You Need To Unlearn

You can become obsessed with learning new skills and , or you can do something much smarter.

You can unlearn what doesn’t work.

What you learned in school, or at a job ten years ago, or from your parents, could be totally irrelevant.

Much of what happened in the past no longer applies. Consciously accepting this fact and doing something about it is bloody powerful.

A great example of this challenge is what we call the Melways. In Melbourne, where I live, for many decades we had a book that you could buy for $30 that had every street in every suburb on it. Before GPS, this book of maps was how you got around.

I bought my first Melways Map book in 2004. I didn’t get a car with a GPS until 2009. So from 2004 to 2009, I was using the same book of maps. The book was useful when I bought it because it had every street on it.

A few years after purchasing this book of maps I went to visit a friend at their new house. I got lost and wasted two hours of my time. I discovered later that his street wasn’t on the map because my Melways was out of date.

The exact books of maps I used to own.

What I needed was a new map because the old one no longer worked. I then had the same problem in 2011 when my 2009 map software led me to the wrong destination because it was again out of date.

Many of us live our lives like this. We’re using an out of date GPS to navigate through life and then wondering why we become lost.

Here’s 4 ways to unlearn:


1. Always doubt what you think you know.

Starting from a place of “Maybe I’m wrong” and doubting helps you to continuously learn new information.

Think about the consequences of thinking you know something and being totally wrong.

You can avoid catastrophic failures by always doubting what you ‘think’ as your starting point.

Much of human existence is based on our perception which can be dreadfully off at times.

Too many of us think we know everything and that can be the cause of so much pain and unnecessary failure.


2. Break the habit of thinking you know.

It’s a bad habit and it’s our default operating mode.

We always act based on what we think we know first. The habit that is much more useful is always to assume that you don’t know first.

This habit will force you to look for new information and speak with other people who might give you the advice that makes all the difference.

You’re not the smartest person in the room and never will be.

Break the habit of thinking you know because let’s face it, you probably don’t. Or your information could be out of date.

Image Credit: The Ringer

3. Insist on proof that what you believe is true today.

Doubting what you know is one thing but insisting on evidence that what you believe is still true is a much better strategy.

Unlearning is about finding new beliefs and strategies. For example, you could believe that you can run a mile in 30 seconds flat, but if the evidence suggests that it’s not possible, you’d, in fact, be trying to achieve something that is impossible and stupid at the same time.

It’s too easy to change our thoughts based on emotion instead of proof.

You need to have sound proof when you unlearn an old way of thinking and replace that thinking with something new.


4. If all this fails, let it go.

The first three steps will tell you a lot. The simple fact is that after the above three steps, your strategy or belief could be wrong.

If that’s the case, let it go. Don’t get emotional about it or try and hold onto something you learned which is no longer true.

It’s not about being right; it’s about having a strategy or belief that will actually work.

‘I don’t know’ is UBER COOL.

I used this phrase yesterday.

Someone asked me what I thought about building a coffee website. I haven’t built one for a very long time so what I know is probably out of date. I told them ‘I don’t know.’

Later that day someone on LinkedIn asked me if they should use a business plan to quit their job and start consulting. I told them ‘I don’t know.’

Why? Well, when I started my consulting business, I didn’t use a plan. In fact, I’ve never used a business plan and instead preferred to do user testing to validate an idea rather than a plan that’s based on my limited experience.

My belief is that things are changing so fast that most business plans are out of date before they’re completed.

Saying you don’t know is perfectly fine.


Your old ideas are what’s scary.

My old view of the world was that everyone was trying to steal from me and I had to make as much money for myself as I could. I thought life was about survival of the fittest.

Imagine if I still used this model of the world and didn’t unlearn it.

We shouldn’t be afraid of change or unlearning what we know; we should be scared out of our mind about the old ideas we learned.

Information is readily available, so we’re all on a level playing field.

What separates those of us who can thrive and those who of us who can’t, is our mind. Have you programmed yourself to learn, unlearn and relearn over and over?

Having the guts to admit you’re wrong or need to relearn something takes someone who is self-aware and prepared to put their ego aside.
Image Credit: Stephanie Wunderlich

The minimalism movement is half right.

Getting more information or signing up for more education is not the answer.

The answer is this: less is more.
Well sort of.

The answer is really the habit of subtracting and adding on repeat for the rest of your life.

It’s like constantly updating your internal software to make sure what you currently think is right, taking away what’s no longer relevant, and adding in new ideas and strategies that were previously undiscovered.

True wisdom intersects the practice of learning, unlearning and relearning.

Credit to Derek Sivers for opening my eyes to this idea.


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