If you can, teach; If you can’t teach, do

I’ve never agreed with the adage “If you can, do; if you can’t, teach.” If you’ve ever caught yourself saying that, watch Taylor Mali talk about what teachers make. I know that you need to know something really well in order to teach it, and that teaching is an incredibly difficult thing to do properly. What I hadn’t realized until today is that if you take that adage and you flip it around, you get some pretty good career advice:

If you can, teach. If you can’t teach, do.

On the subway ride to work, I was thinking about Drupal and what I’d like to do for my next assignment. My current project will be wrapping up on October 24, and I get the feeling there would be plenty more Drupal work to do. As an application developer, I could build on all that experience I’m gaining in my current assignment: an understanding of how Drupal fits together, some practices for configuration management, testing and documentation, code snippets I can reuse, and so on.

But what I’d really like to do is teach all of this to other people so that I can focus on things I can’t teach. There are many things I do that I don’t know well enough to teach, and there are many things I do that seem intractable. I can teach tips for networking, but I don’t know how to teach people how to connect the dots. I can teach techniques for creativity, but I can’t teach creativity. I can teach ways to discover and develop passion, but I can’t teach passion.

I’d like to make this unique part more of my paying work. Ideally, I’d be able to do so while keeping my manager happy. It’ll help if I can figure out what kind of a difference I’m making and I want to make, and if I can find people who think I’m creating plenty of value.

If you can, teach. If you can’t teach, do.

Something worth thinking about….