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To Start, Forget Everything You Know

·395 words·2 mins

Today, I needed to do something at work that I hadn’t done in years. And, while I thought I remembered how to do what I needed to do–I’d done it before, after all–I really didn’t. I needed to forget everything, to remember how to do what I needed to do.


Oh, am I not making sense? Hear me out.

Your Memory Isn’t As Good As You Think It Is #

But, it’s also really good? Basically, we’re pretty good at remembering stuff from a few days ago, but not necessarily a few years ago. Makes sense, right? But we often think we remember details and experiences that we don’t, or we get meaningful details mixed up with another, more recent memory.

So, when I sat down to tackle today’s task and thought I was good to go, I was frustrated at how quickly I proved myself wrong. Not only did I not remember as much as I thought I did, but I’d forgotten that the methods I was trying to use I had learned for a specific, and different, application.

On top of the challenge of overestimating my own memory…

Things Change #

The way we did things just a few years ago might not work anymore. The tools we use may have seen updates or been replaced altogether. This can be frustrating in the short term, but these changes and improvements usually lead to better workflows if you take the time to learn them.

Of course, to keep up with change, sometimes you need to…

Forget What You Know #

And start learning again.


I banged away on my keyboard for a while, trying to figure out why the old way I did something wasn’t working. Turns out, there were multiple reasons! And, as is often the case, I solved the problem by ignoring what I thought I knew, and reading the docs. It took a few minutes of reading and scrolling… I even stripped out most of my code and basically started from scratch. But now, I have a solid base built on updated code, and the path forward is more clear. I can do my job better.

Next time I find myself picking something up after years or even just months after its last use, I’m going to start by forgetting everything. I bet I’ll make something better.