The unlikeliest place to find Customer Service

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I’ve been sick all this week with what appear to be flu-like symptoms and a lung-wrenching cough that is erasing almost all of my usual good humor along with my voice.

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I went to the doctor’s office and he wanted to run some tests. However, Irish labs will not conduct an analysis if the patient’s submittal form doesn’t have a PPS Number. Being an American citizen recently relocated to Ireland, I still don’t have a PPSN (much like a Social Security Number). The only way to get the desired digits is to pay a visit to a government office.

So, today in addition to feeling dreadful, I felt an additional sense of dread about going to the PPS processing office.

Pick any country and any bureaucratic agency, they all seem to be filled with endless lists of indecipherable requirements, endless lines of people and an endless supply of mirthless clerks who are just waiting for the moment they can pounce on you and deny your request – no matter what it is.

In spite of my sub-par well-being, I dress in regular street clothes, not some slouchy track-suit or jammy-pants that I see way too many grown adults wearing these days. I also daub on a bit of make-up to offset my pale pallor. The PPS room is packed with a mix of people speaking a myriad of different languages. Most look, to my overly critical eye, as if they are here to obtain a PPS number for some kind of menial employment. Indeed, I overhear a man speaking with his friend that he is going to be a dishwasher at a local restaurant. I glance down. He holds a passport from a small eastern European country. I take a little morale boost thinking that my American passport will give me some leverage.

I then tried to strategize about which of the clerks seated behind protective Plexiglas exhibited any sign of humaneness.

Wait a minute! The curly haired guy appears to be smiling at his “customers” on the other side. That portly red-haired lady appears to be nodding, not shaking, her head to the couple speaking with her. And then there’s the middle guy. He is leaning back on his chair, nodding toward his clients with what appears to be a friendly laugh. Not stereotypical drones, instead, theses clerks all seem to be taking an interest in their clients and enjoying what they do. In turn, the “customers” all appear to be leaving the office happily.

Our number is called and we get the “middle guy.” His name is Peter and he has kind blue eyes that crinkle up when he smiles, which he does a lot. We’re here in Ireland because my husband is getting his PhD at a local university. Do we have a letter from the university stating that? No, we do not. My husband offers his university ID card and Peter doesn’t shut us down. Instead, he announces he’ll take the card. How surprising! How refreshing! We produce our passports, marriage certificate and Irish residence cards (click here for the tale of that immigration labyrinth) and Peter pronounces us PPS Number worthy. He patiently answered the questions we had about getting our daughter signed up later and gave us his phone number for further assistance.

Hats off to Peter and the other clerks working at today’s PPS office in Cork, Ireland. I don’t know whether there is an incredible customer service environment created by management there or whether I witnessed a rare moment. But today those clerks demonstrated that true customer service is blind to attire, to station, and yes, certainly to the country of one’s passport. It is open to the unique needs of the individual who is seeking a service or a product. It looks to provide solutions, not barriers. And it works to encourage, not discourage the customer.

We look for good customer service in hotels, restaurants and shops, why not too in government bureaucratic offices? It can be done. And done well.

Till next time, when I hope I can speak and have a hack-free night, 

Gina

Copyright Gina London 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

What ONE song makes ALL the difference for YOU?

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What do YOU do when a project’s deadline is looming and you feel overwhelmed?  When your desk has become a mountain of paper and you want to bury your head in it? When you come back from a meeting in which the boss did NOT have kind words to say?  You know that feeling… when you want to crawl in a hole and not come out – for days.

One sure-fire solution is: to PRESS PLAY!

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The right music really can transform your mind from feeling like giving up to getting up and getting going!

A pivotal study from McGill University demonstrated that your body increases dopamine levels when you listen to music you enjoy! That’s the same chemical associated with being in love and eating sweets.  Music brings the same joy without any chance of heartbreak or tooth-decay!

His mommy gave him music, not sugary junk food to lift his spirits!

His mommy gave him music, not sugary junk food, to lift his spirits!

Since we’re all motivated by our emotions, why not reprogram your I-pod or whatever-your-musical-appliance-of-choice is to include a list of POWER-UP tunes? Download a set of music designed to get you back in the ring and fighting again.

You take your car in to the shop whenever it needs a tune-up or re-alignment, right? So, music can be a way to realign your emotions when you need a little emotional pick-me-up.

Here’s my TOP FIVE list of “Get-Back-At-It-Songs”:

5. “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty His unique scratchy voice and darling plaintive face make just the perfect combination for me. “You can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won’t back down.” How’s that for a can-do attitude! Thanks, Tom.

4. “Roar” by Katie Perry – Sugar pop or not, this song is lots of fun. We got the cd for our seven-year-old daughter for Christmas and she and I sing the anthem together LOUDLY in the car on the way to school.  Who can’t feel better after yelling out “You’re gonna hear me ROAR!” ?!   

3. “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree – This song, to me, is true inspiration. Like the words say, “You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together. …” The singer is one beautiful and strong looking woman.  She knows life is going to have its ups and downs, but her encouraging theme of hanging in there always works for me. “You go, girl!” she seems to say.

2. “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles – Ray Charles could’ve sung the dictionary and I would’ve listened. His recording of this, to me, is one of his best. It’s got a rhythm and style that never fail to lift my spirits out of the doldrums. “What you say?!”  

1. “Tubthumping (I get knocked down)” by Chumbawamba – Okay, there’s a strong ‘cure-your-blues-thru-alcohol’ theme here that I can’t fully endorse, but its gleeful chorus: “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down” is so high-charged and upbeat that I simply CANNOT help feeling better after listening. And it’s brought to you by a group named “Chumbawamba” of all names. That sure says “don’t take life so seriously” to me.  Love it.

So there you have my list.  What’s yours?  What song makes all the difference for you?  I hope you have one – or two – or five.  Get listening and get going!

Lulu and friends joyfully dance the night away.

Lulu and friends joyfully dance the night away.

 Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Proof you CAN reinvent yourself on a trip to Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher

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One of the most breathtaking experiences in Ireland occurs when you stand upon the Cliffs of Moher looking out over the Atlantic while the 702 foot (214 m) stone walls are rhythmically and dramatically battered by waves and wind.

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The Cliffs of Moher the day we visited them

Powerful and moving as it is, as I recently trekked them with my seven-year-old daughter, the cliffs would have been mere rocks if not for the rockin’ tour provided by our local Paddywagon guide, Michael.

Michael and another happy Paddywagon guest

Michael and another happy Paddywagon guest

Paddywagon runs a fleet of tour buses –departing daily from towns around Ireland like Dublin and our home here in Cork. I had been meaning to book an excursion for months but was afraid it might be a boring waste of money. Drive you to the sights with a few monotonous “on your left blah-blahs”along the way and that’s it. But no! Our driver Michael was an absolute raconteur. He regaled us with colorful tales of Irish history, sprinkled with juicy gossip, charming jokes and kindly folksiness throughout. He even sang us a few ditties that were high in personality even if they were a bit low on songmanship!

We, along with everyone else on the bus, were absolutely enchanted.

We had a terrific time, thank you, Michael!

We had a terrific time, thank you, Michael!

At the end of the day, before stepping down from the bus, I had to learn a bit more about Michael. We chatted and he told me he’s from Tipperary and worked as a professional engineer for years before he was suddenly laid off during Ireland’s (and many other countries’ ) recession in 2010. Michael described his life afterward:

I tried everything and then a friend encouraged me to get my bus drivers permit and I never looked back,

I logged onto Trip Advisor after we got home to tell everyone about Michael. What I found was that “Bus driver Michael” was already a Paddywagon celebrity. My review joined dozens of previous brightly glowing posts about him. While Michael may no longer be building roads and bridges, now, as he drives over them and tells his stories and sings his funny songs, he is building different kinds of bridges – those of warm memories and experiences – for tourists from all over the world.

Life is not about discovering yourself, it’s about creating yourself.

Coco Chanel once said that and I think life is a combination of the both. As you go through your life and your career, things will happen that you’re not prepared for; maybe you are unexpectedly laid off or fired.

And as you force yourself to update your CV and get back into the job market:

  1. You will discover you have a fortitude and determination you didn’t think was in you.
  2. Your discovery will give you the extra-strength and confidence to adapt and reinvent yourself in ways you may not have imagined.
  3. Stretch yourself. Maybe you won’t be in the same field as you were in before, but:
  4. You can create yourself anew.
  5. You CAN do it.

You are ready for the next chapter of your life. Life is certainly a journey, and if your journey takes you to Cork, Ireland – do yourself a favor and take a Paddywagon Tour.

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Ask for Michael, the engineer-turned-singing-tour-guide. Tell him Gina sent you. You’ll be glad you did.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Three thoughts on distractions to help us better focus!

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This is the track I am speaking of - but today it was not nearly as sunny! ;)

This is Cork Ireland’s Mardyke Arena track I am speaking of – but today it was not nearly as sunny! ;)

Two women were on the outdoor track this morning.  One, wearing a knit cap for extra warmth, had her head slightly lowered and was jogging at a steady pace.  The other in a yellow wind-breaker and no hat, was briskly walking with her head held up, and carried a paper COFFEE CUP in her right hand.

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I immediately wondered at the second woman’s choice to walk on the track – while also sipping a coffee. How much was she focusing on her decision to exercise?  And really, how effective did she expect to be at the task at hand?

Of course you could argue it was better than nothing.  At least she wasn’t sitting in front of the TV sipping her coffee.

But she could’ve easily done even better.  That’s the problem with any distraction, isn’t it?  When we don’t focus our attention solely on the effort  before us, we will likely not be as successful at it.

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  1.  As the number of attention-demanding tasks we attempt to do at the same time go up, the effectiveness of our brain to manage them goes down.

Many of us, myself included, may have considered ourselves good “multi-taskers.”  We seldom complete one task before moving on to the next one on our list. Instead, our workspace is littered with a variety of “ongoing” projects that get pushed aside as we take a ‘quick’ call,  check our email in-box, Instagram, Facebook or whatever.  Some projects may be better if you step away and take a break before reviewing, etc. But others need continued attention and focus in order to be completed in a timely manner.

We have limited brain capacity to focus.  Think about that the next time you’re working on a project or the next time you phone and drive. Even hands free.  In spite of what you may think, studies show they’re no safer than hand-held. We’re still distracted.

  1. Consider making to do lists in order of “attention-demanding” priority. Allot specific times to specific tasks.

When preparing for a presentation, for example, if you carve out an hour for research, commit to making the full hour only about research.  If you let distractions creep in, the hour will still pass by, but your research results won’t reflect it.

  1. Get rid of distractions when meeting with colleagues, friends, and loved ones.

I sat recently in a café and watched a couple sitting together at a table.  Although they were side by side, they spoke not a word, but kept their faces buried in their phones.  How many times have you met with a colleague who sits behind his or her desk and continues to check their computer?  How about meetings or presentations where laptops and tablets are clearly in play.  Putting aside such things for others shows respect and recognizes the value of everyone’s time.

It takes discipline to be methodological but time that is not managed, is often time that is wasted.

The one thing that money cannot buy is effective use of time.  Get rid of distractions and make every second count.

So the next time you’re on the race track, put down that coffee cup and get going!

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year – and Happy Women’s Christmas Tonight!

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Happy New Year! But wait, there’s one more Christmas celebration tonight:  Here in Ireland it’s “Nollaig na mBan” or “Women’s Christmas!”

Happy Women's Christmas!

Happy Women’s Christmas!

As the Ireland Fun Facts website explains it’s a time for tired Irish women, who cooked and washed dishes all alone for their large families during the holidays, to finally get a break –  for one day at least.

It’s a time for women to finally get a break

Yes, this one’s just for the ladies, gents. It’s one of the lovely traditions I will be experiencing for the first time since we moved here to Ireland.  A night for the women to celebrate surviving another holiday break with the children, the husband and their extended family all at home. Together. For several days. In a row.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays.  I start cranking up Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” immediately while I clear the Thanksgiving plates.  And this year was no different.

During the holidays. I cooked. A lot. Family cookie favourites. Ham with maple bourbon sauce. Mountains of mashed potatoes and now that I have discovered the glories of goose fat, truck- loads of roast potatoes too. (We’re in Ireland after all.) Mince pies with brandy butter.  Boiled puddings with brandy sauce.  Just plain brandy sauce and feck it, just plain brandy!  Needless to say that with all that cooking comes all that eating.  Too much.  I loved the holidays with gusto and now I’m glad to add them to my ever-growing memory box.

Not our house after Christmas - but you get the idea

Not our house after Christmas – but you get the idea

So! Here we are in the first week back at it.

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Did you skip while you took your children back to school yesterday?  Did you attack your first gym/pool/pilates/yoga class of the new year with a vengeance? Have you already vacuumed up the last of the dead pine needles and packed the stockings/baubles/Christmas village buildings and figurines tidily away? Did you possibly even kiss your desk and/or co-workers back at the office?

I did. Except for the desk and co-worker part.  I am simply delighted to be facing a fresh new year square in its little hopeful pink face.  A new year with new possibilities.  I, like you, have plenty of work goals.  I want to consult on more projects in more countries with more clients.  I am excited about new prospects and opportunities.

But first, tonight, one more fest.  I’ll be meeting some girl friends here in Cork at a restaurant downtown.  It’s a French place I haven’t tried yet called Star Anise.  That likely means small delicate portions. That’s a good thing. It’s a new year after all.

Cheers and here’s to a productive, but still festive, new year!

Love,

Gina

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

Top 10 ways to put aside business and jump into Christmas – if only for two days!  

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I am standing in one of those amorphous “chat circles” at a cocktail reception when a well-known phone-industry executive departs from our group announcing, “Well, I’ve got to get back to the office. Lots of work to do!”

It is already going on nine o’clock and while Mr. Businessman may indeed have some unusually important project to attend, more likely he is telling us this to illustrate what how essential he is at his place of employment.

Then there is the time I am supposed to be having a friendly coffee with a girlfriend.  During the course of our hour-long sit-down, she takes three phone calls and responds to two texts.  In fact, she never puts down her phone; she sips cappuccino from the left hand while she concentrates on the screen held in her right.

This morning, then, I felt a twinge of guilt as I watch my husband and daughter scamper out the front door to scoop up a final few gifts and soak-up holiday atmosphere in our festive downtown. I am staying at home for a Skype session with a client who wants to rehearse his message for an upcoming interview for a new prestigious position.  His interview will be held later today.  Just two days away from Christmas.

Yes, work must get done. And there’s no doubt we will all achieve more success if we’re very accessible and responsive to whomever our clients and customers may be.

Real Wealth is discretionary time.

But, as the self-described “Contrarian Consultant,” Alan Weiss aptly states, “Real wealth is discretionary time.”   So, I for one, am pledging here and now to officially take a two-day holiday break from work.

Here are my top-ten pledges.  Pledge along with me for whichever of these strike your fancy – as, of course, applied to your own unique family/friends/holiday experience!

  1. I am not going into the office
  2. Unless there’s an extreme emergency, I am also not going to take any calls from the office
  3. I not going to waste any time on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Linked In (that doesn’t mean I/you won’t post your awesome Christmas Eve or Christmas Day feasts photos, but you don’t have to spend 10 minutes poring over everyone else’s until Friday, right!)
  4. I am going to bake more cookies with my child(ren)
  5. I am going to happily tipple a little more mulled wine with my husband (spouse, partner, buddy) – but not drink and drive
  6. I am going to sit and really pay rapt attention to: The Nutcracker, The Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Muppets Christmas Carol or (fill in the blank)
  7. I am going to call a loved one I can’t visit on Christmas
  8. I am going to actually listen to my great auntie give me the “who’s died or is ill among our distant relatives I never heard of” update
  9. I am going to eat whatever I want for two days and not lament audibly for all to hear about how much I regret that I just over-indulged
  10. I am going to play a board game completely to the end and try to enjoy it

No matter whether you are a CEO or a junior sales associate, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be fully present during this joyous time.

Here's my daughter Lulu - hoping your Christmas is over the moon!

Here’s my daughter Lulu – hoping your Christmas is over the moon!

Merry Christmas, everyone. Here’s to a productive, prosperous New Year – in which we carve out much-needed and deserved discretionary time!

Cheers,

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Are your eyes still filled with wonder? A letter from Mrs. Kennedy that begs the question of us all.

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The children are beside me wide awake, their wide eyes still filled with wonder….

So wrote Jacqueline Kennedy in a 1967 thank you letter after visiting Bunratty Castle in Shannon, Ireland with her young children (John was only six and Caroline was then just nine years old).  She addressed it to her host, a Lady Gort, who, along with her husband Vicount Lord Gort, had recently bought and restored the medieval castle where the kings of Ireland once entertained.

Bunratty Castle, Shannon, Ireland

Bunratty Castle, Shannon, Ireland

Mrs. Kennedy, as she simply signed her card, wrote that she was writing on the plane – just hours after they had completed their visit of the massive stone fortress.   Her hand-writing leaned leftward and was smooth and flowing, with soft loops on her “y’s.”

The letter is on display inside today’s ground-floor castle lobby – along with other interesting Bunratty news clippings and photos that Lady Gort obviously lovingly saved in a personal scrapbook.

I myself quickly wandered through Bunratty this week – squeezing in a tour during a single night in Shannon – home to the airport I flew from to Chicago to present at a conference yesterday and today.

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I marveled at the view from atop the castle’s tower that cast out wide upon the grey, windy and drizzle-filled fields far below me.

Bunratty Castle Dining Hall

Bunratty Castle Dining Hall

I took in the smells coming from the cordoned-off kitchen as I looked into Bunratty’s large dining hall – charmingly decorated for Christmas – where visitors can now reserve a seat on one of the heavy wooden benches that fill the room and enjoy a “medieval feast.”  I wondered if this is the same room that the Kennedys dined in back in 1967 on ‘pigs cheeks and smoked salmon’ according to a newspaper article included in Lady Gort’s scrapbook.

But most of all, I thought about the kindness and courtesy shown by Mrs. Kennedy in her letter.  She wasted no time making the effort to hand-write a thank you letter.  She took note of the wonder sparkling in her children’s eyes.  No doubt the excitement of the visit was shared by her.  Children’s happiness can be delightfully contagious.

During this busy end of year business season, when many companies may be piling on the work-load and stress to wrap up Q4, how important is it, too, to remember to tap into our child-like senses and wrap up the season – and presents – with a spirit of gladness and yes, of wonder.

We can keep that spirit alive inside of us. It may just take a little effort to dig deep down and reawaken it.

A "wonder-ful" stained glass window detail from  Bunratty Castle

A “wonder-ful” stained glass window detail from Bunratty Castle

P.S.  and yes, my sincerest apologies that I did not take a photo of Mrs. Kennedy’s letter in the scrapbook. I promise that when I go back to Shannon, I certainly will – and post it here!

Happy wonder to all, Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

How Persistent Are You? Three lessons from an immigrant.

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How are you wrapping up the year?  Buried under a mountain of Q4 spreadsheets?  Take a quick trip to Ireland with me and get a few handy managing tips on the way!

My husband and I are in line at Immigration.  In front of us is a girl from New Zealand who has been accepted to medical school here in Cork, Ireland.   Behind us is a man from India who works for the Apple offices just outside of town.

It’s a little after 1PM, and although the windows won’t re-open until 2PM, there is already a long queue.   My line-mates and I are near the front of the line. We were prepared and got here early.  We know the drill because each of us have stood in this line before.

We’re  in Ireland because my husband is enrolled in a PhD program at University College Cork.   To be legal, we must file the proper paperwork with Immigration at the Garda (police) station.   Each previous occasion, the Immigration Officer has politely but pointedly turned us away.  This is our third time in the line.

The first time we didn’t show proper proof of financial independence.  We had brought our American bank account statement thinking it would suffice.  But the officer informed us the money needs to be deposited in an Irish account instead.

Like having money in a national bank, many of the hurdles put before us make sense logically, but strain us emotionally as we must reprioritized other obligations and spend the inordinate amount of time needed to clear them. Throughout this process, I am reminded of three important lessons in persistence.

  1. Keep Your Cool. It took us one full week and more than a handful of daily phone calls to assorted customer service representatives to find a way to transfer the large amount required from Bank of America to the Bank of Ireland without incurring outrageous transfer fees.  Each rep seemed to have his or her own set of knowledge about what options, or lack thereof, were at our disposal.  At one point, a representative told me it would be impossible to transfer our own money from our account without being in the US to do so.  It was also maddening to be forced through seemingly endless automated phone-tree systems “press option 406 for international banking services…” while watching the sands of your Irish cell phone’s minutes go ticking away.  Yes, I confess,  I lost my temper at more than one point.  Thankfully my husband pointed out we could buy credit on Skype and make the calls for a fraction of the cost.  Ultimately, with 40-minutes of help from a tech bank representative and my husband’s best friend who lives in Portland, we secured the transfer.
  1. Never Assume. The second time we stood in the line, armed with our now fattened Bank of Ireland statement, we thought we were ready. However, we had apparently filled-out a wrong form (they wouldn’t give us the proper one there. We had to get it directly from the university).  Our still very polite Immigration Officer also did not think our health insurance qualified.  Yikes! We assumed the girl at the university’s graduate counter had handed over the proper forms.  And we just assumed our chosen insurance-provider would be qualified. But we hadn’t asked direct questions needed to get reassurance. We had  And, no, I’m not going to tell you what happens when you do that. ;) 
  1. Have A Trusted Partner.  Depending on your situation, these hurdles may not seem too overwhelming to you, but there were many times I felt like tossing up my hands and giving up.  We’ll just be undocumented!  No problem!  Fortunately, when I got fed-up making calls, my husband stepped in. When he didn’t feel like dealing with the Irish health insurance company, I did it.  Turns out they did qualify. Encouraging each other made a lot of the difference in completing what then seemed like an insurmountable mountain of paperwork.

So, there you have it! A few quick reminders and tips to help you keep on hanging on and hanging in with that BIG project you have looming before you!

With our daughter Lulu this weekend at her first birthday party in Ireland -  after we managed successfully through immigration! Look at our smiles! :)

With our daughter Lulu this weekend at her first birthday party in Ireland – after we managed successfully through immigration! Look at our smiles! :)

As for us, the third time was a charm.  We stepped up to the window and were met by that same polite officer.  She approved our documents, typed in our information and snapped our photos.  We can pick up our official legal Irish immigrant cards next week.   Of course, it means we’ll have to stand in line again.

But that’s okay!

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

This American is now driving on the LEFT side of the road and what she learned is something we can all … “Whoa! BEEP! Crash!”  

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I’m an American now living in Ireland where everyone drives on the left – or as some less generous folks might say – the WRONG side of the road.

Although we managed during the three years we lived in Italy to not own a car, it really wasn’t feasible here.  So, last month, my husband and I steeled our nerves and bought one.

Driving is something I had long taken for granted.  I have been guilty of tapping and talking on my phone, applying makeup, even writing notes while driving.

But now, with the ink barely dry on the sales contract and the new ignition card (it’s not a key) in hand, I am faced with getting behind the wheel on the opposite side of the car and driving on the complete opposite side of the road – making turns and everything– FOR THE FIRST TIME.

I picture Mr. Toad and his wild ride.

My heart is pounding. Oh-my-gosh is that a round-about? I have to turn to the left to enter it, right? I mean, correct?  Oh, no, I need to be in the other lane, this is a turn-only lane.  Oh-my-gosh the oncoming traffic looks like they’re coming RIGHT AT ME.

Okay.  Breathe.   I MUST be alert. Vigilant.  This is no time for complacency.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gl0f4wOvQU

The first couple of days are a challenge.

For instance, residential roads here in Ireland are incredibly narrow.  A single lane sized street will actually be intended for two lanes of traffic with the added hazard of cars being parked along the sides.  Shoulders do not exist.  Drivers will take up the full roadway until they see a car heading their way, then one will need to try and pull over to let the other head on through. It’s makes for a fantastically jerky driving dance, but somehow it works.

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Perhaps it’s because, here, drivers are very polite.  If you signal your intention to merge into a new lane, the car behind you will actually slow down to let you in, not speed up to close the gap like I am more used to!

I continue to take is slow and I’m getting more sure of myself every day.  I am learning a new skill and improving my confidence along the way.  It’s a lot like life, isn’t it?

Mr-Toads-Wild-Ride-Movie

What challenges are you facing today? What project or endeavor is out there that you would like to do, or know you have to do, but are afraid to try?  What is holding you back?

Sure, you might be scared, but go ahead.  Go slow.  Be alert.

The people around you might be more encouraging than you imagined beforehand.

The only way you can accomplish something new – is to start. Even Mr. Toad managed in the end.

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

Kim Kardashian’s Bum

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Ah, the power of a headline.

Ms. Kardashian,  that (er, what to call her?)  – “ubiquitous media-personality” – was a hot topic on this morning’s radio talk-shows here in Ireland – and likely all over the Western world – due to a new photo shoot for New York magazine Paper in which she bares her ample backside – and more.

The images, just released yesterday, have already launched a  sturdy stream of internet memes with people parodying and er, cracking wise about her posterior posing.

After all the photos of this woman’s bum since she first launched onto the scene with her sex-tape back in 2007, why, oh why, seven years later, would another round of nude photos garner more than a collective shoulder shrug? As the radio DJ asked this morning,

Why is this woman famous and why is she in my life?

But instead of pondering that question a moment longer –  which of course, can be answered simply as “duh, sex sells,” I’d like to examine some headline writing tips that can be gleaned from all this silliness.

  1. Pique your readers’ curiosity – Admit it, you were curious about those dang photos. Maybe you indulged fully.  Maybe you completely resisted. Maybe you quickly peeked because you were piqued. Writing a headline that makes readers curious to learn more and turn to you for answers or insight, is a great way to build an audience.
  2. Link your cause to a celebrity or a news item- Obviously, you don’t have to always link your relevance to someone who is more famous than you (as I shamelessly have),  but I can tell you this week alone I saw more than a dozen writers referencing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to wear the same clothes every day as a launching point for their own observations.  In campaigning, we call this finding a solid “third party advocate” – someone who supports your message and is highly visible.  In the same vein, linking your point to a current hot news event or topic is common sense – but too often a missed opportunity.  
  3. Be emotional and/or fun – Most of us will welcome a quick read if it appeals to us emotionally. Take here, for example: For a few moments today, you got to shake your head, roll your eyes and think about the silliness of Ms. Kardashian’s photo shoot.  And you got a few headline writing reminders along the way.  Not bad.

Yesterday, one of my clients, who has been closely monitoring the analytics of his recently-launched blog, remarked that he sees massive upswings in the number of hits he receives depending on the style of headline he writes.

So, whether you’re writing blogs, white papers or even preparing a presentation – where “headlining”  will become part of your introduction – spend time strategizing about crafting an engaging beginning.  A dynamic headline is what compels your audience to  sit up, pay attention and take interest in what lies ahead.  Or, as in Ms. Kardashian’s case, what lies behind.

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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