How to Forget Very Important Information

As Gregg put it earlier this week, “learning is based on the ability to remember our experiences and recall them in similar circumstances.” So, for an episode of learning to make a difference in what you’re doing here and now, two conditions need to be in place.

The first condition is that you need to have had some relevant experience—where relevance is marked by what we call expectation failure, or surprise. Thinking about how we can design experiences that deliver fruitful surprises is great fun, because the desired effect becomes especially vivid in cases that have a certain dark humor about them. This is why Gregg writes a lot about aviation disasters and imagined Paleolithic tiger encounters. When you discover, contrary to your expectation, that there is an angry tiger right behind you, or that you really, really shouldn’t have pushed that button in the cockpit, there’s a lesson in the experience that you will never forget. It might be—ha ha—the last thing you ever learn!

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