22 Aug Unlearning: The Prerequisite To Achieving Any Goal You Want
“It’s the holy grail of dieting,” I told my older brother as I was chomping on cinnamon rolls.
“It’s based around the manipulation of this hormone called insulin. All I have to do is eat low-carb, but high protein and fat, for the beginning of the day, then after my workout I can basically eat whatever I want and it’s shuttled directly to my muscles.”
This was circa 2013, when I found a new diet called Carb-Backloading. At a wise 19 years old, I thought I’d just discovered the fitness industry’s best kept secret.
See, the creator of this diet checked all the boxes: he was jacked, he got results with others, and he used science-y words like “TGLUT MANIPULATION” and “MODULATED TISSUE RESPONSE”. I don’t know how 19-year-old you would have felt, but I was sold.
Turns out, I actually just discovered the power of persuasive marketing and copywriting. Don’t get me wrong, there’s worse diets than Carb-Backloading, but I had no idea what was bullshit and what wasn’t.
I’d still be cramming my face with cinnamon rolls to this day if it weren’t until an actual nutritional scientist I looked up to, Dr. Layne Norton, claimed Carb-Backloading was bullshit.
I was dumbfounded. It was the ultimate catch-22 between my two ideas ⏤ both of which I was certain were correct:
- Carb-Backloading was an innovative and science-backed way to reach my fitness goals
- Dr. Layne Norton was a credible nutritional scientist whom I looked up to for years
One had to be a lie.
It’s clear how this played out, but the crucial lesson was this: to get closer to the Truth, I have to be willing to unlearn at any given moment. I have to consistently doubt what I know.
Which is difficult! It hurts our egos. It breeds uncertainty. And it makes us feel stupid, betrayed, even. But it’s necessary if we truly want to find the best solutions to hard questions.
Which brings us to you.
There’s a significant chance you’re reading this because you’re searching for solutions. You’re looking for ways to improve your body, your confidence, your well-being, or whatever else you’re hoping I might have the answer to.
Maybe I can, maybe I can’t, but that’s not the point ⏤ the point is that you have to be open to unlearning all the bullshit you’ve (possibly) believed until now. What you’ve been doing isn’t working. What got you here won’t get you where you want to go. It’s time for something different; it’s time to unlearn.
Unlearning makes you wise and improves your life through subtraction, not addition.
At this moment, you may be in fairly good shape, eat your vegetables on most days, and have an OK life ⏤ all things considered. But you still want to turn the life satisfaction dial up a few notches, while keeping any unnecessary suffering at a minimum.
Instead of pretending I’m a self-help guru with all your answers, I’ll just give you a collection of ideas I wish I would’ve unlearned sooner that may help you do exactly that.
3 Ideas I’ve Unlearned That Have Made My Life Drastically Better
1. “Mediocrity is something to avoid at all costs.”
DREAM BIG. NEVER QUIT. HUSTLE WHILE THEY SLEEP.
These are the surface level quotes that used to motivate me years ago. I remember writing somewhere that I’d make $1,000,000 by age 30. Now that I’m 26, it’s funny how romantic the idea of a million dollars was to me, considering I’d be set on even a quarter of that.
But it took me time to accept this reality. I didn’t want to strive for “mediocrity” or be OK with being “average.” My inner biology was telling me MORE⏤more money, more power, more achievements, more veins in my biceps.
Yet, after regularly making enough money to pay rent and afford a semi-expensive bottle of wine with dinner, I arrived at one very sobering question… Why?
The answer is probably more complex than this, but it seems like we’ve been brainwashed to the addiction of achievement.
Which begged the next question: achievement at what cost? My relationships? My personal interests and curiosities? My health? My happiness?
These were harsh, but important questions I needed to be honest about. And they’re tough to answer because being a lazy couch potato who thinks everything is pointless (and nothing matters) isn’t okay either.
What I’m saying is that excessive striving for achievement, without ever questioning why you’re doing it in the first place, can cause endless unnecessary suffering.
For me, I’m content with spending the majority of my days learning, coaching, spending time with loved ones, eating quality food, drinking quality wine, sweating for an hour or two, and connecting with people like you.
If that’s called being mediocre, then sign me up.
2. “Love yourself, and just accept who you are.”
This is a common recommendation in the fitness space that I used to agree with. To be clear, I understand that those who say it typically mean well, with pure intentions.
However, I think it’s interpreted incorrectly. The usual sentiment is that you don’t need to change anything about yourself, you’re perfect as is. Society is wrong, and you should blame it for making you think you need to change.
But what if you’re a terrible person? What if you don’t take care of yourself? What if you could be way more than what you are?
True self-love is brutal honesty. You need to have the courage to recognize every dreadful thing about yourself, then actually work towards improving it. It’s okay that you are where you are, but it may not be okay that you stay there.
It hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized this. Personal responsibility is difficult to swallow, but necessary.
I’d much rather have my happiness depend on changing myself, instead of changing the world.
3. “Food is fuel.”
Back in my bodybuilding days, I used to preach this.
But now, a piece of me dies when I hear people say “food is fuel” or “all I see on my plate are proteins, carbs, and fats.” I understand their intentions, but it belittles the magnitude that food—specifically meals together—affects our lives.
Take this iconic scene from the movie “Goodfellas”. In case you haven’t seen it, these three guys (played by Liotta, De Niro, & Pesci) are gangsters who, by the looks of this short clip, are simply enjoying a warm, home cooked meal of spaghetti and meatballs with a sweet Italian mother. Off camera, they also have a guy in their trunk (which is why Pesci wants to take the knife “for the deer”).
The way Martin Scorsese directed this scene speaks to all of us—these guys might be mobsters, who wouldn’t think twice about offing someone, but when it comes to dinner they’re just like us.
Food is much more than fuel or macros. It’s not a utility. And thinking of food this way may actually harm our relationship with it. Let’s use this as a reminder to make sure we give it the respect it deserves.
Oh, and pass the mashed potatoes.
Do this next:
Think of an idea you hold very dear to your heart. Maybe it scares you to think of it not being true, maybe it scares you to think of it being true. Your task is to try to debunk your point of view. If you genuinely want to know the unbiased truth, you need to be critical and avoid confirmation bias. Doubt what you “know.” Then, if you find out you were wrong… congrats! You’re now slightly less delusional and let the unlearning begin.