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?