It’s Time to Build Bridges!

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

Not the words of Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton.

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

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

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

The tight race reflects American voter emotions.

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

“Help.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only of building bridges.

Kindly, Gina

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Food for Thought!

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. 

Sibling. What a clunky word.

Sunday was National Sibling Day.

What it is about the word “sibling”?? I don’t like it.  It doesn’t strike me as familial and warm.  It sounds more detached and stilted.

Like some sort of a mutant fish living at the bottom of the ocean’s largely uncharted Mariana Trench:

Fisherman off the coast of Guam today, discovered the body of a ghastly looking sea creature tangled in their nets. Scientists say it’s the rarely seen deep sea cucumber known as the “SIBLING.”

Or maybe a twig off of the branch of physics known as quantum theory:

 Stephen Hawking today will be lecturing on the inexplicable quantity of SIBLING photoelectron effects.”

Whatever you call them. They’re those people you teased, fought and played with as you grew up.  You may share good and/or bad childhood memories with them. Campfire songs. Parents hugging. Perhaps parents fighting. Christmas. Hanukkah. Ramadan. Whatever.

You may have grown up and grown apart. Physically and/or emotionally. Hopefully you have managed to maintain at least the latter connection.

Life is busy and hectic and sometimes it takes an official day on a calendar to remind me to stop and say thank you to a few of the most influential people in my life. Then and Now.  My brother, Brad and my sister, Andrea. (yep, that’s them above and below – with mom and dad and me – missing my two front teeth.)

So, as much as I don’t like that clunky word, “sibling,” I am ever so grateful that I can call them a word I feel that does sound appropriately gracious and genial.

While we’re on the topic, I am extremely grateful for the other incredible people in my life who may not be biologically my siblings and who may not be able to recite all the words to John Denver’s song, “Grandma’s Feather Bed” like Andrea and Brad can – but who, through their laughter, listening, encouragement (and sometimes wine), can certainly be classified with that word that goes much deeper than the ocean and cannot be dissected by even the top quantum scientist.

So, to all of you out there as I have grown up and away from Indiana, to Florida, Washington, Atlanta, Cairo, Bucharest, Paris, Arezzo and now here in Cork, Ireland: A hearty and heart-felt thank you to each of you I am proud to call much more than the word “sibling” – but as “friends.”

In gratitude, 

Gina

Lifting the Uplifters!

I was fortunate to work with the HR department of one of the world’s largest beverage companies this past week.

They were preparing to launch an employee recognition program that is AMAZING!

Simply put, each employee- from top to bottom – will receive 100 points every six months that are redeemable for vouchers like movies, shopping, travel, sky-diving, etc.

That’s not so amazing, you may be thinking.  Lots of places do that.  That’s just a rewards card.  BUT!  In this program, you don’t get to redeem your own points. You award them to a peer whom you see doing something that personifies the company BRAND.

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It’s Cool.  It’s “Pay It Forward” codified by a company.

Unfortunately, due to proprietary reasons, I can’t give you the details. Yet.  As soon as this pilot program is successfully ticking along, I plan to absolutely seek a thumbs up from them to tell you – and anybody else who will listen – about this great motivating idea!

What I can tell you is that although this new program was the result of years of internal surveys and had already been socialized in smaller groups, my HR team knew how incredibly pivotal their presentations would be on the official day of the launch.  They wanted to leave nothing to chance.

They know we’re all a bit skeptical of change.  Especially something that feels “too good to be true” like this program almost does.

Therefore, it was imperative that this plan was announced with a great amount of passion, conviction and genuine connection to the employees in their audiences.

We spent a great deal of time discussing the mindset and backgrounds of the audiences, refining the goals and intent the team had for how their presentation should be received, and of course, an equally great deal of time rehearsing and coaching around the content and delivery of the presentation.

Here, then, is the email I received soon after our session, for which I am grateful:

Many thanks for the session on Monday – I really enjoyed it and just wished that we had longer with you!

 We did a full rehearsal yesterday and it was amazing how different our delivery was after our time with you. I’m feeling more relaxed about tomorrow than I expected to after you gave my confidence a lift.  So thank you!”

It was a pleasure and an honor to work with people who are truly committed to innovating ways to inspire and motivate others.

And for you out there:  Where are you on this spectrum? Are you a naysayer? An innovator? An encourager? Or perhaps even a “Lifter of the uplifter?”

Thanks for the opportunity, folks.  Because even the uplifters need a boost now and again. Maybe especially.  Here’s to them.

Kindly,

Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

How to be Determinedly Optimistic!

Lulu's first day back to school and yes, she needed a scarf! We're in Ireland!
Lulu’s first day back to school and yes, she needed a scarf! We’re in Ireland!

“How was your summer?” The friendly barista at my gym here in Ireland asked me.

“Good really, I certainly can’t complain,” I replied.

“No one would listen anyway,” he added chuckling.

I thought about that.  It’s true. We really don’t want to listen to people who complain.  Yet, why do so many of us continue to keep up the constant drum-beat of negativity.

You know the types.  Every business project is overwhelming. Every boss doesn’t understand them.  Their aches and pains. The traffic. The weather.

Ah, the weather.  That’s an especially good subject being the transplanted American living here in Ireland now.   Just over a week ago, I was wrapping up a wonderful month in the US – speaking and training at conferences and then spending time with family and friends in the hot and humid Midwest.   We wore sleeveless shirts and sandals.

Now, I’m back in Cork, Ireland where the clouds are almost always moving.  I wake up and there’s sun and by the time I make the bed, the wind and rain have swept in.  Then five more minutes and the sun breaks out again –complete with rainbow.  Last week, I saw three rainbows in one day. No kidding.

The Irish are what I like to describe as “determinedly optimistic” about weather.  They make up funny sayings about it like,

We have four seasons in one day.

Or

 What are an Irish person’s two favorite days? Christmas and summer.

When our plane landed, my daughter, Lulu, and I quickly put on the sweaters we had brought with us for our walk across the brisk and breezy tarmac to the customs and baggage claim terminals.

Yesterday was her first day back to school.  She wore her school’s “summer uniform” which, naturally, comes complete with matching cardigan.  Lulu also reached for a white scarf with dragonflies on it. She wrapped three times around her neck.  She was ready to go and she was happy – no matter what the weather.

After I dropped her off, I zipped over to the shopping center for a few items before getting to work. I noticed other ladies at the shops were also wearing brightly colored scarves.  And sleeveless shirts. And sandals.

It was if they were proclaiming, “The calendar still says it’s summer, no matter what the weather may feel like.”

This week Time magazine is listing 13 ways to be a better human being.  It starts from within. From our attitude to our work, our family, even the weather.

What are we proclaiming every day?  Are we being determinedly optimistic or are we constantly complaining?

Who is listening to us?  What opinions are they forming?

It’s up to you, isn’t it? I say,

Grab a proverbial scarf and keep going!

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

You CAN Go Back.

After a year of living in Ireland, we have returned to our beloved former home of Arezzo, Italy.

Bentornati ad Arezzo!
Bentornati ad Arezzo!

Don’t get me wrong, we are LOVING life in Ireland.  The people and adventures there are more than terrific.  But we longed to walk the cobbled streets of Arezzo’s medieval “Centro Storico” again.

In the historic center of Arezzo
A piazzetta in the historic center of Arezzo.

How would it feel to be back for just a two-week vacation? The town and its wonderful residents would have spent a full year working, playing, dining and simply going on. Without us.

Lulu and Vincent and La Chiesa di San Domenico.
Lulu and Vincent and La Chiesa di San Domenico.

So, with fingers crossed, we called out to our former neighbors, schoolmates and pals. Would they make a little time for us? —- Guess what!?

We went to this marvelous
We went to this marvelous “Cena di Colcitrone” dinner with our old friends in Arezzo! Evviva!
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Lulu together again with her girl friends from her former primary school in Arezzo, Aliotti.
Eating
Eating “pici con cinghiale’ at one of our favorite restaurants – where they remembered us and gave us our “usual” table!
It tasted as good as I had remembered. Che buona!
It tasted as good as I had remembered. Che buona!

Lulu has gone to camp with a former buddy. She has played with her old girlfriends. We have had our nails done at our former salon. We have visited with Lulu’s Italian “nonno” Mario. We attended a great big feast in our old “quartiere.”  In short, we are happily being reunited with our favorite people and places!

Yes, life does go on.  Some shops have closed while a couple new ones have opened their doors.  Kids have grown taller. One dear friend, sadly, has passed away.  Yes, the seasons continue to change and the rain does fall – even on our Tuscan retreat.

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But no matter if you change towns, jobs or in our case, countries, you can and should stay in contact with your former friends and colleagues as best you can.

Lulu and Arezzo's Duomo bell tower in the background.
Lulu and Arezzo’s Duomo bell tower in the background.
Reunited with my dear friend Carla Veneri.
Reunited with my dear friend Carla Veneri.

Social media is terrific for doing just that.

In fact, last summer, I went to Ghana through the US State Department to train the country’s 60 spokespeople.  My co-trainer was Jeff Eller, a wonderful inspiration to me when I was fresh from college and worked under him at the Democratic Party in Washington, DC – some, er, twenty years ago.  We were friends on Facebook. And there we were together again last August in Accra!

Jeff and I together again in Accra last August.
Jeff and I together again in Accra last August.

So, keep in touch.  You never know what fun you’ll have in the future.

Looking forward to our next adventure...
Looking forward to our next adventure…

As the saying goes: Make new friends, but keep the old.

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

The Opportunity to See Puffins!

What will you do when opportunity presents itself?   Whether in business or not, it’s all the same, isn’t it?  After all, you don’t  have a professional life and a personal life; you have a life.

Yesterday, I took a boat two hours off the southern coast of Ireland to an uninhabited island known as Skellig Michael.

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Skellig Michael as we approached from John O’Shea’s fine boat.

It’s uninhabited by people – but very much inhabited by 10 thousand puffins.  Yes, the alluring little sea bird with the striped orange beak and matching webbed feet with harlequin-marked eyes nest in burrows all over the craggy rock mountain which juts some 750 feet high out of the Atlantic.   The steep island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also a place I have wanted to visit since I first learned about puffins as a little girl growing up in Indiana, which as you all know is surrounded by corn fields not the ocean.

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A Puffin ready for his close-up!

Since we moved to Ireland last September, I have been talking about my puffin dream to everyone I met.  A few told me they had visited the island. Many more had not. But, like me, said they dream of going. One day.

Then suddenly, a friend whose family owns a summer home on Lamb’s Head, texted me with the opportunity to stay at the house.  The timing was now.

Was I willing?  Would I pack up, grab my seven-year-old daughter and pop into the car? Drive the two hours along tiny coastal roads I have never traveled on to a place I have never been? Book a boat trip by ringing  a captain I have never met  just one day prior? Inquire about space? Ride two more hours on said boat? Trek up to a remote spot in the middle of the sea?

We did it! We made it to Puffin Island, aka Skellig Michael, Ireland.

But I have other work to do. But, my daughter would miss a day of summer camp that has already been paid for. But. But. There is likely always going to be a but!  But what if you just do it?

Which is what I did, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing this.

Yesterday was a lifetime experience for my daughter and me.   It was a glorious, sunny day  and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves simply watching the birds.

Puffins are treasures, Lulu proclaimed.

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There was an elderly man on our boat who told us that although he has lived in Ireland all his life, he had never taken the opportunity to see the puffins. Finally he was doing it. Almost too late.

Maybe yesterday wasn’t the perfect time, but it was the time.   Maybe seeing little waddling puffins is not part of your dreams.   But what is?

Lulu, using her stuffed Puffin named
Lulu, using her stuffed Puffin named “Muffin” as a decoy, tries to entice a real puffin. It didn’t work!

When the door opens , will you hesitate, or will you rush through?

(Carpe diem, baby! And a huge, heart-felt thank you to Noelle Barry for the use of her home and to John O’Shea, for an A+ boat trip!)

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.