“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler
Growing up, I thought the most important thing for me to do was to learn hard and get good grades. I was focused on the good grades aspect more than the art of learning. It took a while for me to understand that not all things we learn are worth learning, and if we settle in that small scope of only wanting to get good grades, we will miss out on all the great things. It even took me longer to get that though learning is a lifelong aspiration, there is a time for learning, and there is also a time for unlearning some things, in order to relearn a better version of it, and this is a continuous cycle.
Let’s face it, you will read a lot of things, study a lot of things and imbibe a lot of things. However there comes a time when you need to let go — unlearn that which does not serve you, unlearn that which is ineffective, and unlearn that which will not help you grow, in order to relearn new models. However you can do this if you keep an open mind and understand that learning never ceases. Learning is a necessity — a lifetime commitment that will serve you in ways you never imagined. If you treat learning like a prison, it will treat you like a prisoner, and you both won’t be very happy. To unlearn is to be brave, because you’re questioning what you know now, and if it doesn’t serve its purpose, you let go, you relearn by reimagining, refocusing and building.
I discuss below things that I unlearned, that I believe will be helpful for you to unlearn also, if you haven’t already.
One of the things I unlearned was the fact that Memorizing is learning. How people love to chew, pour, pass and forget! How people love to relax and then cram a whole term’s studies in one night, only to pour it out in words and figures and diagrams and then that is it. How necessary is it to learn something only to forget? Why should you learn it in the first place then? Understand what it is you learn, and if there are aspects that need to be tweaked you work on that. Don’t just cram things as you move along.
The second thing I unlearned was the idea that There is just one way of doing something. If there was only one way of doing things progress in all fields would come to a halt. People would stop researching ideas and theories that build upon other researches. If you only colour inside the lines, you may never step outside of your comfort zone. Always look for better, efficient ways to solve things. Changing your perspective helps; it opens up your mind to a whole range of possibilities and opportunities. In a world filled with growing problems aspire to be a solutionist.
Another thing I had to let go was the fact that Curiosity means you’re inquisitive. Being curious might be the most beautiful thing in this world. Curiosity never killed the cat; that was how the cat discovered it has nine lives in the first place. (This is NOT a fact, but it helps in this context). When you are curious, you ask more questions and the more questions you ask, the more dots you begin to connect. In the process you get to learn new things, learn from other people’s mistakes and get new ideas. Some of the greatest inventions in the world came from people who were ‘passionately curious’. Curiosity goes hand in hand with unlearning, learning and relearning. The curious mind never stops finding out more, and if you are always a step ahead through learning, you get to know what to let go and what to take on in a new perspective.
Finally, one thing I got to know and understand was the fact that Talent does not necessary lead you to success. You remember those days when it seemed only those that had a particular talent will excel? Well, those days don’t exist anymore, and I do not know if they ever existed. A talent may be a catalyst to success but it does not guarantee it. For a talent to take you far you must be willing to put in the work. Other factors matter, like passion, like perseverance in the face of adversity, like learning from others and applying the relevant aspects to what you do, like consistency. There are many who have relied on their passion to save them and it didn’t, because they were unwilling to put in the work. They were unwilling to evolve and become better at what they did, and they ended up stagnating.
Information is now accessible to everyone. The one who wants to learn and makes the effort and puts in the work will get to where they want to be. The world is throbbing with ideas, and in order to move forward, you need to be a continuous learner. The individual who understands evolution and adapts to change has a better chance at success. That takes you farther in life than sitting pretty, afraid to let go of obsolete rules and methods, and holding on conventions as if your life depended on it.
The future shines bright for those who are curious, those who are willing to move forward even when failure mocks them by throwing obstacles in their faces. By unlearning, learning and continuously relearning, you will discover that the world has a lot more to offer than you ever thought.