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Learn, unlearn and relearn – ways to understand

What if you are told that just hard work is no more the ingredient to success. What if, you are told that learning doesn’t have an end as they claim in schools and colleges. What if you are told that no finite number of degrees is enough to promise you a secure successful future.

Let us begin with a quote by Alvin Toffler, which says, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” 

The lies we have been fed

As disappointing as it may sound to many, it is a harsh truth, one that soon needs acceptance. Remember when you were in schools juggling math and science with sports and hangouts, elders would assure you that it is just a matter of a few years and as soon as you pass high school with decent marks and grab a seat in entrance exams, your life is secured and success guaranteed.

We being naive and inexperienced, do everything we can in those final years and secure a seat in an institute, mostly with unrealistic expectations about the next step. Then we learn from our seniors how much that single degree might practically help, and why most students still have to opt for further learning after graduation. We are not made aware of the truth, that learning is a lifetime process, and schools might just be the start of it.

It is this mindset that we have to reconsider and broaden our beliefs.

What exactly is unlearning and relearning?

According to our elders, we have been told our entire childhood how a single degree will make our life so much easier, and any job is just about implementing those same learned skills over the years in our career. Well, it is no more the case in the 21st century. We are at the crux of new emerging and pioneering technology where every day a new tool is invented and an old technique is replaced.

It is not just limited to the tech sector; fields like education have to include new policies and learning strategies, be it new evaluation schemes or incorporating interactive classrooms and the use of virtual reality in immersive learning. Medical field witnesses new machinery each day, requiring health care professionals capable to learn new equipment frequently. The point being every field requires keeping up with new inventions or skills. People have to identify those areas of expertise that have become obsolete, to remain relevant and proficient contributors in today’s society.

It doesn’t imply one should or should not pursue their dreams or passions on basis of just relevancy, but they must be prepared about the extent of practical application their skill might find and be ready for the change. A study cites that on average, around one-third of the skills one gains in tertiary education became obsolete seven years later.

Any skill has its shelf life since the business domain and marketplace are continuously evolving and so is the advancement of technology. We are unraveling more mysteries of nature and learning to improve in our occupation. Flawed tertiary education and the rapidly changing job sector bring in the need to learn the art of relearning. To save ourselves from skill obsolescence, we need to master the practice of unlearning irrelevant job skills and relearning the most required ones in a market.

Our value in a work domain is directly measured against our skills, and hardly with our degrees or institutes, we studied in. Many businessmen are even stating that one need not have a college degree to work under them if they have the required knowledge. This indicates keeping up with newer inventions and market changes is the foremost way to thrive in our profession. 

The process

Mastering a skill consists of exploring its scope and new areas, understanding mechanisms, being able to apply them in real-life scenarios. It is a lifelong process; it can take years to master your work and secure a position where you are accomplished enough to supervise the beginners and your subordinates. Unlearning is the toughest part.

You have to let go of the practice of things that are not useful or relevant and realizing those skills that brought you this far, might be holding you back from where you want to be. Relearning is like restarting the process, where some might feel like being back to square one. But it is not the same. This time you are wiser, smarter, and experienced. You know what can be an efficient learning process and which factors might be obstacles. 

Know some of many than all of few

That’s the beauty of learning. Once you start, it keeps on continuing and more always feel less. The digger you deep, the more you are inclined to. The key is knowing when to stop digging. A particular skill can comprise a varied range of topics and learning all of them equally well, makes us proficient in it. Focusing on just a few aspects more than others, may not help in the long run. Similarly, some jobs require working knowledge of many subjects combined, rather than being an expert in just one. So, it is often favorable to have a wide spectrum of knowledge.

Accept when it’s time

You won’t be able to commit yourself completely to redo if you do not accept that your area of expertise may become outdated and requires new knowledge to upgrade itself. You can continue with the mindset of denial, taking career decisions based on something you learned years ago, but reality will hit soon. Try adopting a mindset that enables you to be ready to change whenever needed.

This is a competitive world, where people will keep upskilling themselves in their strive for becoming the best, even if you decide not to. Keep yourself informed with the current deviations the work sector is going through and look out for changes you might need to inculcate in yourself.

Enjoy the relearning

Having knowledge can be fun depending solely on how you do it. If you figure out the method that suits you the best you can learn effectively at a faster pace. Though relearning helps you keep up with the world, don’t be blinded by others’ accomplishments. Don’t chase every skill trending, at the same moment, because divided attention will result in no learning at all. Go one step at a time, and always be willing to face any challenges the process might throw at you. Persistence and practice will get you through it all. Self-assess yourself from time to time and keep re-evaluating your knowledge.

Lastly, believe in yourself. Believe that you are competent enough to withstand the changes and adapt to them. It is always the hardest to begin, but once you do, the process gets easier. There is no one common roadmap of how one should keep learning so it’s up to us, how frequently we decide to upgrade our knowledge and when. The world will keep on changing and holding on to anything, a single skill, in particular, isn’t the smartest idea. The sooner we let go of the conventional methods and lies we have been fed, the sooner we open ourselves to change and growth.

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Gitanjali Deka
Gitanjali Deka
Gitanjali is an engineering student at NIT Silchar. She is an ardent art enthusiast and a cinephile. She likes informative writing and coming across new topics in the process.

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