I have spent a lot of my life pursuing knowledge. From the early years of struggling learning how to speak in two languages and knowing which one was appropriate at what time – to studying music theory in University and having to memorize note intervals – learning was my life.

From time to time I was even tested on my knowledge – how well did I actually learn?  These tests would surely measure my success.

I have spent a lot of time learning to play badminton, learning how to run, learning to play new instruments, and learning how to be a good husband.

One of the problems I encounter over and again is that I have to un-learn just as much as I have to learn.

Un-learning, to me, is the process of getting rid of things you’ve been taught were “the right way to do things” or the “right answers” to your questions, to make room for new ideas.

Without getting rid of these bad habits, ideas, doctrines, and processes, it’s almost impossible to learn.

When I got married – I had to un-learn how to be single.  I was great at not doing dishes, eating whenever I felt like it, and never making the bed.  (My wife would probably say I’m still great at that) – but the things I learned how to do so well didn’t suit me very well anymore.

It’s hard to un-learn.

I’ve had to un-learn religion.  I went to a school that taught me that science was bad, that God hated certain people, to be scared of everything, and that dinosaurs co-existed with people.

It takes time to un-learn.

I’ve had to un-learn how public transportation works.  I grew up in a country where people don’t wear watches, where buses come and go as they please, and where siestas are part of every day life.  I live in a country where being 5 minutes late is very rude, and if you’re napping in the middle of the day you’re lazy.

It takes patience to un-learn.

It’s hard to give up things you hold on to, especially the things you thought were right for so long.  It’s hard to apologize to those you hurt with your wrong ideas.

It takes guts to change your mind about your opinions and to let your friends know where you’re at.  I’ve lost jobs for things I’ve un-learned, I’ve lost friends, but most importantly I’ve gained an open mind.

I’ve learned that being wrong is ok.

I’ve learned that admitting that I don’t know everything is more powerful that knowing it all.

I’ve learned that the most important thing is to keep learning (and un-learning).

6 thoughts on “the art of un-learning

  1. Thank you for this reminder on our journey through life. Very well put. I will try harder to be an unlearner as much as i am a learner.


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