My friend and I were chatting about her experience of unlearning all that she was learning to be an effective coach. And irrespective of the kind of coaching (work/life/business/executive/leadership/youth/sports) you do, the biggest obstacle that gets in the way of your progress and growth as a coach is almost always your expertise.
It’s like carrying this excess baggage that you’re probably never going to use. “Probably.” Because I believe there is a time and place to showcase your expertise. Just not when you’re coaching someone. When you’re a coach, you keep your opinions to yourself. No exceptions. The moment you slip in your suggestion. It’s no longer coaching. If it sounds archaic… you probably aren’t a coach. If you are, you would know that’s an ethical dilemma we all face while coaching a client.
Your responsibility is to always keep your client’s interest first. And if you’re an expert, keeping your opinions and suggestions to yourself will be your biggest challenge. That’s where the whole “unlearning” process comes in handy.
Having bombed and failed a thousand times, I know exactly how to carve a path that’s set to fail. Don’t think anyone can do that. The idea isn’t to be stupid. It’s to try something different and then fail, learn, tweak and repeat. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s going to hurt. You’re going to get embarrassed. But you have to get your hands dirty else you won’t ever learn.
And the most idiotic thing you can do at this stage is to quit. Because that’s our nature. By default, we’re wired to move from being a fearless state (trying something bold and different) to being defensive the moment we fail.
The best part, however, is that unlearning is as much a defined process as learning itself. I know it sounds counterintuitive. But if you’re a keen learner you would document your journey. And failure is nothing but a series of steps that lead to a different result from what you’d originally intended.
You persist and go through the steps again with minor tweaks here and there or perhaps a major overhaul. The following attempt will have a different outcome. You still may fail royally. But if you keep at it you can’t help but achieve a breakthrough. Simply because you’re constantly trying out new things, documenting them and pivoting where you think it makes the most sense.
Essentially, you now have a defined process that forced you to unlearn and learn something new. Just like a scientist, you now know the exact steps that helped you achieve a breakthrough. You have a process that’s repeatable and scalable.
Can you ever go wrong with such a process? Most of the times, not. But sometimes you will have to tweak as per the situation. Which is just fine. It’s a process. It’s supposed to evolve and change over time or per circumstances.
If you’re thinking this is a waste of time, let me be honest. It is. Particularly if you’re interested in getting rich quickly or hate to work hard. There are systems and processes out there that will fast track your results. Or so they say. They may have worked for a few but may not work for you unless you adapt it to your unique situation and goals. And that is hard work.
You won’t ever know what will work unless you’ve tried to experiment with the process.
A word of caution: you ought to develop a thick skin to be able to ignore the failures and look deep enough to understand that behind all this unlearning lies your greatest opportunity to learn.