Blog Editorial

Lightbulb Moments

As I was developing the branding for my website redesign (nice, isn’t it?) I wanted to incorporate something that I talk about all the time while I’m teaching, but I’ve never really shared here on the blog. As you can see, a prominent feature of my new logo is the lightbulb element in the middle. I created this icon because of my affection for what I call “lightbulb moments” in education. I’ve often said that these moments are what keep me coming back for more and when teaching a live class, they are the most rewarding part of my day. So, what are they exactly?

Basically a lightbulb moment is when someone I’m teaching finally grasps a concept that I’ve been trying to teach them and they realize that the thing they thought to be out of their reach an hour beforehand, isn’t anymore. I liken this moment to when a lightbulb lights up because that’s literally what it looks like. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looking out into a sea of students and seen the “dammit I just don’t get it” face. It’s horrible. As an instructor you start to worry if you just don’t have it that day or sometimes if you ever had it at all… But then when you least expect it, something you say, or do, or show them gets through and they finally make the connection with what you’re talking about. That’s the lightbulb. People who have been stumbling around in the dark all day can now see clearly and are walking the path of knowledge… It’s a powerful thing!

I’ll never forget the day I was teaching a Photoshop class to several students in Louisiana. All of the students had varying degrees of familiarity of Photoshop, but there were two gentlemen in the front of the room who (to my knowledge) had never touched a computer before that day. Needless to say, this wasn’t the class for them, but they wanted to learn and I was determined to make sure that happened. No matter what I did throughout that class, these guys just weren’t getting it. The trouble wasn’t necessarily my teaching methods, but more the fact that they lacked basic computing skills. When lunchtime came around I asked the guys to go grab lunch quickly and then come back and I would help them during the break… Immediately I sprang into action putting together a makeshift computers 101 course for my troubled students. When they returned I walked them through basic operating procedures like using the mouse, selecting and clicking on things, etc. It wasn’t until I made a comparison between the mouse and the steering wheel of a car that they started to grasp what I was talking about. I told them to think of the monitor as their windshield and the mouse as their steering wheel (these guys were truck drivers by trade). I told the guys to let their eyes do the driving and the wheel would just sort of take care of itself… like a car! Bingo… Lightbulb.

Once they had the basic motor skills down, they were overjoyed at what they were able to do. One of them kept saying to the other one “check it out, I’m driving this thing!” I couldn’t believe how thrilled they were to have learned something that I take for granted every single day. They might not have walked away as Photoshop experts that day, but those two guys walked out with their heads held high and smiles on their faces. That is what a lightbulb moment is all about, and that is why I take such great pride in what I do. I don’t care if I’m teaching 10 people or 1,000 people… As long as ONE of them has a lightbulb moment, I’ve done my job. As an instructor, you can’t reach everyone, but you can reach someone and that should always be your goal.

Now that you know the story behind the branding, hopefully you’ll understand more of where I’m coming from and how I operate as an instructor. If you’ve ever had a lightbulb moment, be it with me or any other instructor, I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a line in the comments or hit me up via Facebook or Twitter.


  1. Hi Justin, I am a newbie since Jan with a new Apple vs PC and cs5 and now cs6. I have watched many many movies on lynda.com- yours is the very first that I have understood and was able to take that lesson and get results..yeah……. Your guidance within the past week, has me doing things, I did not even know of till now… Thank you for movies that have substance…..I hope you continue to do more…..anything with photoshop cs6? My best Mdm samm

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words. I am indeed working on some courses for Photoshop CS6, so stay tuned! If you ever need anything, feel free to email me and I’ll be glad to help you out. Thanks again for watching and for the comments.

  2. Thank you for sharing how you feel about the light bulb moments. It truly is a driver of what keeps me going back into the classroom to help others in their learning process. It is very rewarding to see others learn and grow. The other thing that I find very rewarding is when I run into a former student years later and they share with me the difference I made in their life and/or career through encouragement and believing in them. I was at a baseball game with my family and heard my name being yelled across the parking lot. The young lady caught up with me and was so proud to tell me how she had moved up the career ladder and she never would have if not for my encouraging words of “you can do it”. I was humbled to have the opportunity to hear her words and to tell her how very proud I am of her and her accomplishments. So, sometimes you may not see the light bulb moment until years later but it is so rewarding and worth the investment of time and energy in each student.

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