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.