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Be Bad First

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Be Bad First

Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future


15 min read
7 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

“Being bad first” is the initial step on the path of learning, upskilling, development and growth.

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Michelangelo continued learning and taking on new challenges until he died at the age of 88. He’s a prime example of a high-powered learner, and he is the embodiment of the four skills in the ANEW model of mastery – “aspiration, neutral self-awareness, endless curiosity and willingness to be bad first” – developed by executive coach Erika Andersen. The model codifies the powerful human drive to master something, even when it means “being bad first.” Apply these skills to thrive in an environment of rapid change, to remain attractive to employers and to flourish in the workplaces of tomorrow.


Upskilling is crucial to remain relevant and employable, yet humans, by nature, resist learning new things.

In previous generations, people went to school, got a job, mastered a required set of skills and, if they performed reasonably well, worked at some version of their same job until retirement. This is no longer the case. Today’s workers perform a variety of roles, change companies often or go out on their own, and need to continually learn and acquire new skills to stay relevant and employable.

Technology’s proliferation of knowledge and information has fueled rapid advances in every field and has forever changed how people learn and work. It’s no longer enough to master a skill or become an expert. Instead, people must engage in lifelong learning. Accept the uneasiness that accompanies trying or learning something new, because when you grapple with any new skill, you’ll – inevitably – “be bad first.”

Unfortunately, human nature resists learning new things, especially if they contradict entrenched viewpoints or make you feel clumsy and amateurish. People don’t want to revisit novicehood after putting in the time and effort to achieve a high...

About the Author

Erika Andersen is a coach, author, blogger and the founder of Proteus, a coaching consultancy that advises executives. Her previous books include Leading So People Will Follow and Being Strategic.

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