This one might seem counterintuitive, but hear me out. I have used this over and over in many facets of my life, so I am a big believer in this secret skill.
You need to be able to unlearn something when a better version comes along. There are lots of examples of this, but let me start with this one, especially since we see so much of it in today’s world: a celebrity’s fall from grace. Yeah, an easy target, I know. Look at some of the people that the world was enamored with for a time, only to find out that they were a fake, or did something that was horribly offensive, and then everyone jumped from the bandwagon of that person. For a while you were practically hanging posters on your bedroom wall in honor of their existence, but now that you know what you know, they are dead to you. You unlearned your admiration for them, and it literally happened overnight despite possibly years of loyalty to them.
This skill is transferable, and should be a part of your life. In sales, I have taken a lot of training courses and implemented some of those strategies. An easy target that I hated was SPIN Selling. I received this training from a MAJOR medical company, and it was their standard selling approach. I referred to it as semantic entrapment, as it was designed to have you as the sales person “trap” the prospective client into a situation where they would look foolish to say no. This is why so many people hate sales people…not the SPIN Selling method in particular, but rather the approach of forcing a decision through a calculated process. I committed myself to learning this approach when it was taught (and expected of me) but I never liked it. I knew deep down that if I was on the receiving end of this I was be uncomfortable and feel duped into buying. NO ONE likes that feeling.
Luckily, this approach lost favor over the years, and I was relieved when I could “unlearn” this approach and take a different tactic to achieve a sale. My approach has become to be an educator, sharing the reasons why my company’s product or service offered the best option(s). Then I would step back and let the chips fall where they may, allowing the prospective customer make a decision they were comfortable with, and feel like they decided on the best option. If my company did have the best option, and a reasonable pricing structure, I would get chosen often enough to make me a successful sales person. Now, many years later still using this approach, I have about a 90% close ratio in my niche market of the Work Comp world. Yes, I am serious, at this stage of my career, I am surprised when I do not win an opportunity. I unlearned a “proven” approach for something better.
Not enough people talk about this skillset as an important part of the learning process. I think the best practice I got for this skill was during my racquetball career, as I was constantly evolving my approach to the game right up until I retired. For example, when I first started out I idolized certain players and tried to play the game in the same fashion they did. At some point I would realize a flaw in this approach, or that I didn’t have the physical talent to copy them. So I would unlearn that approach and adopt a new one to try and move forward with. I did this over and over, compiling the best pieces of someone’s approach but scrapping the rest. I “glued” together the highlights of a bunch of players’ game styles and created my own in an amalgam of a bunch of styles.
Probably the most extreme example of this was when someone showed me a far more effective approach to my footwork on the court. For most of my playing career I had been doing the same thing everyone else did, I saw where the ball was going to end up and I ran to that spot. Once I got there, I was forced to make adjustments to my feet so I had some options of offensive shots. In many cases, there wasn’t sufficient time, so I had to make the best of what my footwork had given me. This makes my opponent’s job of reading my next shot easier and puts more pressure on me to hit a perfect shot to win that rally. Once someone shed light on a better way to cover the court and give myself multiple options for each shot I was going to hit, I was hooked. But making this switch was not easy…
It took me an entire summer to learn that to move to my left that I should lead with my left foot first. Yes, you read that correctly. It appears that it is not in human nature to move left by starting with your left foot first. What everyone does do is to cross over with your right foot and then take another step with your left. Because a racquetball court is a fixed amount of space, you can (should) defend this space in two equal steps. This means when you arrive at where the ball is, your feet are already in the best position possible, and you have multiple options of offensive shots to take. It is SO much better of a method of footwork that I do not understand why no one else has adopted this technique. But then again, I do know why, as unlearning something so deeply engrained as this is no picnic. It took me tons of work, hundreds of hours of practice to “rewire” my brain to lead with my left foot first when going left and my right foot first when going to the right. But the payoff was immeasurable to some degree, as it made me quicker to the ball and removed a fair amount of pressure from me to have to be perfect with most of my shots. It helped take me from outside the top seventy in the world to inside the top twenty.
Adaptability wins, as I wrote in this blog as well. You need to understand that you must be fully committed to what you are doing today, but as soon as you discover a better method you must be willing to abandon that process and start a new one. This is growth of different kind, and the type that might just be what allows you to break through to another level. While commitment to a method is critical for success, I believe that the ability to leave that method for a better one, unlearning your previous approach and fully committing to a new one, is crucial for success. Unlearn, and release yourself from the confines of your old methods…