Erika Andersen on Be Bad First, Part 3

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 3: Cracking the Code: Michaelangelo and ANEW

In this chapter, Erika Andersen discusses the four vital mental skills for learning. She offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

Erika believed there are four critical cognitive skills for mastery of any subject. The elements in ANEW are:

  • Aspiration
  • Neutral Self-awareness
  • Endless curiosity
  • Willingness to be bad first

Aspiration is wanting something we don’t now have. Great learners unearth and then build their aspirations (or the desire to learn).

Aspiration is relevant because, as human beings, we only do those things we want to do. The good news is that aspiration is not given. Instead, we can make ourselves want to do something, including learning new things.

Neutral self-awareness is the ability to assess our strengths and weaknesses fairly and dispassionately. When masters of mastery embark on new learning, they are honest about where they are starting from and observe themselves.

Cultivating neutral self-awareness is essential because we need to see clearly what we need to learn or what learning those things will require from us. The obstacle to accurate self-perception is the “self-talk.” The good news is that we can manage our self-talk.

Curiosity is the impulse to explore, explain, understand, and master something. While aspiration supplies long-term motivation, curiosity is the moment to moment.

Aspiration may, at a high level, get us started in believing that we will master a subject. But curiosity is the burst of energy that keeps us plugging away on a granular level day in and day out.

The willingness to be bad first is the final skill in the toolkit that can help us overcome the obstacle of feeling like a novice.

It can be very tough to overcome our resistance to being a beginner – the state of feeling embarrassed, clueless, and incompetent. Master of mastery figured out how to be okay with their initial ineptitude.