Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life
by: Humble the Poet (aka Kanwer Singh)
Short of a handful of paragraphs on my GoodReads account, I’ve never written a book review. I’ve always stuck to movies and TV shows, as books require an entirely different mindset given how long it can take to read one and process the information contained within. I am admittedly a speed reader, but occasionally encounter a book that requires me to slow down and simply take my time.
“Unlearn” most certainly did that to me. Books at PPL check out for 21 days and this book was in my name for almost the full 3 weeks, which almost never happens with me. Not because it was difficult to get through, but because it is the type of book you just do not fly through.
Humble the Poet writes in what can best be described as daily diary entries. With 101 entries, I very quickly found myself not wanting to read more than a handful at a time, mostly out of the fear of having them run together and the message of each entry being lost upon me.
I must admit that self-help books and I do not co-exist. I’ve tried my hand many times with their like and not one has ever connected. Some have tidbits of wisdom that I have taken in and applied to my life, but no book has ever truly hit home. I chalk this disconnect up to the fact that almost every self-help book I have ever read just plays it safe and offers clichéd, cookie-cutter advice that speak to as broad of an audience as possible. Thankfully, for the first time ever, this book did not do that. It spoke to me with almost every single page that I turned over the course of the three weeks I had it checked out.
Part of why it connected is the simplicity of it. As mentioned, Humble the Poet writes in short, succinct, diary-esque entries. Numbering 1 through 101, each entry is no more than two pages in length, and each contains a stand-out summary quip at the end, highlighting the most important part of whatever was in that entry. These summary quips really stood out to me, as not all of the entries fully impacted me, but the emphatic-ness of the stand-alone quotes did with almost every page.
Some of his advice is the cookie-cutter “I’ve heard it a hundred times before” type stuff, but a lot of it was new and refreshing. Humble the Poet spends a majority of the 101 entries hammering home the fact that it is not only ok, but necessary, for you – or anyone – to be selfish. Even if you are a parent or a spouse, only you are living your life, and you have got to look out for yourself. A lot of these types of books focus on the “take care of others” mantra, and while that is good advice considering the entire world would be better if we all looked out for one another and helped each other, this book changes that by repeatedly telling the reader that you have to take care of yourself first, before worrying about others. It is perfectly alright for you to put yourself first in the effort of living your best life.
“Unlearn” also speaks frequently about identifying and removing toxicity from your life. Not just in the terms of “toxic people” but toxicity that may stem from upbringing, a relationship, your home life, your work life, etc. Toxicity is all around us and there is no reason that anyone should stand for it. Humble the Poet repeatedly preaches that the sooner you identify it and remove it from your life, no matter what form it is in, the better you will feel and the better your life will become. A lot of books try to dodge this topic because the thought of eliminating something – anything – from your life scares people. While nobody wants to read a self-help book that scares them, “Unlearn” bears its title due to the fact that the goal of this book is for you to unlearn everything you’ve read in a self-help book before because it is supposed to scare you a little bit. It is supposed to make you a little bit uncomfortable. Comfortability is complacency and complacency is stagnation and you’re never going to get anywhere in life if you stay stagnant and refuse to make changes.
“Unlearn” did not scare me.
“Unlearn” inspired me.
It connected with me and made me actually want to make changes in my life, both privately and professionally, that will ultimately benefit only me. Without revealing too much detail: I am 35 and completely alone in my life. I have no spouse. I have no offspring. I have my parents, a small core group of friends, and nothing else. I have nobody and nothing to work on except for myself and, try as I might with so many books in the past, nothing has “pushed me” to do so before now. Like I mentioned, some books have had little blips here and there, but nothing that ever stuck with me and made a difference.
“Unlearn” has done so, to the point of where I plan on purchasing my own copy. I can’t exactly keep a library book for 101 days, and I want to treat the book as a daily devotional, so to speak. Read one entry to start the day each day and use what wisdom and the “huh, I never thought of it like that before” reaction to make myself better, repeatedly. And then, when the 101 days are over, start from the beginning again. And again. And again. And as I continually work on myself, and worry about me and living my best life, the rest of my life will change around me too. I’ll recognize patterns in others and help identify changes others can make to improve their own lives. By helping myself, I can help others. Hopefully.
The self-improvement process never ends. It is a daily battle we all must take on in our own individual ways, and our best course of action is to make continual progress. I plan to use this book and everything contained within it as my core of progress. Something solid, and strong, that I can come back to again and again if I should lose the path that I now see myself on.
If you happen to see “Unlearn” on the shelf at PPL, grab it. You’ll most likely be grateful that you did. I hope it connects with you the way it did me.