Years ago I was wholeheartedly an Ubuntu Linux fanboy. Every waking moment I spent playing with it and browsing the support forums to discuss problems, solutions, and unrelated topics. I was a highschooler running in the big leagues trying to help anyone and everyone I could. They were the first online community I felt undoubtedly attached to. They changed my life as a developer and student. All of a sudden I realized I was incredibly indebted to them.

After realizing how much the people in the community meant to me, I began doing whatever I could to help. I started compiling solutions to common problems into tutorials and setup guides. These started to be very highly viewed. It wasn’t enough. I began working on a project to help myself use Ubuntu better offline. That project became Keryx. Before I knew it, there were thousands of downloads and I was receiving emails from users across the globe. Users in Africa, users in Asia, users in small towns in the US. It was incredible, but here I am. There’s nothing special about me, only the approach I happened to take.

You see, I decided to try to help people. I began to teach newcomers the ropes of using Ubuntu. It didn’t matter that I was just some naive highschool student either. When I came across a question I didn’t know how to answer, I googled and googled and googled until I came across something that would at least help put them on the right path. I am not a genius by any definition of the word. No. All I did was tried to help teach others.

There are a great many reasons for mentoring and teaching, and here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1. Teaching requires you to learn

You might think this is a bit backwards. A student is supposed to be the one doing the learning, however that’s not quite the case. As a teacher you’re forced to learn. Students are constantly asking questions. The kinds of questions they’ll ask you are ones you may never expect. Something you find obvious and take for granted will be questioned right before your very eyes. It will force you to reexamine your beliefs, get a better understanding of them, and reenforce everything you know. If it turns out you were actually wrong, then congratulations! You’re more enlightened.

2. Teaching builds relationships

I cannot tell you how many incredible people I have met by simply giving a helping hand. I know that at some point in my life, I needed help too. The people who helped me solve my problems never expected anything in return. They truly cared about me. Helping someone learn builds trust and relationships that aren’t easy to make otherwise. That’s why working with a team of people can quickly feel like family. After all, that’s what strong families usually do. They help each other whenever they can.

3. Teaching leads to new opportunities

As you mentor and teach people, you become more respected. If you’re doing a good job, you’re surely to be talked up whether you like the praise or not. All it takes is one person to recommend you and before you know it, you’re sitting with the best of them. Sometimes you’ll get introduced to someone you’ve always looked up to. You’ll feel like a hack, after all, you started “teaching” because you just wanted to help. You still don’t know anything compared to them. But that’s not what matters. What matters is you’ve inspired someone. You’ve put a smile on their face. You’ve helped them become a better person.

Do things. Tell people.

You might not realize it yet, but your actions shine very bright. You don’t have to consider yourself an expert to teach or mentor. You don’t have to be one either. All you’ve got to do is share what knowledge you do have, expertise will follow. An expert isn’t someone who is always right. An expert is someone who can learn, adapt, and help others understand.

Fake your way to becoming an expert. That’s what they’ve all done anyways.

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