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What Are You Unlearning?

The world is changing at an exponentially faster pace. To keep up, you have to continue learning and continue developing yourself to succeed in a reality that is recurrently being recreated in real time.

You need new skills, new ideas, new strategies, and new tools to add to the deep and timeless fundamental principles that make sales. But to make room for new skills, new ideas, new strategies, and new tools, you have to do some unlearning.

Shedding Your Skin

Learning is growth. As you change and grow, your old skin starts to become a little too confining. You need to shed that skin and replace some old beliefs with new ones. You need to replace old ideas with ideas that may now be more effective.

What was once a great truth may need to be abandoned for a new, uncomfortable, and inconvenient truth.

Beginnings and Bravery

You begin with your sacred cows. You begin by being brave enough to question your longest held beliefs. You begin with doubting what you have held sacred.

What beliefs do you have about sales and selling?

What do you do routinely, on autopilot, without having to think about what you are doing at all (automaticity)?

How long have you done things this way?

What if something has changed and what you are doing is no longer effective? What if it never was as effective as it some other choices you might have made?

What if there are new ideas (or old ideas) that might allow you to produce even greater results?

It takes a massive amount of courage to question what you believe. It is an act of bravery to consider alternatives to the actions you have so routinely taken for years (or decades). But this is where growth and learning begins.

You empty your cup and make room for something new.

The Art of Unlearning

A few years ago, I started to practice aikido. The art requires that you greet your attackers incoming force by getting out of the way and using their momentum against them. For months I greeted incoming force with force. I had been taught to greet force with force, and so, I did as I had always done. It felt natural.

Patient teachers continually told me I was fighting force with force. They told me to step off the line and get out of the way. They told me I was too physical and that I was grabbing onto my opponent. I heard their words. I believed them. Intellectually, I understood exactly what they were saying and what they wanted me to do. And for months, I continued to do what I had always done.

To learn the art, to be more effective in the face of physical conflict, I had to unlearn what I knew. I had to abandon my belief that force needed to be greeted with greater force. Over time, I learned to slow down, to center myself, and to greet force by getting out of the way.

It isn’t enough to simply question your long held beliefs. To learn and to grow, you have to take new actions. You have to be willing to forego actions that are as comfortable as an old coat and try on some new beliefs and some new actions.

Maybe it’s been years since you considered how you approach your clients. You may have been using the same prospecting method, saying the same thing, and getting the same results for a long time. Learning to approach your clients some other way is uncomfortable, it is unknown, and it doesn’t feel right.

Keep learning. Continue your self-development; it’s your responsibility. But while you are doing so, work on unlearning what no longer serves you and what prevents your growth.

Questions

What do you need to unlearn?

How do you empty your cup and abandon your long held beliefs?

What do you do to take new actions instead of doing what you have always done?

Why is so difficult to let go of what you believe and the actions you take, even when you know intellectually that there are potentially better ways you might try?

What are you unlearning?


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Comments

comments

  • http://www.partnersinexcellenceblog.com Dave Brock

    In a long line of great blog posts, this is probably one of the most important post you’ve written.  The courage to challenge everything that you’ve learned, the courage to challenge everything that made you successful in the past, learning something new adopting new best practices.  It’s the mark of real leadership–at a professional and organizational level.

    Great post!

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Dave! That means a lot coming from you! But, it is hard to practice even when you know you need to unlearn!

  • http://www.salessells.com Wim @ Sales Sells

    The most successful people in business are generally the ones that are best at adapting themselves to the changing world and economy around them. This includes being willing to let go of past beliefs. Some sales managers still act like the internet doesn’t exist, because they are stuck in methods that have always worked. Their short-sightedness will give their competitors a competitive advantage that will be hard to overcome in the future.

    Great post as usual Anthony,
    Wim

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      I agree, Wim! We have to face reality, even it means giving up some of what we have leaned. But growth usually requires that you go through a period of serious discomfort. Unlearning makes room for new ideas and new skills to adapt to the new reality, no doubt. 

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tim-mushey/8/428/305 Tim Mushey

    Great post Anthony! “Unlearning” can be very difficult but all of us need to take a look in the mirror at some point and admit that our tried and tested methods may need to be tweaked to make us more relevant today. I will never forget when I started my career, I had dial up internet in my home office, and sent fax broadcasts to my customers to launch promotions! If I wanted to connect with somebody, I picked up the phone or stopped by to see them as the only options. Look how business has changed today! Thanks as always.

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thank you, Tim. Dial up and fax machines? Just how old are you, man? (I used to have thermal paper fax machine!)

      • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tim-mushey/8/428/305 Tim Mushey

        The year was 2001, and I was sixteen years old (ha ha)! Seriously I still hear that dial up sound in my head every so often and I get the chills. Thankfully technology has come a long way since then.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tim-mushey/8/428/305 Tim Mushey

    Great post Anthony! “Unlearning” can be very difficult but all of us need to take a look in the mirror at some point and admit that our tried and tested methods may need to be tweaked to make us more relevant today. I will never forget when I started my career, I had dial up internet in my home office, and sent fax broadcasts to my customers to launch promotions! If I wanted to connect with somebody, I picked up the phone or stopped by to see them as the only options. Look how business has changed today! Thanks as always.

  • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

    Thanks, Jack. Love your site! Glad you posted the link here. People would do well to make their way over there!