About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.

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Archive for February, 2011


Off the Air for a Bit

When I started this blog in January of 2007, I committed to you, dear reader, that I’d post at least once a week, except when on vacation.  I’ve done a good job of fulfilling that commitment – if I do say so myself! – and I intend to continue as long as I continue to get feedback that you enjoy reading it and find it useful (and sometimes even inspiring – thanks for that!)

So now I get to invoke my vacation exception: Patrick and I are leaving for Jamaica on Saturday morning for a week in the sun, doing pretty much nothing at all.  I can’t remember a time when I’ve looked forward to a vacation so much – I feel like I really need a period of rest and rejuvenation after the past few months. And the months ahead look to be even more busy and full of great things….

I’m a big fan of vacations – and I’d love to hear about your favorite one…where was it, who did you go with, and why was it so great?

Posted in Community, Travel


I Think I Can

A friend of mine, Sara Schneider, sent me an email today.  She was out toy-train shopping with her boys, and came across one she thought I’d find interesting, so she took a picture of it with her phone, and sent it to me.

I was so charmed by it; I’ve always thought of Proteus as “The Little Engine that Could.”  For those of you who never read that story as a kid, it’s about a tiny train who (we’re talking very anthropomorphized trains here) makes it up a big hill in spite of his small size, basically through sheer determination and a deep faith in his own abilities.

Over the past two decades, we’ve often found ourselves competing against big firms, dozens or hundreds of times our size, and have quite often won the business.  I’ve always felt that it was largely because, in those situations, we’ve honestly believed that we can serve the clients’ needs better; we think we can.  And it’s not an empty conceit – experience has shown us, time and time again over the years, that there are many ways in which we actually can and do support our clients more effectively than the “big guys.”

And the story also reminds me of a wonderful quote that I share with clients, and that I believe is most often true:

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.

– Henry Ford

Thanks, Sara —


Thinking More and More Clearly

I seem to be getting a lot of my wisdom from the subway lately.  Not sure what that says about me…  In any case, I saw a wonderful quote from Stephen Hawking on the D line the other day:

“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”

There’s so much in there that I find delightful.  I love his description of the evolution of scientific thought, over thousands of years, as the dawning understanding that we are not simply at the effect of random, whimsical, un-understandable events, but that there are relationships of cause and effect based on patterns of interaction that we can understand and even predict.

Five thousand years ago, people thought that the sun rose because some god chose to drive his flaming chariot across the sky — and that he might very well decide the next day not to do so.  Therefore prayers needed to be said and sacrifices made in order to encourage him to take the chariot out of the divine garage each day. Now we’re reasonably clear about the laws of physics that keep the earth going around the sun and rotating on its axis, and recognize that our actions have virtually no impact on whether or not that event continues to happen. Freeing lots of energy previously devoted to prayers to the sun god for other, more useful pursuits.

And I see that same process – of coming to understand the “underlying order” behind events – being replicated every day in individual human beings.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that growth as an individual is founded in coming to understand the actual impact of your actions on others; developing an accurate sense of what you can and can’t control in your life; and taking steps, based on that understanding, to create the life you want to have.

All of which may or may not be divinely inspired – perhaps my favorite line in the whole quote.  This world certainly feels divinely inspired to me; too gorgeously, impeccably constructed not to be. But that’s something for each of us to decide…


The Weather Outside Is Frightful…

This may be the first time, as an adult, that I’ve ever taken a snow day.  Well, it’s not an actual snow day, I guess, since I’m still working – but where I’ve not been able to get to work because of the snow. Amazingly, I don’t think I’ve actually ever even missed a work gig due to a canceled or postponed flight (a combination of luck and tenacity, I think).

It’s strange how strange it feels. It’s literally no different at all from yesterday; I worked from my home upstate all day yesterday, since I had no in-person meetings; just phone calls and writing to do.  But this morning  we couldn’t get out of our driveway, and so had to stay home: I canceled a lunch in the city and changed one face-to-face appointment into a phone call.

So, just like yesterday, I’m working out of my living room, writing and talking on the phone. And yet it feels completely different. It’s causing me to reflect on how much of reality takes place inside our own heads. The only real difference between yesterday and today is that I didn’t expect to be here; I thought I would be in NYC.

Recently, someone in my life made a huge change that had lots of negative repercussions on those around that person, and I’ve been wondering why – it seemed out of character.  And I’m coming to think it’s because the situation this person was in, while literally no different than the situation had been a month before, felt completely different: not what was expected and therefore deeply uncomfortable.  And so this person acted in a pretty radical and precipitous way to get back to something that felt more comfortable, more normal.

My take-away from this: when I’m in a situation that makes me uncomfortable because it feels different, out of my control – I have to be especially careful to take a breath and proceed in a way that’s good for me and for others, vs. out of reaction to my own discomfort.