All posts by Dan Higgins

5 Reasons to Vote No

There’s a referendum coming up, just in case you didn’t know. The referendum concerns two issues:

  1. Should the age of a Presidential Candidate be lowered from 35 to 21 years of age and;
  2. Should marriage be extended equally to all persons regardless of sex.

The second one, as you would imagine, is gathering more interest. What with it concerning all people having equal rights and all. Here are 5 reasons you should vote No on number 2, maybe even number 1.

  1. You like things just the way they are: Change, why would you change anything at all? You like things the way they are. Everything in its place. Change is scary after all. The fact is that if this passes and we as a country vote Yes then Ireland will slip off the shelf and plunge into the Atlantic…FACT!
  2. Standards of Weddings: If we allow everyone to have equal rights and marry who they love then the fact is that the LGBT community will probably set the standard for Weddings impossibly high. There will be colours and themes that the average Irish man could never dream of or indeed live up to. Look at Panti Bliss for example. That chick knows how to throw a party. Imagine that. Shindigs like the country has never seen before.
  3. Increase in Tourism: Ireland voting No in this referendum will send a clear signal to the world that we are still that country which likes to segregate people, push people to the fringes of society and deny equality to all. We could see an increase in visitors from groups such as the Neo-Nazis, the KKK and perhaps even The Westboro Baptist Church.
  4. Parenting: Voting yes in this referendum might give LGBT people more power to have, raise, adopt and love children of their very own. Two people of the same sex raising a child couldn’t possibly do a good job of that. Never before in human history have we seen two people of the same sex raising a child. Nope, never. It would be a disaster. Like a Mother helping her Daughter raise her child or a Father giving advice to his Son. Imagine a child having two loving Mothers or two adoring Fathers? Awful stuff altogether.
  5. You’re a moron: That’s right. You should definitely vote No if you are a moron. If you believe it is absolutely paramount to deny equality to all people then you should vote no. If you believe that not all people deserve happiness then vote no. If you believe you have the right to interfere in other peoples decisions and who they can marry then vote no.

Ireland is on the verge of change right now. We have some very draconian traditions and laws which quite simply have no place in the modern world. Love is one of those things you don’t choose, it just happens. To live in a country where you are made to feel like a second class citizen because you are denied a basic right afforded to others must be heart breaking and utterly demoralising.

I became a father recently. My little girl is on the verge of turning 6 months old. I want nothing but happiness for her in her future. If she grows up and decides that she would like to marry the love of her life then I hope she can do so without impediment. It shouldn’t matter if that person is a male or a female, it should only matter that she loves them and that they love her.

I’ll be voting Yes in this election. My generation and the generations before me still refer to people as straight people, gay people, lesbian people, transgender people and bisexual people. Maybe a yes vote will take us one step closer to my Daughters generation just having people. One big group of happy people.

The Sugar Loaf

Like hill walking and hiking but haven’t got a full day to throw at it? Then The Sugar Loaf in County Wicklow is ideal for you (If you live nearby that is).

The Sugar Loaf is a quick climb, not necessarily easy, but quick. It suits all fitness levels. Beginners, intermediates and advanced climbers all enjoy this hike and the views it offers from the peak. Don’t forget to pack a camera and a bit of lunch for the top.

Another benefit of The Sugar Loaf is that you can try out your gear in a controlled environment where you’re not stuck in the wilds of nature. For instance, if you’ve bought a new jacket/pants/boots and you want to check out if they will actually protect you against the elements then this kind of hike may be the place to see if they actually can keep the wind and rain out.

There are many places from where you can start your climb. However, if you are looking to get in a quick hike then I would recommend parking at the car park on the L1031 just off the R755 road to Glendalough. As per usual, don’t leave anything in the car. During peak times (weekends, school holidays etc) the car park will fill up, so try and get there early. If it’s full then exercise patience, there is a good rotation of hill walkers and a space will open up quickly.

There are a few different routes you can take up to the top. Up the front is full of loose shale, so is more challenging. The sides are more hands on and full of rocks to get over.

Where to park and where to climb.
Where to park and where to climb.

The left route as you’re walking up is more straightforward, while the route to your right offers a bit more of a challenge. Whichever route you choose just watch your step. Plenty of bones have been broken on this climb when people stopped paying attention. Yes, it’s a small hike, but that doesn’t mean the wind, the elements or the rocks won’t knock you on your ass.

Once you get to the top all the effort is worth it. The views stretching up and down the coast are breathtaking. You’ll also get to see Dublin and Wicklow from an outstanding perspective. On a good day you may even see down to Wexford and as far as Meath. Look away from the Irish Sea and you’ll see the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains, your next step.

Where will you be in 5 years?

This is a question that runs alongside “Tell me your Faults”. Although this one makes a bit more sense. It shows thought and foresight. Have you thought about where you’ll be in 5 years time?

Really though, it’s a rabbit hole of a question, it could go anywhere! It takes on many different connotations as well. Where do you realistically see yourself in 5 years? Where would you like to be in 5 years? If you could be doing anything in 5 years, what would it be? So really, when the question is asked in an interview what are they asking? Do they want the glib response of “busting my ass for you making you more money”? Do they want you to burst out, rip the tie off and exclaim “I’ll be running a bar on a hidden island in Thailand!”. No. No, I don’t think it’s that second one.

So what do you do? Well, sitting back, taking your time and considering your answer is a good start. There’s no universally correct answer to this question. Unfortunately you’ll have to just base it on how the interview is going. Is it a job you could see yourself turning it into a career? If yes, say it. If not, say something you would like to move towards. Whatever you say try and avoid saying “not working here, I’ll move on as quickly as possible actually!”. Unless, ya know, you really don’t want the job, then say that.

The manner in which you answer that question will reflect on the potential investment that the people in front of you are considering placing in your employment. Remember, there are human beings on the other side of the table, so try and be honest without appearing to be insincere or ridiculous.

So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?!

Hiking Tips

I like the auld bit of hiking. The whole thing of getting outdoors and pushing yourself. It’s a great mix of nature and exercise. When you’re doing it you’ll often see other hill-walkers and climbers and you’ll exchange a pleasant hello and maybe a bit of banter. Then you encounter the people who don’t do it as much and you’d almost have to pay them to talk to you.

The first group are grand. They’re friendly and welcoming and usually share the same interests. Mainly being the love of getting out. They’ll also have a common look about them. They’ve got the gear and they genuinely look happy about being out. If you’re planning on getting into hill-walking or climbing the bigger mountains there are a couple of things you should put on a checklist;

  • Clothing: Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. Head to any of the many outdoors shops around Ireland and you’re sure to pick up proper pants, t-shirts, jumpers, jackets and socks. They’ll make a big difference to your morale and indeed your safety. In winter time and in cooler weather warm and appropriate clothing could be the difference between a successful climb and an accident. Hats, gloves, scarves should all be in your bag. Bring spares as well. Spare socks and tops are the big ones, but try fit some spare pants in there too.
  • Footwear: Invest in decent boots. Decent boots will pay dividends in protecting your feet and keeping you steady on the rocks. Don’t just buy the cheapest or indeed the most expensive pair. Try them on, see if they support your ankle and the sole of your foot. These two things will be most likely to bother you on a hike. Also, try and make sure they’re waterproof. Mountains and hills tend to have rivers, bogs, large ponds. Soggy socks will ruin your day. Gators are handy too.
  • Equipment: Walking poles are extremely handy. Especially on windy days and on longer hikes. They are very effective in helping you climb and keep your balance. Know how to use them. When you should keep them shorter and when they should be longer. They’ll also make for handy splints if you or one of your party hurts something in a fall or slip. Bring a compass and map and do your best to keep orientated on your hike. Electronic GPS devices are cool and all but can be absolutely useless. Try and do a bit of research on your route as well. Do not rely on your phone for anything but calling for help.
  • First Aid: Bring a basic first aid kit. Plasters, scissors, bandages, that kind of thing. You may not need them but somebody else who is injured may need them. They weigh very little so why not bring them.
  • Supplies: Food and water are the big ones, especially the liquids part. For the longer hikes you will sweat and need hydration so try bring between 1.5 and 3 litres of water. Some lucozade can also be a good pick me up. Soft drinks though are mostly useless and work against your energy levels and hydration. Brings snacks and a main snack for when you reach your peak. Fruit, sandwiches, tins of tuna are all good choices. A hot drink in a flask can also boost you on the trip. Toilet paper. Bring toilet paper. You never know when you’ll need it, but surely it’s one of those things you’d rather not miss having.
  • Talk: Tell people where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be. That way if you get injured or stranded you shouldn’t be missing for too long. If you’re driving try not to hide your car when you park it, that way people will have a good indication as to where you started.
  • Bag: why bring all that nice dry stuff and then bring a bag that will soak up the water like a sponge. A good waterproof bag will cost you between €30-€50 and will come with a cover for when (WHEN) it rains. Try go for a 33/35 litre bag, they’re the perfect size. Lots of places to put all your stuff.
  • The Weather: The weather rules, you will not beat it. Look at the forecast. If it’s not too bad you’re good to go. If it’s to be particularly poor then maybe choose a different hike or less challenging route.
  • Plan: Have a plan (at least a rough one). Know where you’re going, what to expect, when the sun goes down, the basics really. Plan to bring what you need. Don’t go crazy though, there’s no point lugging a massive pack around if you’re only out for a relaxing hike.

The last time I went hiking with a small group there was a wind warning in effect and on a mountain or a hill you really feel that. I was fine. I was snug in my ski pants, jacket and 2 layers underneath with my hat, gloves and scarf. I was astounded and shocked by the people I saw coming up as I headed back down, the second group of people you encounter on days out. There was one group of ladies with no jacket between them all wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants with flat runners. It was a recipe for disaster and on the way down I could hear it in them.

One lady complained that she couldn’t feel her hands and nearly started crying. I don’t blame her. As she was saying that her friends where leaving her there. Which was in particularly poor form as the one lady with a small bottle of water had passed me already. They were clearly not prepared for the day that was in it and the climb ahead. I also once encountered two hikers who had relied on their GPS, which failed them. They went a long way in the wrong direction. Luckily for them it wasn’t too late to correct their mistake.

In not preparing in even the slightest way they were putting themselves at risk. In doing that they were putting others in harms way. If we’ve seen anything over the past few months it is that there is a network of brave volunteers out there who are prepared and ready to go rescue and help people who get stuck or injured. Yes, sometimes the shit just hits the fan and you need to get help. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that they wouldn’t have to go out so much if people just got the basics right.

So…KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Plan ahead and try avoid the hassle of making the news. Try not to go beyond your abilities. Over time you will be able to do more, but take it easy. Most importantly, get out there and enjoy yourself. Take in the fresh air, the sights and the relaxing feeling that comes with putting your boots on the ground.

Please do share your own tips in the comments below. What would you add in?

The Tank was Empty

Myself and the wife have been fairly good at keeping up the Couch to 5K, although for the sake of honesty I’ll say that the good lady has been a lot better at it than I. But hey, it’s not a race, thankfully.

This morning was odd, I just wasn’t feeling it at all. The Tank was Empty. I had no get up and go and I most definitely had that familiar anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach and it was not nice. I have gotten this in the past and I’ve just kept going and it usually went away. However, this morning was different and difficult. The anxious feeling I had affected my legs and I literally had no energy. Into my third lap I just had to stop. There was nothing there and I just had to stop.

Today is also my counselling day. The day when I head up to Navan and talk through the issues which have been taking their toll on me and indeed on the people around me. Today I felt bad, last Monday I didn’t, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Today I could talk about what was going on and see what bubbled to the service. Christmas 2012 was when I lost an important person in my life, my father died. It’s half the reason I’m going to counselling now, so I can be around for my daughter for as long as possible. Not long after going in did I start to talk about that and I did something I haven’t done in a long time.

I cried.

I cried about missing him, about what’s gone on since he died and about what he’s missing in my beautiful daughter. It hurt to bring it out, but it felt a lot better. It was like a weight was lifted from me and I felt energised. It’s amazing how what was primarily a mental block had manifested itself in such a strong physical way. I wasn’t feeling what was going on up top so my body decided to make me listen.

That’s ok though, I should listen to my body, to what it tells me. Some days you just need to stop and take it easy or you’ll be made to.

It was nice to have that revelation and to not feel crazy for still going through the grieving process even this far down the road. But then that doesn’t hold much water either. Grief doesn’t care for my time schedule. It could be twenty years later and I’d still miss him.

It’s all about watching out for the little things and giving yourself a break every now and then.

Modern Marketing

Marketing, it has really changed beyond recognition and beyond what it used to be. The theory was that you developed the campaigns, you initiated the roll out of the campaign, you managed it and you accepted the kudos when you compiled the metrics to prove your campaign worked. However, it doesn’t really work like that anymore, does it?

The fact is that your marketing department doesn’t even show up for work, will probably never sit behind a desk in your offices and you probably won’t even pay them a cent. But they are absolutely invaluable to you. Thanks to the ever increasing use of smartphones and tablets in the Irish market they are now more empowered than they have ever been. The truth is that your most influential marketing people are sitting behind their screens and contemplating what value your brand brings to their lives. They are posting on Instagram, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and every manner of sharing site. It is now easier than it ever has been for your market to shout about you for all the world to hear. Be careful though, they’re shouting good and bad things!

Marketing used to be the thing which led the customers purchasing decisions, now the customers are taking charge of that experience. It may be time to accept that marketing is no longer in the hands of the companies, but is now in the hands of the consumer. So what is marketing now? It’s getting people talking and getting them to recommend the experience. Surely modern marketing is about getting all your potential and existing consumers to become your brand ambassadors.

The marketing world is going to have to accept that consumers are now leading the experience and are no longer being led by it or even to it. They are listening, but have become numb to the messages from the brands, they are listening to each other. That is empowering and they are realising how empowering. Instead of trusting your word for how delicious your food is they’re checking with their friends or they’re checking what people online are saying.

Modern marketing is now more of a customer care experience than a sales pitch. Unfortunately it’s no longer good enough to simply keep shouting about how good you are. You have got to treat your customer like they are worth their weight in gold, brand gold. They are your message, they are your billboard, they are your radio ad, your TV spot and your social media marketing. Give them a reason to talk and they will talk. Make your brand worth discussing and make it approachable. Most importantly, make it for the people who are going to be involved with it. If your brand can give people a total customer experience then you are already marketing yourself. A simple hello and smile at the door, or however you greet your consumer, will pay more dividends then 1,000 leaflets dropped through letterboxes.

Modern marketing must take in the traditional ethos of the Customer being King, while remembering that they have a mass communication device no more than 30 seconds away from their fingertips. Never before has the ordinary person in the street had such a powerful voice and ability to make or break a brand. Treat the people well, get them talking, make them the brand ambassadors and they’ll even pay you for the pleasure. The power is with the people.

With all that in mind, you need to shake up your brand, your marketing department is talking!

5 Good Things

All too often I concentrate on the negative things. The negative things about myself and the negative things going on around me. I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try and concentrate on some good things about me and good things going on around me.

So here ya go, just what you’ve been waiting for, 5 good things about me:

  1. I am well educated: I get hung up on the education thing. I did not do well in school. However, since then, I did educate myself and I did find the motivation to pull my thumb out of my ass. I have many letters after my name. Among them are MBS. I completed my Masters in Marketing from DCU Business School in 2010. That was an important personal and educational milestone to reach. Especially so considering I had a teacher in school who convinced me I could do no better than a C in ordinary level English in the Leaving Cert, that was a knock to the confidence and a pretty horrible thing for her to say. I got an A1 in the end.
  2. I have jumped (fallen) out of a plane: I did this mostly to see what it was like. I did this four times and loved it each time. It made me believe that I’m either very brave or very stupid, I’m still not sure. I’m glad I had the balls to get into the plane, leave solo, plummet towards the Earth and keep the head. Again, a big milestone.
  3. I have climbed two of the highest peaks: In Ireland, nowhere else, just yet. I know I still have two to go. However, it’s nice to know I can set my sights on something and do it. It’s important to know that you can keep going even when your body is screaming at you to stop.
  4. I have a wife and child now: It’s nice. It’s a lot of pressure. Sometimes you don’t know what the hell is going on (with the child mostly (just kidding dearest wife)). It’s nice to have people in your life who you know are a massive part of yours and that you are a massive part of theirs. I make my wife smile and laugh and my 3 month old daughter is starting to laugh at with me too. I can make people happy just by being there and that is a very good thing.
  5. I am strong: OK, this is a very simple one but it’s always nice to be strong. It’s comforting to know that you can be the heavy lifter in the house.

So there’s 5 things which are good about me. When you’re getting bogged down by all the negative thoughts running through your head then maybe it’s time to take a step back grab a piece of paper and just write down 5 good things about yourself. If you can’t do it then maybe ask someone else to.

No matter how much of a bad guy you believe yourself to be there will always be redeeming features. It may seem a little self indulgent, but sometimes you really do need to concentrate on yourself before you lose yourself.