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What Riding a Bike Can Teach Us About Learning (& Life)

Trevor O'Hara
2 min read
What Riding a Bike Can Teach Us About Learning (& Life)
Photo by Josh Nuttall / Unsplash

We're all guilty of saying this when talking about learning a new skill: "It's as easy as riding a bike!"

Teachers say it, parents say it, we hear it in online classes all the time. We find ourselves saying it when we want to convince somebody that learning a new skill is easy. The core argument is that once you've learned how to ride the bike, it's a life skill that's impossible to lose.

But that's precisely the problem. Industrial Age thinking has us believing that lifelong learning is good - the more knowledge we can accumulate, the better. It's hard to argue against that, except that...'s not learning that's the problem, but unlearning!

Destin Sandler's hilarious example of the Backwards Brain Bike experiment provides a funny illustration of the challenge of unlearning.

In the experiment, Destin created a 'backwards bicycle' with the help of a couple of welders. By shifting the handlebars left, the bike would actually turn right, and vice versa.

The outcome? It took Destin 8 months to learn how to ride his new backwards bike. Here's the video shows what he was up against. It's hilarious!

The topic of learning never includes what it takes to shake off old ways of doing things - and that's dangerous.

Rather than viewing learning as an exercise in collecting and accumulating knowledge, view it as shedding!

In other words, clear your brain of old stuff first before taking on new stuff - a bit like running a disk de-frag on your computer.

Here are some tips that I've found useful that I've learned to build into my daily life.

Tip #1: Narrowing down: If you're stuck on deciding what avenue you want to pursue, start by removing all the avenues you do not want to pursue first.

Tip #2: Question beliefs: If you're trying to recover from a setback or move on from a breakup, look at any biases, assumptions or outdated mantras that may have got you into trouble and jettison them.

Tip #3: Listen for signals: Feeling stuck or struggling for answers are signals that something's not working. That's when you know you should change course.

We all know somebody who spent years not being able to move on from the past or remained entrenched in a narrow world view that cost them opportunities, their health, their career or a relationship.

When we think of these people, we should remind ourselves that it's the failure to unlearn that keeps us from moving forwards.

Learn to unlearn before learning! It's a never-ending cycle (pardon the pun)!