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.