“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
— Alvin Toffler —
On September 3rd, 1967, Sweden’s traffic laws changed, and cars went from driving on the left-hand side of the road, to the right.
It was a dramatic shift for the country. Suddenly, after much debate, and a referendum that saw 82.9% of Swedes vote against the change, 200 years of tradition had come to an end.
What followed was a period of unlearning; a period in which drivers had to challenge what, to their minds, was the right thing to do, in order to do what needed to be done.
This unlearning was relatively easy for the Swedes. Non-essential traffic was kept off the roads during the transition phase, so by the time the general public were backing out of their driveways, all they needed to do was follow the actions of other drivers.
Personal unlearning will never come that easy for most. In the case of the individual, switching metaphorical driving lanes in our mind is daunting. Each of us has our habits, and the older we get, the more independent we become, the less likely we are to break from them, because they make our lives easier.
Yet to ensure we are doing what needs to be done for each of us to become our best selves, we must rise to the challenge, and question that which we hold as true in order to seek a deeper understanding of who we are, and the future we face.
The first step is to question everything.
The vast majority of us operate on paradigms established decades, if not centuries ago. Unsurprisingly, that means many are ineffective, and most could use some innovation. You won’t realise that just from reading a textbook. You won’t hear it from a boss who’s made their money by playing it safe and holding onto the old ways. Only when you question why such paradigms exist, and whether there’s room for improvement, can change begin.
The next step is to answer honestly.
You’ve got your question, now you need the answer…and you’re probably not going to like it. Moving away from our habits is hard, especially when it moves us away from what we feel makes us a leader in our industry. Sometimes, it can feel like we’re relinquishing our expertise when we realise we don’t know the answer.
But that’s a good thing.
To be 8 Percent, to embody excellence and expertise, we must accept that there are gaps in our understanding, then move to fill them. Those who refuse to – those set in their ways out of comfort, fear, or greed – are the ones who will be left behind.
The world is changing faster than ever before. If you are not ready or willing to practice unlearning, to change our habits and reject that which is easy for that which is necessary, than success will always be out of reach. It is time to redefine the way we learn, to take a step back, and give ourselves room to grow.