Did you know that the usual lifespan of technical skills is around 18 months? The pace of life is faster than ever. As a result, adaptability became a survival faculty to navigate this cutting-edge technological era. In fact, lifelong learning has become the lifestyle of those who are thriving despite the challenges of the contemporary world.
When I came across the following quote, it just blew my mind. It was a wake-up call to me:
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffle
It made me feel uneasy. I started wondering whether I am part of the illiterate group of the century or not. Or better, to what degree am I illiterate when it comes to those three core abilities? I invite you to sleep on these questions too. And if you identify many rooms for improvement like me, don’t worry!
The great news is that we live in the best moment in history to teach ourselves whatever we want.Jess Labs
Let’s dive into these three pillars for building up knowledge and skill.
As stated in Cambridge Dictionary, learning is “to get knowledge or understanding of facts or ideas or of how to do things”. We are more acquainted with this ability since we have practiced it since the earliest stages of our lives. Research backs up that babies can learn in the womb from 30 weeks of gestational age. When we learn, our brain forms new connections and neurons. Besides, existing neural pathways get stronger or weaker.
The definition is “to make an effort to forget your usual way of doing something so that you can learn a new and sometimes better way”, as reported by the same dictionary. This second faculty is a little more challenging for us. Neuroscience studies usually cover this in terms of limiting beliefs and negative behaviors of individuals. It takes some extra effort to unlearn because it is difficult for us to let go of what we consider facts. It has to do with unconscientious assumptions, beliefs, patterns we wear. It is evident, for instance, when we start to learn a new language. To be successful, we need to unlearn sounds, structures, and rhythm we’re used to welcoming the new ones. Indeed, unlearning can completely shift a person’s perspective.
Interestingly, this word isn’t included in the Cambridge Dictionary yet. This lack of definition speaks volumes about our still-developing ability to relearn as a society. We are constantly facing issues related to fixed ideas we hold in groups or as individuals and we are not willing to reframe. But the world is hungry for curious minds, people open-minded, able to wear opinions lightly, and humble enough to detach from old behaviors and ideas no longer helpful. When we relearn, our brain redesigns the paths of the neuronal connections, discovering new vias not explored before. It can be even more effective and stronger than the previous connections.
Of course, the advantages of adopting this learn, unlearn and relearn cycle are countless for us. We gain the superpower of adaptability, which is an asset recognized by the ever-changing market. Gaining adjacent knowledge can generate new opportunities for partnership and work, helping us to experiment with other positions and ways of work. Not to mention that we can get a lot of fun while going through this evolving journey.
Do you like this topic? Please, tell me practical ways you learn, unlearn and relearn in the comments. I would love to learn from you.