[Erika’s] vision and strategy process helps us get our heads around complex issues in a way that’s unusually simple…[to make] our aspirations practical and build a clear path to achieving them. Doug Herzog, President, MTV Networks Entertainment Group


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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Be Bad First

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Archive for the ‘people’ Category

Feb
3

Practical Activism


“For more than a century, from 1900 to 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts in achieving their stated goals. By attracting impressive support from citizens, whose activism takes the form of protests, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other forms of nonviolent noncooperation, these efforts help separate regimes from their main sources of power and produce remarkable results…”

– Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan. Columbia University Press

I am not a fan of the new administration; I now deeply fear for our civil liberties, our human rights, and the fate of the planet. Like millions of people around the US and even around the world, I’m asking, “What can I do to protect the rights and freedoms that are most important to me, and to the US?”

And I’m finding answers; good practical answers that work for me, and that leverage the time-honored positive power of civil resistance.  I’m experiencing the power of matching words to actions.  Here are the two places I’m focused on putting my energy right now:

https://www.indivisibleguide.com

The Indivisible Guide is a handbook put together by former Congressional staffers, billed as “best practices for making congress listen.”  The guide itself is practical and tested; the authors based it on the approach used by the Tea Party to (successfully) push back against Obama’s agenda. Even more exciting, it has spawned hundreds of local groups that are implementing its approaches at this moment.  In fact, this morning my husband and I joined about a dozen other people from the indivisibleulster chapter to agree on a single issue (we chose the ACA) and walk to Rep. Faso’s Kingston, NY office to share our point of view. While there, we spoke with staff members and arranged to meet with his legislative staffer, who can set up face-to-face meetings for us with Faso. When we came back outside, we encountered a small demonstration – also Indivisible-based, and also focused on the ACA.

When we were speaking with Faso’s staff, a few members of our group noted that they had repeatedly called or emailed the congressman’s office and had received no reply.  The staffer responded, “It’s just been so busy for the past month – I’m sure it will calm down soon.” A few of us smiled and said, “No. It won’t.”

The second place I’m focusing my energy is with my own existing network.  Thus, this post.  I’m also using twitter and facebook to share real information (as opposed to “alternative facts”) about what the administration is doing, and to encourage non-violent action to resist racism, authoritarianism, corruption and violations of our constitution.

I am a relentlessly optimistic person.  Generally, I see that as a strength, but sometimes it has been a weakness. I am hopeful (optimistic?) that, in this situation, it will be a strength. Because I do see a silver lining in our current situation. Whenever I look at all the – to me – terrifying and saddening events of  the past few months, I also see the response:  the political awakening of literally millions of people who have never in their lives felt strongly enough about any political issue to act upon their convictions.  They – we – are marching, calling, speaking up, offering time, money, expertise, knowledge.

“Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.”

– Mahatma Gandhi


Dec
13

Cutting Back to Fulltime

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit…

I’ve loved this poem since I first read it in the 1970s. Even as a young woman, I was enchanted with the idea that as an older person, a tribal elder, I could feel and be less constrained by the dictates of society, more willing and able to do as I pleased, to be a more quirky and braver version of myself.

shutterstock_65165581And here I am, on the cusp of what is generally considered old age – soon to celebrate my 65th birthday – and though I may not literally have a stick, or be running it along the public railings, I’m proud to say that I find myself doing a metaphoric version of these things every day. I’m much more willing than I used to be to challenge assumptions – especially my own – and to be open to different ways of approaching situations or solving problems.

With age has also come a greater willingness to say true but difficult things if I think they will benefit a person, a relationship, an organization: I’m “pressing alarm bells.” And at the same time, I see that my increasing straightforwardness contains a tenderness and compassion that I believe was missing in my earlier years; I’ve now experienced enough pain of my own to know how hard it can be to hear difficult truths.

And I’m pleased to find that my passion for and joy in life are undiminished and, in fact, seem to be increasing; I wear celebratory, invisible purple and red nearly every day. However, I have noticed that my physical stamina is diminished – I get worn out working the 70-hour weeks of my 40s and 50s –  and so I’ve decided I need to sit down on the pavement a bit more, so to speak.

I’m very grateful to have the influence and wherewithal to be able to craft my “sitting down” in a way that works for me. So here’s my plan: I’m going to “cut back to fulltime,” as I’ve been saying to my colleagues. Soon I’ll be working four long days every week, instead of five (or six). Starting after the first of the year, on Fridays I’ll mostly be doing things other than working.

It’s interesting watching the reactions I’m getting from friends and clients when I share this plan. Those younger than I are generally very supportive, and see this as a great way to create a little more space for rest and reflection, while still staying active in this work I love so much. Interestingly, the only people so far who seem uncomfortable with my plan are friends my age who are still in the workforce. And their negative response isn’t to the plan itself, but to my acknowledgement that I need a bit more time dedicated to recuperation in order to be at my best when I am working. “I still feel like I’m 29,” a client scowled when I shared this with him.  One friend shook her head. “I think it’s limiting to believe we can’t have the same energy at 70 that we did at 30.”

Maybe. But maybe it’s limiting to believe we must have the same energy at 70 that we did at 30. At its core, Jenny Joseph’s poem is about authenticity: discovering and being your true self.  And the older I get, the truer I want to be to what I know, understand, and experience, and the more clearly I want to live as a reflection of that truth.

What’s your version of wearing purple? If you were to shift the elements of your life to include more of what you want and need at this point in your evolution, what would that look like?


Oct
31

Building On What Came Before Us, Part II

A few months ago, I wrote a post about finishing a sweater my mom had begun knitting for me twenty years ago. Completing her work became a reflection on all the ways in which her influence shaped who I am today – and in fact all the ways in which we are all influenced by those who came before us.

img_0085Now that it’s done, it brings an entirely new set of reflections. When I look at it, I think of all the things in this world that we re-purpose for new generations. For example, I love it when old buildings find new life serving a modern function. Apple recently received the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Chairman award for its placement of Apple stores in four historic buildings in New York.  In giving the award, the Conservancy noted that, “Apple is being honored for their contribution to preserving, restoring, and repurposing notable historic structures in New York City. The company has placed four stores in historic buildings – marrying high tech and distinguished architecture.”

Looking at all four Apple projects, you realize that in many ways it would have been easier just to tear down the original buildings and start from scratch.  For instance, their Soho store, housed in a 1920’s Beaux Art Post Office building, showcases the original exterior while inserting a new interior that includes a glass tread staircase and a huge central skylight.  Even though it clearly required more time, resource, and care to re-create the building for the intended use than to build something spanking new from the ground up, Apple chose to give new life to something beautiful by building upon it for the present and the future.

We can do that with ideas, as well. I look at core beliefs that my grandparents passed to my parents, and that they passed on to me: that men and women are equal; that the color of a person’s skin or their religion doesn’t affect their worth; that our free and fair elections are a deeply valuable thing.  These ideals are beautiful, and worth preserving.

A personal plea: please vote in this upcoming election if you are a US citizen.  And please consider carefully: do you want to tear down what we’ve built, giving in to the destructive power of hatred, prejudice and violence?  Or do you want to continue to build on those precious values of openness, tolerance and inclusion that we have fought so hard to establish in this country, and that are even more important as we face the future?

Think about the world we are continually re-creating for our children, and for our children’s children, when you go to the polls on November 8th, and make sure the person you choose to be our president is someone you believe has the clarity, focus and intention to build upon our democratic ideals.


Jul
17

Building On What Came Before Us

Many years ago, my mom declared that she would knit each of us, her four children, a sweater.  She had lots of other stuff she was interested in doing, though, so she never quite completed the project. I’m pretty sure she finished my younger brother’s sweater, and she may have finished my older sister’s. In any case, when we went to clean out her house after she died in 2004, I discovered most of the sweater she had been making for me in a knitting bag with (fortunately) the pattern book she was using.  I was touched; I decided to take it home with me and finish it someday.

So here I am, twelve years later, finishing the sweater my mom started for me sometime in the 1990s.  I thought it would be a nice way to connect with her, and it is. It’s easy to imagine her working on it: getting irritated when an instruction didn’t make sense; swearing softly at having to undo and redo a mistake; her crooked smile of satisfaction at a beautifully complex bit of finished work.  And most of all, thinking of her thinking of me.

IMG_1720I’ve also enjoyed the mystery-solving aspect of it. It’s a cardigan, and she had completed the back, both fronts, and most of one of the sleeves.  So I had to determine where she was in the sleeve (there’s a cable design running down the middle, so I had to figure out exactly the correct row), and which of the six available sizes she had chosen to knit. And since I had only one skein of the yarn she was using, a yarn that hasn’t been made for many years, I had to find more of it (thank god for ebay). Finally, I had to figure out what size needles she was using in order to finish the ribbed trim on the front, neck and pockets.  I tried the size called for in the pattern, but that made stitches that were bigger than hers; I tried a couple of different size needles, knitting a few rows, pulling out the work and redoing it till I got it right. (You can see how it’s going in the picture above.)

Most of all, though, doing this is making me realize that I generally don’t give my mom enough credit for the foundation she provided to me throughout my life. So much of who I am as a professional, a parent, and a human being is grounded in her good example.  She taught me how to think critically; inspired my love of language and of writing; taught me that a parent’s job is to provide the tools kids need to create their own life and the moral compass to assure that life is one of contribution and value to others and to the world.  She taught me that humor can ease tension, and that it’s mentally lazy to accept “what everyone knows” as truth. She insisted that I take responsibility for my mistakes, and she was quietly proud of my accomplishments. She (and my father) taught me that judging, dismissing, or hating others for some part of who they are – skin color, sexual orientation, country of birth – is just plain wrong. She raised all four of us, two boys and two girls, with equal expectations that each of us would find work we liked and were good at, and build loving, strong relationships and families.

And as I’m reflecting on this, on my own failure to acknowledge her gifts to me, I’m wondering if we aren’t all guilty of this to some extent.  It’s too easy to believe that everything now is “new,” that we’re starting from zero every day and having to invent everything as we go. But even though almost every aspect of our world is changing faster now that at any previous time in history, we are able to navigate through this time of seismic change by virtue of the foundation laid down by those who have gone before.

Just as I can finish this sweater because of the start my mom made on it and the knitting skills passed down to me by her and many others, all that we do builds on the discoveries and advances of previous generations. The fact that I, a woman, can be accepted and respected as an author, speaker, consultant and business owner is built on the efforts and sacrifice of my feminist mother, my suffragette grandmothers, and millions of other women of past generations all over the world. The fact that I can share my thoughts with you here, one-to-one, perhaps without ever having met you, is a tribute to thousands of generations of humans who created language, invented ways to write it down and disseminate it (including the printing press), then created ever-more sophisticated computers, and finally harnessed the power of the internet.

It is both humbling and inspiring to acknowledge that we are links in this human chain. It makes me feel very grateful, and it makes me want to leave a legacy that will help move the world and everyone in it toward more joy, more collaboration, and lives of prosperity, independence and discovery.


May
24

The Power of Words…Especially For Leaders

My husband and I play a word game that consists of figuring out the negative names and the positive names for things.  Here’s what I mean:

  • For large properties owned by a single person or entity: “estate”=good; “compound”= bad
  • For someone who behaves in unpredictable ways: “eccentric”=good; “crazy” = bad
  • For people whose job is to execute someone else’s directives: “staff”=good; “minions”=bad
  • For a newly formed religious group: “sect” = good; “cult” = bad

We’ve found that there can be a world of difference in the implications of using one word vs. another to describe something. The two of us play this game because we find it fascinating, but it also makes me think about how often we can reveal our unconscious prejudices and assumptions about people and situations through our word choices.

And when you’re a leader, the power of that is magnified.  Let’s say you’re a manager, and you’re talking to someone about a guy that works for you who has lots of ideas and enjoys talking about them.  If you describe his behaviors as “enthusiastic” or “passionate,” your colleague will have a very different sense of him than if  you describe him as “loud” or “pushy.” Sometimes, sadly, people do this kind of subtle character assassination on purpose – when they want someone to be seen badly. But too often, we do it without conscious malice, simply based on unrecognized negative assumptions we have about someone…and don’t realize the negative impact it can have on them.

I was coaching someone once who had three direct reports.  When she spoke about two of them, Emma and Joe, she nearly always used “good” words. In her description, they were forward-looking, inspiring, big thinkers, and risk-takers. These were qualities that she saw and liked in herself and in them. The third report, Damon, was very different from the three of them, and she would describe him as old-school, slow, formal, and sensitive. When I pointed out to her how these words might come across to others, she responded that they weren’t negative words, and that she thought they were accurate. So then I asked her what impression her boss had of the three, based on her descriptors.  She thought for a moment, and then responded (I gave her high marks for honesty), “He probably sees Emma and Joe as big assets to the organization, and Damon as OK but not great.”

“Is that how you see him?” I asked.

“Not at all,” she acknowledged. “He’s really valuable.  He reins us in and keeps us from making impulsive decisions. We need him.”

Once she had seen that, it was easy for her to see how the words she used to describe him arose out of her feeling less comfortable with him and of unconsciously wanting him to be more like Emma and Joe.  And how those descriptors might lead others to see him in a less-than-positive way.  I asked her to think of alternative, yet still accurate ways of describing him that would let others see the value she saw. Instead of old-school, slow, formal, and sensitive,  she began to talk about him as being professional, thoughtful, measured, and considerate.

And not only did her altered description begin to change her boss’ perception of him, I noticed that she, Emma and Joe all started to treat him differently: to make better use of his complimentary strengths, and to more often acknowledge his contributions.

I encourage you to think about how you’re describing situations or people in a way that might subtly (or not so subtly) devalue them in your mind or to others.  How could you describe them differently to create more openness and appreciation?


Apr
25

Watching Business Evolve: The Craft Beer Revolution

I spent the weekend participating in TAP NY – billed as both the largest craft beer festival in New York State and the largest single-state craft beer festival in the US. It was enormously fun: I had the pleasure of helping my husband Patrick dispense his Great Life beer to hundreds of jovial people over the course of the two days.  And – thrilling to us –  his 1875 Milk Stout won the Bronze Medal in the Hudson Valley Stouts category.Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 9.36.14 AM

I love being involved (peripherally) in Patrick’s brewery partly because he’s so passionate about it, partly because brewing beer is intrinsically interesting (and I love finding out things), and partly because it’s so fascinating watching this business niche -craft brewing – explode.

On the TAP NY website, their own history page describes the geometric curve that is craft brewing. They started in 1998 at the Culinary institute of America in Hyde Park, NY with a handful of breweries, styling themselves the Hudson Valley Craft Beer and Food Festival. After just a few years they outgrew that site, moved to the Hunter Mountain Ski area, renamed the event TAP NY, and expanded to include all of NY state. Over the next few years, the festival continued to grow slowly, with about 25 breweries involved by 2007.  Then, in true geometric curve fashion, it really began to ramp up: 40 breweries in 2010, over 60 in 2013, almost 90 in 2015, and 116 breweries attending this past weekend.

When I wasn’t busy drawing 4-oz tasting glasses for the continual stream of folks who stopped by our booth, I wandered around and observed. In some ways, the craft beer culture is like any newly vital business sector, with lots of early entrants wanting to get in on the action.  It’s analogous to the early 20th century in autos, when there were literally hundreds of car makers in the US. Then the larger manufacturers began to take over through superior distribution and economies of scale, and the smaller auto companies began to go out of business or get bought up.  But beer has already been through that evolution: in the late 19th century, it’s estimated there were over 4,000 mostly small independent breweries operating in the US.  Then brewing began to go through the same kind of consolidation, helped along by prohibition.  In 1935 there were only about 750 breweries in the US, and by 1980, there were only about 50 brewing companies in the whole country. And, as one beer writer in the 1980s commented, “They are pale lager beers vaguely of the pilsener style…They do not all taste exactly the same but the differences between them are often of minor consequence.” Beer had become standardized and commercialized: what could be made most efficiently and while appealing to the largest number of people.

Then, in the late 1980s, the tide started to turn.  As people began to explore using locally grown and naturally sourced foods, they also started get interested in the possibility of drinking beer that was locally produced, with stronger and more interesting flavors. Once the trend started, it gained momentum every year, as evidenced by the growth of TAP NY and dozens of similar festivals across the country. In 1990 there were about 400 microbreweries and brewpubs in the US: in 2015, there were over 4000. We’ve now matched (and are on a path to exceeding) the high-water mark for American breweries set in 1873.

The big commercial breweries are still selling most of the beer drunk in the US – but the craft beer share of sales is significant and growing yearly: one recent statistic estimates that around 13% of the beer consumed in the US today is produced in craft breweries (doubled from just a few years ago).

I’m fascinated to see how this business of craft beer will continue to evolve.  In one way, it’s a return to the way humans consumed beer hundreds of years ago, where every village had its own brewer, often the owner of the local tavern and his wife.  And in another, it’s completely modern: a manifestation of the free-lance, entrepreneurial, artisanal explosion of  the last decade, where more people want to work for themselves and join together with small groups of like-minded others to create products and offer services about which they feel passionate. One element of the craft beer explosion I find really interesting: although still largely male, craft brewing seems not to be age-specific. As I wandered the booths this weekend, I noted some brewers in their 20s and some in their 60s – and everything in between. I also noted that nearly everyone, brewers and samplers alike, seemed to be having a great time.

And I don’t think it was just the mellowing effect of the beer itself: it’s fun to create things you love, it’s fun to connect with the people who make the things you consume, and it’s fun to consume things that are made with care and attention.

¡Viva la evolucion!


Mar
21

Spreading Good Ideas…Person-to-Person

First, my apologies for not posting last month.  It’s been a bit wild in Proteus-land lately, all for very good reasons. There’s a lot happening because we have a number of new clients and new consultants – which is fun and exciting, and requires attention and effort.

The main wildness-inducer for me, though, has been the launch of my new book, Be Bad First.  The official publication date was March 8 – but the pub date is less and less meaningful these days: the hard copy, e-book and audio versions were all available on Amazon before that date, and lots of interviews, reviews, and articles had already come out related to the book. Two things I’m especially excited about: an article about the book’s model in the March issue of HBR, Learning to Learn, and the book being selected as an Editor’s Choice by 800CEOREAD.

There’s a tremendous amount of  effort involved in putting out a book, not only for me, but for our publishers and publicists — and the Proteus staff (especially my wingman Dan) have done a lot to support the book’s success, as well. But it all seems worth it: having these ideas about learning and mastery out in the world is good for lots of people.  It supports the growth of our business, it gives our consultants more tools to help our clients, and it helps those clients navigate this complex world.

The part of writing a book that’s especially meaningful and almost magical to me is knowing that thousands of people I will never meet or know are reading it and, I hope, benefitting from it.  I love thinking about them finding out about it, deciding there’s something in it that might be interesting to them, and then starting to read or listen.  A long-time client and friend of mine was commuting into NYC on the Long Island Railroad a few weeks ago, and the woman across from him (he didn’t know her), pulled Be Bad First out of her bag and showed it to her seat mate, remarking that she was reading and liking it.  He took it from her and started reading the back cover – that’s when my friend Brad shot this picture.

IMG_3536[1] I loved having this little window into two people I don’t know (and may never know) being touched by the book and (I hope) exploring the ANEW model.  I love even more getting to see the viral aspect of this: she liked it, and then told someone about it. It’s lovely to imagine that happening all over the world (we’ve just heard that they’ve sold the rights in China, and are working on a rights sale in South America)…people being helped to become better learners, and turning to friends, family, colleagues, and telling them about it, so they can become better learners and more able to future-proof themselves, in order to thrive through change.

It’s one of the great things about living in a world where knowledge can spread so quickly and efficiently – one person, one idea, one action, can have a huge positive impact. So: do good things.

____

If you’ve read Be Bad First and enjoyed it, please spread the word by writing a review on Amazon.  Thanks in anticipation!


Jan
23

Navigating The New World of Publishing

It’s been a little over nine years since my first book, Growing Great Employees, was published in December of  2006.  At the time, about 75% of book sales still happened in brick and mortar stores.  I remember that most of my publisher’s efforts went into getting distribution into Barnes & Noble and Borders, with a bit of effort to make sure it was available on Amazon.

Fast forward to today, when Borders is no more, B&N has shrunk and re-trenched, and online book sales have surpassed in-store sales. Which brings us to Amazon, now the 800-pound gorilla of the publishing world.  As online book sales have exploded over the past decade, and because Amazon now has almost two-thirds of that new market share, all of us authors and publishers are dancing to their tune.

One of the many things I love about my new publisher, Bibliomotion, is that they are fully accepting this new reality – and are learning quickly and continuously how to best operate in this new world.  I love finding out from them about how to make things work with Amazon.

For instance, because Amazon’s goal is to get people things they want, as quickly, simply and inexpensively as possible (they believe that this total focus on the customer is key to their own  success and growth) they’re continually trying to figure out the “things they want” part. That is, how can they let their customers know about things that they might like and want to buy.

Recently, they’ve discovered if a book has a lot of pre-orders and a number of early reviews, it’s more likely to be something a lot of people will want – so Amazon sits up and starts to do things for that book: highlighting and promoting it in various ways.

So we want to take advantage of this, with your help. We’ve created a special pre-order offer for you – one that will benefit you and us. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to Amazon and pre-order Be Bad First
  • Then come back here, to erikaandersen.com, and type in your email address and pre-order number under the “Be Bad First Pre-Order” heading on the home page.

That’s it. And as a thank you for doing that, we’ll send you two  gifts: A one-month all-access membership to proteusleader.com, our online resource that’s chock full of dozens of great, snack-sized nuggets of real leadership and management learning; and an exclusive PDF of the first article I ever wrote about the Be Bad First model (you can see how it’s evolved).

Thank you very much – both for reading my blog, and for helping Be Bad First find its audience in this brave new world of publishing .

 


Dec
23

Underneath the Holiday Bustle…

I know I say this every year, so those of you who have been with me for awhile might be rolling your eyes about now. Nonetheless: I love the holidays.

All the stuff I grew up with is charming to me: twinkling lights, presents under the tree, crackling fires, stockings hung on the chimney, old-fashioned Christmas carols, delicious food, seeing people I love and don’t get to see often enough. I even mostly like the things that other people don’t like: corny Christmas movies, looking for just the right gift for someone.

Most of all though, I love what’s at the heart of all this, at least in my mind. The sense that life and love are astonishing gifts to be treasured every day.

Today is my last day of work for the year, and I’m already expanding into what I think of as holiday gratitude mode. I’m a pretty thankful person under ordinary circumstances, but during the holiday I really make the effort to consciously recognize all the gifts and joys in my life on a daily basis.

At Proteus, we have year-end review and look forward conversations with everyone on the team. I’m just about to have my final one for the year (I’ll be having a couple more in January), and feeling tremendously appreciative of all the smart, good-hearted, committed people I get to work with at my company. After that, I’m going to go and meet my husband at his first “beer event”; a tasting and brewer appearance for his new brewery. And I’m feeling so proud of him, and so deeply grateful to be sharing my life with such a remarkably kind, high-integrity, curious, brilliant, funny, loving, brave, handsome man.

And as I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my living room enjoying our sparkling Christmas tree, each ornament connected to a fond memory. Grateful to have such a wonderful place to live, and the good health and mental capability to enjoy it.

I could go on and on. Feeling grateful elevates you, making your interaction with everything and everyone around you more conscious, hopeful and loving. When you are grateful, it feels wonderful and at the same time makes you a positive force in the world.

So, my wish for you: May you appreciate your holidays to the very fullest extent possible….

courtesy of Brainyquotes

courtesy of Brainyquotes


Nov
22

Keep Being Bad First…

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to be a part of a really profound learning experience. I was one of eight attendees at an Elite Group Experience – a two-day advanced speaking skills course with Victoria Labalme.

Even though I’ve done a great deal of speaking in front of groups over the past thirty years, and believe I’m good at it (and have gotten feedback that supports that belief), I decided this year to take my skills to the next level. I intend to do everything in my power to become a world-class speaker.

Victoria is a wonderful teacher, and my classmates – entrepreneurs, authors, and business owners – were without exception smart, focused and supportive.  The coolest thing for me, though, was seeing how well the ANEW skills I propose as being key to new learning served me in this situation, even though I’m not a novice.  Here’s how it worked:

Aspiration –  Before I attended the course, I worked on  increasing my aspiration – making myself want to improve my speaking skills.  It’s challenging to raise your level of aspiration when you’re already good at something: it’s all too easy to think that you’re good enough, thank you very much.  So I thought about the benefits to me of becoming a better speaker. First, we at Proteus have more important things to share than ever – and I love being able to share it. Also, I’m particularly convinced that the ideas and skills in my new book, Be Bad First, will be helpful to people if I have a bigger platform for sharing them.  I can easily imagine a future where being a better speaker would make that possible.

Neutral Self-awareness – I spent some time before the class reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses as a speaker. Some of the pre-work Victoria had us do supported me in that effort. I wanted to be as accurate as possible going into the session, so that I could take full advantage of the learning being offered, and I found my “current state” insights very helpful. (If you’re curious, I decided that my strengths were clarity, authenticity, and connection with the audience, and that I needed to work on having more control over my pacing and volume, making better use of the stage, and exploring new options to three-dimensionalize my speaking – visuals, sound, online support, etc..)

Endless Curiosity – This one was the easiest; I didn’t really have to  do much to ramp up my curiosity.  Very fortunately for me, being curious is my natural state, and I found myself, during the session, continuously interested in understanding and mastering what Victoria was sharing with us. Over the two days of the class, I watched myself ask lots of Why?, How?, and I wonder? questions. And saw, yet again, how curiosity is jet fuel for learning. Every time I asked one of those questions of Victoria or one of my classmates, I found out something new or something more that would help me improve my skills.

Willingness To Be Bad First – This one was definitely the hardest…but the most rewarding. It’s difficult enough to convince yourself it’s OK to “be bad” when you’re actually new to something.  But when you’re quite good at doing something already, there’s a strong momentum toward considering yourself an expert.  I found the most valuable and realistic “acceptance of not-good” self-talk in this situation was, I still have a lot to learn, if I want to be a world class speaker. I need to be open to everything I  hear.  As a result, I was able to hear important feedback from Victoria and from my classmates that I might have otherwise dismissed.  For example, in one practice, my partner pointed out to me that I was skimming over the uncomfortable part of the story I was telling – and he noted that “without the lows, the highs don’t feel like highs.” Because I was really listening and taking it in, I realized he was exactly right…and that it was something I do habitually.  I was able to integrate the feedback, and it had a real impact.

My husband once asked me “Are people ever done being bad?”  And now I can definitely say: No, fortunately for us, we’re not.