So throughout your life till this moment you have learnt. Learnt the skills to survive and also weave a safe path towards your goals; And yet wondering. Is this the final goal?
Achieving goal to everyone’s utter surprise is beyond the realms of learning….it is unlearning in the garb of learning.
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Unlearning is this emptying of your cup. It is acquiring of new while replacing the old.
In the fast lane of your professional as well as personal lives, your success depends not on how quickly we learn but on how quickly we unlearn. It is more difficult and uncomfortable than learning because we have to let go of knowledge that has served us so well.
It is no longer known as learning ability. It is learning agility.
As futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler once wrote: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Unlearning is all about moving away or letting go. It is acquiring of something new. It could be better than before. It is only possible when you are ready to transform your fixed mindset to growth mindset.
Let’s take an example of a guy who strips the old paint on a wall for a newer one. He prepares a surface. Stripping the paint is 70% of the work while repainting is only 30%.
Yes, we have been successful insofar. Now is the time to take this to new level as the journey ahead demands new sets of skills and competencies. It needs to forge a new being while respecting the very old one.
What happens when you have changed jobs?
You have learnt a certain way of life in your previous organization. You gradually start unpeeling the mindset and procedures of that organization. Your continuous comparison would prove to be a hindrance to embrace the new environs. It will block getting a clear sense of new job. By continually mulling over what you did and how you did in the previous organization will make you miss all the learning opportunities at your new work place. On the other hand, the previous experience becomes handy in perpetuating your growth in the new place you systematically learn, unlearn and relearn your way to prepare for what’s next.
Unlearning doesn’t imply to toss out all your accumulated knowledge or even nullify or negate the previous know-how. Rather, it asks that you stay open to different ways of getting things done. It just requires the lessons from the previous learning to be carried forward and to be ready for the new.
Unlearning is to begin at the beginning. In order to learn something new, even if it has a remote similarity to what you have done earlier, learn what makes it different. We all repeat the success formula that worked in the past, even when the application of the same is not required in the present. Repetition isn’t bad but when there is a significant difference the old approach is bad.
The present formula of achievement is moving away from the mundane which you have created through your fixed mindsets. Unlearning means acquiring a growth mindset and following a new. Even the newness will require an unflinching unlearning time and again. You need to adapt to a newer fresh whenever you have to go for a change which is very constant and a need for living life both on personal and professional fronts.