If you believe, as so many do, that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”, get it out of your head now.
The fact is that those at the top of their profession are often the most active not only as practitioners but also as both students and teachers.
The last time I wrote about this, I received a huge amount of e-mail from my subscribers and Facebook friends.
They overwhelmingly agreed that (a) the “those who can’t, teach” adage is absurd and (b) teaching others what you know is an integral and important activity for most professions.
Here’s just a sampling…
WB: “If nobody who knew what they were doing showed others how it’s done, then the only way to learn would be by trial and error or from those who have never been a success at it.”
BW: “Teaching is my greatest joy. I love to learn about a wide range of subjects. When I share what I’ve learned, as do you, I learn even more. Plus, I form new bonds with those I teach, whether in an informal way or in a well-organized workshop. It’s all about widening one’s perspective and personal growth.”
BM: “I’ve had several careers and taught how-to courses and seminars in all of them. I think it made me a better doer, and it enhanced my business credibility and income.”
DG: “As consulting engineers we teach what we do, and we make good money at it. In fact, it set both of us up for retirement some years ago. At this point in my career, I actually enjoy the teaching more than the consulting. Nothing like seeing someone ‘get it’.”
JG: “We teach what we wish to learn.”
ES: “And we learn best what we choose to teach.”
LW: “I have a strong background in the arts. Many very successful musicians in classical music and jazz have enjoyed the psychological effects of teaching and watching novices develop. I could go on and on naming them: the violinist Isaac Stern, the jazz pianist Hank Jones.
“A few years back I helped edit and rewrite a biography of a famous British classical pianist, Ruth Nye, who is now a very famous teacher. The principal theme of her biographer’s book was that Ruth herself studied with one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century, Claudio Arrau who himself was also widely known as a great teacher.
“This is true in all the arts. The Dutch painter Peter Lastman was famous for his own work, but also for being Rembrandt’s teacher. Hollywood is rife with examples of actors who taught other actors (ever listen to the many thank-you’s in an Oscar acceptance speech?).
“It’s true in sports too. I have cousins in professional baseball and football management who talk about examples of apprenticeships all the time. In our own business, Clayton Makepeace is a glorious example of a man who has made fabulous money as a copywriter and as a man who has derived joy (and financial recompense) for being a great teacher.”
My own experience: every time I teach a class, which I did for years at New York University and The Learning Annex, I feel I have learned even more than the students, and my students tell me they have learned a lot.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.