5 Short-Term Lessons You Need to Unlearn

Last week, I talked about how sometimes the most important lessons need to be relearned. This week, I want to talk about how some lessons are only useful for a brief time. Although these lessons serve as a temporary bridge to guide you to the next level, they still need to be cast off in order to allow you to grow.

Today I want us to talk about all the lessons that we need to “unlearn”:

5. Everything Changes

First Learned April 5, 2010: Change

A year ago, the change that was occurring around me was so tumultuous and life altering that I simply had to come to grips with the fact that change was inevitable and that it would continue indefinitely.

I still believe that we must face change head on and adapt to it, instead of waste our energy resisting it. But it isn’t true that everything changes.

At the core of us lies something fundamental, unchanging, and everlasting. Some have chosen to call this “something” the soul or the spirit. But for the purposes of writers, our understanding of that “something” should be that it is our unchanging, unique voice and style as a writer.

Voice and style are often described as technical aspects of a writer, but really your voice and style comes to the surface only when you allow yourself to be absolutely yourself—no holds barred. And that absolute, unflinching core of you is what doesn’t change. Sure your opinions may change, or your perspective may change, or the genre you choose to write in may change. But at the core of you is something that doesn’t change and it reveals itself mostly as your writing voice or style.

John O’ Donahue would say that we our made out of “clay” that is as ancient as the world itself, and because of this, each person carries within them something eternal. After I heard that, I could never believe in complete impermanence ever again.

4. Boredom Is Your Enemy

First Learned June 15, 2010: What To Do When Your Passion Gets… Eh… Boring

I once described boredom as a freeloader who needed to be kicked out of your house. But these days, I would be wary about calling boredom the “enemy” of any writer.

As this article from The Guardian suggests, boredom is not our enemy, but simply a call to action.

Boredom is like that signal on your dashboard that tells you your car is running on empty, and that you need to refuel. Something about your life, or about your work is no longer exciting you, and boredom is warning you that you need to spice things up a bit or risk things getting worse.

Boredom isn’t the enemy—he’s more like that best friend who’s not afraid to get real with you. He wants you to get the most out of life. He wants you to sing, dance, play, laugh. He wants you to do all these things because he’s tired of having to deliver you the bad message that your life isn’t fun anymore.

3. You Need to Shut Out All Toxins and Negativity In Order To Bring Sustained and Everlasting Peace To Your Life

First learned December 12, 2010: The Key To Finding Peace When You Sit Down To Write

We cannot all be Buddhist monks secluded in some meditation cave for all our lives.

We need to live life, we need to be a part of the world, not be apart from the world. In order to this, we must find a balance between avoiding toxic elements in our life and coping with the harsh realities of the world that we cannot avoid coming into contact with.

Once we have learned what peace is like when we’ve shut out all negativity, we need to move forward by learning how to cope with all that negativity when it comes our way.

Because the key to sustained and everlasting peace is not being able to shut out all negativity or toxicity—I’m learning that this is impossible—it’s about being able to develop coping strategies that allow us to deal with the negativity and toxicity that surrounds us.

2. Twitter and Facebook Are A Complete Waste of Time

First Learned September 14, 2010: 10 Ways to Stay On The Writer’s Fast Track Once You’re On It

A while back, I shared with my readers my “uneasy and awkward” relationship with Twitter and Facebook. At the time, I made a choice not to make these accounts personal, but simply professional. But even though I threw myself back in the social media ring, a part of me still wondered whether the whole thing wasn’t just a waste of time.

But after a bout half of year on both, I can say with confidence that Twitter and Facebook are not a waste of time when used professionally. Through Twitter and Facebook, I am able to network a lot better and faster with other writers, and I end up reading tons of articles on writing that I should be reading anyway. Articles that teach me about the publishing industry, about marketing, and about business of writing that’ll help me tremendously in the long run. In decades past I would have to search for days to find these incredible useful articles on writing, but today all I have to do is scroll for a couple of seconds and those incredibly useful articles come to ME instead.

I am learning that when you use Facebook and Twitter professionally, it is really not a waste of time, but a HUGE boon to your career.

1. There Comes A Time When You Stop Learning

First Learned September 24, 2010: MIP {Man In Progress}

When I began my “Man In Progress” series 8 months ago, I implied that I had already mastered dealing with the psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of my life.

At the time I felt really confident about those aspects of my life, and thought I had learned everything I needed to learn about them. But, of course, I was wrong. These past 8 months have required that I learn more and more about how to deal with my emotions, my mind, and my spirit.

The only way I could move forward through recent challenges was to allow myself to keep growing in these areas of my life. I couldn’t have overcome those challenges if I hadn’t allowed myself to do this.

What this taught me was that we NEVER stop learning and if we say that we’ve learned everything there is to know about a particular subject–we’re only fooling ourselves.

You know, I have this recurring dream that I’m in the last year of High School or College, and that my school counselor won’t let me graduate because I don’t have enough credits. In the dream, I am angry and restless because I swear that I’ve learned everything I need to know and am ready to be finished with my education.

I realize now that the only person who is wrong in that dream is me. Because the truth is I haven’t acquired all the credits I needed to graduate yet, and I never will. I’ll always be in school, and I’ll always be learning and growing.

Is that a terrifying, frustrating, and annoying truth?


But, hey, it’s reality.

So, the next time a school counselor tells me in a dream that I need to keep learning because I don’t have the right amount of credits to graduate, I’ll try not to get angry or restless. Instead, I’ll just turn to the counselor and say:

“Oh yeah. That sounds about right.”

much love,


What short-term lessons do you feel you need to unlearn? Please share your notes with us in the comments below!

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8 comments on “5 Short-Term Lessons You Need to Unlearn

  1. Christina says:

    I love this post Ollin! And I used to have the same dream you do, about not having enough credits.

    I do, however, disagree with you when you say that continuously learning and growing is annoying and frustrating.

    I find it liberating. If we didn’t constantly have new ideas, sparks, or aspects about ourselves or life or writing that we have to explore or enrich it would mean our life (emotional, intellectual, or writing life) has an expiration date. That there’s nothing more, nothing new, nothing exciting.

    So I find it a great comfort to know that we’re all works in progress because it means there’s so much more in life to discover.

    • Ollin says:

      Ha. That’s probably why I have that recurring dream. I need to learn how to find it liberating. And I think this post is the start of finding the ever-learning process more liberating instead of constraining.

      Thank you for your wisdom Christina and for giving me that much needed shift in perspective.

      You’re right: we should view the ever-learning process as liberating and positive.

  2. Victoria says:

    I have a recurring dream, too – I’m part of a CSI or FBI or police team, sneaking around in the dark trying to find the bad guys, while getting shot at! I’m not sure what it means, and I usually wake up after getting shot! (I don’t even watch TV or scary movies!)

    All kidding aside, I really like your point that boredom is really a call to action. The next time I think I’m bored, I’m going to remember that Boredom is expecting me to sing, dance, laugh and play. Maybe my dream is my call to action – a reminder to get more excitement in my life!

    Thanks for the reminder!

  3. It takes a lot of courage to admit that some of the things you thought you knew are maybe not as absolute as you thought. I commend you for that, Ollin. I think that one thing we’ll both agree on is that we never stop learning.

    • Ollin says:

      Thanks! No we never stop learning, but sometimes we can be stubborn to think we can know everything. At least I do sometimes.

  4. Ahlam says:

    Patience is not always a virtue. Growing up I saw patience in action through the people around me, but now as an adult, I see that patience is not always great. I don’t want to sit idle while others decide they will make better decisions in the future. I will take action now, not later.

    Unlearning things we thought were fundamental can be challenging but necessary for growth. Great post.

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