Teach Your Way to Success

Teach / Learn

Last Friday, at my 6th annual Turbulence Training fitness summit, I stood on stage at the Westin Hotel in Westminster, Colorado, and preached. My sermon taught the audience how to use the 5 Pillars of Success to change any aspect of their life and overcome every obstacles in their way.

But during my presentation, it dawned on me that I could also be doing a better job of taking action and overcoming my own limiting beliefs. It was clear I needed this speech as much, if not even more than they did. It was time to take my own advice.

As I wrapped up and stepped off the stage, it hit me. The teacher had become the student. Even though I had just taught for an entire morning, I felt like I was the person in the room that had gotten the most benefit from the content.

“While we teach, we learn,” said the Roman philosopher Seneca.

From ancient history through to today, humans have realized that when you teach lessons to others, you end up learning more than the student. That’s why the best way to develop a greater understanding of any material is to play the role of the teacher and explain it to a student.

It’s even better when your students challenge you. The more questions they ask you, and the greater their skepticism, the more you have to properly articulate your answers and justify your beliefs. It’s much better to teach actively engaged minds than passive people.

Nothing is better than working one-on-one with a cynical student. It demands that you think critically about your beliefs, and it forces to build a stronger argument for your position while also simplifying your message. The best teacher is someone that can take a complex topic and distill it to easy-to-understand principles.

Finally, you learn and become a better teach through adapting your tone and delivery based on their non-verbal responses. For example, if you notice your audience scrolling through their smartphones during a section of your sermon, you’re getting critical feedback that this part of your presentation needs work. It’s not that the audience is being rude, it’s just that you’re being boring!

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Back in my days as a personal trainer to the richest men and women in Toronto, my favorite clients were the ones that demanded to know why I was giving them a specific exercise, using a new technique, or encouraging them to eat a certain way.

If I struggled to explain something, their critical gazes would let me know loud and clear that my reasoning wasn’t sound. This caused me to put more work into my study and honing my craft so that I delivered an even better and more effective fat loss program. It also helped me improve my own body transformation results.

That’s why, if your goal is to transform your life in any way, it’s helpful to become a mentor to someone else that seeks the same goals. By explaining your new habits, you will better understand their importance, and furthermore, you will become more committed to these new behaviors. When you act as a teacher you want to maintain integrity and act in a way that is consistent with what you just taught. After all, a hypocrite is a lousy teacher… and a lousy person.

But teaching goes beyond just strengthening your knowledge. Teaching makes you a better human being, too.

I’d like to update Seneca’s quote with a dose of 21st-century personal development. To do this, we’ll turn to my friend Frank McKinney, who once said, “You cannot brighten another’s path without lighting your own.”

I believe it. I’ve experienced it time and time again. There’s not much work in the world that can make you feel as fulfilled as teaching others. Each time I step on stage to teach and preach, I forget my selfish worries and problems, and leave the stage a better man. Each time I create a video explaining fitness tips, time management, productivity or creative writing techniques, it elevates my mood and leaves me with a satisfied smile.

This approach is simple to apply in our own lives. Whatever you know, you can simply follow these two rules for becoming a wiser and better person. First, you must practice what you preach. Second, you must practice preaching it.

Try it today. Teach someone something. It could be showing your child how to tie their shoes, or it could be sharing a simple productivity tip with a colleague. No matter what you teach or preach, you’ll feel better for it.

The big lesson for you is that if you want to improve yourself, then you MUST become a teacher and mentor to more people.

The teacher always learns as much, if not more, than the student.

And the more you learn, the more you can help others, and the positive cycle continues and expands, making you better and better at what you do, and allowing you to help more and more people.

Teaching others can also lift you out of the dark dips we all experience in life.

When you’re down, and troubled, and you need a helping hand, your best solution is to become the helping hand to someone else.

When you teach others what you know, when you share your knowledge, when you add value, this can deliver you from mild depression, from a scarcity mindset, and from a lack of clarity. Teaching will give you a natural high. You’ll do something good for others, and better yet, you’ll do something great for yourself. All the while you’ll improve your understanding of the material at the same time.

That’s why you actually benefit more from teaching than the student does.

Trust me, every single time I’ve opened my expertise and shared it with others, I’ve left with new ideas, a better understanding, a clearer vision of the problem (and the solution that can be implemented), a feeling of gratitude for the knowledge that I have, and thankfulness for the ability to shine a little light into someone’s life.

As an ETR reader you know more about success, productivity, building a business, and sales than 99% of the world. You could share a tip or two each day with colleagues that struggle in any one of those areas. Not only would it boost their performance, but you’d also improve your own work habits. When you did that, you would also benefit because it would make you more aware and committed to making similar changes in your own life. And of course, it will leave you with a smile on your face when you see the light bulb go off in their eyes.

Don’t tell me you don’t have anything to teach the world. In most areas of life, you don’t need to be a certified instructor or a genius in order to impart a little wisdom to a friend, a colleague, or a mentee. You just need to pass along what you know. Everyone wins when you do that.

It doesn’t matter if you are teaching a physical skill or a mental attribute, you cannot be a good teacher without making yourself better. When you instruct by example, it leads you to live by example. The lessons become more deeply ingrained in your mind. Keep on pushing and teaching. And that will make all the difference in your life.

“Show your character and commitment through your actions.” – Epictetus

Let me know who and what you can teach today.

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  • helen

    Hi Craig, thank you for all your wonderful, sincere and inspiring posts. I have taught art my whole life, but when I meet people and hear their sad stories, i refer them to “The New Psycho Cybernetics”, Napoleon Hill’s 1925 edition book, and a few others. I tell them if they want to change things in their lives, they have to CHANGE things in their lives, namely, their thoughts. Even my metaphysical and spiritual friends do not understand this, or how it works. We have to read the material over and over again, until it becomes who we are, then we can manifest it.

  • Lynne

    Craig, your article today is spot on. I have been a middle school PE and Art teacher for 36 years (just about to start #37!) and a personal trainer for 5 years, and I have become such a better, more patient, kinder, more understanding, more compassionate person because of it.
    After working in a gym for 5 years, I have now begun my own training business. And with all of this experience I have been gaining, I have a grand new plan! At the start of this school year I will be pitching a proposal to the superintendent of my district to ask them to allow me to train groups of teachers after school on my campus at a discounted rate.
    Teachers have one of the most stressful jobs around. I once read that teachers’ stress levels were second only to air traffic controllers! : )
    If this proposal goes through, we would be the pilot program. Depending on the success at my school, I would then like to expand it to the other schools in my district. As a former high school and college athlete, as well as a life-long exerciser, I know just how important movement is at the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
    I really hope my school district recognizes the value of this as well!
    Craig, I have heard you say so many times: When you help others, you help yourself. That is exactly where I am. So, wish me luck!
    Thanks for all you do! And that is not just a platitude, I honestly mean it.


    • Craig Ballantyne

      Lynne, thank you, and keep doing what you do!

    • ttcert

      Than you Lynne!

  • Stephen M Mutua

    Nice article. Thanks Craig.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you!

    • ttcert

      Thanks Stephen!

  • Lucy Mauterer

    What a great lesson today! I really resonate with what you said. Years ago I was a substitute teacher in middle school. What an odd coincidence Lynne taught that grade level too. One job I was called in on to be an interim teacher while they searched for a permanent replacement for the teacher who left, was for a subject I had specifically said I would not, could not teach: Algebra. When I saw the stack of Algebra books on the desk that first morning, I almost freaked. The Universe has a very good sense of humor. I took a book home and spent all night studying it. Algebra was my worst subject in school. My mother had to hire a tutor to get me through it with a passing grade. Knowing that I had to make myself understand it well enough to explain it to 20 some odd students, who, it might be added had had a different substitute for the past two weeks and were very far behind, really built a fire under me. I studied the glossary first, to familiarize myself with terms long forgotten, then just started at the beginning, working all the problems and checking my work against the answers in the back of the book. It only took two days and I was up to speed. I started teaching the kids to learn the same way I did. We learned terms, then formulas, then how to apply them. And the kids were all amazingly cooperative. I learned a lot more than they did. I learned that I was not stupid in math and that you can learn anything you really want to if you are motivated. Also, you can teach many different ways. Not everyone gets it with just one type of teaching.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Excellent feedback, Lucy, thanks!

    • ttcert

      Thank you Lucy!

  • drflynch

    Sir. Define “teaching,” and define “learning.” Spell out the characteristics, please, of a “teacher,” a “learner.” drC

  • Raymon H.

    Hi Craig I’m a teacher at heart. I’m a veterinary technician and I too love to teach and mentor ppl. It’s like you said, ” it makes ppl feel good learning new information” and it makes me feel good being able to teach them it. It allows me to see how they learn and the look on their faces is priceless when the information is understood. I love teaching everyday. I not only do it in my profession, but I also impart my life’s experiences on ppl that are going through rough times. I unfortunately am going through a rough time in my life as I write this, but I’m feeling better every minute that I’ve your ÊTR articles about various self help or improvements. Craig Ballantine you’re an awesome person and a god send. Thank you for providing information to help ppl like myself do better.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you so much, Raymon!

    • ttcert

      Thank you so much!