Unlearn in life


“You have all the time in the world to learn everything that needs to be learned – and you have less time to unlearn it”

– Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers



I have often cribbed about the society and its dogmas

I have had this conversation with my team mate so many times that it almost sounds like a cliche when I try to write about it. Something we both really enjoyed was cribbing about a few things in the society, how badly it is shaped and why there doesn’t seem to be an easy way out of it. We happily take the role of patronizing the sorry few people who tend to keep following the society and its norms which don’t make much sense and we happily elevate ourselves from that level when we talk about that! You called us hypocrites? Well, maybe – a little bit  of that without hurting anyone is not that bad indeed :P.

The Hypocrisy of the society

The conversation usually goes like this – we usually talk about all the things we are made to believe right from the start like being a good boy, following the rules, listening to elders, never back talking to them, treating everyone with respect, giving importance to each person’s views no matter how stupid it is, trying to make everyone around happy and so on… It made us feel good, reassuring the assumption that we are very different from the society and how we stand above it :D. Yup yup, I agree with all the adjectives you are framing in your minds now :).

So what is the conclusion? 

However we usually used to come up to this one conclusion each time, we always used to say, “Gosh there is so many silly stuff which we learned which doesn’t really make any sense anymore! I wish I had known it earlier that we would need to unlearn them, I wouldn’t have spent time and energy learning something which I am anyway supposed to unlearn”. I think it is right from the start where we are driven to the idea of learning, the stories with morals from teachers, the discipline and following the rules as told by our teachers, the don’t ask too many questions from our relatives, the don’t risk much in life from the peers and so on goes the never ending list. But we are never taught the importance and the answer to the question as to why and whether we should unlearn some things.

What have we accumulated growing up? 

But honestly we used to feel that one thing in common that growing up, we seem to have accumulated a lot of junk along the way, some of which and sometimes most of which doesn’t really make any sense. It does seem to sometimes but most times it doesn’t! Growing up there were so many things which were right outside of what we had learned. Coming to know of things like – the morals and the principles come with an asterisk sign, the discipline is a great deal but at the same time so is creativity, people ask us not to back talk to someone else but at the same time they expect us to assert and stand up for our own rights, they told us that too many questions were bad and now they say that it is an era of people who ask you questions and make you think alternatively. We also realize how invaluable the other lessons which are not taught are – like the social abilities, capacity to handle uncomfortable situations, assertion during times when almost everyone keeps finding us wrong and so on..

We do need to unlearn a few! 

Bottom line, it makes me feel that there are so many things we have picked up along the way and so many things that we need to let go as well. We do hold on to some of those rules or practices or even superstitions if I may call so for some reasons unknown and sometimes just cos they have been there for a long time. But maybe it makes sense to look at it from a fresher angle and see if it really makes sense and if it is something which needs to be unlearned, not cos it is going to make a huge difference right away but cos it certainly can unlearn :). And above all of that, when something doesn’t really make any sense, it is about time we start treating it the same way. We sometimes might have to acknowledge the fact that we may have outgrown a few of those lessons and they don’t make that much of a sense now.

Related :

How smart do you have to be to achieve in LIFE? 



4 Responses to "Unlearn in life"

  1. To be very frank at times unlearning also becomes the necessity of our life. If we want to live a practical life then we will have to unlearn a few good lessons of our life….

    1. True Alok, I have had this debate so many times and to be honest it is something which I really enjoy the most. I guess my friends are mostly tired now of hearing unlearning over and over again of late 😀 😀

  2. What we learnt long ago might have been good for that point in time. But often things evolve and if we don’t understand that we are weighed down by our being unable to let go.

    1. True Mathur, it sometimes is like an anchor holding us down. And it is a pain sometimes to realize that it takes a long time for us to understand what all we need to let go to set ourselves free..


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