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!

tesla

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

 

Postcard from the US: Election 2016. Stormy Weather.

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After a year away in Ireland, I’m back home in the US for two full days now.  Today I’m in Miami hosting a tech conference. Inside it’s the bright lights of the studio.

Outside it’s hot. It’s muggy.  Thunderstorms are darkening the beach. The rough weather seems to reflect the mood of the latest presidential election news reports.

At the moment, CNN is interviewing Florida Governor Rick Scott about the state’s efforts to contain the Zika virus with 15 confirmed cases in a single neighbourhood. Scott, a Navy veteran, also happens to be a Donald Trump supporter, and as such is also being asked how he feels about the Republican candidate’s escalating feud with the family of slain US Muslim soldier, Humayun Kahn.

Scott tries at first to avoid answering the question by bringing up Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the economy. When pressed, he reaffirms his support and adds that Donald Trump is a friend to those in the military.

This, as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a group of families who also had service members killed in action are blasting Trump on another channel and demanding he apologize for his remarks.

Next, the topic around the candidate in question shifts as this breaking news comes across: Trump is refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain in their re-election campaigns.

During the primaries, Ryan and McCain have had their share of disagreements with Trump and now, analysts say on air that Trump is getting his retribution. According to them it’s personal.

And it’s this string of behaviour that has turned Sam off from the presidential candidate for whom he was once planning to vote.

Meet Sam from Minnesota.

Sam is from Minneapolis but he’s here with me in Miami as the director of the on-line conference I am hosting.  He heads up his own event production business with ten employees.  He considers himself socially progressive and fiscally conservative.

He voted Republican in the past two elections and was preparing to vote the same way in November.

“I was impressed with Trump’s speech at the Republican convention,” Sam told me today.  “He talked calmly. Slowly. He seemed to be reading the teleprompter.  I listened to it on the radio and I thought he did a good job.”

Then came Trump’s string of polemical comments. The Khan controversy plus Donald Trump’s answer on Monday to a USA Today newspaper reporter that he would like to think his daughter Ivanka would find another career or find another company if she encountered sexual harassment on the job.

Sam has an eight-year-old daughter.

Trump’s verbal thunder has destroyed the calmer presidential image Sam thought he heard portrayed during the Republican nomination acceptance speech.

“Now I have no time for him,” Sam told me.

He wouldn’t say whether he would vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton instead.  Only that he, unlike Florida Governor Scott, would no longer support Trump.

It’s been a stormy couple of days in South Florida –  and for Donald Trump.

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. In August I’ll be writing about my experiences back in the US during the US presidential election. Please reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

 

Postcards from the US. Election 2016.

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As an American now living in Ireland, it’s been a year since I last stepped foot on native soil.  In that year, Donald Trump emerged from the field of 17 as the first Republican presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower to not have previously served as an elected official. And since Eisenhower was a general in WW II, Trump notably is the first GOP candidate to not have had any form of prior government experience since lawyer Wendell Willkie in 1940.

Over on the Democratic side, another first is that Hillary Clinton’s name will forever be highlighted in the record books as the first female candidate (from a major political party) for US President.

With the primaries and both the Republican and Democratic conventions behind us, the heat is really on. Not only because temperatures in the States are record setting this August – but because now with the General Election upon us, America is truly in a first-of-its-kind race for the White House. 

 I won’t try to demonstrate any broad science that political polls may offer, but during my time back in the States, I’ll try to interview people from as many different walks of life as I can find – to give you who may be living abroad and watching with interest and perhaps trepidation a little insight into the minds of some of the Americans who will be casting a ballot in this historic election.

 Jim from New Jersey

 I landed yesterday. Sunday.  In Philadelphia. Host to the just-ended Democratic Convention, the city’s airport was still brilliant in red, white and blue. Shops were still stocked with convention paraphernalia like glasses, corkscrews and T-shirts sporting Hillary Clinton’s face onto Rosie the Riveter’s muscle-pumping likeness with the straightforward words, “HILLARY 2016.” Or the other T-shirt with Donald Trump’s image and the more snarky slogan, “WE SHALL OVERCOMB.”

I posted a photo of my eight-year-old daughter, Lulu, on Facebook as she held up the Hillary cork screw. It elicited a slew of quips from my Stateside friends: “She should be locked up.” “She sells favors to foreign governments.” Trump didn’t escape either as one friend blasted him for his recent comments that he wanted to “hit DNC speakers.”

The political battle-lines were clear. And I thought I’d landed in the City of Brotherly Love.

Earlier, my American Airlines flight had lifted-off quietly enough from Shannon, Ireland.  It didn’t take long, however, to notice that the plane was old and outdated. Among other things, it was lacking, as Lulu quickly pointed out, her expected modern convenience of individual video screens in the seats.

According to our flight attendant, the plane was 35 years old.  She apologized in one frustrated breath that the movie projector to the single overhead screen was broken so my daughter couldn’t watch Pan as advertised in the seat-back magazine, that the bathrooms weren’t equipped to handle the er, “needs” of the passengers on a long overseas flight and that there wasn’t even enough trash bin space to hold the used cups and sandwich boxes and other garbage. Instead, the excess refuse was piled high on top of the metal aisle carts.

My seat-mate on the flight from Shannon to Phily was named Jim.  He and I agreed that many of the flight attendants’ grumpy demeanors likely stemmed from the expressed consternation they were feeling with the conditions of the aged plane.

Jim was returning to the US after a vacation in Ireland with his wife of almost 50 years and their children and grandchildren.

A New Jersey resident, Jim was a retired operations manager from Wawa, an East Coast convenience store chain. He told me he’d worked his whole life for Wawa.

“It’s named after the wild geese or “wawa” that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described in the poem Hiawatha,” Jim explained.

He also confided to me that the company had left him with a healthy 401K plan and retirement package. He and his wife were considering taking a National Geographic sponsored world tour for their upcoming 50th anniversary  – at 75 thousand dollars a person.

While in Ireland, Jim’s family had toured the Dingle Peninsula, the Jameson whiskey plant and played a lot of golf.  They had also stayed at “Donald Trump’s golf course” as Jim described it in Doonbeg, County Clare.

“I noticed the Irish really don’t care for Trump,” Jim said. “Especially in Doonbeg.”

In many ways, as a retired professional who isn’t disenfranchised about losing a manufacturing job, Jim doesn’t fit the easy profile of a Trump supporter.  But Jim told me he is planning to vote for Donald Trump as the next American president.

He voted for Trump earlier in the New Jersey primary too.

When I asked him why he chose the Republican candidate over the Democrat, he immediately blamed Hillary Clinton for “messing up Benghazi.”

“She got those soldiers killed,” he flatly stated.

(In fact, none of the four men killed in 2012 in Benghazi were active soldiers.  Ambassador Chris Stevens, his information officer and two former CIA operatives died in the attack.)

Jim added that he’s not one to defend Donald on his comments against women, or Muslims like Khizr Khan, the father of the fallen US Army Captain or about calling on Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails.

“I’m just ready to see him shake things up,” he told me simply, when I asked him to give me one reason why he was going to vote for Trump.

He said he doesn’t trust politicians and he’s tired of things as they are.

Like that aged plane with the piled up garbage,  Jim is frustrated with what he sees as American problems that are chronic and not getting fixed.

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. During August, I’ll be writing about my return to the US and the Presidential Elections.  Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

Speaking like a Living Legend. Poised and Inclusive like Gloria Steinem

To listen to her speak, her voice robust, smooth and calm as she responded to a flurry of questions, both supportive and confrontational, you would never imagine that she is 82 years old.

(pictured above, Gloria Steinem at the Bantry Literary Festival in Ireland, July 23, 2016)

As a leader of the feminist movement in the 1960s, founder of Ms. Magazine and after writing six books (including her most recent one chronicling the incredible range of people she’s met during 40 years of traveling as a journalist and speaker that I just purchased, “My Life on the Road”), it makes sense that her age reflects her numerous accomplishments.

Up close, you will notice she is slight as a sparrow and she did accept assistance descending the dias  after speaking yesterday at the West Cork Literary Festival in Ireland.  But!

On stage, Gloria Steinem’s delivery was dynamic, funny and youthfully vigorous.

Vocal quality can be trained and improved. And yes, that’s a service I provide having developed my own professional delivery style as a network television correspondent and anchor, but that is not the purpose of this essay.

I was simply struck as I listened to Gloria, not only by the content of her responses, but by the way in which she delivered.

(pictured above, I’m next in line to meet Gloria Steinem! July 23, 2016, Bantry, Ireland)

  1. Gloria’s Humor: When someone questioned the scanty outfits and nudity of Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, Gloria deftly distinguished between the two with humor, “We should all be body proud, able to walk the streets nude and expect to be safe. Beyonce…had me at hello.. but Kim Kardashian has no content that I’m aware of.”
  2. Gloria’s Inclusiveness: She agreed with a man who asked why there weren’t more men in the room saying, “If it’s not inclusive, it isn’t feminism.”

I was most impressed how she handled opposition.

3.    Gloria’s Composure: One impassioned woman, opposing the campaign to repeal Ireland’s Eighth Amendment that prohibits abortion, spoke of her children and speculated that her adopted husband could have been aborted before going on to slam Gloria as not understanding since she had no children of her own.

A few boos rippled from the audience. The questioner was clearly in the minority in the room. But Gloria didn’t try to exclude her or shame her or make her feel embarrassed.  Gloria’s expression was soothing as she answered in dulcet tones.

“Reproductive rights respects your power to decide to have children as well as someone else’s decision not to have children….Let’s work together.”

A less-skilled and experienced person might not have maintained composure. Confrontations can topple any event.

So when Gloria spoke in support of Hillary Clinton as the best and “most truthful” candidate for US president, (the truth claim backed up by numerous fact-checking reports), I couldn’t help mentally comparing the verbal presentation styles of these two powerful and successful women.

I think their difference is largely demonstrated by their voices.  Gloria’s is warm. Rich. Soothing. Mellifluous.

By sharp contrast, Hillary’s voice is quite the opposite. She can sound grating. Shrill. Strident. Harsh.

Hillary, especially when she is defending against her e-mails, Benghazi or a Trumpish accusation, turns herself up to an excessively forceful volume and pitch.

But throughout yesterday’s program, Gloria’s delivery was full of poise. She even cursed as if she were merely sprinkling cinnamon on a latte.  Her occasional “F***” and “bullsh**” didn’t stand out as offensive. They were delivered in the same relaxed cadence as their surrounding words.  Mollifying pats part of a peaceful embrace.

Gloria and Hillary are friends. Perhaps before Mrs. Clinton accepts the official nomination as the candidate for president later this week at the Democratic National Convention, Ms. Steinem can fly to Philadelphia and give her some last minute delivery coaching.

Hillary needs to sound gracious and inclusive.  A worthy combination and one that is not exhibited by the Republican candidate.

Who, by the way, “Should not be elected, but should be hospitalized,” according to Gloria yesterday.

And finally, one of Gloria’s parting shots, in which she urged us all to pay attention to our instincts, may also have bearing on the upcoming election.  She declared,

 “If it looks like a duck and swims like a duck and sounds like a duck – but you think it’s a pig, it’s a pig.”

Okay, so Gloria’s not inclusive of everyone.

Copyright Gina London 2016.  All Rights Reserved. 

Star Spangled Spanner

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I’ve lived outside the US for several years and often write about my cultural, business and gastronomical experiences in other countries.  It’s with great pleasure then, that I put a different spin on things today – and share a perspective on my own country through the writing of my dear Irish friend and newspaper columnist Suzanne Brett. july 4 #3

(and if you’d like to read her column as it appears in the on-line version of the Cork Independent, click here!) 

After enjoying a few hours of premier class treatment, I again touched down on American soil last week after an absence of a few years. Like so many others, I’ve endured a heavy dose of Celtic Tiger blues but I’m beginning to feel like I’m in remission.

Anyway, myself and G, (my very well connected American bestie, who’d accompanied me and arranged the whole shebang) quickly checked into our hotel, changed into our glad rags and grabbed a cab.

Security was tight as we approached the residence (hint – it’s completely painted white) and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive but also a lot excited.

The scene was so surreal. Only a few hours earlier I’d been elbow deep in laundry back home in Cork and now here I was, dressed to the nines, sat in the back of a taxi watching as US security personnel, using those mirror on a stick thingies, checked out the undercarriage of the car.

And by the way girls, I’d be lying if I said I’d have taken offence to these lads checking out my actual undercarriage … if you know what I mean. But I digress.

After examining our invitations and passports, checking us off against their list and confiscating our phones, the cab was finally waved through and we made our way up the beautiful winding driveway. Everything was pruned, landscaped and shaped to perfection.

It was kind of everything I’d expected it to be from years of watching programmes like ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The West Wing’. Those Americans certainly know how to impress, I’ll give them that.

G was taking it all in her stride and remained utterly un-phased by the entire adventure. Granted though, she’s a past master at this kind of thing having actually sat down and interviewed Clinton and Bush among others over the years. However, she handled me with consummate skill and ease and any feelings I had of being the country bumpkin visiting ‘the big shmoke’ were entirely my own, as she couldn’t have been more supportive and understanding of my awestruck-ness.

Being 4 July, the event we’d been invited to was taking place on the back lawn, and as much as I was desperate to have a nose around inside, I knew it wasn’t going to happen on this occasion. We were escorted around the side of the house and invited to partake of the spread of different foods and beverages sourced from the fifty states of the Union.

As I enjoyed a glass of delicious Kentucky bourbon (and I don’t even drink whiskey) and munched on a New York burger I simultaneously made small talk with the Kenyan Ambassador.

In between bites and sips, I was introduced to captains and captainesses of industry, all of whom seemed to have Irish connections of one kind or another. And pretty soon I started to feel like I actually belonged in such rarefied company and august surroundings.

I finally realised I’d become separated from G and in the process of searching for her, I happened to bump into a charming man who introduced himself before asking if I was enjoying myself.

We got to chatting and spent a wonderful half hour before he excused himself and disappeared into the crowd, shaking hands with people as he went.

The following day I Googled the names of some of the people I’d met. Finally, I searched Kevin O’Malley, the lovely gentleman I’d chatted with, just to see if he was anyone of note.

I really don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling I experienced on discovering he’s the American Ambassador to Ireland!

And me, having spent the evening in his beautiful Phoenix Park residence and enjoying his hospitality without so much as a go raibh maith agat! #Cringe #Gobdaw

Thanks, Suzanne! We had great fun, (or “craic” as you Irish would say), didn’t we?!  Let’s do it again next year!

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, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

Mindfulness in Tuscany

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I have discovered the best place to practice mindfulness is on holiday. In Italy.

gina il pozzo .jpg

But not just any part,

I find Italy’s cuore, or heart, is best.

I’m surrounded by the uplifting, yet relaxing, redolence of lavender as a cool, gentle breeze soothes the heat from the blazing sun in the blue halcyon sky. I am lounging on a recliner by a swimming pool. Spanning out beyond the pool is the expanse of sage-colored olive groves, deep green shaggy pencils of cypress and the rolling hills that define rural Tuscany. I am completely at peace.

I am not worrying about the future nor reflecting upon the past. I am most contentedly and deeply breathing in – the now.

Last week my young daughter and I stayed at Il Pozzo a traditional and cozy agriturismo, a working farm that welcomes guests from the world over into its charmingly remodeled 500-year-old stables turned self-catering cottages run by my dear friend, the incomparable Carla Veneri.  A gracious host to all, she, after the four years I have known her, has become like a sister to me.

Il Pozzo is named for the ancient well that was found on the property when the Veneri family purchased the property more than a decade ago. It’s set in the village of Capolona, just a quick 10-minute drive from the larger Tuscan town of Arezzo where I lived for three years.

In spite of living so close for so long, and visiting several times for a dinner or an olive harvest, I had never really stayed at Il Pozzo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a world of difference between staying in a bustling Tuscan town to the tranquillity of the Tuscan countryside.

In Arezzo, the town’s historic center or centro storico is teeming with people during the fresh hours of a summer’s evening. Le Belle Figure, or beautiful people spill out of the cafes and bars into the piazze or public squares, laughing and talking until well after midnight.

At Il Pozzo, we also laughed and talked until late with the other guests as we devoured home-made dinners of tagliatelle, crostini, salami, roasted meats, garden-grown vegetables – including incredible fried zucchini flowers, scrumptious desserts and plenty of locally-produced wines. But instead of Arezzo’s town-square’s bright lights, we were enveloped by a twinkly, star-filled raven sky. Only the soft padding of our sandals and one of Il Pozzo’s resident cats quietly accompanied us as we trundled down the lavender and rose-lined paths toward our rooms.

Il Pozzo cooks all the incredible dishes. They also bake a heart-shaped cake as big as their own that greets each guest when they check in. On Friday’s there’s a special treat: Carla helps the children make pizzas from scratch. From flour, yeast and warm water to the wood-fired oven, a variety of pies emerge as uniquely flavoured and sometimes lopsided as the half-sized chefs who create them.

Depending on what time of year you choose to stay, you can take a cooking class, play bocce, or help harvest olives and partake of Tuscany’s famed olio nuovo – a must for any foodie’s bucket list (and which I describe in this previous essay).

Throughout my stay, I took plenty of time to look around and look within.

My tablet wasn’t with me. My phone was not turned on to respond to texts or What’s App or emails or whatever. I only turned it on to take and post the occasional envy-inducing photo. (I’m a human in the 21st century after all!)

As the father of the Swedish family who was staying for the first time as we were there said, “I’ve forgotten there is any business or other world outside of Il Pozzo. We feel as comfortable here as if we were with family – who we really like!”

Take a break from the rat-race and get off the beaten path to Tuscany and Il Pozzo. Tell Carla, Gina sent you.

A heart-shaped cake will be waiting for you.

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

 

We can be better.

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A fellow human being on this planet just wrote this to me on Linked In:

 I saw you speak at the UCC Commerce Conference and was blown away by your speech – you’re so inspirational! Hope you’re keeping well🙂

The message came at a time when I – and perhaps many of you – need a reminder about the importance of inspiring others.

It’s this time in the wake of the deadly rampage in Orlando – which just happens to be where I started my career as a journalist working for the Orlando Sentinel.  A town I associated with happy memories now forever tainted with the statistic as the deadliest shooting in the US.

That horror was shortly followed by the senseless killing of a young Member of Britain’s Parliament. In the middle of the afternoon. In front of a library.

The victims in Orlando had been inspirations for their friends and family.  MP Jo Cox was an inspiration too.

As Britain votes Thursday on Brexit, and my home country of the United States prepares to vote for a new president, I implore us all to remember that this is a time to not give up.  We must go on and be inspirations.

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Candlelight vigil at Lake Eola in Orlando

Yes, there are plenty of people who are cynical or angry or divisive or even hateful.  Some analysts say the global geopolitical landscape is turning more toward  nationalism, more toward nativism.  We can still stave off this turn.

We, as humans who share a planet, are better when we are positive.  When we are uplifting. Encouraging. When we are appeal to our better instincts – which are, in fact, not instincts after all, but traits that we can develop and deploy – if we set our minds to it.

No matter if we’re in the public sector or the private sector. If we work in local or national government.  For an SME or a major multi-national.  A for-profit or a not-for-profit. If we interact with other people, let us try to focus on how we can encourage one another – not tear each other down – in order to get ahead.

We can deliberately decide that we won’t get personal when we disagree with someone else on a policy or about a work project or about a whatever.

It’s time to get serious about being kind.  It’s about deliberately deciding that “we” is better than “me,” that being considerate is not the same as being weak. That caring for someone who may come from a different background than us, who may look different than us, who may even have a different culture than us – is okay.

I have lived or worked in dozens of countries. From Italy to Indonesia. Egypt to Nigeria. France to Romania. Cambodia to Ireland. I have friends from every place I have been. We continue to inspire each other.

As a fellow Member of Parliament, Rachel Reeves, said yesterday in tribute to Jo Cox, “What we have in common is greater than what divides us.”

We can carry on the work of those who stood for togetherness. For walking forward. Hand in hand.

I am convinced that we can be better.

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. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

 

Food for Thought!

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Eating right doesn’t only help keep your body fit, it helps your brain stay fit too!

Plenty of studies show that what we eat has an impact on our ability to remember – and even our likelihood of developing dementia as we age.

Eating healthy is a critical consideration in this high-action era –in which we are staying active in our professional lives longer than ever before.

Many executives hang their “consultant” shingle in their sixties- after they’ve racked up great experience in the corporate world. They rightly understand the value their experience can be for others.  How important, then, is it that we eat right? Now and as we age?

I had the extreme pleasure recently, at a TodayFM business event I spoke at, to meet an Irish food scientist who is putting his business where our mouths are.

Dr. John Collier launched “Life Kitchen” after his father died and he realized the pre-packaged meals his now-alone mom was buying at the grocery stores, were, quite frankly, crap.

“I could see a decline in my mother,” John told me. “She wasn’t looking at what she was eating. She had high cholesterol high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Those supermarket ready-made meals are full of fat, high in sugar and salt. They’re not what she should be eating.”

His meals, which can be ordered and delivered to anywhere in Ireland and the UK at the moment, are high in protein  – 30 grams in each meal, minimum  – and feature foods high in anti-oxidants with no extra salt or sugar.

All that and they’re still tasty! My eight-year-old daughter Lulu and I tried three different meals last week.  We especially enjoyed the Turkey Meatballs, which are served on a barley pilaf with a red pepper sauce that packed a huge flavor punch!

John sneaks vegetables like corn and courgettes (that’s “zucchini” to you Americans out there) into his meatballs which unsuspectingly boost the vitamin count without detracting from the taste.

Nutrients and protein are one of his main focuses because, as John points out, “Once we’re over 35, our muscle degradation increases and we need to take in more protein. For many of us, especially if we’re under work pressure, we’re working long hours and we may not be eating properly.  That has an impact on our muscle mass.”

And, as research shows, it impacts our brain matter too.

We know the adage,

We are what we eat – but that doesn’t only apply to our body composition. It applies to our minds too.

Our strategic thinking requires us to train our brain with the right fuel too.   If we’re too busy to prepare healthy food, Life Kitchen can do it for you.

The healthier meals are doing wonders for John’s mom.

“My mother is flying it now. Her own mother lived to 105. You can’t rid of a bad thing,” John jokingly adds. I think.

Great food for thought.

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.