Be Bad First | Erika Andersen

Summary of: Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future
By: Erika Andersen


In the age of rapid technological advances, the conventional path of acquiring skills and finding a lifelong career is no longer the norm. In ‘Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future,’ Erika Andersen introduces the concept of embracing the uncomfortable initial phase of being bad at something new as a strategy for future-proofing and constant learning. In this summary, you’ll explore four essential ‘skills of mastery’ within the ANEW model: aspiration, neutral self-awareness, endless curiosity, and willingness to be bad first. All these skills are gateways to overcoming internal resistance and adapting to the ever-changing world around us.

Embracing Lifelong Learning

The book emphasizes that in today’s fast-paced world, individuals need to constantly learn and acquire new skills to stay relevant and employable. The resistance to learning new things is natural, but it can be overcome by embracing one’s inexperience, and motivation can come from mastering new skills, autonomy, and purpose. The author emphasizes that people have a lifelong capacity for learning.

Gone are the days where people would attend school, get a job, master a required set of skills, and work the same job until retirement. With technological advances, it’s essential to continually learn and acquire new skills to stay relevant and employable. Along with the innate resistance to starting new things is an equally powerful urge to master new skills. The book emphasizes that the three drivers of human behavior are “mastery, autonomy, and purpose.”

Research shows that people have a lifelong capacity for learning, yet many individuals struggle with learning new skills. It can be demoralizing and scary to start something new from scratch, especially when it contradicts entrenched viewpoints or makes one feel clumsy and amateurish. The author suggests that embracing inexperience, accepting the uneasiness that comes with learning something new, and being bad first is necessary to overcome the resistance to learning new things.

The idea of embracing inexperience is the fundamental key to lifelong learning. The author emphasizes that people need to accept their inability and be patient with themselves when trying new things. It is essential that people embrace the sensation of being a beginner and focus on the positive feelings of competence that come along when they master a new skill.

In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink expands on research by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s “self-determination theory” that emphasizes the three critical drivers of human behavior. The theory suggests that motivation comes from mastering skills, gaining autonomy, and possessing a clear sense of purpose.

To maintain a competitive edge in today’s job market, it’s vital to embrace lifelong learning. The capacity for learning is lifelong, and learning new things can be challenging, but mastering new skills, gaining autonomy, and having a sense of purpose motivates people.

The ANEW Model of Learning

The ANEW model consists of four skills of mastery: aspiration, neutral self-awareness, endless curiosity, and willingness to be bad first. These skills are exhibited by power learners such as Michelangelo, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Steve Jobs, who are open to new knowledge and skills. Aspiration involves striving to do something beyond current abilities, while neutral self-awareness requires an honest assessment of skills and experience. Endless curiosity fuels engagement by digging deeper for understanding and learning. Finally, the willingness to be bad first means accepting novice status and embracing mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. By adopting these skills, individuals can build an unstoppable momentum of discovery that drives their learning and growth.

Desire and Aspiration

Do you have a burning desire to achieve something, or just an idle wish? Desire is not enough to motivate us into action. True aspiration keeps us driven, even when our enthusiasm wanes. Most people opt for the easy option and avoid learning new and uncomfortable things. However, embracing challenges can be the key to success and job security. For example, Ron works at a library that’s going digital, but he’s hesitant to reskill. If Ron can’t overcome his resistance to change, he risks being left behind in a job market that values technological skills. Aspiring towards growth and learning new things yields benefits that outweigh the temporary discomforts of new experiences, such as exercise. If we don’t have a genuine aspiration towards our goals, our efforts will fall short. Ask yourself if your desire to achieve is strong enough to push through discomfort and challenges towards success.

Igniting Motivation with Aspirations

To activate your motivation and overcome resistance to change, envision the benefits competency in a new skill will bring and imagine a future where you have obtained it. A practical four-step process helps to realize this future; pick a feasible timeline, picture yourself achieving the new skill, add specifics to your mental image, and identify the key benefits that ignite your passion and motivation. By knowing what motivates you, you can sustain momentum towards attaining mastery in a new area.

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