Unlearning My Way Forward


A handful of years ago, I asked my mom to recount for me a bit of family lore. It was the kind of story that infuses most families, so deeply interwoven that it doesn’t often occur to us to examine it more closely, to check whether the story was, in fact, woven in or if, perhaps, there are tiny stitches holding it in place from where it was added after the fact.

When I asked my mom to tell me the story, I wasn’t examining for stitches, though. I was looking to understand its warp and weft, to understand the nuances of the story. And not even that was an idea that had just dawned on me; it was my coach at the time who suggested I make the inquiry.

And so I asked, expecting nothing but confirmation of my understanding. And what I found was not just stitching but stitching that, yes, stripped away a bit that I thought I knew about my family’s legend and added an incredible depth and richness – and a boatload of compassion – in its place.

That experience sparked for me a curiosity that has been building slowly since, a curiosity about what part of learning might more accurately be described as unlearning.

Since then, I’ve been asking myself with increasing frequency, “What of this do I know for certain?” And the answer is almost always, “Not much.”

Time and again, I have found that something that had felt – sometimes for decades, for a lifetime – like certainty was, more likely, an assumption or hypothesis made solid through repetition.

And that is an ungrounding experience, like the gravity suddenly leaving the room such that no end can be considered truly Up.

And it is a liberating experience because on the other side of assumption is curiosity, and with curiosity comes a nearly endless range of possibility – for who I am, what my relationships are and mean, what this world is and can be.

I invite you to notice today: Where might you uncover certainty so solid as to be invisible? What might happen if you shined a little light on it?

While I’ve never thought to call “unlearning” before this moment, that is exactly what happens in coaching as we notice the old stories that are acting as obstacles to a person’s bigger and badder life. Let’s talk if you’re ready to do some powerful unlearning. If community is what you’re craving, have I got it for you! The Bigger Badder Crew awaits.