Learning Isn’t Enough. You Also Need to Unlearn

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It is no longer safe to follow the path.

The days of loyally serving a company (or two) for 40 years and obediently climbing the prescribed career ladder to retirement have long gone away. Salvation will not be found by remaining cloistered in your own profession or work discipline. Being an expert does not guarantee you a safe haven.

Here is why.

When you become too engrossed in your own industry, you run the risk of becoming too influenced by it. You shy away from trying new things for a bucket full of ‘valid’ reasons.

  • It has already been done so there is no motivation to do different.
  • The different or the unknown threatens your ‘expert’ status.
  • You are afraid and take refuge in maintaining the status quo.

Before you know it you have become a radiant star in your own diminishing universe.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” -Eric Hoffer — social writer and philosopher.

We can all agree the value of acquiring knowledge and skills. However, simply amassing a vast collection of qualifications and certificates as evidence of learning and development is no longer enough in our post-industrial world.

Today, valuable learning and growth is so much more than an exercise in acquisition. It is the difference between a being a collector and a curator. It is about letting go of old assumptions that are no longer relevant and divorcing yourself from processes that have passed their usefulness. Now more than ever, we need to be more discerning in our learning and consciously handpick what to keep and what to discard.

Unlearn-Learn Simultaneously.

The skill of simultaneous unlearning and learning requires the mental dexterity to maintain a dual state of constant vulnerability and confidence. It calls for acquiring a mindful habit of consciously decluttering and curating.

Step 1: Unlearn. Declutter your mind. You need to make room for new ideas, diverse perspectives and fresh thinking. Consciously, let go of commonly accepted ways of thinking and actions that no longer serve a purpose. Be willing to change your world view and learn something new and different; adapt and/or adopt; and act!

It is not easy.

Have courage to challenge what you know. Don’t expect to find fresh ideas in your usual mental hangouts or work. Danger lies in staying in your comfort zone and barricading yourself in your own area of expertise or discipline. Danger lies in staying in your comfort zone, barricading yourself in your area of expertise. You need to become self-disruptive and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is not easy. But keep going.

Step 2: Learn. As you tiptoe on the edge of your comfort zone, what style will you choose grasshopper? Let go of commonly accepted ways of thinking and actions that no longer serve a purpose
Whatever method you adopt, actively seek out different opinions and try atypical approaches. Go cross-discipline adventuring. The world needs curious, creative explorers and mixed-discipline artists. I found unexpected creative HR inspiration watching master glassblowers demonstrate their craft.

Step 3: Unlearn and Learn Simultaneously. Now it is time to put steps 1 and 2 together. It is like learning to dance the salsa or learning to drive a manual transmission car — clutch, change gear, gas. Stepping on toes and crunching gears are all part of the learning process. Practice creates flow. The key word here is ‘process’. It is not about passing or failing. Neither is it about getting it done or achieving perfection.

Simultaneously learning and unlearning is a skill backed with a specific mindset.

You will need to rewire your mindset . Stop pandering to fears of failure or the expectation of success. Find solace in experimenting. Make learning your ultimate goal and how much you have grown your primary metric; not perfection. When you have an experimental mindset , you create a safe space to try something new and different. When mistakes and missteps happen (and they will) you do not see your entire investment of time and energy as a failure but rather an iterative process of trial and error, unlearning and learning, and the broadening of your horizons in your own laboratory. You will need grit and persistence to find ways to tap into those discoveries and let them percolate through your work over time.

Here is my daily practice to build up this skill. Give it a go yourself.

At the start the day, I put two sticky notes on my desk. One has “Unlearn” and the other has “Learn” written on it. At the end of the day, I write down three things that I have unlearned and three things I have learned on each sticky note. Don’t beat yourself up if you cannot manage to record three things in the beginning. With practice, you will get there.

Practice this every day. But don’t stop there.

“Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action.” — Jim Rohn — entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker.

Simultaneously learning and unlearning is a craft to be practiced and a skill to be honed. You may feel uncomfortable at the thought of unlearning. Create a safe space to try something new and different. You may even feel afraid to venture beyond the comfort of your discipline and area of expertise. But remember this is not a race to be won or lost, a test to pass or fail. Learning is your purpose and growth is your goal. Start today. Practice daily and it will become your super skill that will help reignite your creativity.

Why bother? Our world is filled with immense opportunities for the courageous and the creative.

But ultimately, the choice is yours to make.

Original post: OpenForIdeas.org

Republished: Bulldog Drummond

About the author: Nicole Antonio-Gadsdon is a HR pro that thinks like a creative, and an activist for putting the ‘human’ before the ‘resources’. A warrior dedicated to the liberation of business owners from the HR-related chaos and the insanity than can threaten a successful opening and the sustainable growth of a business. Most likely found leading and supporting zero to launch business openings of luxury hospitality brands and independent boutique hotels in the Caribbean and UK.

Nicole is the founder of Aquarius Human Resources Consulting, creative HR specialist, writer at The HR Rabbit Hole blog and a happy contributor to other cross-discipline blogs dedicated to causing a stir for the greater good.

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