Unlearning

In my professional life, I work in four key areas which are home to their fair share of know-it-alls; science, media, fitness and corporate. That’s a lot of massive egos, I can tell you. And the problem with people who know everything is that there’s nothing left for them to learn. They are unteachable. Especially when someone else has a theory, idea or (perish the thought) evidence that might challenge or contradict their current belief-perspective-paradigm.. etc. *Of course, I also work with some awesome, humble and brilliant people.

And not only is there nothing left for them to learn but, for a range of fear and ego-based reasons, many of them feel compelled to belittle, contradict and/or argue with anyone who doesn’t align with their version of the truth.

Pity.

They are not interested in discussing, learning, listening or considering, no, they’re only interested in winning. Being right. Of course, they feign open-mindedness and objectivity, but it’s a show. A flimsy mask covering their non-negotiable omnipotence.

Their all-knowing-ness.

After all, when you’ve believed and espoused certain things for a very long time, you have a huge emotional, psychological and professional investment in that belief. That message. And for people who find their confidence and sense of self in their knowledge, beliefs and expertise (many people, by the way), can you imagine the courage and humility it would take for them to say to the world… “regarding XYZ, I was wrong”. No excuses, disclaimers or justifications, just “I was wrong.” It’s not often that you’ll hear an expert (whatever that means) come out and say those three words. And by the way, it’s totally okay to be wrong (part of the human condition, and all) but somewhere along their journey, some people have learned something different.

The older I get, the more I need to unlearn. Over the last ten years I’ve let go of, or realigned my thinking on, many long-held beliefs. Many. That is, I’ve unlearned. I’ve come to the realisation that I was wrong. About plenty. Everything from nutrition, supplementation and exercise, to business, leadership and the meaning of success. The need to be right is a dangerous need. It’s unhealthy, dis-empowering and socially repellent. Talking with a know-it-all is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer; pointless and painful.

Being capable of unlearning is a by-product of being teachable, humble and open-minded. It’s also a consequence of understanding ‘who we are’ beyond ‘what we know’.

After all, I am not the message, just the messenger. :)

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

chebbieanne March 10, 2014 at 12:38 am

It never ceases to amaze me how much I knew 40 years ago and how little I know now. Back then I learned what others taught me. Lots of clever stuff, interesting stuff some really amazing stuff even. Somewhere along the way I learned better stuff and every day I learn new stuff. Now I know very little and the more I learn the less I know for sure. I think I like it better this way but I am surrounded by people who know all there is to know about everything. When did everyone become an expert ? Why do they, we, us feel we need to be experts? Mostly I ask myself when will the experts grow up and realise if we are really so expert why aren’t we smarter? I really don’t know much at all but I do love to learn. A day without learning something new, challenging old ideas and opening our minds to the endless possibilities of life is a day lost. Humble pie is the true super food of the 21 st century.

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Anonymous March 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for recommending reading A New Earth, which had some very interesting things to say about the ego. Along with this post, it’s got me wondering in how many places I need to un-learn. It’s also got me wondering, is the desire to be teachable, humble and open-minded just my ego at work again? The book has a very clear description of this feeling of going round in circles, and a clear solution – the experience of presence. Making this feeling explicit is a new experience for me. It’s an experience that can’t be un-learned. So I will try putting it into practice, and see whether it has any effects on what happens. It takes courage to be able to see and admit where you think you were wrong. Thank you for your example.

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Nicky March 11, 2014 at 8:36 am

omg this article is sooooo true!!!! I have come across a few people that fits this bill to a tee!!! Scarey. I so hope I’m not that person.
It is my mission now to learn to say ‘ I was wrong’ and to teach my children that it’s not a bad thing

Thank you Craig for this mornings message

Nicky

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Blossom March 11, 2014 at 5:05 pm

In reference to being wrong and taking ownership, this reminds me of a similar trait that many have and that is ownership of failing at something. My daughter recently failed her L’s diving test…..twice. She was so embarrassed to go to school. There is a familiar pattern amongst 18 year old’s that you don’t dare tell anyone when you are going to get your P’s in case you fail and everyone finds out. I have told my kids that it’s quite ok to fail at things, and that the only real failure is to not in the first place.
In regards to my daughter’s dilemma, I simply told her that if that is the biggest thing that she ever fails, then she will have a very charmed life:)

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Blossom March 11, 2014 at 5:07 pm

(above is to say… the only real failure is to not TRY in the first place:)
oops.

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Talia March 11, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Yip. Quite amazing as to the wisdom and insights that happen when we say “I don’t know, this doesn’t seem to be true and then having the desire to see ‘beyond’ ”

Sometimes it’s better to walk away from ‘tunnel vision’

Maybe this world is just a stage setting a ‘backdrop’ of ‘untruths’ in order to break through and discover the truths. To create yourself you need to ‘uncreate’ yourself first.

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