I hate teaching.
Honestly. I lack any kind of patience or any other natural skill in teaching.
When I started this blog, I had many fears. But, by far, the most important mental barrier I had – and it’s still in my head very often – is the fear of teaching other people.
This is an overwhelming feeling.
The thing here is that, when you teach others, you expose yourself to other people’s opinions and judgment.
What happens if somebody in your audience is more intelligent than you? Or somebody who knows more than you about the theme you’re talking about?
Here’s a wrong approach to dealing with this: comparing your knowledge level with the knowledge level of other people.
Instead, you can see teaching as SHARING your knowledge. It’s a result of your unique approach and experience in working through a certain problem.
And that, my friend, cannot be compared.
There always will be people more clever than you, more instructed or more intelligent. But your unique way of approaching things, based on your experience, your unique angle, or your mindset, is beyond comparison.
Teaching is about sharing your experiences and thoughts. And, in that context, we all are teachers.
Think about it.
I’m sure you’ve had deep conversations with a friend who had a problem. By simply sharing your experience of how you overcame the same problem in the past, you made a huge difference in your friend’s mindset.
Nobody wants to teach a friend – but by sharing our knowledge and experiences, we act as teachers do.
Let me give you another example.
Maybe you helped a new coworker who was struggling to finish her first presentation. You share your tricks gleaned from X years of doing presentations. You figured it would make a difference for that person. Again, you were sharing your knowledge and expertise.
We can all use guidelines to structure our “teaching” to making it a simpler and more natural process.
Let’s talk about some of them.
What you’ll learn here
- Identifying your audience and your purpose
- Start with the outcome in mind
- Teaching by experience
- Extra ball: Beat the Lizard
Identifying Audience and Purpose
When a math teacher enters the classroom, she doesn’t just see a bunch of students waiting for a lesson.
She knows each of the students. Those who like maths, those who don’t, those who are the first to answer a question, those who are good at literature, and so on.
The teacher knows the average level of the class. She knows how far she can go in a single lesson, and how difficult it will be.
I had a physics teacher who used to reward the class by telling a story about his adventures as a teenager at a historic University in southern Spain.
They were not amazing stories, to be honest, but at least we got a short break from physics. Afterwards, we were committed to listening to the rest of the lesson.
It worked, because he knew we would react positively to that stimulus.
It’s the same with your audience.
You need to know your audience extremely well. This process never ends.
The better you know your audience, the better the content you will deliver – and, of course, you will get results.
That’s not all. There is another component in the equation you need to consider.
My physics teacher entered the classroom with the goal of teaching one single lesson (often, just part of a lesson).
It wouldn’t be realistic if he tried to teach us everything about String Theory in a single lesson. That would be overwhelming and stressful.
Instead, focusing on a tiny purpose each time, you make your goal something more actionable.
This is the approach I use with every piece of content. I can’t teach the secret formula for learning an epic piece of content or show you how to succeed in the content business.
I wish I could – but sorry, that’s not going to happen.
Instead, by breaking down that HUGE purpose into achievable steps (lessons), I can deliver useful tips, tactics, methods and strategies (pieces of content) that will help you achieve your main purpose.
So here’s the thing: when I create a piece of content, I just focus on delivering a tiny concept I came up with as a consequence of my personal experience, knowledge and skills.
I am sharing with you what I’ve learned. It works for me. Simple.
Oh my God! That feels liberating, right?
Nobody is expecting to learn the secret formula from your next piece of content. First, because the secret formula doesn’t exist. And second, because if it existed, it would be overwhelmingly difficult to tackle it.
Focus on delivering a little outcome each time. Which brings me to the next point I want to discuss.
Start with the outcome in mind
Every piece of content should bring some kind of immediate benefit to your audience.
It could be a step-by-step guide on how to post on WordPress, or a template to define your editorial calendar, or just an actionable tip on how to do something.
Your audience should be able to put into action that outcome as soon as possible. Otherwise, they will jump into another thing, and your engagement will be dramatically lower.
The following diagram makes the process easy for me. Maybe it will work for you as well.
Starting with the outcome in mind allows me to maintain the right perspective on every piece of content – which HELPS MY AUDIENCE.
Let’s take a look:
Of course, you can’t deliver a huge outcome with every piece of content you deliver. That’s not realistic. But by focusing on delivering valuable and actionable material, even a tiny bit of it, you will get your audience (your students) one step closer to seeing the BIG picture, or purpose.
You should start planning every piece of content by asking yourself this question: which problem is my audience solving with this information?
Teaching by experience
This is directly connected to my favourite archetype: building an audience from zero (which I still use). This is Leading by Learning.
Leading by learning takes all the stress out of being a thought leader with years of experience and a portfolio of clients including several Fortune 500 companies.
It’s simpler than that.
You can “teach” your audience by simply sharing the experiences, conclusions, techniques and strategies you’ve gained from your own learning.
This is extremely valuable, especially for those who are interested in following the same path you’ve taken. You’ve been there before, you struggled with all those problems, and you solved them all.
Now, you’re here to share what you have learned, plus all strategies and tips that will help them avoid the same problems.
We all tend to underestimate our own value. But if you can use this approach on regular basis and share it with the right people, that’s all. You’ve got it!
You are teaching without teaching – and building an audience in the process.
Extra ball: Beat the Lizard
I want to share with you one last thing. Notice that I titled this post “ How To Overcome The FEAR Of Teaching Your Audience”
I used the word “fear” for a reason. We all have an ancestral defence system in our brain called the lizard brain.
This is basically a neurological structure in our brain (mostly formed by the amygdala), whose function is to help us avoid risk and, more importantly, stay alive.
That was really helpful thousands of years ago, when it allowed us to avoid going the wrong way and running into a lion. That’s a risk situation.
But now, in a social environment with social interactions, our lizard brain tries to protect us from much different kinds of risk.
It says, don’t go to that party, there are plenty of new people there who may not like you. Don’t ask a question at the event, because everybody will laugh at your silly question.
Things like that.
And, of course, in the context of this post, your lizard brain says: “You’re not a teacher! Who are you pretending to be? People don’t like cocky guys like you, and they’re going to judge your knowledge.”
That kind of “fear” is not real. There is no risk, no lion. Just your lizard brain, trying to sabotage you.
The trick here is to mute that voice in the back of your head. Just say something like, “Okay, cool to know. Now I’m going to carry on.”
I recommend you read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin to dig deeper into this subject. Or at least read this post on his blog.