A Simple Secret to Success: Teach What You Know

There are people out there who want to sell you things they have no right trying to sell. Ironically, the most qualified experts are often the quietest voices. So how do we fix this?


I have a simple suggestion: Teach what you know. Here’s why it works:

  • If we all taught what we knew, we would waste a lot less time trying to impress other people, pretending to be smarter than we really are.
  • If we all taught what we knew and didn’t hoard our knowledge, we would all be smarter.
  • If we all taught what we knew, those around us would value what we offer more.

This is harder than it sounds, though, because we all suffer from the curse of knowledge. We are too close to the things that we know to even recognize their value. So we need a little perspective.

I love what Derek Sivers says about this: “What’s obvious to you is amazing to others.” If you know more than most people about something, then you are an expert to someone. And that means you have a responsibility to share with them what you know.

“What’s obvious to you is amazing to others.”

Derek Sivers

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So let’s say you have some gem of an idea that you may not even realize you have. How do you get started teaching what you know? Here are a few quick tips:

  1. Write a book. I’m a big fan of this, obviously, as I’ve written four books already in the past three years. I think there’s no better way to figure out what you think about something than to write a book. And just between you and me, I like writing books because it forces me to learn things better than I really know them. So even if you’re not an expert, if you have an appetite to learn, writing a book is not a bad idea. The best place to begin is with a writing habit of 500 words per day.
  2. Speak at an event. There’s a reason why the Greeks used to gather in public squares to debate philosophy and why politicians travel from city to city to win over voters. The best way to spread an idea is still via word of mouth. If you have something to teach or share, getting in front of an audience and telling them about is a great way to do this. I love going to conferences and events to share my ideas and stories. And honestly, getting booked to speak isn’t as hard as you think.
  3. Teach a course. It could at your church or place of worship, the local community college, or even online. I’ve made a good living sharing unexceptional things with an audience of people who find them interesting — all through online courses. It’s humbling, but also incredibly energizing. Teaching courses like Tribe Writers has got to be some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.

You don’t need more information. You need to stop stalling and share what you know. If it resonates with someone, ask them to share it. Before you know it, you’ll be reaching people who you never knew needed your message.

Some people say success follows passion. But I don’t think that’s true. Success follows value. And teaching what you know just might be the best way to create value.

“Success doesn’t follow passion. It follows value.”

Jeff Goins

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If you don’t know where to start, here are three practical suggestions:

  • If you want to write a book, you need to start writing daily. Join the My 500 Words daily writing prompt. You’ll get a short email prompt every day for 31 days plus free access to an online community of other writers who can encourage you. It’s one of my favorite communities online.
  • If you want to speak, sign up for the free webinar I’ll be hosting with Grant Baldwin later this week about getting booked and paid to speak. He is the expert on this and has been doing it for a decade. I’m a firm believer that writers need to speak, and Grant will teach you how to do it right.
  • If you want to build and sell an online course, check out Course Builder’s Lab. It’s the best education I’ve ever seen on how to do this the right way. The course opens once or twice a year. In the meantime, read Teach and Grow Rich by my friend Danny Iny.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit there. Teach what you know.

How can you start doing this today? Share in the comments. I’ll be randomly picking people who take action and giving away special prizes, like books and stuff.

67 thoughts on “A Simple Secret to Success: Teach What You Know

  1. You have missted the Course Builders Lab 60 day guarantee. It is not a full refund proposition.. It is a 30 day refund if not satisfied followed by a guarantee that if you do not make $2000 in that 60 day period, the Danny Iny team will work with you to be sure you do make $2000 using their course and their personal coaching.

    You do not get a full refund if you don’t make $200 in 60 days. You were one of the presenters and should know this.

  2. I naynesh Rajput , 20 years old ,from Ahmedabad gujarat India,has started work on writing an autobiography of my life . N also found a name for it , Its “An Autobiography of a mechatronics student”. In this book I am going to include all my the past of my life the obstacles ,the hard works , the variation of work I did in my life an finally got the way to do the work, for which I was in this world.I had also done some innovation by drawing the sketches of main characters of my life who helped me out on different steps of my life. And will work on it from the month of January after completing my exams.

  3. Excellent advice, Jeff!
    Thanks for sharing. I had been procrastinating on going forth but now I know that I know that I know it is my obligation to bless others with my expertise. I know they will find it AMAZING!

  4. I’m passionate about music. I’m a gospel singer, songwriter and poet. I’ve never studied music, though I would love to, given the opportunity. I basically am a self-taught artist. Last year I was approached by my church to teach the kids some songs for their annual concert. I used one of my songs, it became a hit and people really enjoyed it, especially the kids. I’m doing it again this year. Teaching what I love gives me such joy. I can definitely do it forever. I’ve also taught how to write poetry at a school art class on a friend’s request. It was fulfilling. I wouldn’t mind doing it again and again. Teaching kids to reach their full potential is my desire and passion.

  5. I find it’s like looking at the back of the mirror when I go to consider what I could teach others. I speak about my self doubt on my blog and this definitely gives others permission to be OK with theirs. And reading this acknowledges I need to find a way to research myself and my “gifts of knowledge” as Kathleen Shannon calls them. Thank you for always offering up my next stone to step on Jeff.

  6. Hi Jeff … I’m a part-time chocolatier and just last Saturday taught my first chocolate-making workshop! Had six students, made $400 in just a few hours, and loved it! It was so much fun sharing my knowledge and experience. And the students seemed to really enjoy it. Plus they got to take home all the chocolate they made. It opened my eyes to a whole new way to share a passion for great chocolate with others. Thanks for this opportunity to share! So fortunate to be part of your tribe!

  7. I’ve spent the last few years doing photography for a very niche market. I started off photographing events and then having those featured or published online and in print. I wrote a popular blog post for a heavily-trafficked website within the niche sharing my expertise, tips, and examples. I then spoke last year at a conference sharing how to take better photos. I also had a plan to do a YouTube video, but that hasn’t worked out yet. It’s been a whirlwind experience but I recently stepped back to concentrate on writing. In doing all of this, I didn’t have time to do something I’d forgotten I loved just as much as photography. Though my days are no longer spent surrounded by people and pretty things, I have come to enjoy the quiet that allows me to get my words down. Looking back and seeing how ambitious I was, I’m both excited and curious to see where my next endeavor takes me. I have a question though – what sort of speaking opportunities are out there for fiction and memoir writers? It seems like speaking engagements are for attendees who want to learn something, so aren’t writers of non-fiction the best bet?

  8. Thank you Jeff! I am a morning person so I am writing each day. My goal is 500 words! Random gifts sounds amazing! This year my goal is pay debts, next year 2016 want to build and sell an online course. I like the pilot idea Danny talks about and a coach to mentor me. Have a good weekend.

  9. I listened to the webinar with Danny last week, and, although I can’t afford his course, I did take note of all the nuggets he provided through the presentation. My biggest hang-up has been, what in the world can I create a course about? I am determined to come up with something; I even promised my email subscribers a free resource this month, so I need to get on it:)
    All that said, thank you for writing this; it is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I have been blogging recently about living a simpler, more minimal lifestyle, and I have had some really encouraging feedback from my local readers who are actually making changes in their own homes. So, even though I feel like I am not an expert, I do have something to offer people who haven’t explored this topic in their lives yet. I guess I know now what I’ll be working on this week. Thanks again, Jeff!

    1. You said you have email subscribers….survey them!!

      Come up with a couple of course ideas (4-5) then ask them which one they want, in what format, etc.

      If you don’t have any course ideas – then ask, what is their number one pain in floral design (or whatever your niche is), what format (video, ebook, etc.)

  10. Enjoyed your post, as always Jeff. Having been part of the My 500 Words for 277 days now, I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to make writing a daily habit.

    Still moving forward with my writing. Had an opportunity to speak to a small group and took it. And I heard someone else may want me to speak to their group. So the steps may not be huge but at least I’m moving. And for me that’s a huge thing since life is still so fragile with our granddaughter. Appreciate your valuable posts, Jeff.

  11. Thanks for sharing your vast knowledge so generously!
    I will start writing an outline for a book and a script for an online course + free ebook +free online course

  12. I came to the same conclusion just a few days ago about myself and what I have to offer. As a multipotentialite, I have a huge cache of hoarded knowledge (which is the exact term I used for it too!), and decided that its about time to spill it. The hard part was trying to find a common thread so it could be presented in a cohesive manner, but I have made a decision. I have taught classes and given lectures & workshops in floral design, gardening/landscape design, cooking with herbs & edible flowers, and garment construction – all on a continuing ed level. Now I want to expand on that, and (for starters) create online offerings in a multitude of courses, ebooks and workshops in DIY/self-reliance skills. I’ll see how that goes, and then perhaps go into small business set-up or non-profit management and grant writing.

  13. Hi. Can I ask two awkward issues: (1) there is plenty of good free stuff on the Web in most disciplines (covering the low end of the market) and (2) there will surely only be 1 or 2 leaders in any one discipline who will gain vast economies of scale with an online platform/course/community. Just like there is only one Amazon, only one Google, there will be only one “teacher of xxx” really making any money. Consulting/1:1 teaching aside, how do we compete with these “realities of Internet economics”? I’m not being cynical: I am genuinely interested!

    1. Define “really making any money” in your terms. I’m not sure how much Jeff Goins is racking financially, on a monthly basis, but it’s definitely enough to sustain his family and his lifestyle. He’s no google, he’s no amazon…and he’s certainly has not been the first one to write a book on finding your calling or listening to your calling. He’s not going to be last.

      You gotta figure out what that is on your own terms, then go from there. The beauty of this economy is that it’s very generous.

      The toughest part: facing your own demons, get past the hurdles, and providing value. What may not seem valuable to you is valuable to others.

      And remember, Bing and Yahoo are no Google, but that doesn’t stop them from moving forward and providing value to those prefer their services.


      1. That’s right, K_shenz… with the exception of “I’m no Google.” I certainly am! 😉

        Actually, that sounds stressful to me. I’m making a great living, earning far more than I know what to do with and growing a scalable business that is employing other people.

        Richard, I think it all depends on what you want to do. If you want to be the market leader, then you may be right. But the truth is now there is no mass market. The mass market has fractured into a million tiny markets, and each is looking for a leader. I think the smartest thing you could do is find an underserved group and go after them with your knowledge and skills and try to serve them. It can be very profitable.

    2. I have struggled with the same question, Richard. But if there’s one thing Jeff has taught me, it’s that your voice is what makes you unique. Your perspective is what people connect with and it’s what makes them come to you, rather than another “competitor”. There will always be people doing what you are doing, but nobody can do it exactly the way you can. Nobody will have the same connection you do with your audience.

  14. Another epic article from you Jeff. I discovered something interesting this year: the more you teach, the more you know. How about that? Are you experiencing the same thing?

  15. I love this! And I want you to know that your course, Tribe Writers, as well as Danny’s talk about building a course in 60 days have encouraged me SO much. You have no idea how much I appreciate it, or how much it has changed my life. For the first time, I actually feel empowered and confident about my ability to teach a course on something I know. Thank you so much, Jeff. You’re the best.

  16. It is weird to think that what’s obvious to you is amazing to others. Kind of like one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. We think we have to have something extraordinary to give when, really, the world just needs our ordinary gifts. Thanks for sharing!

  17. I am knee deep in this right now! Trying to determine what it is – exactly – i have to offer. What is my story? my message? I am stuck – I think – because I am trying to figure out what is of value to others. I know it is there, but like that word that is on the tip of your tongue i just can’t *quite* reach it. Any advice from anyone who has been in this sticky quagmire before?

      1. Thank you Jeff. Ironically I just did something very similar to that exercise yesterday after posting my question. I still feel a little foggy on the answer, but I think if I can be still the fog may clear. 🙂

  18. I couldn’t agree more! It’s funny, my first novel was published in 1993. That same year, I became a fiction editor. As I’ve continued to do both, to teach what I know to new writers and to continue writing my own books as well, I’ve found that I’ve learned as much from teaching as from writing. The process has caused a wonderful symmetry!

  19. This is rock solid advice!!! I agree with you 100% What struck me most was when you wrote “the most qualified experts are often the quietest voices” this is sooo true! I used tto keep my passions and expert advice to myself instead of telling the world because I thought it didn’t bring any value…oh I was sooo wrong! I have started writing my own book and its something I’m an expert in lol so this post gave me the motivation I needed!
    Jasmine 🙂

  20. As always, great advice. I’m trying to get some in-person workshops together before I branch out to internet teaching. I’m going to try my hand at teaching composition and songwriting. It’s something I know and it comes very naturally to me, so the challenge for me is to break it down to a step-by-step process that others can follow. I taught my first coaching session in songwriting last week, and now I’m trying to work out the details for teaching multiple people at once!

  21. Hey Jeff,

    Great post. Great concept… to teach what you actually know. Accept the fact that we can’t be experts in every area. It is better to be awesome at one thing than mediocre in ten areas. Will be coming back to your website for more of your writing advice.

  22. genius! I started a personal development blog and I’m about to start teaching what I know — group workouts!


  23. I’ll be teaching a workshop on Aromatherapy at a Ladies Retreat at my church in a couple weeks. I’ve been nervous about what exactly to teach and not sure if it would really be a fun and helpful workshop for others but your post and Derek Sivers quote, “What’s obvious to you is amazing to others” has brought great relief and I feel more confident to do this! Thank you for helping and giving me a positive focus 🙂

  24. “You need to stop stalling and share what you know.” Challenge accepted!
    Over the last 18 months I’ve made some massive gains both personally
    and professionally. Nothing flashy or even cutting edge…just
    consistent baby steps that snowballed and have continued to gain
    momentum. So, I’m offering a free 20-part email course on productivity
    in November. I’m starting small and am excited to share the process with
    anyone trying to move passed their plateaus. Here’s the link: https://eepurl.com/bBzgRD

  25. I’m doing the tribewriters course. Signed up in August. Since then I’ve set up a blog which I’m posting in weekly and I’ve started writing a non fiction book about living authentically. Wow what an exciting busy 3 months. It’s about stepping out and going for it.

  26. Thanks for this, Jeff! How encouraging!

    I must say, the process of writing a book to learn what you know is pain-staking yet rewarding. And the first – or second, third, fourth, fifth – version of that book isn’t always what’s best for a reader. The process takes time, but the growth you experience in it is unparalleled.

  27. Inspiring! I am working on doing this..but just getting started. I just completed my first Small Product Lab hosted by Gumroad! It was not easy to create and market a product in only 10 days, but I am so glad that I did it!

  28. It was encouraging to hear you blogged for 7 years before taking off. I’ve been at it for 6 yrs, wrote and self-published my first book which is on Amazon, but I’m not getting the readership. I recently created a give-away in exchange for email addresses but that didn’t work either. Everyone who’s read my book has loved it and I believe it is a message that needs to be heard. Who doesn’t struggle with fear? I’ll keep doing the next right thing because I believe if one person is helped by a blog post, I’ve done my part.

  29. Thank you for all the help Jeff. Blogging is something that interests me but I was always skeptical about whether I could pull it off. With you advice and wisdom I am confident that having a passion for writing is enough to get oneself going.

  30. Thank you for this! I began teaching my art a few years ago, in classes to children and to adults. I want… no, need… to kick it up a few notches though. Folks from across the country as well as in other countries have been asking. Course Builder’s Lab (as well as a book) might be just the ticket!

  31. I agree the best way to learn something you know is to teach someone. In the process of teaching you personally got a lot of information. Once I have read the article titled “Writing Your Way to an “A”” I began to practice via teaching my friends the same and as a result I have memorized it forever.

  32. When I want to learn something I prefer to find a real professional, not just a teacher as teacher not necessarily know everything I need and person working in this sphere will explain everything as it is. That’s why making some research work I always look for professionals’ interviews which I can use in my work with the help of this tool: https://www.coolutils.com/PDFSplitter.

  33. Thanks for sharing you thoughts and teaching what you know, Jeff, I love your blog.
    “What’s obvious to you is amazing to others” – I totally agree with this amazing citation, it’s so true. Many friends of mine use to ask me: how can you travel so much? (I’ve spent last 4 years travelling around Asia). It seems impossible to them but to me is vital. Hence, I should start to teach people how to travel 🙂 I appreciate your ideas, it’s so cool to share your knowledges with folks. Btw, here is the nice article I’ve recently read, hope your readers will enjoy it: https://unplag.com/blog/lifelong-learner/ , remember that it is never too late to learn something new!

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