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.