Saturday Blueprint on Unlearning

Saturday Blueprint on Unlearning
Photo by Jess Bailey / Unsplash

Good day! 👋

Here is this week's Saturday Blueprint.

🧐 Quote I'm thinking about:

In a little while you will have forgotten everything. In a little while everything will have forgotten you. — Marcus Aurelius

This quote is starkly factual. Of course time will erase all things. Of course we’ll one day be gone, and forgotten. But it is the simplicity of the message that is beautiful and poignant. I find it empowering, strangely. It’s a slap in the face reminder of my own mortality, and of the triviality of all that I might be striving for. The message is simple, and the takeaway is simple too - be present, and  be present in this moment.

🧠 Unlearning and relearning

“The greatest—and most robust— contribution to knowledge consists in removing what we think is wrong—subtractive epistemology.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

In problem solving techniques this is known as inversion. Inverting the problem is a powerful method to solve, especially difficult, problems. For example, the problem of how to be a good parent; this is a complex or ‘messy’ problem - cause and effect is not obvious, and is non-linear, and we never ”complete“ parenting. So how to determine the priority? Well, if you invert and ask the question “how can I fail as a parent?” then perhaps some immediate answer come to mind, like “by being on my phone all the time”,  “by shouting when really I’m annoyed at someone at work”. In this way you’ve illuminated simple ways of being a better parent. By putting your phone away and not projecting work frustration at your children you have taken two high-value approaches to be a better parent. And often using this inversion technique turns up obvious but simple and easily-overlooked measures.

This is just one example, but it can be used in any domain for a problem of any size. It’s an interesting observation that if the goal is improvement then removing or reducing the negative aspects is a better strategy than trying to improve the positives. Think of a business; the surest way to increase profit is to decrease costs. Increasing sales to increase profit is much harder.

Unlearning then is the pruning of things you think you know, but that aren’t doing you any favours. To see things with a fresh perspective, we need to unlearn what we know about it. This is classic rationality - the relentless pursuit of trying to see and know things as they are, rather than as they first appear to be.

Relearning naturally follows - which is learning the right way, with the right principles. Relearning is best done with the guide of a good mentor or teacher. If you try to relearn yourself you might just pick up the bad habits again. But if you take steer from the experienced practitioner then much, much better. Mentoring is something that is severely lacking these days. I could write a lot more mentoring, so I’ll continue this topic another day…!

🧘‍♀️ When in doubt, breath out

Yes, I have been watching the new Wim Hof programme on the BBC, “Freeze The Fear”. Yes, I skip through the housemate fly-on-the-wall moments. But there are a few beautiful nuggets within the show, despite all the celebrity stuff. It‘s clear that there are deep and profound moments with the cold exposure. The breathwork is also transcendental - showing the power of breathing, and the real healing that results. The healing is not some magical thing, but is a result of the breathing reopening a connection to your inner self. Your deepest fears and worries may surface, but so does complete gratitude, and ultimately a strength that‘s hard to describe in words. If you’ve never done the cold therapy or breathwork that all this will sound utterly nonsensical! I agree! That was me too. Until I tried to experience it with a curious and open mind. At the least you’ll have 5 minutes of a cold shower, and can continue to roll your eyes whenever anyone mentions breathwork or cold therapy 😊.

One thing that has stuck from this show though is the saying “when in doubt, breath out”! I love this. It’s simple, it’s memorable. And breathing out slowly activates the parasympathetic nervous system - the body’s “chill out“ mode. Try it now, try a few long, slow exhales.

🗡 100 press ups a day

I like a mini-challenge, and this week I’ve started a physical challenge of 100 press ups a day, for 4 weeks. What will you start now? Think of something that can be done daily, and go for it. Commit to it for a few weeks or a month.

Of course you’re welcome to join in my 100 press up challenge. Follow me on Twitter for my daily updates, and we can give each other encouragement!

It’s a pleasure writing to you. Have a great week. 😊


About the Saturday Blueprint

The Saturday Blueprint is a weekly newsletter every Saturday on health, vitality and philosophy by Nick Stevens.