Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 12

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 9: Do It Now: Making ANEW Your Own

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses the techniques we can practice to build our ANEW skills. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Steps for Building Aspiration:

Envision a “hoped-for-future” where we are reaping the benefits of my learning.

Pick a time frame (when we will be much more skilled or knowledgeable in this area).

Imagine ourselves in that future, and then describe what success looks like and feels like (how we think and what we are doing, having gained the benefits from this learning).

Select the key elements (two or three sentences best capture the benefits we are experiencing in this future world of successful learning).

Steps for Building Neutral Self-Awareness:

Make two lists: current strengths/assets and current weaknesses/gaps.

Review what we have written and ask: Is my self-talk accurate?

If we are unsure about some things, note them and ask: What facts do I have to support my point of view?

Use our answers to revise our lists, to make them as “fair witness” as possible.

Note any self-talk we recognize that reflects strong feelings about our strengths or weaknesses – it is also essential to be accurate about those.

Finally, if we make pessimistic self-talk predictions based on our current weaknesses, revise them using the “self-talk of self-belief.”

Steps for Re-engaging Endless Curiosity:

Create two or three “How,” “Why,” or “I wonder” questions about this new area of learning, questions to which we want to find the answers.

Decide an easy-for-us action that we could take to pursue the answer to each question above.

Steps for Willing to be Bad First:

Go through the list of “unsupportive self-talk” items and create a list of our “accepting not-good” self-talk for learning our chosen skill.

Go through the list of supportive (and more accurate) alternatives and create a list of our “self-belief self-talk” for learning the skill we want.

Pick a skill or capability we already have that we believe may be related to our chosen topic. Ask ourselves: How is this skill or ability similar to and different from what might be required in the new situation?

Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 11

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 8: Slaying Your Personal Dragons: One the Road to Mastery

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses some of the personal challenges we will face when we try to become high-payoff, Michelangelo-style learners. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

For questions on Willingness to Be Bad First:

Q: Come on. You’re telling me it’s okay to be bad at my job?

A: It is okay to be bad at those parts of our job that we have not yet had the opportunity to learn. When we enter a new situation or environment, we will not know everything we need to know about the environment right at the beginning. However, if we pretend to be already “good” at that and do not ask many curiosity-based questions initially, people will be suspicious.

Q: The idea of “being bad” at something in front of people (especially the people I work for and the ones who work for me) makes me very nervous. What can I do to make it easier?

A: Just as in every other area of learning, practice makes perfect. The more we practice “being bad” in public, the easier it gets. More practices in public also create opportunities for displaying openness and building trust with others.

Q: Isn’t this just about “failing fast”?

A: Recognizing that we will experience failure when learning new things and accepting that is part of being willing to be bad first. More importantly, the ANEW model offers other essential tools – the thing we need for mastering much more than just the “failure” part of learning.

With ANEW, we can practice being better at reducing failures, speeding up the cycle time from novice to expert, and positioning us well for our next round of new learning in the same area.

Q: Shouldn’t we play to our strengths? Why would I try to do things that I’m bad at?

A: We should play to our strengths. That is why neutral self-awareness is such an essential part of real learning. But there is a big difference between being bad at something because we are physically unable to improve and being bad at something. After all, we have not learned to do it yet.

The good news is that the sweet spot of learning is being able to play to our strengths to get good at things we are now bad at doing. Rather than using our strengths as a limitation on our future learning, we should use them as a lever for learning even more and better.

Q: Do you ever get done being bad?

A: Even in the areas where we are most experienced and expert, we can always keep trying new things by returning to being bad to get better. People who are most truly masters of mastery level feel as though they are always learning. They always find areas where they are “bad” (even if only relative to their existing expertise) and get better.

Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 10

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 8: Slaying Your Personal Dragons: One the Road to Mastery

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses some of the personal challenges we will face when we try to become high-payoff, Michelangelo-style learners. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

For questions on Endless Curiosity:

Q: But some things are just BORING. How can I possibly get curious about stuff that makes me want to go to sleep?

A: Nothing is intrinsically dull – it has more to do with the lack of interest on our part. It is, however, possible to get interested in anything. That is a much more productive belief than the other way around. Holding the idea that some things are, by their very nature, uninteresting will limit us from a lot of learning.

Q: Can you be too curious?

A: If we define curiosity as “a deep need to understand and master,” we cannot be too curious. We also need to be mindful of some things that masquerade as curiosity and lead us to produce bad results. One such fake curiosity is our need to control everything and micromanage our environment. Micromanaging, even if it’s disguised as curiosity, is “thinking we already understand something and that we need to make other people better at doing it.”

Another kind of fake curiosity is “endless divergent thinking.” Endless divergent thinking can lead us to brainstorm and fact-finding missions, but we never settle on a course of action. It wastes mental and emotional energy that could be better used for authentic learning.

Q: I’m worried I’ll look dumb if I ask questions that demonstrate my lack of knowledge or understanding. What if I’m the only one who doesn’t know?

A: When we ask curious questions, it is not that we look dumb but think we will look dumb. One way to shift our self-talk in this area is to think of someone we respect who is willing to ask “novice” questions. We should ask ourselves, Do I think that person looks dumb when he asks an I-don’t-know type question? One caution is to avoid the novice trap of asking a curious question already covered in the conversation because we failed to pay attention.

Q: When people talk about things I don’t know about, I lose focus fast. How can I stay engaged?

A: When someone is discussing a new topic, our minds can take one of two directions. One direction is curiosity, and the other direction is disinterest. If we are losing focus, we are walking down the path of disinterested self-talk.

One technique to reengage our curiosity is summarizing what the other person is saying. To digest something someone is saying, we first have to understand it. If we try to understand what someone is saying well enough to summarize it, we begin listening as though we are curious.

The essence of curiosity is the need to understand. Once we pay attention to something this trying-to-understand way, our actual interest often gets catalyzed, and we find ourselves engaged in the topic.

Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 9

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 8: Slaying Your Personal Dragons: One the Road to Mastery

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses some of the personal challenges we will face when we try to become high-payoff, Michelangelo-style learners. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

For questions on Neutral Self-Awareness:

Q: I think I’m better than others give me credit for. Maybe they’re just not seeing what I’m capable of.

A: We could be correct; however, there is more likely another issue at play here. We may be confusing our current capability with our potential. When other people assess us based on what they see us doing right now, we often create a gap where we evaluate ourselves based on what we believe we can do.

Find someone who thinks a particular skill is not a strength of ours and, we consider, is trustworthy. Ask the person to describe the difference between how she sees us performing and what she would consider “good.” Accurately distinguishing between “what I can do now” and “what I might be capable of” is key to neutral self-awareness.

Q: How can I have an accurate sense of how good I am at something I don’t know anything about yet?

A: Good feedback sources have three essential qualities: they see us, want the best for us, and are willing, to be honest with us. There is one other quality to look for when asking a source to assess us in an area where we are a true novice. That person needs to have some expertise in that area. That way, she can compare our current skill level to her understanding of what “good” looks like and tell us how big the gap is.

Q: Okay, I’m embarrassed. I’ve just gotten some feedback, and it looks like I’m not as good at something as I thought I was. What do I do now?

A: This is where the need for neutral self-awareness combines with the need to be willing to “be bad at first” – and shifting our self-talk is key to both. Once we realize we are less good at something than we thought, we can formulate more constructive self-talk. That self-talk needs to accept our negative feelings in response to the feedback. It then can help us move through the negative feedback and on the way to hopefulness and a focus on learning.

Q: I graded myself really hard – it’s difficult to acknowledge my strengths. How can I change that?

A: We do not have to put up with our own unfair, ungenerous, unkind assessments of ourselves. We can “talk back” to that negative voice and stand up for ourselves the same way a good friend or loving family member would. We can shift our self-talk to support our success.

Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 8

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 8: Slaying Your Personal Dragons: One the Road to Mastery

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses some of the personal challenges we will face when we try to become high-payoff, Michelangelo-style learners. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

For questions on Aspiration:

Q: But what if I just really don’t want to learn something?

A: Try to look at the situation through our “Fair witness” lens. Focus on how important it is for us to have this capability. If we decide we need to learn it, start to work on ramping up our aspirations. If it is something we do not need to learn, do not burn up our mental and emotional energy trying to find and build our aspirations.

Q: Sometimes, I’m clear on the benefits of learning something, but I still can’t get myself to do it. Like exercise. Or Twitter. What do I do then?

A: Be clear on something that will be personally beneficial to us instead of thinking about the theoretical benefit of something. Look for personal benefits that resonate with us – and perhaps for no one else.

Q: Trying to get myself to want to do something seems fake. Shouldn’t I just go for what I’m passionate about?

A: Most of us discover that to thrive in this modern world and create the success we want for ourselves, we need to cultivate new passions. Sometimes those are things in which we have not previously been interested. Be aware of the difference between real versus fake passion because there can be a very subtle resistance to new learning embedded in that distinction.

Q: Learning something complex often requires learning lots of subskills. Do I have to aspire to learn each of those?

A: It is only necessary to focus on the “sub-aspiration” if we run into a roadblock as we are learning the whole set of skills. Look to see if we have run into not wanting to learn some new subskill that is a critical part of the overall learning.

One good thing about aspiration is that it is pretty easy to tell whether or not we have it. If we are not taking steps to do something, we do not really want to do it, no matter what we tell ourselves. Our aspiration is insufficient. Period.

Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 7

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 7: Willingness to Be Bad First: The Trap of Competence

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses using the mentality of “getting good at being bad first” as the most essential and powerful future-proofing tool we can have. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Erika suggests three things we should do to reclaim our ability to be an excellent novice or “willing to be bad at first:”

  • Fully accept being not-good
  • Believe in your ability to get good
  • “Bridge” from what you’re already good at

The core of willingness to be bad first lies in managing our self-talk. When trying to learn something new, we often present ourselves with self-talk that can be change-resisting or down-right negative. Shifting our resistant and self-castigating self-talk into the self-talk of acceptance can create an immediate positive shift in our emotions and a sense of mental clarity.

While eliminating negative self-talk is essential, it is more critical to be a fair witness to our self-talk. We should always ask two questions and be objective when answering them.

  • Is my self-talk accurate?
  • What facts do I have in this area to support or refute it?

After we are objective with our self-talk and self-narrative, we can move to create “bridging” opportunities for ourselves. Most adults are good at a bunch of things. We should approach learning something new by bridging it with related things that we already knew. We can enhance our bridging effort by asking the following two questions:

  • I wonder what skills I have that are related to what I’ll need to learn in order to report successfully to the stakeholders?
  • How are those existing skills similar to and different from what will be required in this new situation?

Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 6

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 6: Endless Curiosity: Not Just Kid Stuff

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses how being curious can help us take on new learning and mastery. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Erika defines curiosity as “I’m so fascinated by how things work and what might be possible that I’m completely willing to do what it takes to find out more and become more skilled.” Erika thinks genuine curiosity is a deep and abiding need to understand and master.

Even though our society largely socializes our curiosity out of us by the time we reach adulthood, all functional human beings are born curious. Erika believes we should reengage the endless curiosity we all had as children and apply it to becoming world-class learners.

To become endlessly curious again, we need to:

  • Find our own curiosity “sparks”: We all have at least one thing in our lives about which we are truly curious. Those are the places to look for our unextinguished sparks of curiosity.
  • Fan the flames with self-talk and action: Recognize our self-talk that impedes our curiosity and replace them with self-talk that supports our interest.
  • Feed the fire of curiosity daily: We will need to focus on making curiosity a daily habit to survive and thrive in a world that is changing faster than we ever thought possible.

We can ask some questions that help to encourage our curiosity:

  • How does that work?
  • I wonder if I could do that?
  • Why does that happen?
  • How can I find out more?
  • Why isn’t that like this?
  • I wonder what would happen if I tried this?

When we are genuinely curious about something, the “How,” “Why,” and “I wonder” questions we are asking demand answers. We should use leverage curiosity as momentum to act and find those answers. Do this every day and form a habit that can feed our curiosity daily.

Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 5

In the book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future, Erika Andersen shares her mindset and techniques for learning new things well and quickly.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 5: Neutral Self-Awareness: The American Idol Syndrome

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses how a lack of neutral self-awareness can inhibit our ability to be open to learning. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Most of us have an inflated sense of our capabilities when assessing ourselves. We do not want to acknowledge our deficits because we secretly believe we cannot do anything about them.

There is a surprisingly simple way to become aware of how we see ourselves and shift our self-perception if it is inaccurate. We can become more neutrally self-aware by:

  • Managing our self-talk,
  • Becoming our fair witness, and
  • Inviting good “sources.”

People who see themselves objectively start by learning to manage how they talk about themselves. We all have a continuous mental monologue running at the back of our minds. But moreover, we change the content of that mental monologue.

Recognizing what we are saying inside our heads is the first step to having more control over it. Furthermore, having the ability to shift those inaccurate, unhelpful, unsupportive voices to be more accurate, neutral, and supportive is a powerful capability.

The steps involved in managing our self-talk include:

  • Recognize: The first step is to “hear” it.
  • Record: Write down our self-talk and narratives.
  • Rethink: Decide how to revise it to be more accurate and helpful.
  • Repeat: Managing our self-talk requires repetition.

Becoming a fair witness (FW) means being as objective and accurate as possible. When someone acts in the FW capacity, she speaks only from her direct experience. The FW role cannot indulge in speculation, cherry-pick the data, say what she hopes is true, or avoid looking at what she does not want to be true. The FW is proscribed from doing everything we generally do when thinking about ourselves.

The steps in becoming our own fair witness include:

  • Recognize and record our self-talk about our strengths and weaknesses in an area where we want to level up.
  • Ask ourselves, Is my self-talk accurate?
  • If we are unsure, ask, What facts do I have about myself in this area?
  • Rethink our self-talk to be more accurate and objective.

Incredibly self-aware people sometimes cannot see themselves entire clearly. For those occasions, we need feedback from external sources. A good “source” should include three equally essential elements:

  • See you clearly
  • Want the best for you
  • Are willing to be honest

Aspiration provides the fuel that will move us forward into new learning. Neutral self-awareness allows us to see where we are on the journey.