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

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.

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?

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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. 

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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.

 

Are you going to miss your train?

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How do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel?  Do you stay with a project or endeavor too long? Or not long enough?

This week I was in Dublin – where a lot of the rest of the world was also gathered for the highly-touted Web Summit.  I had just finished giving a communications presentation and was in a taxi to Heuston train station.   What should’ve taken only a few minutes’ drive, was nearing an hour.  We sat unmoving.  Snarled and stuck in the jam-packed Temple Bar district.  I remarked aloud to my driver, “Well, I better look up the next train since we’re clearly going to miss the six o’clock.”

“Never say Never!” he quickly replied.  Gerald Murphy was his name and already from our conversation in the cab, he had demonstrated his indomitable Irish spirit.

I looked at my watch.  We had just ten minutes.  Even in regular traffic, we’d be unlikely to make it in my opinion.  I began to tap in Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) on my phone.  The next train didn’t leave until half-past nine. I wouldn’t get down to my home in Cork until almost midnight.  Ah well.  Some things you can’t control.  I’d call my husband later and let him know.  I wasn’t angry, mind you.  Simply resigned.  To my mind, missing my train was a done deal.

But not to Ger (as he had brightly told me to call him), “I’ll turn right here and zip past the lot of ‘em!”

As he zigged and zagged, I continued tapping and thought of an article about reining in one’s optimism recently featured in the New York Times.  The writer stated that “positive thinking often hinders us.”

Her point was that we shouldn’t be blindly optimistic, but rather strive for a more realistic, balanced approach.   I agree.

Then suddenly, as if an Irish fog had swiftly lifted, the train station was clearly in front of us.  Ger zoomed over to a side parking lane right next to track eight where my train was still waiting.   “You’re going to make that train, Love!”  he chirped.  He was already up and out of the car, opening the boot for my small suitcase.

I glanced down.  Two minutes to spare.   Ger may be right!

That NYT article also stated that “positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.” For that,  I don’t agree.

Ger didn’t slack off. Instead, he pushed on.  Positive thinking didn’t trick him into believing he had something he didn’t  have.  Instead, in the face of difficulty, it may have been the very thing that kept him determined to keep going – to keep striving.  To NOT give up.

Simply THINKING positively and NOT DOING anything, is of course, not enough.   You’ve got to keep going. Keep driving to your goal.  Yes, the trick is not to only imagine smooth, open roads.  Picture the traffic jams, too.  And then strategize how you will  manoeuvre through different routes.

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I grabbed my suitcase from Ger and handed him the fare- plus a healthy tip.  Then, right before I started running, I made sure to express my sincere gratitude and wish him all the very best.

And after the kindly Irish train attendant had leaned out and signaled to me that he saw me and that I could stop my sprint, I did make that train.  With seconds to spare.

Thanks, Ger, for reminding me to never say never.