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Dr. Margie Warrell

Change is difficult. Sometimes, it demands that we take two steps backwards, so we can take a new first step forward.

When life challenges you and things do not work as expected, it creates new kinds of stresses not experienced before. Sometimes we need to depart from the normal and break out in an entirely new direction towards the unknown. It is a very uncomfortable feeling to explore new avenues and to forge new pathways. Not everyone can do it successfully, but we all need to try.

For example, years ago, I attended a major technology conference in Los Angeles for the media industry. It was a great opportunity to learn and explore new ideas. Attending conferences was a way of life for me and I have sat through hundreds of presentations over the years. However, at this conference, I saw someone freeze. They could not adapt to the new paradigm.

A presenter took the stage in front of perhaps 500 in the audience, including me. He was introduced and then calmly approached the podium to deliver his talk. It was all rather typical of such talks. He started off all rather normally and laid out his topic. After perhaps 5 minutes, we all noticed something going wrong. He started to stumble over his words. He added long, unexpected pauses. He then came to a crashing halt. I was worried that he was having some sort of medical episode.

He stopped talking. He simply stood there staring out at the audience. Everyone was perplexed and had no idea what was going on. This young engineer just froze solid. I had never seen anything like this before. What seemed like an eternity past and then the moderator joined him on stage. He physically had to grab his shoulders and turn the speaker away from the audience. It was like he was locked in to a deep hypnotic trance. The overwhelmed presenter was led off stage without uttering another word. His work colleague graciously collected his papers and took to the podium. He read the remainder of the engineer’s speech and then wrapped up the presentation.

It was one of the more bizarre conference experiences I have every witnessed. I felt so much for this poor young man who allowed the terror of public speaking in front of an audience run him over like a steamroller. He could not adapt.

Sometimes in life we all get stuck. Maybe not all as stuck as the young engineer presenting his technology in LA, but we all do hit roadblocks that we cannot overcome. What we always do, what we always have done before no longer works. What to do?

It is time to unlearn what we know. We humans follow a repeated process. We learn, unlearn, then relearn. Most of us leap over these life hurdles rather easily. Sometimes, they can be difficult, very hard, we stumble and fall. We need to get up, dust ourselves off, and try again. And, rarely, these obstacles become insurmountable.

This process of learn, unlearn, and relearn is repeated for most topics in life. No one is born to be a public speaker, it is an acquired skill. Actually, no one is born to be anything. Everything that we know is a learned behaviour. So, everything can be unlearned and relearned.

My Mother, Sarah (Martin) Kellogg, who I remember today on Mother’s day, was a vaulted, Distinguished Toastmaster as authenticated by Toastmasters International, the public speaking forum and training organization. She once joked, that man has three fears.

  • The first fear is ‘dying’.
  • The second fear is ‘public speaking’.
  • And, the dreaded third fear, ‘is dying, while public speaking’.

Her joke hits home when I recall this young engineer in Los Angeles. I have often argued that anyone can learn new things. Actually, anyone can learn anything – including public speaking. It may take much longer than expected, it may be a much harder road to follow, and it may not be worth the efforts, but it can be done. It simply takes focus, perseverance, agility, hard work, and passion. That is all. No big deal.

The secret is learning how to learn. And, an unswerving willingness to abandon the traditions of the past. Change demands change.

Change is disruptive and very uncomfortable. You must learn to become comfortable with this discomfort. To fight through the resistance. You must embrace the changes.

What exactly do you need to unlearn and relearn? 

I have no idea. However I am certain that those who will seize the opportunities of this turbulent time will not be using yesterday’s rules, rubrics, or reasoning.  

Am I pining to be back on planes and in rooms with lots of people? You bet! Until then, I am opening my mind to embrace the new and uncomfortable, along with all the learning of this time.

American writer Marianne Williamson once wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”

Unlearning and relearning is not a means to an end. It is an end in itself. As such, the key to unlearning does not lie in the teacher. It lies in the student. In you. In your openness to being challenged – to letting go what you think you know so you can relearn what you need to know.

Pursue this discomfort. Fight through the inherent fears. It is time to unlearn and relearn. There was never the option to get back to normal anyway. Normal is a myth. There never was a way to return and there never will be ever. Life always continuously moves forward. Most times we do not notice small changes. There is only the new paradigm – the new normal.

————————–MJM ————————–


Warrell, M., Dr. (2020). Learn, Unlearn & Relearn: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Forbes. Retrieved on May 8, 2021 from,–relearn-what-got-you-here-wont-get-you-there/?sh=79cee7df20a6

————————–MJM ————————–

About the Author:

Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).  He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.