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Publish365 002: The Importance of Teaching

I want you to take a minute and think about a question.

Are you self-taught in a specific area? And if so, how much of your being self-taught was really you just guiding your learning through knowledge other people have acquired?

Teaching is not a magical profession exclusive to academics, college graduates, and degree holders. In fact in the course of a day many of us teach others without even realizing it. When I started my woodworking journey in 2017, I took a course by one of the most well-known woodworkers on YouTube, Steve Ramsey. My favorite part of the story, though, is that I had Steve on my podcast and we talked about how much I had learned from him and I told him I had a confession. "I never finished your class," I told him. He seemed disappointed. I continued, "It turns out that the reason I never did the last project was because I was already getting orders and people asking me to make stuff based on the projects I had posted to my Instagram feed." He lit up when I said that, and I explained just how much he had changed my life by making that course available to me.

As much as I value that kickstart that course gave me, the simple truth is that the class isn't the only thing that got me to where I was. While I was taking the course I was consuming all the woodworking content I could get my eyes on, YouTube. Magazines. Books. Podcasts. All the things I could. I learned a lot from Steve, but I also learned a ton from people who were just filming themselves making stuff in their shop or sharing their creations on social media.

I couldn't get more immersed without becoming wood myself.

I consider all of those people my teachers. They all combined to bring me the knowledge I needed to start growing as a woodworker and a maker. I could rattle off name after name with very little effort at this point, and the list is so long that no matter how many people I listed I would end up leaving people out. All of those people were influences on me, but more importantly I consider all of those people my teachers. It still hits me from time to time when one of those people recognizes my work on Instagram.

I struggled for a long time with how to give back to the community, and my answer was to do a podcast where I featured the people in the maker community. Because We Make is meant to be a show that explores the why of the maker movement as opposed to the how, but it's also something else. It's me showing my expertise: podcasting, interviewing, podcast production. I get to show off how I can make a show sound like my cohost and I are in the same room. How to ask questions that don't sound like a robotic list. How to stick to a show when no one is listening so that you can grow it when people join in. I've helped many new podcasters improve their product since I started, I've talked about my making and podcasting on the show, and I've even given advice on shipping, branding, packaging, and ship-from-home logistics to people who have no idea about those things. Many people have told me that my discussions about the "out of box" experience has changed the way they think about the packaging for their products. That means the world to me; that I'm able to share the knowledge I've worked so hard to acquire.

A few months ago, one of my favorite makers (and good friends) asked me about my process for making cutting boards. It was at that moment when I realized I had finally arrived. In 3 years I went from someone with little to teach and a lot to learn to someone with at least some amount of knowledge that others could benefit from. It was one of my most validating moments.

In the end, the takeaway for you should be this: it's a great thing to acquire skills. It's an even greater thing to teach them. Woodworking has very few "new" skills, just new tools. Most of what we do as makers in general are skills that we've learned from others or even from prior generations. It's important that we keep our skills from fading into obscurity by sharing them with as many people willing to learn them as we're able.

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