The Number One thing I would advise my younger self

“Nice to hear from you. What an interesting and inspiring job you have. I can only imagine the young lives you touch!”

That’s the opening line I wrote yesterday upon receiving an email from a youth pastor here in Ireland where I live.

He reached out to me on Linked In to ask this question:

“What was one thing life has taught you that would have saved you a lot of hassle to know when you were 17? “

It’s a question for all of us to ponder, really isn’t it?

As I wrote to the pastor, I really appreciated being asked the question. It made me stop and think. It was hard to think of only one thing, really! I am still such a project in development.

That said, here’s what I wrote to him and what I’ll share with you all now:

One of the most empowering understandings I have today is that EVERYONE – no matter what age or what station – wants to talk about themselves.

We want someone to listen to us.

About our lives. Our hobbies. Our experiences. Our feelings. We want to be relevant. We want to share.

As a 17-year-old (or 25-year-old for that matter), I think I thought of grown-ups as super mature and slick. I didn’t realize the insecurities and need for rapport that we all continue to have.

So! Once you understand that – at any age -you can go into an interview, a meeting, a whatever – and if you have done your research properly – you can ask great questions.

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Let the other person talk. Show that you are interested more in the OTHER person – than yourself. And that, in turn, will make them interested in you.

Becoming an active listener is not an easy characteristic to develop and while I say I understand it is important, I am still working to get better at it myself.

Here’s a way to keep yourself on track: Write down questions to ask someone and bring them with you. Or simply write this on top of your notebook:

“Ask questions. Listen!”

Listening is great for interviews, negotiations, sales meetings, family discussions, parenting, everything.

We build rapport by asking caring questions FIRST!

And as I wrapped up my response to the pastor, I say finally to you:

“If I can help you in any way, I’m here to listen.”

Hope that helps.

Take good care.

Kindly,

Gina

Love and Persistence – a Valentine’s Story from a button store in Ireland.

Inspiring stories come from everywhere. This one comes from a button store. Yesterday, my treasured coat from my former home in Italy had come up missing one. It happens.

So where better to go, but to the “Cork Button Company”?!

Inside, as you might expect, the walls were covered with rows and rows of the useful fasteners. Small. Large. Colourful. Metallic. Round. Square. You name it.

The proprietor’s name of this eye-popping little store is Catherine Bluett.

She greeted each customer like a friend. My total purchase was about five dollars, but she paid attention to me as if I were buying a new car.

I asked her how long she had owned the button company. She told me she began working here years ago, when she was just 14. David McCormick owned it at the time. And although Catherine was close to her own mother Brenda, she also became close to David, his wife and their children too. She got a second family along with her job.

So, Catherine worked there. She grew up. She got married. She had children. Along the way, she separated from her husband. She stopped working. Or maybe she had already given up her full-time job by the time she found herself on her own. I forget the precise chronology. Years went by.

And then her mother Brenda died. Catherine, without full-time work, a partner and her mother. Felt alone. Depressed. Hopeless.

A year after her mother passed, on an April day, feeling especially down, Catherine turned to an unseasonable movie to lift her spirits. “It’s a Wonderful Life”, in which George Bailey finds meaning in his life.

Catherine told me she had come to the harrowing point in the film where George is about to throw himself into the river. She felt the same way. Ready to give up on life.

In her own desperation, she shouted out to her dead mother, “Please give me something. A sign. Anything!”

Catherine told me before the film concluded, she fell asleep. Crying in her despair.

She was awakened by someone at her door.

When she answered, it was a young woman.

“Are you the Catherine who used to work at the Button Company?” the young woman asked.

Catherine confirmed she was.

“The McCormicks asked me to come over to you to see if you would come back to work a few hours a week. They need your help.”

David McCorimick and his family needed her. Needless to say, Catherine needed them.

The young woman started to give Catherine the number to the shop. But Catherine told me she still didn’t need to be given it. She still remembered it by heart.

Then, as the woman turned to go, Catherine told me she asked the young woman her name.

“My name is Brenda.”

The same as Catherine’s mother.

* * *

Catherine returned to the button shop and began working for the McCormicks again.

Eventually, David was ready to retire. His grown children didn’t have any interest in taking over the button shop. But Catherine did. That’s how she came to own the Cork Button Company.

David died two years ago. Catherine showed me his framed portrait on the wall.

His wife still comes by to check in on things from time to time, telling her she has improved it a lot. Adding yarn and other notions to the inventory.

And, in addition to her new career as store owner, something else has been added to Catherine’s life. Fitting a proper Valentine’s Day story, if not for the Cork Button Company, Catherine would not have met the man whom she introduced to me as “the love of my life.”

Colin worked for a courier service and regularly delivered to the button shop after Catherine took over. For the longest time, she enjoyed his company only when he passed by, but, although he asked, she refused to go out with him for a drink after work.

One day, he announced he was taking a new job and wouldn’t be passing by any more. Suddenly, Catherine told me, she realized she cared about this person more than she had realised. She finally agreed to that drink after work. And as, she told me yesterday, she and Colin, have been inseparable from that day since.

She also proudly showed me her left ring finger. They are now engaged.

In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is disappointed time after time. If you don’t know how it’s going to end, the first three-quarters of the film is actually pretty painful to watch.

Then, with the heavenly help of Clarence the angel who wants to earn his wings, George ultimately prevails due to the kindness of the people he has been kind to and sacrificed himself for over the years.

The film ends with George surrounded by family and friends as he learns that life is indeed, “Wonderful.”

How do we persevere through difficulty? Through times with no bright career prospects? Through Valentine’s Days with no Valentine?

It’s not easy when you don’t know how your own movie is going to end.

But, I do know that sharing stories of other people’s triumphs over dark times – are inspiring. These stories remind us that while we don’t know if we are guaranteed to find career success, or true love, or name your dream – around the next bend—we can be certain that we won’t find it if we don’t force ourselves to get up and go around the corner in search of it.

So, no matter where you are on your professional and/or personally journey this Valentine’s Day, I am filled with hope and happiness as I share with you the story of Catherine Bluett.

If you ever need a button, come to Cork’s Button Company. Tell Catherine, Gina sent you.

With love,

Gina

Language of Leadership: A lesson from the 2016 Election

Much will be said and written in coming days and years about the biggest presidential election upset the United States has seen since 1948.  Donald J. Trump, candidate is now Donald J. Trump, president elect. He even changed his famous Twitter page on Wednesday to reflect it.

How did it happen? Well, they say hindsight is 20-20 and I, as someone who thought Hillary Clinton would be America’s first female president, think I see much more clearly now.

Election 2016 will go down as the year when the Clinton Campaign discovered they were out of touch with the majority of Americans. Well, as it appears Hillary Clinton will actually win the popular vote, not the majority perhaps, but out of touch with enough Americans that it cost the party the deciding Electoral College vote.

There are a multitude of reasons, of course. But I think the difference in communications styles between the two candidates is one of the main reasons.

  • Hillary Clinton campaigned by the book. Donald Trump tore up the book.
  • Democrats bragged about how much Hillary Clinton studied and prepared for debates. Trump was more seat of the pants.
  • She provided detailed policies that bored the average voter. Trump had short slogans that they remembered: “Make American Great Again.” “Drain the Swamp.”
  • Democrats released lengthy policy papers.  Trump had one pagers and more slogans, “Build the Wall.”
  • Hillary Clinton appeared in photos with high-profile celebrities. Trump had Scott Baio and Stephen Baldwin and tweeted a photo of himself eating a taco bowl from Taco Bell.
  • Democrats had endorsements from major newspapers. Newspapers that many voters view as full of high-brow bullshit. Trump didn’t.
  • Hillary Clinton was measured, disciplined, studied, rehearsed, practiced.  She gave long involved answers.
  • Donald Trump used punchy sentences. Sometimes not even full-sentences. (Like that one-see what I did there?!)

From a communications stand-point, Democrats, long considered the party of unions, minorities, reproductive rights for women and the “little people” had become the party of the college-educated, the self-righteous, the deep-thinkers, the liberal lefties, the out-of-touch. The dreaded “Elite.”

Democrats messaged to the minds and intellect of the American people using facts and logic to bolster the reasons why Hillary Clinton should be elected president. But, excluding the genuine appeal of Michelle Obama, they didn’t use enough heart-felt emotion.

Research shows people make decisions based on emotion first. A-ha, you didn’t need me to tell you about the research part, though, did you? You know it’s true in your heart. And that’s a lot of what happened during this campaign.

Trump appealed to the hurting hearts and the gut of the American people. The weaker the economy, the stronger his vote.

Yes, he said offensive things. But when the Democrats or so-called “liberal,” media-folks pointed those gaffes out, they did so in logical ways – using college-level words like “misogynist” and well, “gaffe.” They simply didn’t connect with the lonely and marginalized rural voters or disaffected middle class or blue-collar workers whose jobs and dreams had disappeared and died.

I remember when my dad died, the neighbors in my hometown of Farmland, Indiana didn’t come over and say, “Hang in there, time will heal, we’ve got a ten-page grieving plan you need to listen to.” They cried too. They said they were sorry.

Democrats underestimated how hurting many of the people were. They were like know-it-all parents to unhappy, frustrated kids. The “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you“ kind of parent. The kind of parents that kids resent. The kind of parents that don’t get it. The kind that are out of touch.

I’m not literally saying that the electorate are children and the president is a parent, of course.  America’s president should be a leader. A leader who can knows how to connect.

With his name emblazoned jets and designer family and his no-teleprompter style of speech, Trump masterfully combined the American dream of attaining prosperity with the common touch.

His communications style touched a chord. He connected. And he will be moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January.

Yes, he used inflammatory language and hopefully he will move away from that to the more statesman-like tones he used during his victory speech and after his first meeting with President Obama.

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The challenge and the opportunity, therefore, for Democrats and other would-be leaders, is to take a bit of one of the lessons from Election 2016. Don’t use negative language, of course, but get real. Get human. Use language your audience uses. Try to really focus on your audience’s perspective. What are their hopes, dreams and fears?  Consider those first and then build your message from there. Use your gut. Your heart.

Speak from the perspective of your audience– not above them.   That’s the language of leadership.

Kindly, Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about the language of leadership. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook and at GinaLondon.com and Fuzion.ie

PS. Clearly, Trump must now put his short, pithy messages into action. Workable policy DOES have to happen after January 20, 2017. That remains to be seen. But the lesson about language and connecting with people is what, I believe, largely won him the election… now, don’t shoot the messenger… this one, I mean! Cheers.

It’s Time to Build Bridges!

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“The nation is at a critical point. At a time like this we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the party aisle to do the citizens’ work.”

Not the words of Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton.

Those were the words of Republican candidate for US president, Mitt Romney, during his 2012 concession speech in Boston.

And yet, four years later, our nation is at an even more critical point.

The world has watched as The 2016 United States Campaign Season unraveled into the most insulting, accusatory, vulgar, and divisive campaign ever.  It’s finally election day and the polls remain tight with Clinton clinging to a narrow lead.

The tight race reflects American voter emotions.

Disillusioned. Fed up. Frustrated. Many Americans are voting today in disgust of the Republican and  Democratic candidate. I’ve even heard some are tossing both aside and going for a write-in ballot:

“Help.”

As a political reporter for CNN, I covered one of the tightest presidential races in US history – that of Al Gore and George W. Bush.

After six weeks of legal wrangling over Florida’s hanging chads, the Supreme Court stepped in and declared Florida and its electoral college votes for Bush. Despite winning the popular vote, Gore lost the presidency.

He called his opponent to congratulate him and then he addressed the nation:

“For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new President-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together in fulfillment of the great vision that our Declaration of Independence defines and that our Constitution affirms and defends.”

Today, as the election results are tallied. I pray that whoever wins and loses remembers that:

“We are one people with a shared history and a shared destiny.”

I hope tonight at New York’s Javits Convention Center where Hillary Clinton will be and at nearby the Hilton Hotel Midtown where Donald J. Trump will be, there is no talk of building walls.

Only of building bridges.

Kindly, Gina

Won for all and all for one.

The United States collectively lifted joyous voices and hands up high in celebration as the Chicago Cubs broke its 108-year “curse” – finally winning baseball’s World Series in extra innings over the Cleveland Indians.

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Even Indian supporters joined in, putting aside differences to come together for the good of the game.  People recognizing the unique skills, dedication and team work that was a part of realizing the victory.

Festive fireworks exploded throughout the Windy City.  Hundreds of “Cubs Win” banners painted with a single W, were waved.  It’s a time for collective merrymaking.

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As Game Seven neared, a news report showed hundreds of people spontaneously turning out to chalk words of encouragement on the famed brick walls of Wrigley Field.

“This is the year!”

“Let’s Go!”

“Believe.”

They wrote to share their special relationship with the Cubs.

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A team to root for and keep believing in for generations.

For at least three generations, the Cubs were a part of my family.  I was born in a town in northern Indiana that’s part of the American region known as “Chicagoland.”   During my youth, the TV at my maternal grandparents’ house seemed to be permanently tuned to baseball as I recall many a time hearing them cheering on their beloved Cubbies throughout their lives which ended, sadly, decades before this epic win.

I thought of my grandparents two summers ago, when, as a speaker for a large tech conference, we participants were all given a tour of the historic stadium home of the Cubs.  We were treated to free hotdogs, pretzels and beer and were encouraged to take to the field! There, I met Hall of Famer, Billy Williams, I hit a ball that was lightly lobbed toward me by a guest pitcher and I ran (okay jogged) to the base.

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Me hitting a ball at Wrigley Field, home of the 2016 World Series winners, the Cubs! 

Shh.  I even delicately (and secretly) walked into the outfield to caress the sacred ivy that climbs the back walls of Wrigley.  And although I freely admit I am not an ardent fan, it was a moving experience.

Because the experience made me realize, that even more than the Cubs of Wrigley Field, my grandparents were actually fans of the spirit of baseball. When I stopped and thought about it, I remember they often cheered on other teams too like the Chicago White Sox, or the Cincinnati Reds.

The spirit of the game can transcend team rivalries.

Maybe it can transcend even more than that.

For instance, the Cubs fans who collectively wrote on Wrigley’s walls may have been Democrats, Republicans or Independents. It didn’t matter.  They were unified to their commitment to the game.

Can’t the same be said for my country?

After all, the spirit of baseball is a spirit that is often listed as part of the America.  You know,

“Baseball, hotdogs and apple pie.”

On Election Day this Tuesday, when America turns out to the polls and a presidential winner is ultimately declared, can Americans commit to join together in celebration of our collective spirit?

Can we celebrate the spirit of America? For the freedom that too many died defending.  For the dreams that so many immigrated to its shores to seek.

Maybe we have been battered by this election season’s bitter rivalries. Maybe we have been abandoned by friends on Facebook or Twitter.  But surely, although tattered, we can still find a way to wave our united W banner.

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For the love of the game, and for we who love America even more than baseball, I hope after Election Day, we will proudly raise our joyous voices and hands high together and celebrate that other banner which signifies our collective principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Kindly, 

Gina

 

Reflecting on Treasures.

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Yesterday an article was published about me in The Sunday Times. A lovely article by a lovely reporter with a lovely accompanying photo.

And yet, for a variety of reasons yesterday I did not feel so lovely. I was, in fact, awash in melancholy.

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I’d gone to a moody movie with an equally moody score that sent me spiraling alone. Into myself.

I was aching for something. Something missing.

My thoughts turned to my grandpa. Robert Raven.

A man who had the kindest, twinkly blue eyes that matched the star-sapphire ring he wore on his right hand.

Above is a photo of Grampa and Grannie Raven and my mom. He may look ordinary to you, but if you look closely, you can see the extraordinary twinkle behind the glasses.

* * *

Grandpa was a man who could and would happily strike up a conversation with just anyone. A man who never met a stranger. He knew that a friend was waiting after the warm greeting, “How do you do?”

A man who, while not formally educated after high school, had a voracious love of reading about history, nature – in particular the red rocks and sage brush of the western United States, and people. He kept every single copy of National Geographic in pristine condition in a bookcase in the basement. I used to thumb through them when I’d visit. Learning about places I never thought I would ever travel to. But many, by now, that I have been fortunate enough to have even lived in.

We would take long exploring walks in the Indiana woods behind the home he had built and that he still shared with his equally kind wife, my Grannie, Dolores. He loved that woman so. And she loved him back joyfully. The bond those two humble humans shared is something I envy.

Right now, I can’t think of anything dramatic to illustrate the love they had. It was the composite of little things.

For me, my grandpa’s love was expressed through small moments that made lasting memories – during our walks in the woods.

Grandpa showed me how to make Sassafras tea from the root of a small Sassafras tree sapling.   He taught me how to find Morels that seemed to purposefully hide under the broad, low leaves of Mayapple plants.

The spongy mushrooms were so abundant; it was only after I had grown up and moved away from Indiana that I realized they were considered a rare, culinary delicacy. Maybe most important of all, he taught me to stop talking for a moment as we meandered amidst the trees, stand still and just listen.

Listen.

Grandpa Raven, or just Grampa, as I used to call him, wasn’t tall. He was only about 5’6” before cancer began to curl his body forward. But to me, especially after my own dad died when I was 11, Grampa was a solid, strong refuge.

His strength was his kindness. His natural curiosity and his enjoyment of others. He was a steady presence of comfort.

It’s been many years since cancer finally won over my grandpa’s inner strength. I still have his star sapphire ring that he bequeathed to me, his eldest grandchild. It’s a treasure.  My daughter’s middle name is Raven, in tribute to him. She’s an even greater treasure.

I hope each of you has a Grampa Raven.

Someone who shows their love and strength through consistent and confident kindness.

I hope you treasure them too.

Kindly, Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook and at GinaLondon.com or with my terrific new strategic communications alliance at Fuzion.

What we do when no one is looking…

Rob runs Café Velo, one of the loveliest breakfast and lunch cafes here in Cork, Ireland.

When I’m there, it’s as if I’ve walked back in time to when I lived in the 15th arrondissement in Paris.

Pastries are arranged behind the counter glass with artistic flair. The servers are just the right blend of warmth and chatty and the tea is served in delicate china.

I ran into Rob unexpectedly this week downtown – in a rare moment when he was not in his cafe. We stopped and chatted a bit and I casually asked about the single large book I glimpsed in the white shopping bag he was holding.

Rob smiled and told me the book was for an elderly customer. The man, in his eighties, reported in to Velo every morning for his daily scone.

Except for this week when he suddenly did not appear.

Rob inquired and learned the customer had had a stroke. And was in the hospital.

The man has no family to speak of. So Rob went out of his way on his own time to buy a book he thought the man would enjoy during his recovery. Now Rob was off to the hospital to pay the man a visit.

I was touched by the story and asked if I could write about it. Rob looked at me a bit embarrassed, but said, “Sure, go for it.”

So I am.

I want to contrast a man like Rob with another man.

Rob was simply doing a kind thing. Without, in our day of Social Media marketing, even posting about it. Doing a kind thing when no one, he thought, was looking.

Compare that with that now notorious video, of a certain person running for US president objectifying women when the women weren’t present. Then he steps out of the van and “politely greets” one of the same women he had just talked so horribly about.

What we do when we think no one is looking says a lot about our true character, doesn’t it?

Not all men are the same. Rob’s act when he thought no one was looking was kind. And it was more than caring for a regular paying customer, it was caring of a fellow human being on this planet.

The more we can strive to get past race, religion and gender, and consider that we’re all just people together on this planet, perhaps we can all be a little kinder too.

Thank you, Rob, for a lesson all of us can learn.

Kindly,

Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook and at GinaLondon.com

Driving Change. aka “When I Drove A Tesla MODEL X!”

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Billed as the

“safest, fastest and most capable sport utility vehicle in history”

– you likely already know about Tesla’s MODEL X.

But have you actually driven one?

I have. And it was a game-changer!

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Now, I wish I could say I am the proud owner, but it’s my sister’s husband who holds that distinction. Tony ordered one of the touch-screen paneled, falcon-winged doored, electric vehicles three years ago and it recently arrived to their Ohio home.

So! Last month visiting my family in the US, my gracious brother-in-law invited me to give the luxury car a test drive and of course I said,”Yes!”

I’m honestly not one to pay attention to the kind of car a person drives. I usually don’t remember if it was a black Jeep or a dark blue Ford that you picked me up in. I care more about the person inside than the metal transporting us.

But my Tesla experience was transformative.

From the outside, it didn’t grab me. While the wrap-around windshield might say, “modern,” my first glance at Tony’s white Model X exterior didn’t really make me do a double take. And even though the self-opening falcon doors are “Back to the Future” awesome, I was really blown away once I was inside the cock-pit, I mean, behind the wheel.

The large computer screen dash-board is comprehensive. The autopilot feature – keep your hands on the wheel! – was very user friendly.

And the acceleration mode: “Ludicrous” – which tilts you from 0-60 in under 3 seconds is well, you know!

I felt my stomach lurch. Not quite the Ludicrous Speed effect it had on Rick Moranis in Space Balls, but pretty darn close!

Speaking of ludicrous, Tesla founder and self-made billionaire Elon Musk has been described by observers as an “Inventor,” “Engineer,” “Explorer – and “Eccentric.” Business Insider lists a string of Musk quotes is says are either “Crazy or brilliant or in some cases both.”

However you describe him, there’s no mistaking that Musk’s Teslas are accelerating the way the auto industry considers electric mobility.

With more than 125,000 of the Tesla Model S sold since mid-2012, there’s high demand for the more expensive Model X released in November last year. The success has prompted the competition to step up. BMW is now expected to soon introduce its own all-electric version.

So remember that if you’re out there pursuing some dream at the moment that your colleagues or family are perhaps criticizing.  It may seem ludicrous to others, but worthwhile to you.

I’m not here pretending that every and all ideas are positive, productive or even really worth pursuing. There are plenty of them that really are just crazy – not brilliant. Sorry.

But I am saying that sometimes being persistent against all the naysayers and odds may be, like a Tesla, what drives change in your organization, your industry, your world.

Not so ludicrous at all.

Here’s to driving change. And for me to save up for my first Tesla.

Cheers!

Kindly,

Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook and at GinaLondon.com

Back to the Future!

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I arrived this week back to my adopted home country of Ireland.

In August, after I hosted a tech conference in Florida, I enjoyed most of the remainder of the month with my family.  (In the photo below I am with my sister, nieces and yes, my 8-year-old daughter Lulu was also happily in tow.)

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So we were back in the US. In the heartland of Indiana. My birth state.  And, incidentally, the home state of Governor Mike Pence, the running mate of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

It’s probably no surprise then, that I was surrounded by a forest of Trump/Pence 2016 yard signs.  The only Hillary Clinton sign I saw was in the form of an “I’m with Her” bumper sticker on the back window of a Ford that also had an “IRELAND” emblem on the bumper. Go figure.

Other American things of note I witnessed during our month-long stay at my parents’ peaceful lake-front home were:

1. Whopperrito: Since I’ve lived overseas almost a decade now, I am constantly teased about America’s obesity problem and many restaurants’ large portion persistence.  Enter this summer’s new offering from Burger King. It’s part Whopper, part burrito. Get it?  I swear I only saw the commercial. I have not sampled one. I promise!

2. No gun signs: Although tragic school shootings occurred when I lived in the US, (I covered Columbine for CNN, for example), the frequency and numbers have increased since I have been gone.  For the first time, this summer, I noticed signs prohibiting guns had gone up.  On grocery stores, restaurants, and here at the doctor’s office where I was visiting an ENT to examine my vocal chords (which are fine, by the way).  When I previously posted this photo on Facebook, an Italian friend asked, “Do they really think this sign would stop someone?”

3. Software for Marching Bands:  If you don’t know about summer band camp, you’re probably not an American! I once played clarinet and then was part of the flag troupe. Now, my high school-aged cousin, Meghan, who came to visit, is an awesome trumpet player in LaPorte, Indiana.  But the routines she has been practicing with her band, look NOTHING like the lame marching around we used to do.  Bands these days are highly choreographed affairs looking more like Cirque du Soleil interpretive dance! And, guess, what? There’s 3D software to help the directors guide the band members in formation.  Of course there is.  Take a look at this and I bet you’ll marvel the same way I did when Meghan showed me.

4. English usage tweaks: Here in Ireland, we put our groceries in “trolleys.” In the US, we pop things in a “cart.” We ask the waiter for directions to the “restroom” at an American café, but we’re more direct here in Ireland asking plainly for the “toilet.”  For back to school supplies, your American child may want a few new “erasers” while here in Ireland, I find myself giggling like a teenager when my daughter says she needs new er, “rubbers.” That’s right. That’s what the kids call erasers here. No, I don’t know if it’s the same usage for condoms. Let’s move on.

5. Tesla: I am thrilled to say I drove my first Tesla this summer.  A top-of-the-line “Model X” that my brother-in-law ordered three years ago.  It was amazing. So amazing, in fact, I’ll write more about that experience later. Stay tuned.

6. Songbirds.  Here in Ireland, I always smile when I see the cheery flicker of a Pied Wagtail. In Indiana as my mom and daughter sprinkled seeds on the deck even in summer, I welcomed being reminded of the cute chickadees, soft-grey tufted titmice and upside-down nuthatches that I had enjoyed as a child.

7. Tornadoes.  On Wednesday, August 24, Lulu and I were shopping at Hamilton County Town Center when the area’s tornado sirens went off – which mean a funnel cloud has been spotted. I grew up in Indiana so I’m used to these.  Lulu was frightened to tears.  A record-setting EIGHT tornadoes touched down that day. Many buildings were destroyed, but Governor Mike Pence (him again!) said it was a miracle that no one was killed or badly hurt. The power of nature always awes me. (This photo was taken by a family friend on that record-setting day.)

8. Lake swimming.  Here in Ireland, we’re surrounded by the bracing, icy waters of the sea.  It was a pleasure to relax and float in the much warmer water of Morse Reservoir after my brother, Brad, (who is a real-life yacht captain based in Florida, joined us the first week and took the helm of my step-dad’s speedboat) finished whipping Lulu and her cousin, my sister’s young daughter, around on the raft.

9. Family.  The hardest part about living overseas is that we’re far away from family. Thankfully we all gathered together.  Mom, step-dad, my sister and brothers and their partners. Cousins. Nieces and even my 101-year-old incredibly independent Aunt Neatie.  We talked, ate, drank, and laughed. Like family should.

(Grammie, Lulu, Grampa – on the lake, of course!)

And now, we’re back in our adopted home of Cork, Ireland.  And it’s back to work for me.

Back to meetings: I had a great one Tuesday with the head of finance of a major multi-national.

Back to news analysis:  I was on air Wednesday on national radio discussing Donald Trump’s surprising visit with Mexico’s president.

Back to speaking engagements: Next week, I’ll be part of a Dublin photo shoot to promote the national Network Ireland Awards event I’m excited to be a part of.

And today, my 8-year-old daughter, Lulu, goes back to school.  As she’s starting third grade,

it’s a “back” that’s actually a “forward.”

And that’s how I like to look at my own life.  Yes, holidays are over and it’s “back to work” but it’s also an opportunity to “move things forward!”

So, I’ll fondly remember the songbirds, boating on the lake and my family. And embrace the fun I’m embarking on now.  Hope you do too!

Now, get back to work!

Kindly, Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

Postcards from the US: Do the Irish toss rocks and roll cheese?

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“I know the Irish toss rocks, right?”

smartmag-featured-image-rock-training

Cesar put this question to me yesterday when I mentioned I lived in Ireland. “That’s like one of their big sports.”

“What?!” I replied, shaking my head and laughing.

“I saw it on TV. A bunch of guys with red beards so I figured they must have been Irish,” the 27-year-old explained.  “And cheese rolling too. Great big flat wheels of cheese. But then again, maybe they were Swiss. The cheese and the people. I don’t know. I saw it on ESPN.  So it has to be something.”

“Listen,” I was practically rolling and gasping at this point, “I don’t know where to begin. I know a bit about the GAA (Ireland’s sports league, the Gaelic Athletic Association) but outside of hurling I haven’t heard of rock tossing as an Irish national sport. And you’re on your own on the cheese bit.”

Cultural exchange

For me, the best part of traveling is not the new architecture, foods or landscapes, but meeting new people.

Anyone. My Haitian-born taxi driver, Louis, who is now an American citizen but reached Miami on a boat in 1997 with 146 other people fleeing the chaos of their country.

Luciana, my Diplomat Resort Hotel concierge who upgraded me to a suite and whose father was an Argentine diamond miner. Before he died, he made an exquisite ring embedded with six pea-sized diamonds that she proudly wore and that I admired.  I also commented on her name and she shared that her mother was from Italy. Since I lived in Tuscany for three years, we enjoyed a quick chat in Italiano.

Luciana’s incredible kindness radiated in such a way you hardly noticed the six-inch scar winding along the left side of her neck from the cancer surgery she endured last year. She teaches grade school children how to recycle and take better care of the environment in her spare time and was recently named one of her county’s 100 “Outstanding Women” for her work with the schools and with the Boys and Girls Club.

When you ask new people about themselves, you get a chance to be informed andinspired.

And, in the case of Cesar, you sometimes get a chance to have a cultural exchange.

As my audio technician, this guy was already more familiar with me than many people – since the lavaliere microphone I wore for the global tech conference I was hosting – had its cord connected to a receiver attached to a black Velcro garter that Cesar fastened high around my right thigh.

I thought it only fair that I get to know him a bit better too.

First off, when I asked how he preferred to have his name pronounced, he said he didn’t mind.  He gets it both ways.  His mother, who is from the Dominican Republic, calls him “Say-zar” while his American father calls him “See-zir.”

He spent the first 17 years of his life in the D.R., and moved over to South Florida to go to college and to live near his dad who came back to the US after he split with Cesar’s mom.

With three brothers and a sister, Cesar is the baby.  Teasing, I asked him which sibling is his least favourite.  At first he smiled as if he might divulge a story, but after the momentary hesitation he diplomatically declared he liked them all equally.

Who will he vote for?

He also declared he had a great interest in the upcoming presidential election. Yes, he’s registered.  He is planning to vote.

He and a lot of his young male friends were Bernie Sanders supporters during the primaries.  They especially liked Sanders’ pledge to tackle college debt.

Now he’s not sure what he’ll do.  He said he can’t believe the things that keep coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth. But he doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton.

I asked him to tell me one thing he really liked to do – besides watching rock tossing on ESPN – and he revealed he shared my passion for travel.

Cesar was curious to learn more about Ireland.

“The Irish drink a lot, don’t they?” he fired off. 

“Many enjoy the odd pint,” I demurred.

“Can you do an Irish accent?!”

He really pressured me on this one, cajoling me with a string of “C’mon’s!” and “Just try’s”. But even after living for nearly two years in my adopted country, the fact that there are so many variations of dialects combined with the other fact that I’m just no good at imitations helped me manage to duck his repeated request.

He also asked me about the weather in Ireland.  In South Florida, we were coming off of a couple of pounding thunderstorms.  I told him it rains like that a lot in Ireland.

“That’s okay,” he brightly replied. “I like the rain.”

“It also averages about 15-17 degrees Celsius which is about 60 Fahrenheit.”

“Oh,” said my new Dominican Republic-American friend,” That’s too cold.”

So for now, anyway, Cesar may continue to learn about Ireland through TV. But perhaps I can recommend the National Geographic Channel in place of ESPN.

P.S. Should I tell him about Irish road bowling??

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Throughout August while I’m back in the USA, I’ll be writing postcard portraits of people I meet.  Their perspectives on life, Ireland and the US Presidential election.

Please Follow me and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com