Teaching as if You Could Never Teach the Same Thing to Anyone Else Ever Again

A few months back I heard someone explain the merits of teaching something as if it were the last time you could ever teach it ever again. In your entire life. Their logic was threefold.

  1. If you taught something like it was the last time you could ever do it, you’d do a great job teaching it.
  2. If you recorded the information in a way such that you could send the lesson to anyone who ever needed it, it would save you time so you could focus on the most important things in your life.
  3. If the person you taught left your organization, you’d have a quick tutorial ready for the next person to get them started quickly and hopefully seamlessly.

For the life of me, I can’t remember which episode it was on, but I think Tim Ferriss talks about this on his podcast, but no amount of googling has yielded the answer. If you remember who it was, please post in the comments so I can fix this post and give credit where credit is due!

One of the reasons I started my blog way back in 2008 was to have a personal FAQ so that I could send people thoughtful answers to questions I was asked fairly regularly. My best blog posts have come from having answered the same question multiple times and wanting to write it down so that I could send a fully formed idea to the person asking the question.

About four months ago, I took stock and realized I was using lots of my time re-explaining the same things to different people (and sometimes the same people) in both  Magma Partners and Andes Property. Although I manage a portfolio of 20+ companies, most of our Magma portfolio companies have the same questions and have to work through the same issues.

In trying to only push the lead domino, I challenged myself to try to teach everything as if it were the last time I could ever teach that one thing. I wanted to be more useful to our portfolio companies and the people I manage and to reduce time I spent answering the same questions. After four months, it’s been a big success. I’m more productive, I feel like I’m better at explaining things and I’m creating more content that hopefully is helpful to others.

The two most important things that I’ve done are:

  • Written blog posts like this one
  • Used screencast software to create short explainer videos of tasks that I’ve been asked to explain

There are a ton of screen casting programs on the market. I used Screencastomatic, which is free for videos that are 15 minutes or less. You can automatically upload the videos to a youtube channel, either making them public, private or hidden. I usually keep my videos hidden and send the links around to people as needed, but am thinking about publishing more publicly.

Here’s some things I’ve tried to teach as if it were the last time I would teach it:

If you’ve wanted to try something like this but haven’t pulled the trigger yet, try it out for a week. You won’t regret it.

Photo credit: Dennis Skley