that you have to predict everything all the time: did I get enough paper or pencils? Do I have everything I need at the workshop location? The desks are good? How are the chairs? Do we have electricity? (Yeah, I can freak out at times 😉 ).

It’s more about creating a specific context in which you can express yourself in a more powerful way. Once you get over the little details that you’ll roll on autopilot, you will start to feel the whole structure of your performance from another level. You will start to identify chunks of high interaction, favorable contexts and instant changes and opportunities. You will learn how to get the most of your environment with minimum effort.

And that’s what organizing is for me, anyway.

3. I Validated My Personal Experience

Yes, I did business for 10 years. Yes, I still do business today. But let me tell you something: we will always need validation for our actions. It’s part of how we’re functioning as human beings.

And by validation I mean putting your expertise to be tested by others. Let other people stress you with questions, let them put you in uncomfortable situations and see how – and if – you can get out in good shape.

Getting out and teaching what I’ve learned in 10 years of entrepreneurship had a very important (yet almost invisible for any other person than me) effect: actually proved if my personal experience was good or not. Based on my evaluation after the mentorship workshops I made some informal recommendations to some investors and, to my great satisfaction, some of the young entrepreneurs I recommended got an initial seed funding.

Which, to be honest, I consider to be a great thing. 😉

4. I Enforced My Personal Brand

Real brands are built in real world. If all you do is stay at your computer and write, you may become a famous blogger. And that’s ok if all you want is to be a famous blogger. But be prepared for some big surprises when you go out in the real world.

Every time I started a new workshop I knew I will put to a difficult test not only my experience, my knowledge and interpersonal skills, but also my personal brand. Each attendant was in fact an amplifier for my personal image.

Any screw up is highly penalized when people are expecting to learn something from you. What could be perceived as a mild disappointment in a normal relationship, would become a huge turn off if you’re teaching the other person. If you’re trying to make the other person better, you can’t be less than great.

And striving to be the best version of yourself in front of an eager audience is the best thing that could happen to your personal brand. Honestly.

5. Refined My Networking Skills

Before starting these workshops I had quite a comfortable position in the online publishing industry in Romania. I still know a few key people and try to keep close with my old partners. But things are changing incredibly fast in this industry.

After just a few months of workshops I feel like my network of people has exploded. I am actually forced to find ways to keep track of what I’m starting and with whom. The term “business opportunity” become more common than “good morning”.

The pressure of keeping my connections alive, after spending a lot of valuable time together, pushed me to a new level. It’s not the fact that I know more people than I knew when I owned my own business. It’s the actual business quota for each person I know. It’s like every new encounter is wrapped into a veil of business proposals. I can’t follow all of them, which I think it’s a sign of normality, but I do enjoy this new field of opportunities.

***

Now, I’m curious: did you have similar experiences? How much are you getting when you’re teaching somebody else? If you’re a coach, for instance, how much do you feel you  “give” and how much do you “receive”? Would love to hear it in the comments.



Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner


The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”

And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.

Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.

If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.

Running For My Life -from zero to ultramarathoner

Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Dragos, some great insights from what YOU get when you are teaching.

    When I have presented workshops in the past, I have had to take my game to a new level and be as outstanding as I could.

    My first ever paid workshop was to a group of 38 hypnotherapists and other types of therpists all wanting to learn about coaching. This was over a weekend and on the Sunday afternoon when we finished, the participants gave me and my co-presenter a standing ovation.

    Little did they know that the workshop was my first ever and also the first time I had spoken professionally in front of so many people!

    Since then, I have also learnt to be much more patient with my audience. It is amazing how easy it is to build rapport with the participants once they get that you are there to teach them and support their growth.

    Part of me loves teaching because I enjoy being the centre of attention and being seen as the “expert”. So I guess I am getting a lot of validation back.

    As for coaching clients, sometimes I wonder if I should be paying THEM since I learn so much about myself and I grow from each coaching conversation. I always “receive” far more than I “give”. And its wonderful.
    .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..The Silent People – and Why You Should Not Be One of Them =-.

  2. I had a brief teaching experience. Still I learned something from it. One things I’ve learned is that there’s a lot of things we can learn from other people. Through interaction, there are subtleties of life we will experience. 🙂

  3. I totally agree Dragos and as a participant in your trainings, I can confirm that being your best version of yourself brought a lot of value to me.
    I can also relate to your experience, I have delivered several trainings on Recruitment Techniques and with each I learned something new and was challenged, in a positive way. It is as if someone is constantly raising the bar for yourself and makes you stretch.
    In what regards coaching, that is really an accelerated learning and development for the coach, first in terms of leaving your ego totally out of the process and suspending your judging, to say the least. From the moment I started really teaching others, the self development process has increased dramatically, and that makes training and coaching even more appealing! It’s purely win-win:-)
    .-= Madalina´s last blog ..Merg la interviu (cu un recruiter) =-.

    1. Fascinating thoughts about the coaching process, especially about how to suspend your ego and judgment. I’m still new at this, but it surely draws me in 😉 Thanks for being around.

  4. Hi Dragos,

    I’ve been teaching 50+ students/week to play guitar for the last couple of years. It continues to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

    Not only does it pay my bills – there’s lots of other tangible, as well as intangible benefits.

    1) constant repetition of the basics
    Every beginner I have to show the same basic stuff – how to hold the guitar, where the notes are, fingerings, rhythmic note values, etc…

    Exciting stuff?

    Not really, but it’s essential – and with the right mindset it’s amazing what repeating the basics over and over can do for your own skills.

    2) Keeping on your toes
    There’s also the more advanced students. Some of them are talented AND dedicated. They practice a lot. They want to learn. They ask questions.

    They make me practice and push my skills so that I can show them what they want.

    3) Never giving up on your students
    A couple of years ago I almost wanted to tell the parents of a 12 year old that they should reconsider registering their kid for the next term. Nice kid, but his motor skills were horrible. Stuff I taught other kids over a 3 week period took 3 or 4 months with him.

    Fortunately, I didn’t.

    The boy is 17 now, gigs with 2 bands and loves to play his guitar.
    .-= Marko´s last blog ..Challenge of the Month — January/February 2010 =-.

    1. Wonderful insights, Marko, especially the last one. I wanted to learn guitar when I was a kid but unfortunately my teacher wasn’t so patient as you. Or maybe fortunately 😉

  5. Hi Dragos,

    Great ideas: personally, I have found that always when I am “teaching” something not only that I understand the topic much deeper than I did before, but somehow I know it better (probably because being exposed to different perspectives from my “audience”) .

    Probably, teaching – or rather “sharing” knowledge – is the ultimate way of learning 🙂

    Thanks again for the useful insights regarding blogging (disclaimer: I participated in Blogging 101 workshop).

    Cheers,

    Bogdan

    1. Good point about the “sharing” perspective. I personally lean more towards the “sharing” thing rather then “teaching” and that’s exactly because of the increased energy exchange when you share 🙂

      And happy to have you on board ad Blogging 101 🙂

  6. “Every person is unique” – This is the one that resonates most with me.

    Most of the coaching I do is in a one-to-one setting with people who mostly have similar types of problems in that if I were to make a list, the list would go “Depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Learning Difficulties etc”.

    But every single person experiences their challenge in a completely different and unique way and regardless of the “Label” they’ve given their issue, what I’ve learnt from teaching others is to never make assumptions no matter how obvious something seems to be.

    Also that people are BEAUTIFUL. Some of the things they’ve done may not be, but there’s a world of difference between a behaviour and a whole person.
    .-= Reeta Luthra | Stress and Health´s last blog ..Problems Mark Stages In Personal Development =-.

    1. Yeap, totally with you here: all people are beautiful. Their actions may be at times different from our expectations or just plain wrong, but deep down every human being is just ok. 🙂

  7. I was an elementary school teacher for several years. As others have mentioned, one of the most amazing aspects of teaching is how much one learns in the process. Even small children would have questions and insights that challenged my understanding and perception of the subjects I taught.

  8. Great insights Dragos, I started doing workshops and 1-1 coaching few months ago too and totally agree – nothing can beat real human interaction. And I personally receive so much from doing in it terms of experience, knowledge, new skills, personal growth and insights that sometimes I feel I should be the one paying considering how much value I receive.

    1. Didn’t know you’re doing workshops, that just great, Lana 🙂 You’re on the right path! Just don’t get too much into that “I should pay them” stuff. 😉 I know the feeling, but believe me, there is value in what you do and there is agreement on the other part to pay you.

  9. I was doing a seminar on how to report minority issues on public radio. In front of me I had people working for the local stations of Radio Romania, most of them older than me. To them I was a young lady coming from the Head Office taking a lot of their valuable time, teaching them things they could never use in their daily work. We were talking about creative writing and I asked them to play a game. I had a bag of Rum Kokos (that is Caribbean rum with coco substance and Austrian chocolate bonbons). They were supposed to close their eyes, grab a bonbon without seeing it, smell it, taste it and then describe it in writing.
    Reading what they wrote about one bonbon was one of the most amazing experiences I had as a trainer. The ones I thought were the most absent produced a hai-ku and half a page of first class poetry. After that exercise the rest of the seminar was really smooth. What I have learned was… chocolate works. All the time. Even with adults. It’s the endorphines I guess.
    .-= Ada´s last blog ..Fotoreportaj: Petrecere cu PiraÅ£i =-.

  10. I love teaching and tutoring people. I do a lot of English tutoring, and it gives you a great chance to meet new people who are not only interested in what you have to offer, but what they can offer you as well. One thing I notice a lot of people love is when the roles get reversed; when the teacher becomes the student. A lot of times instead of charging people money I’ll have THEM teach me something in exchange. A good friend of mine speaks Arabic, and she’s teaching me that language as payment for me helping her with her English courses. In the end, it’s a win-win scenario!
    .-= Travis´s last blog ..Misery Loves Company =-.

  11. […] that defines you. Use it, don’t loose it. Sometimes the only way to learn something new is to teach others. By sharing your knowledge, time and experience, you’ll in fact ignite new ways to live your […]

  12. Hi Drago, Im wondering if you, or anyone else ever has the problem like I do. A part of me wants to do coaching, but another part of me is afraid that the people that I teach would far surpass me and wouldnt need my services after that, especially in the area of finance. I do understand that there are tonnes of benefits by coaching someone, such as reinstating what you understand. Did you feel that way before? Maybe im feeling this way because im currently at a midpoint of my professional career and not teaching after im retired.

    1. I never had this feeling. Coaching is not especially about skills, it’s mainly about interaction. It’s a very subtle process, involving both skills and presence, but in the end, the other part gets his “juice” from the interaction with you, from motivation and inspiration. It’s not a traditional teaching paradigm in which you have to be sure you’re always on top of the information you’re coaching about (although of course, this would be highly advisable). So no, I think that if you want to coach someone,m you shouldn’t be afraid that he / she is better than you in some field. It’s not about that.

  13. Jon,
    I agree with dragos coachings not about that, it’s about taking a stand for others to excell. I am curious if you’ve ever had a coach of your own? I have a lot of clients who are coaches as I am and they are technically better at some things than I am. However as a coach I know that we all bring our own unique things into the world and there’s no one who can do exactly what I do.

  14. Well I do have a few coaches here and there in some of the seminars that Ive attended over the years, be it for my career or personal development. But of course most of them have been very successful in their lives already, and so from my point of view they would not feel threatened in that sense. I am actually very surprise that no one feels the way that I do, which makes me wonder even more.
    Yes Joyce I do agree that theres probably no one who can do exactly what I do. But what if, person A does learn relationship coaching from you, ending up doing the same business as you, which means there will be lesser clients for you isn’t it?

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