I used to be an avid jogger. 10k 4x/week. Until I encountered painful problems with my middle foot bones. An excellent sports orthopedic doctor told me: “If you lift towels from the floor with your toes every evening, for about three years, this can get better.”
I quit years of jogging and eventually switched to Nordic Walking, because I thought: “Three years?? You can’t be serious!!”
I also love to play table tennis and used to play in a club. I still play okay, but when, a few years ago, I got to play against a former semi pro, he commented “You’ve taken on bad habits in posture and movement that should be unlearned and completely retrained.”
Once again, I shied away from the tedious effort it would take. Learning something new? Not so hard. Un-learning something old, something I practiced over and over? Much, much harder. Tedious indeed. (Perhaps you know that by now ‘classic’ case study of riding the ‘backwards bicycle’ – abbreviated clip here – it takes people one week for every year of their life to learn how to ride it when the wheel turns left while you steer right … That is why a three year-old will master it in three weeks, while a 50 year-old will take a year …)
That is also one of the reasons why in our new digital world, kids learn so much faster than us – they simply have not repeated ‘old stuff’ over and over. Our older brains are rather set in their ways, and clogged with old ‘ways of doing things’, from literally countless repetitions. Un-learning and re-training takes time – and once again literally countless repetitions to overwrite the old learning. And who of us finds the time – and patience – for that?
Already in 1970’s ‘Future Shock’, so 50 years ago (!), Alvin Toffler quoted: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Take that last part: “Un-learn and re-learn”. You might be willing – but how do you do it?
What’s more: Un-learning becomes even more relevant when it comes not to our doing, but to our thinking, and to our deep-seated mindsets and attitudes. How have we been influenced in our early years – subconsciously, without even noticing? And not yet capable of questioning? Which deep-seated, never examined assumptions from that time (and zeitgeist) served us well for a while, but are simply not timely any longer?
We may not be able to simply take the ‘Tarzan swing’ to switch to a different way of looking, understanding, learning, thinking, doing – our ‘how?’ may take the tedious path of endless repetitions, trying again and again and again in order to let go and un-learn the old, and overwrite with the new.
In the meantime, that ever-so-fast-paced (digital, innovative, transformational) future might quickly pass us by …
So young people may have to be our guides, showing us the way … You may want to find yourself a (much) younger mentor to stimulate your personal innovation & transformation process!