fun video

What if you didn’t own a car anymore?

I own a car. When it dies, I may not buy another. In fact, I may never own another car again in my lifetime.

I don’t want to be careless. I’d rather be carless.

This is a shocking statement for a middle-aged Michigan suburbanite to make. For a time, I worked in the auto industry. Almost everyone I know here is dependent on cars for their livelihood. Many even derive their identity and social status from the type of car they own.

A car isn’t what people drive: it’s who they are. 

So how could I say “I’m not buying another car” — and still expect to have friends? Will I ever be invited to parties again?

Sure. From time to time, I say things that upset my friends. We all do.

But when I announce that I’ve had it with car ownership, my friends and colleagues regard me with amusement. They react as if I’ve told them a joke. 

But I’m not kidding. Here’s my reality:

I bought a brand new car in 2003: cash, no note. It’s still in good shape. Today, I mostly bop around town in it. 

I pay $700.50/year in annual car insurance. Between oil changes, repairs, licensing fees, and fuel: that’s another $1K. So I’ll round up and say I have operating costs of around $2K/year.

(Notice how I’m not even counting original costs, depreciation, loss of interest, parking, or storage. If I did, that would be another $2K a year.)

Many would characterize my car situation as “dirt cheap”. But today, I consider my car ownership a luxury. I needed a car in the ’00’s – but do I really need it anymore?

What I’m really paying for is convenience. If I have a whim to go somewhere at any time, I can indulge it.

I don’t have to think or plan. I’m paying for the privilege of being mindless: for the illusion of being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want.

But $2-4K a year? It seems excessive.

I work out of my home office. Most of what I do and where I go is within 2 miles of my home. I walk almost everywhere. Further, technological advances are changing the way I think about car ownership.

For most client work, I use online tools. We meet using Skype and Hangouts: or Zoom and BlueJeans. That’s a giant change from 2003, where most client meetings and work needed to be in person.

I avoided renting a car for business travel this year. Not once so far! (Fingers crossed.)

For some meetings and events, I still need to be physically present. For example, I can drive to and from one client’s office in 22 minutes. A bike takes 40 minutes. The bus? 84 minutes — but only when it’s on time. (The bus is almost never on time in my home town of Grand Rapids.)

Further, I can only take the bike or bus on mild days. I can’t show up to client meetings covered in rain, snow, or sweat. Getting to the airport for out-of-town work? It requires a car service: taxi, limo, Lyft, etc. 

While I use my car for some trips — I find myself using it less over time. In 2016, I drove it a total of 3,104 miles. In 2017? I drove 2,604 miles. 

So if you’re like me and would prefer not to own another car: let’s do a thought experiment. What would happen if my reliable old car stopped working today?

I wouldn’t buy another. Rather, I’d bike more. I’d walk even more than I already do. I’d use ride services like Lyft more. 

I’d probably invest in an electric bicycle, to give me an assist as I go up more hills. Until autonomous ride-hailing becomes reality, I’d rent cars for out-of-town business trips. I’d also use public transportation more. 

Without a car, I’d be less thoughtless and spontaneous. I’d be more thoughtful about planning my time and trips. 

I’d probably have to buy more goods online. This means saying bye-bye to monthly trips to Costco. (This popular online warehouse is a 26 minute round trip drive from my home, but it’s 2+ hour trip by bus. Over an hour of that bus trip involves walking to bus stops. With heavy parcels? Costco’s free snacks are nice, but a big warehouse in the middle-of-nowhere-with-a-huge-parking-lot? That model’s not gonna work in my near future.)

Socially, I know some friends would be upset by my lack of car. My curtailed spontaneity will be inconvenient for them.

Other friends are supportive. In a small town in Michigan in 2018, I suspect “going carless” would generate some gossip.

But in a short time, gossip will stop. And soon, going carless will be seen as normal. Everyone will be doing it. 

When more people stop buying cars, neighborhoods change. Public transportation improves. Communities plan infrastructure with walking and biking in mind.

People will say “hi” more. Health improves as people bike and walk more in fresher air. Small neighborhood businesses spring up and thrive on popular walking/biking routes.

Am I wrong about some of these positive aspects of giving up on car ownership? Am I dreaming?

Will we soon see significant social, economic, and environmental changes brought about by the decline of car culture? Or do people love the idea of cars too much to give them up, no matter what the costs?

I dunno. I still can’t figure out what we’ll all do with all our empty garages and parking lots. Build the next great technology, I guess. Or start a grunge band. I like to tinker and experiment, so maybe I’ll do more of that. 

How do you feel about the mere idea of giving up your car…for good? Does it fill you with thoughts of dread and anger? Or do you have a more sunny view of your carless future?

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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communication design

Do we need business cards any more? Really?

I’m going to save a tree. I’ll stop handing out business cards.

Do we really need business cards anymore?

I find that when I go out to meet people, I’m more inclined to exchange LinkedIn information. Other people I know exchange electronic contact info to stay in touch. 

When someone tries to hand me a business card, I usually try to ward them off. I know I’m only going to throw it away later. It seems like a waste.

My compromise solution for next year is to only order a few cards. If someone demands one and I deem it necessary, I can hand one out. I’ll keep an eye on how many I hand out, and try to whittle it down to zero.

I’m thinking business cards may just be a bad habit that I need to break for the new year. Business cards seem like a holdover habit from a bygone era.

Or is there a compelling case for business cards that I’m not grasping?

Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte.


VIDEO: the importance of both focus and unfocus

In my workshop for content writers, I talk about the importance of being both focused and unfocused.

We need to be focused to be productive. And that’s why we do things like set deadlines and write outlines. So that we can be productive and stay focused.

But I also talk about the importance of being unfocused, so that we can be creative. And one of the ways that I like to stay unfocused while I’m writing is to go out and take a walk.

So I do try to balance the being focused and being unfocused. Focused for productivity, and unfocused for creativity.

How do you strike that balance between focused and unfocused and productive and creative throughout your writing day?

Let me know your techniques. Pop me a line at YouTube or Twitter


Write the way your best customers talk to their friends.

OK Google. Cortana. Siri. Alexa.

We’re all using voice and audio interfaces right now. 

If you’re interested in voice search optimization and writing content for your brand’s voice — go ahead. Do a search for some how-to articles on writing for voice and voice optimization.

After you’ve completed your search…I have three questions for you:

  1. Did you use your fingers or voice to complete your search?
  2. Did you try both?
  3. If you did both, did you use different words for each type of search?

What differences did you notice? And even with the differences in the words you used — did your voice search yield different results from your finger-based search?

If you’ve read a few articles, you’ll note that almost all of them told you this piece of advice:

“Write more conversationally.”

Using your own voice to write more conversational content is a great idea. But also listen carefully to how your own audience talks.

In particular: what words and phrases do your best customers use when they use their voices? Do they talk differently to their phones than they do to their friends and colleagues? (Hint: they usually do.)

How I might talk to a friend or colleague
How I might talk to my phone

To make a stronger emotional connection, honor the word choices and syntax of your best customers.  Listen to the way they talk to people they like: but also listen to the way they talk to their phones or devices. 

Note the differences. When you reflect the word choices of your audience, you can subtly make a stronger brand and emotional connection if you mirror the way they talk to their friends, not their devices.

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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Coaching content ideas public speaking

Walk and Talk: give it a try

I went for a walk in the park. As I walked, I talked.

I attached an $11.99 lapel mic to my phone, and talked for four minutes straight. With Google Docs Voice Typing on my phone, my words were instantly transcribed into a document.

When I got back to the studio, I had a 552 word first draft. And only one error.

Basically, I talked my way through an idea I had been wrestling with in the office. The idea was going nowhere, so I took a walk. 

And you know what happens when you take a walk. It’s like taking a shower. A new idea hits you while you’re walking. Instead of letting the idea go, I captured it with my voice.

In only 4 easy minutes, I had captured 552 words. It ate up only 13.79 MB of data. And Google Docs Voice Typing? It made only one mistake, and this mistake was entirely justifiable. 

The mistake? I walked across a wooden pedestrian bridge. It had been raining, so the bridge was slick. I unexpectedly slid for about 3 feet.

I made a bit of a screech as I slid. Google interpreted my unintelligible utterance as the word “seat”.

Even with my insane outburst: I logged 552 words, with one 1 error, in 4 minutes. Can your fingers do that? I don’t know about yours, but mine can’t. 

If it has been a few years since you’ve tried voice typing, try again. It’s come a long way in the past few years.

Did I look insane as I walked and talked? Probably. But no more crazy than someone who walks and talks on their cell phone. Because that’s literally what I was doing.

The guy throwing Frisbees to his black Labrador didn’t even seem to notice me. Neither did the dog.

How do you feel about walk and talks? Too crazy? Or something you think you might want to try?

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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Coaching communication crisis Education video

Don’t let cold hands stop you from writing: try Voice Typing

Sometimes, voice typing can come in handy for really unexpected reasons!

It’s October 1, and it’s freezing. My poor fingers are now cramped from typing in a cold room all morning.

Google Voice Typing to the rescue! I’ll open up Google Docs, activate voice typing, and talk through a first draft. 

Google Voice Typing within Google Docs comes to the rescue of cold, cramped hands!

I can always go back in and edit this first draft with my fingers later. But for right now, I’ve got deadlines to meet. I can’t let cold hands stop me from writing!

There are three other great reasons to use voice typing instead of finger typing for a first draft:

  1. You talk faster than you type. With voice typing, you can increase your total word count.
  2. You shut off your internal editor. When you talk, you resist the temptation to edit yourself as you’re talking.
  3. You reduce distractions. You’re not goofing around on social media or opening up another tab on your browser. You’re talking.

I find myself using voice typing a lot now. I get 97% accuracy with no special equipment. I just use the mic that comes with my $320 laptop.

No big whoop. In the olden days, you needed a special microphone and pricey software. Now, you can probably just use equipment you have on hand.

Voice recognition is getting better all the time. It makes sense.

Think about how many of those Google Home devices have been in use over the past year. Or how many times people use their Android devices to say “OK, Google” — then use their voices to issue a command.

Google is drawing on an enormous amount of data to be able to understand a wide variety of voices. I expect Google’s accuracy will only get better over time.

Cortana and Alexa and Siri? If they work for you, great. But they don’t work for me.

In my experience, Cortana, Alexa, and Siri are far slower and less accurate than Google. And this makes sense: these services aren’t drawing from the vast amount of voice data that Google continues to collect.

If you haven’t checked out voice typing in a while, give it another try. You may find that it works better than you ever expected!

(And as the weather gets colder, I’ll probably use voice typing even more.)

Are you a voice typing fan? Why or why not?

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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Coaching Presentation public speaking video

Hey, you used to ❤ Show & Tell. What happened?

Hey remember third grade? You got up and you did show-and-tell and  you loved it. ❤

You didn’t feel nervous or anxious. So what changed?

What made you thrilled about public speaking when you were eight… and anxious about it as an adult?

Three things:

One: you’re more inhibited as an adult. You now know you stand the risk of ridicule or humiliation.

Two: you tell yourself the stakes have changed. What you’re doing now is just so much more important than when you were eight!

And three, you stopped practicing. In school, you did book reports oral reports plays and sports… and you did it on the regular.

One, two, & three?

They all add up to one diagnosis: you are living in your head. That is what’s making you anxious about public speaking.

So, get out of your head. Get up. Find opportunities to speak in front of people.

Do it today. When you practice regularly, you’ll feel way less anxious & way more confident.

Anxious Public Speaking V. Third Grade Show-n-Tell

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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Coaching communication Presentation public speaking video

Power posing debunked: the truth about power poses

Some people feel scared or nervous before they deliver a speech. To gain confidence, they might go somewhere private right before they speak and strike what’s called a power pose.

This is a broad, expansive gesture like putting your arms over your head and looking up. It’s a classic pose of someone who just won!

Someone who’s victorious. A champion!

Or they might stand with their hands on theirs hips while looking up. Just like a superhero! Strong, confident, large and in charge!

And these kinds of expansive poses are a form of warm up exercise. You can gain emotional energy from putting your body into these types of postures that make you feel more powerful.

Huddling and crouching? Those are classic postures we adopt when we feel scared or submissive.

Huddling and crouching poses send a message to your brain to feel afraid. Using broad gestures sends a message to your brain to feel confident.

And while the science on power posing isn’t exactly clear right now, consider this: warm-up exercises have been a part of theater tradition for a long, long time. That’s because the warm up exercises you perform off stage can help you project the emotional energy you want to portray onstage.

Power posing is actual a riff on an old acting technique. It’s a simple but powerful warmup exercise. And it’s one that’s worth trying.

After all, when you’re performing on stage or in front of a camera, you need to put out about 25 percent more energy than you might do in a normal, everyday conversation.

If you’re just being ‘yourself’ on camera — and you don’t project a little more emotional energy that you normally would, you’re probably going to come across as lifeless and flat.

Actors often do warmups before they go on stage.

Professional performers know it’s way easier to come down from an amped up emotional state than it is to try to ramp up to a heightened emotional state.

So if you don’t believe in the science of power posing, why not take a centuries old tip from the world of acting and performance?

Get yourself a ritual. Try some warmups before you hit the stage.

Look at it this way. You have nothing – zero – to lose.

And best of all, you might be delighted by the results you achieve with a few simple warmup exercises before your next speech or presentation. Give them a try. Let me know how power posing works out for you.

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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Coaching communication Presentation

Don’t create a false sense of urgency

I got a special offer in the mail on Saturday. It was marked “Urgent”.

I felt puzzled. After all, the mail isn’t an urgent medium. The postal service takes its time.

But I skimmed the letter, anyway. It offered me 20 bucks if I would do a thing.

I don’t even want to know what the thing is. I read a few paragraphs and got bored. I shredded the letter.

A few moments later, I got an email from an organization marked “urgent”. I read a few paragraphs of babble, then deleted it.

We all know the score by now. Messages marked “urgent” aren’t urgent.

Twenty bucks of “free” means I’m going to become an indebted servant to some corporate scheme that’s going to drain my resources and patience for years. And if it takes someone 3 paragraphs to get to the point, there’s no urgency.

If it’s really urgent, you don’t say “urgent”.

You say “fire”. You scream “get out”.

I don’t need corporations creating a false sense of urgency for me. Children are being separated from their families. People are being rounded up in the streets. We’re surrounded by matters of real urgency.

Marking something “urgent” means it’s “urgent” for them to make money. It’s not urgent enough for your immediate response.

You’ve got better things to do with your life.

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching communication

My one (really obvious) tip that can make you amazing at reading body language…

You’re a bit psychic. You may not know this. But you can forecast the near future pretty well.

For example, you can look at a stranger’s face as she walks toward you in a crowded airport. With one wordless glance, you know where she’s going next.

In a split second, you’ve analyzed her facial expressions and body language. Expertly, you navigate around her as she travels to her intended destination.

Oh, you don’t know whether she will be going to Bangkok or Paris. But you know that stranger is going to walk to the left as she passes you.

That’s why you walked to the right. You avoided collision as you both made your way to your next destination.

Perhaps you perform small actions like these hundreds of times a day. You read people. You glance at their body language and facial expressions.

You gauge intentions. You make split second calculations as you navigate through time and space.

You do all this without words. You don’t think twice about it.

It’s too ingrained. Too basic. Too obvious.

Or is it?

Your ability to understand other people without them saying anything?

It’s actually amazing.

And your ability to communicate without using words? Also amazing.

Yet we often dismiss or ignore this kind of nonverbal communication. We take it for granted. And when we ignore it– we can get into big trouble.

We’ll stand at a crosswalk, absorbed in our phones. Our faces and bodies aren’t signaling our intentions to passing motorists. 

Passing motorists don’t know how to interpret this. They don’t know what our next move will be.

That’s because we’re not using our bodies to signal to the world around us. Instead, we’re using our faces and bodies to communicate to another world – a digital world.

The digital world is much (much) less urgent. 

We almost always get in trouble when we ignore communication fundamentals. This morning, I read a headline:

Honolulu is the first big US city to ban phone use at crosswalks

I actually read this headline out loud, while shaking my head.

“Not a bad idea” said a colleague. His face, 4 meters or so from mine, was buried in a mobile device.

Got that? He didn’t gauge my feelings on the subject. He responded to my words without looking at me. He didn’t see me shake my head.

“Is it a good idea?” I thought. I stared at him and arched an eyebrow with skepticism.

The Honolulu scenario is too Orwellian for my tastes. I like the idea of safer crosswalks. But I don’t like the idea of ‘distracted thoughtpolice’ issuing tickets for ‘distracted thoughtcrimes’. Surely there must be a better way to help people.”

That’s what I was thinking. But my colleague? He never looked at me to read my expression.

He had no idea I was ruminating on Orwell and the thoughtpolice. He kept staring and poking at his device. I grinned and shook my head at the irony.

I doubt issuing him a distracted thoughtcrime ticket would help our situation. Nonetheless, I could tell by his body language he wasn’t really interested in the headline or my feelings on it. I let it go.

The skeptical raise of my eyebrow? My ironic smile? The shake of my head? My colleague’s disinterested tone and bent head?

All minutia. Subtle little gestures with little long term impact or significance.

Or might they mean more than that?

Could missing day-to-day nonverbal cues like these threaten our chances at survival? Perhaps not with the immediacy of an oncoming car.

But over time, these minute miscalculations can erode the strength of our relationships and our communities.

But we can increase our body language competency with one simple tip:

Look up.

Seriously. That’s it. It’s the first obvious step we can all take to become amazing at reading body language.

Look up.

Sounds too basic, right? Give it a whirl, anyway.

Try being present. Notice the nuances.

We all communicate more than we know without even trying. And we all understand more than we know without half-thinking about it.

So think about it. (At least start by half-thinking about it.)

You’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t look up. You might miss an oncoming car.

That would be great.

But by looking up, you can also gain a more powerful understanding of the emotional context of the life you’re living. Don’t miss out.

Look up.

Use your eyes from Establishing Credibility as a Speaker by Laura Bergells

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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