How to Unlearn Everything
“Most people are living in an illusion based on someone else’s beliefs.”
I was a great student in high school and mostly in college. I did what I was supposed to do. I memorized facts. I handed in work on time. Today though, I wish I wasn't a good student. What I am realizing today in my 30s is that being a good student was actually a detriment. I was so caught up in having the right answer that I barely made mistakes. I didn't fail enough to want to keep trying again. I didn't fail enough to be more resilient. I took things just as they were without questioning why. Today, I am unlearning everything.
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Today, many of my unlearning comes from a variety of sources. It started with a book by Tony Robbins that my mom had lying around the house. I don't remember much of the content, but it sparked a small fire in me about change and personal development. For the past few years, Tim Ferriss was and continues to be a big influence. I always found something insightful in his podcasts, something I could take with me, to try, to do, to fail. That's part of the reason why I started The Do Something Project to track my many projects. Recently, the following books: More Important Than Money by Robert Kiyosaki and Team and You Are Badass by Jen Sincero, and the following Choose FI episode: Education Through Innovation ignited more things in my to want to try, to change.
People think personal development is all hooey (is that even a word?), but I completely disagree. If you don't change, if you don't grow, you might as well be dead. Seriously! We are not bound by the decisions we made in the past. We are not bound by the decisions others made for us. We have a choice. Personal development is about unlearning and relearning and making mistakes along the way.
Change Your Environment
Tony Robbins says this often that if you are bored, stuck or unsure what to do: Change your State. What does he mean by this? Well, our bodies and our minds work very closely together. They feed off each other, but the mind always wants to protect the body so it makes us fear certain things so that the body doesn't risk itself. Tony's recommendation is always to move your body. Moving your body kick starts your instincts, gets you to natural state of responding to what is happening around you instead of your mind creating illusions.
So how does one go about changing your environment? This may be as simple as moving. If you are at a job that you dislike, perhaps, it's time to find something that brings more out of you. If you feel stuck, stop doing what you've always been and try something new and different. If you are tired, get your heart pumping by doing a quick exercise. If you are feeling sad, smile and send a different signal to your brain. If the people around you aren't supporting your growth and well being, find a new circle.
Humans are meant to move, to react, to do something based on instinct. Don't let those voices in your head keep you from doing something you want to do. There's a difference with wanting changing and doing things to make a change, you actually have to get off the couch for the latter and that requires changing your environment.
You May Not Belong in School
With environment being a big factor, it also stands to reason that for many of us school may not bring the best in us. The traditional education system has not changed since the 1800s, but the world we live in has significantly progressed. So for many of us and for today's generations, the reality is that school may not be where we belong. There is nothing wrong with this, although if you told me this a few year's ago, I would have balked and said something to the effect of we all need to go to school, etc. etc.
We don't all need to go to school, but we all need to get educated and education doesn't just happen in the confines of a classroom. There are people on the planet that are striving and doing well without a college education. The thing is we have this mindset that a college education is what is needed to be successful. This mindset is in itself a detrimental self-fulfilling prophecy because we already think we are lower than everyone else without a degree. The reality is that it's up to you to continue to learn, to brush up your skills and expose yourself to new ideas.
We always have to be open to learning something new, something different. Perhaps, for a period of time, our minds won't understand what is happening. Perhaps, it won't click, but eventually it will. We also now live in a world full of information. Things, data, ideas become become obsolete within a few seconds. The best thing we can do to combat change is to learn about it. Technology is making it easier to learn something new. Take advantage of it. We don't need to incur massive amounts of debt to get educated. Read a book. Find an online class. The options are endless. Of course, this is not to say that formal education is bad, but I would encourage you to continously think outside the box when it comes to learning for yourself and your kids. Trust me, everyone will be better of if we do that.
Unlearning Takes Time
As with anything, unlearning takes time. Personally for me, I've had 30 years of conditioning that I need to undo. People think change is easy, but if you've ever tried it, it certainly is not. We have been conditioned to think a certain way by people who love us and want the best for us. The problem with this is that these beliefs are based on the other people's thought processes and experiences at a certain point in time.
Do not knock it until you've tried it. Right now, I can't listen to people who've never done it. Perhaps, I'm getting stubborn in my old age, but I just can't deal with people who automatically say things can't be done. Why not? Have you tried? Nothing is impossible. Impossible is a limit that we've set ourselves based on past conditioning. Yes, we've all been pre-conditioned, like Pavlov's dogs, our parents, our cultures, our society have dangled various systems in our face thinking it's the only way, the only reward for living your life. Sadly, this is not true and the faster we realize this, the faster we can make changes to live the life that we want.
Unlearning takes time, re-learning takes even longer. When our mind is set to something, it's hard to move away from that because all of our thoughts, ideas are tied to that belief. When we unlearn, we have to unravel the truth behind those ideas and we have to figure out which ones we need to move away from, which ones we have to replace and which ones we have to build on top of. Admittedly, this is a lot of work and for many folks, no one wants to do this kind of work.
I've lived a very traditional, conventional life, going to school, getting a job and saving what I could, but when I left the traditional 9-5 workforce, all of these traditional walls of security crumbled and I had to re-learn new methods of working, of making money. Methods that I was not familiar with, methods that I had heard about, but have never tried. This took a lot of trial and error, but it has been the most rewarding and fulfilling time.
Mistakes Make You
I was certainly one of those people that were afraid to make mistakes. Afraid to get laughed at. Afraid to get yelled. Just afraid. Growing up, there were unsaid expectations that we had to be perfect. Sit still, be quiet, do your work and that's exactly what I did. I learned to follow the rules which sometimes worked in my favor, but I rarely took risks. I'm analytical by nature so this was helpful because it meant I could take my time before formulating a response.
As I progressed in my career, I eventually worked in a role where I supported the fail-fast mentality. I was a Scrum Master and each day I encouraged teams to do and try. I promoted work that was in progress. I promoted work that needed tweaking. I protected teams when customers wanted end products right away (even though they didn't really know that that end product was.) I learned to move out of the perfection mentality and just move towards progress.
In that latest Choose FI Episode, the interviewee Don, states that by the time kids are in 3rd grade, we've stripped away their inclination to try and get excited about things. They are introduced to standard testing and rote memorization of subjects that they won't remember or want to revisit ever again. This is sad to me. There's so much potential with the next generation, how can we continue to keep their ideas stifled all for the sake of fulfilling an education that is antiquated and not in tune with today's changing world.
So learn to be comfortable with making mistakes. Mistakes are meant to be building blocks. When it happens, step on it and try it again.
Surround Yourself With Better People
There's a quote out there that says "You are the average of the 5 people you spend time with." When a friend first said that, my mind was blown. Of course, I started thinking about my circle of friends and where I fit in. Sadly, I realized that I wasn't necessarily in the company of go-getters and I wanted to be elevated. So I withdrew from people. Not to say that some of them were not good people, but they didn't provide the support that I wanted and needed. I, honestly, don't think there's anything wrong with this. Others may rush to judgement, but this is the same vein of no longer sharing the same interests, it happens!
When I got laid off from my job, I wanted to take time off. I had the means to do so. My expenses were in check, I had savings. Although I didn't have a clear plan on what I would do, I felt I needed the time off to do some soul searching. When I first mentioned this to many of my old colleagues, the negativity started pouring in. "Oh, aren't you putting everything at risk by doing that?" "Don't you want to find a job right away?" "I think you should work at company X or Y, you'd be perfect there." The comments I'm sure from their perspective were well meaning, but it was based on THEIR ideas and fears, not mine. So with that, I strategically only reconnected with people that were supportive but also constructively critical. It wasn't easy, but instinctively, it was what I needed to do. I related all of this to a good friend of mine and her comment was: "Their perception of you is a reflection on them, not on you." So I took that to heart and connected with people that were positive influences.
It's kind of interesting that as adults, we have the right and means to create our own circle. When we were younger, we were bound by who our parents socialized with, where we went to school and where we lived. Today as adults, we have the means to go anywhere, the means to join clubs, the money to attend seminars or classes, we have the ability to make new friends. So why don't we do it? Mostly because we are afraid. We fear being judged. We fear something new. We fear starting over.
Interestingly too, the idea that we are the average of the 5 people around us is actually not correct. The circle is broader. The network is larger. We are the average of our network. This can easily be seen by our social media networks. People in our network post the same things, rarely a new idea, rarely something that is outside of our comfort zone. This is not to say that we should abandon our friends and find new ones, but that we do have to venture outside of the circle to learn something different and find something new. Doing so may mean being outcasted and doing so may alienate people, but in the end, it's your life and your happiness that matters, not theirs so if your old friends don't support you, then it might be time to find people who will.
10 New Things I Have Learned
The past few years for me has been a lot of unlearning and re-learning. My list continues to grow, but here are my Top Ten. What are yours?
- Sales is not grimy.
- Money is not bad.
- Past decisions don't make you.
- Change, however, small, adds up.
- Education doesn't only happen in the classroom.
- Busy doesn't mean productivity.
- There is always more than one way to do something.
- There is no such thing as a unique idea. All ideas are the same, just expressed differently.
- Trust no one. Experiment on yourself to see if it works for you.
- Learning is lifelong.
Check out these resources to help you unlearn and re-learn a few key things.