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

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!



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.

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.


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.