Recently I received a WhatsApp forward. It was about Coffee bin jar, in a perfume shop. It was like this.

Unlearning is important.

Jar of coffee bean in the perfume store. Why is it used? Is there something we can learn? A handful of coffee bean is so important to sell an expensive bottle of perfume.


When you try perfumes, after 4th or 5th, you are unable to distinguish between fragrance. Bring in the jar & you smell the coffee bean & you undergo a process of unlearning, due to its strong fragrance, your brain now only remembers coffee. You can now start testing perfumes again. All happens within in a minute.

What’s the catch?

We have an amazing power to unlearn & move on to new things, we got it as a process of evolution, with time we have forgotten how to “let it go”, this is called unlearning. Creativity & productivity gets enhanced when you learn to let things go.

For smelling different perfumes, we need a break of Coffee bin jar so that we can unlearn the earlier perfume smells. Unlearning is a conscious process. When we are interacting with the world, with our mental models, we actually need a “coffee bin Jar”, to unlearn these models so as to “smell new fragrances” the world is offering?  For this to happen we should be aware of our mental models. Otherwise, what we see and what is out there, is completely different and our responses go awry. I remember a story somewhere I read. A master is telling his students about importance of unlearning. He says, when looking at Full Moon, a lover sees the face of his beloved, while a hungry beggar sees a bread.

 I come from Lower middle-class background, so frugality with money was a virtue for us. All the things that are purchased should be used optimally. A toothpaste, we used to squeeze till its last drop. Now I am in a position that I should not be so frugal. I can afford to purchase toothpastes as and when required. But this frugality is so deep rooted that if the toothpaste is not used completely and thrown away, I feel hurt about it. Why I am feeling this hurt? This is the conditioning or the mental model which I am holding. I am not saying that you should waste resources, absolutely not. But this mental model is clearly giving me feeling of sadness, at least in respect of toothpaste. So I have to be aware and be conscious of the fact, that now, if I am not using the toothpaste, till its last drop , it is ok and should not feel bad about it.

In the last blog post I posted a picture at the end. What did you see?

 In “Seven habits of highly effective people” Steven Covey narrates the  following story.

 This picture was distributed to two groups of employees of a company separately. They were asked to see the picture and describe it to the other group without showing the picture given to them. One group saw a young girl in the picture and started describing her eyelid, her hat and her hair. The other group was aghast, as they saw an old woman with a big nose, scarf around her hair , who seems to be unhappy. This really led to strong disagreement between the two and no group was willing to accept the other groups’ description. What they saw, was the reality for them. But then the instructor explained them, that there are, both young girl and Old woman present in the picture. You have to look for it. Once you see clearly without clinging to your first impression of the picture you can see both. Just see the video below that will help you to see both young and old woman in the picture.


 This is what happens with us. We interpret the happening, the world around us and take it as the reality. And we cling to that as our reality.  This distorts our perception and the responses, to the situation we are in.  If we are able to see things/ happening around us, as “they are” we will be able to respond appropriately, which may help us to live life spontaneously and joyfully rather than getting caught into spiral of incorrect responses, reactions and ensuing unhappiness. So unlearning is essential to see the happenings, the world around us as “it is”.

How can we do that? For that to happen we should become aware of the lens (“Mental model”) we are using. How can we be aware of the mental model?

Prof. Srikumar Rao in his book suggests a way. He advises reader to keep a journal with four columns

Family, Work, Love, Self

He says” Before you do this exercise, I urge you to think of yourself as a scientist. The laboratory and the object of study are both yourself. Do this practice as objectively as you can. “

He further advises that one should write continuously for 10 minutes what comes to mind for each of these columns. This writing should be such that nothing that comes to mind should be  edited or censored by the thinking mind. This process itself makes one aware of his dominant mental models.

Under family – “My father never praised me” comes to your mind first then you should continue writing along the line and see what comes out.

 I would like to add two more columns to this.

Money, God/ Universe/Supreme power

Write freely what comes to your mind under these also.

This is an exercise in self-aware ness. The writing and reflecting on the writing will let you understand mental models you are using. Once you are aware of the models that you use , you can modify , replace the models that are not working for you.

This journal along with a coaching conversation with a coach will make you understand yourself on a deeper level. Once you start the journey of understanding yourself, you can start on the journey of self-awareness and then ultimately start a journey of personal mastery.

“Awareness is all about restoring your freedom to choose what you want instead of what your past imposes on you.” Deepak Chopra