There are two mindsets through which you can teach: The expert, and the angel.

You’re the expert when you’re teaching your native knowledge. You may have a natural talent in that field, and/or you learned it early in life.

You’re the angel when you’re teaching something you’ve been through yourself. You’ve made it to the other side, and now you’re guiding others.

I play the role of expert when I teach design. I wasn’t born a design expert, but I acquired the skill early enough in life, and with a sufficiently limited amount of anguish, that I don’t remember what it’s like to not know it.

I can still record my own thought process, as I did in my first book, and in some cases I remember my own learning process well enough to provide a bridge from not knowing to knowing.

Where I struggle is with compassion. The memory of the pain of not knowing is not fresh enough to motivate me to help more than I do.

I play the role of angel when I teach overcoming aspiration procrastination. The pain of being tied to the tracks while the train of time bares down upon me is fresh in my mind. The relief of breaking free to dodge that train is fresh, too. In fact, I feel both of these feelings nearly every day.

As such, not only do I distinctly remember how to get from there to here, I’m grateful enough to have made it myself that I’m sufficiently motivated to guide others. Additionally, the process of providing that help serves to save myself.

If I have to choose between learning from the expert, or learning from the angel, I choose the angel. The expert can’t remember what it’s like to be in my position. The angel is still living it.

If I have to choose between being an expert, and being an angel, again, I choose the angel. The fuel of compassion can guide you to a gratifying body of work, and you save yourself along the way.

What about you? When are you an expert, and when are you an angel? Do you prefer to learn from experts, or angels?

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