PERREAULT Magazine October 2014 - Page 43

Now take a moment and fold your hands in the opposite manner. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.) It feels different, doesn’t it—almost unnatural? Of course, it isn’t.

Unlearning can also feel unnatural in the beginning but really it is just a different way of thinking about learning.

Therefore, whenever you feel you may be in need of unlearning I encourage you to fold your hands opposite your normal way—think of it as becoming uncomfortable in your own skin. You might also choose to fold your arms the opposite way. Personally, I’m fond of this method because when people are closed to an idea or another person’s thinking or line of reasoning they defiantly fold their arms against their chest. By actively unfolding your arms and refolding them in an opposite manner this, too, can serve as a powerful physiological reminder of the importance of being open to unlearning.

In keeping with this spirit of folding, I’d like to highlight another unlearning folding exercise. How many times can you fold a piece of paper in half? Conventional wisdom holds that a strong person can do it only 7 times—at which point the paper gets too thick to fold.

In January 2002, Britney Gallivan, in an attempt to solve an extra credit problem for her high school math class, became the first person in the world to fold a piece of paper nine times. For good measure she then went on to fold it a tenth, eleventh and twelfth time.

Gallivan did so by questioning everything. First, she began by using ultra-thin toilet paper. Next, she used a very long strip of paper (about the length of six city blocks) and, lastly, she didn’t limit herself to folding the paper precisely in half after every fold. Instead, she sometimes folded the paper in different lengths and directions. A more detailed explanation can be found in her book, How to Fold Paper in Half Twelve Times: An “Impossible” Challenge Solved and Explained.

In this same way, unlearning also requires us to fold old problems in new, different and innovative ways. One good way to remind you of this is to become uncomfortable in our own skin and fold your hands and arms differently on occasion.

Homework Assignment #3:

Think of a problem that has been vexing you for some time.

Challenge three basic or underlying assumptions about that problem and then develop new tools or approaches to tackle the problem.

(P.S. If you would like to read 38 additional “unlearning lessons,” consider picking up a copy of my new book, Higher Unlearning: 39 Post-Requisite Lessons for Achieving a Successful Future.)

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