All keynotes matter, but some matter more than others...

This weekend I was invited to be keynote speaker and entertainer to 1500 recovering addicts at the Narcotics Anonymous “Clean and Free 2019” convention. They gave me an hour at the Ocean Shores Convention Center and let me have free reign of the stage, no holds barred, no limit on content, language, or approach, to share whatever I wanted. I wanted to hit the audience with ideas about authentic connection, vulnerability, taking real risks with people we love, and staying true to ourselves and our commitments…and I wanted and to do that in a way which challenged myself immensely while delivering that material. I’ve been slaying onstage speaking recently, so I decided on a totally different approach I rarely if ever try: standup comedy. Its terrifying for me to be that exposed, but if you want to truly live, you go where the terror is.

I had a huge emotional buy in to this particular audience because I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with their community in the past half a year or so, both through writing workshops and in social settings. While I’ve never been in their program, I quit drinking on my own in September of 1988 and that fact alone was enough to connect immediately with the audience. I felt an urgency to share, excitement through the roof to be on that stage, and it all resonated with that audience on a topic which let them - and me - laugh at ourselves. That was the key: looking at ourselves as insecure, frightened, terrified creatures who constantly make huge mistakes. I decided to talk about how romantic relationships with an addict often turn into chaotic train wrecks. Response was ridiculous, like off the charts. I went on to turn the jokes entirely on myself, talking about how I have to break what seems to be an addiction in myself to dating people in recovery, even though we know how these situations will turn out. It was a perfect premise for a comedy set: me seemingly talking about faults in the audience but really recognizing that these faults were totally connected to and similar to my own. The audience was howling in the best way. I was speaking their language. More like our shared language.

Standup comedy in front of 1500 people with no limits to content was both terrifying and absolutely awesome. What can we achieve when there are no boundaries? It felt like liberation of the self mixed with a passionate maniacal creative rage. I loved it. I recorded the first three minutes of it (the intro basically), but won’t be posting it anytime soon. I am going to keep it relatively close instead and just love reflecting on it as an achievement. There have been some solid achievements recently. Winning The MOTH in Seattle, my keynote to a high performance corporate leadership team of just 23 people at a resort in Hawaii last month, and now this. I’ve shared the audio with close friends, and from the comedians in my life who have heard it the response has been really positive and that says a lot. In writing material, professional comedians talk about LPM, laughs per minute. This hit that mark for sure. But more important for me was the challenge. Saying yes to moving into something truly challenging and finding inspiration from within to see what would happen.

It wasn’t the scary monster I had expected. When you unleash and have an immediate need to do so, and when you know your audience and actually care, the truth comes out - and if you’re vulnerable and real - its automatically going to be relatable and probably very funny too. And you likely won’t die from sharing. You just own whats yours, share it like its the last few minutes of your life, and more than anything else, invite the audience into the experience as well.

Afterwards, I got hugs and thanks for hours after the event. That’s pretty typical for that community: hugs all around (and we laughed about that too from the stage). But these were better than typical hugs, because they had sincere words of connection and thanks for reflecting the paths we have taken in a way which made us all laugh at how ridiculous our life choices with one another can be. There was so much courage in that room. The courage to look at ourselves and see imperfect beings trying to get by in a world which makes no sense sometimes. And how all too often we are the ones who create the chaos ourselves.

All keynotes matter, but this one hit a different mark: from a place of necessity, with an audience who truly felt like home.

Iceland Spoken Word Tour - May 2019

When life and love leave you longing for warmth, there’s only one thing to do: fly halfway around the world to a land of ice and tell people about it. 

A multi-city spoken word tour of Iceland, May 2019. This one is a dream come true. Thanks to Ægir Freyr Birgisson for setting this up.  Three shows. The first in Reykjavik. The second 400km north of there in Akureyri. And the third in a lighthouse (yes, IN A LIGHTHOUSE) on the western coast in Akranes.

Theme: “the cold, the warmth, this life, this love, this loss”.

Ten days of submerging myself in Icelandic hot springs and a drive around the periphery of the entire country ensue before the tour starts. Long awaited, much needed. 

Adventure always. Seek hungrily. Have passion lead. Let the broken heart follow. The world awaits.

(Poster design brilliantly done by Eagle Barber Design of Los Angeles California: WEB: www.eaglebarberdesign.com - INSTAGRAM: @eagle_barber_design - EMAIL: info@eaglebarberdesign)

Full tour poster PDF downloadable HERE.


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Punk rock for the win: a keynote for just 23 people in Hawaii

Playing punk rock in venues around the world teaches you things. It teaches you that you have never sweat at any gym as much as you will sweat in a non air conditioned space with no windows in a basement packed with hundreds more people than should legally fit. It teaches you that you sleep in places where you wouldn’t let your enemies even stand. And it teaches you that it doesnt matter how many people show up at a show, because if the message in sincere, and the listening is sincere, then one person could be there and it would be more than okay. (That actually happened once: Trial played a full set to one just woman in the midwest…a woman we had invited to the show. Another story for another time…)

I got the call from a corporate client to do a keynote for a high performance leadership team of just 23 people in Honolulu Hawaii. They wanted a presentation on finding your voice and utilizing it….a presentation which was edgy and had some guts to it, and they had selected me because my website wasn’t filled with cheesy bullshit. My simmering hatred recently for cheesy bullshit is increasing like a kettle about to boil. The world is filled with empty smiles and spectacle. I am sick of the spectacle. Lets have substance rule.

So I flew to Hawaii for a handful of days to meet these people and connect. And they were total connectors. Its far more difficult to keep the attention of an audience of 23 for ninety minutes than it is to keep the attention of an audience of say two thousand for the same amount of time. The audience of thousands laugh as one, they react as one, and they essential each lose their individuality to the whole. This isn’t a terrible situation for the speaker as it makes my job easier to have one mass of humanity responding as if they were one person. In those cases I just need to hit the core of the issue to which we all relate and then have a conversation with that one collective mass of people. I try to never forget that its individuals, but the individuals react as a unit. Its a social thing. Ask a sociologist sometime about it.

23 people though react differently. They keep their individuality intact, their thinking minds. They don’t fall prey to the group and to mass hysteria or hysterics. And as a result, in terms of speaking to a group that size, because it will be twenty-three individuals in the room all with their own minds intact and working, there are two things you can do before you speak. 1. Run in terror right before you’re introduced and hide for the duration of the keynote and ruin everything. 2. Remember that you’re in conversation and throw your insecurities out the window because you’re stronger than that. You dont have to succumb to the “EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT ME” voice. Of course they are. You got hired to speak. You walk out in front of them, the same way you would do at a punk rock show, and you just say hi. But this time the hi lasts ninety minutes. And you will succeed.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to speak to a small group, don’t let their eyes fool you. They are as nervous and excited as you are. They are as curious as to how its going to go as you are. They are as willing to connect and communicate as you are. If there is one person there, then you face that challenge, get intimate and real, and just talk to them. If there are 23, the same rules apply. Just be present, don’t bullshit the audience, be yourself, and be authentic. There doesn’t need to be an ego fulfilling sea of people in front of you. If your ego is in balance, it will be satisfied with the connection itself, regardless of how many people are in the room. In the book The Art of Intimacy, the authors explore how the act of connection itself - which they refer to as intimacy - brings us into being in the world. We exist as ourselves because of our connections not because of how safe we keep ourselves and closed off out of protection from those with whom we might connect.

In any situation, regardless of the size of the audience, the way through to real impact is to just breathe into it and be present in the moment. And that’s not new age silliness. Its real. Stand in front of them and be with them. Be present in that space in the same way you would with a group of trusted friends who you genuinely care about. And connect with them as if its the biggest crowd - if size matters to you - that you’ve ever spoken to before. Its all about connection, regardless of the number of people in the room.

Lessons from punk rock, #12943 or so, Honolulu Hawaii edition.

Punk Rock, and The National Association of Catering and Events (NACE)

Thank you National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) for two reasons.

First, for laughing, listening, and being so gracious with your time as you had me speak last night in Bellevue Washington about punk rock and the lessons I’ve learned amidst it about how we can find our true voices and live more authentically powerful lives. A room of corporate minded people, cheering about punk rock. Go figure. Yet it makes perfect sense. Punk is about authenticity and we CRAVE authenticity these days in a world bathed in image and surface level illusion.

The second reason I’m thankful for NACE: for surprising me by donating 50% of the proceeds collected at their conference raffle to One Hundred For Haiti and our ongoing efforts to support the mental health of former child slaves and their families.

That was a basically perfect event. Authenticity for the win, all around.

First home SOLD Benefitting One Hundred For Haiti!

Christian Castro and I are celebrating the sale of the first home in One Hundred For Haiti’s real estate partnership with Sea-Town Real Estate! See my earlier post about the partnership announcement.

For every Sea-Town client who mentions One Hundred For Haiti, Sea-Town donates 25% of their commissions on the sale or purchase of that home to One Hundred For Haiti for the development work we do in Haiti, and our plans to put roofs on as many houses as possible this coming year. 

If you're buying a place in Seattle...call them, and you'll make me jump.

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The Moth storySLAM Champion (quite unexpectedly)!

Tonight I went to The Moth in Seattle and planned to sit in back and just listen to the story tellers. At events put on by The Moth, ten random people get five minutes each to tell a story.

Tonight’s theme was “Joy”. I wasn’t even going to put my name in the hat tonight to possibly be drawn to speak. The Moth has always deeply intimidated me. At the last minute I thought, “What am I going to do...spend my entire life wanting but not trying?” And more importantly, will I let last time’s failure define tonight or will I draw inspiration from it? I folded up my name and dropped it in.

They drew my name to speak. I walked out onstage here in Seattle with one set of thoughts: be true, be in the moment, be entirely with the audience. I told a story about how joy doesn’t come to us automatically but rather we have to create it for the world.

For me this lesson came one day in 1995 when I was surrounded by dozens of stern armed soldiers in rural India and I eased the brutal tension by suddenly out of nowhere making them animal balloons and they all completely lost their minds laughing.

Authenticity for the win. Next stop Moth GrandSLAM late in 2019.

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Ninety Minute Keynote for Kaiser Permanente

Milestone achieved. Ninety minute keynote in Riverside California this morning for Kaiser Permanente’s medical leadership team about listening, speaking our minds, and building community through creativity.

Standing ovation. 

The core was essentially punk rock ideals translated for the rest of the world, which is my new approach for commercial keynotes. 

Backstage now having just walked offstage, and decompressing from the intensity and focus of it. With that sense in my heart and mind of floating, calm, coming down from anticipation and exhaustion and the pressure of my travel schedule recently which all combined last night and hit critical mass...and yet now in this perfect moment breathing deep and realizing that the entire world is possible.

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Humanitarian partnership announced with Sea-Town Real Estate!

I've been working on this all year with my friends at Sea-Town Real Estate and am so excited to announce it.

One Hundred For Haiti has teamed up with Sea-Town Real Estate to put roofs on houses in Haiti. For every house Sea-Town transacts that mentions One Hundred for Haiti, Sea-Town will donate 25% of their profits to One Hundred for Haiti. Boom! We will use those funds to help give safe new roofs to people in need, like those we've posted about on the www.onehundredforhaiti.org site.

Help spread the word about this partnership by sharing the link to this post and ask anyone in the Seattle area to not just like Sea-Town Real Estate, but to buy and sell houses through them.

Prices are falling in Seattle finally...so maybe buy two houses instead of just the one you were considering.

#seatownrealestate #westseattlerealestate #100fh #onehundredforhaiti #seatowngivesback



This video explains the partnership and our plan!

Thank you Europe for an incredible month!

Ieperfest 2018 in Belgium, onstage speaking at the Thunderdome Stage. Photo by phothomas.be

Ieperfest 2018 in Belgium, onstage speaking at the Thunderdome Stage. Photo by phothomas.be

I'm so thankful for everyone who supported the sharing of ideas from bare stages with just a microphone and a stand. There's few feelings as exciting and exhilarating than to walk out onto a stage where that mic awaits and know that there's no music to fall back on if my words or voice fail me. But this month they certainly did not. 

I recorded the shows at Ieperfest and at the Jugendcafe in Zwiesel Germany from three camera angles each AND with soundboard audio. Sometime soon I will be releasing bits of them...as soon as I can carve out the time for editing amidst creative projects now that I'm home. The live shows always matter most to me and I tend to be terrible at the promotional followup and posting of video clips. In the moment live is where my focus always goes.

The main idea of this month long tour in Europe was that our acceptance and normalization of outlandish statements from our leaders causes us to take a collective step to the political right every time we don't think/speak/question these statements actively. In some countries in Europe (Poland and Hungary stand out), political trends have moved to extreme right positions due to this process. The spoken shows this summer framed the situation from the perspective that we need to radicalize ourselves and push back towards the left if we don't want to world to slip increasingly towards extreme right wing conservativism and potentially fascism.

Figuring out how to communicate that in a way which wasn't heavy and overbearing is always the challenge but this summer, thanks to the audiences all over, hit the mark.

Thanks for everyone for laughing and listening together! More soon xxx

August 2018 News article in the local newspaper in Zwiesel Germany about how my spoken word event was followed up with a group discussion session about improving the local community through the work and action of the all ages venue itself and its volunteers.

FLUFF FEST 2018 Depression and Suicide workshop audio

Team facilitation by Greg Bennick and Emily Joy Reynolds at Fluff Fest 2018 on "Depression and Suicide - Supporting One Another and Recognizing the Signs FLUFF 2018" (For more information and to contact both facilitators, use the contact form below)

"Always The Journey" podcast episode 7 is online

"Always The Journey" podcast episode 7 is online

Jason Woodland of "Always the Journey" podcast, Salt Lake City, Utah 2018

Jason Woodland of "Always the Journey" podcast, Salt Lake City, Utah 2018

Jason Woodland of Salt Lake City Utah is a powerhouse of DIY independent personal business, investment, community development, hip hop and graffiti culture, amongst other things...and he has been my friend for 25 years.  He had me on his "Always the Journey" podcast this last week and our episode - #7 in his series - is now live!  We discussed punk rock, public speaking, personal freedom, activism, and a ton more in the span of a fast paced hour.

Please check it out here: http://alwaysthejourney.com/2018/07/15/always-the-journey-ep-7-with-greg-bennick/

 

 

Spoken word show added at the Jugendcafe, Zwiesel Germany Aug 5th 2018!

Spoken word show added at one of my favoritest (yes thats a word, I just invented it, you're welcome) venues: the Jugendcafe Zwiesel Germany, August 5th 2018.

Six or so years ago, local city officials in Zwiesel threatened to shut down the venue so that real estate developers could swoop in and claim the space. A bunch of us wrote letters and made videos strongly asking the city to back off. They did. It was a total victory for a venue with over 30 years of history supporting art and all ages music, and one which many cities could learn from.

"Living Radical Lives in Desperate Times"
8PM, doors at 7PM
www.jugendcafe-zwiesel.de
3-5€ sliding scale

Spoken word, then group discussion and networking!
Come participate!

GERMAN friends, you can read more here:

Das Jugendcafe freut sich, Greg Bennick auf seiner Vortragsreihe durch Europa in Zwiesel begrüßen zu dürfen.

Greg Bennick ist ein amerikanischer professioneller Dozent, Menschenrechtsaktivist, Musiker, Author, Schauspieler und preisgekrönter Produzent. Seine Dokumentation FLIGHT FROM DEATH wurde mehrfach als beste Dokumentation ausgezeichnet. Darüber hinaus ist der in Seattle lebende Greg Bennick federführend an der von ihm gegründeten Hilfsorganisation ONE HUNDRED FOR HAITI beteiligt.

Als Musiker ist er Sänger der Bands, TRIAL, BETWEEN EARTH & SKY sowie der Band BYSTANDER unterwegs.

Greg spielt eine Hauptrolle in dem Film 7SPLINTERS IN TIME, welcher vor einem Monat in den USA seine Premiere feierte.

In seiner künstlerischen Arbeit beschäftigt sich Greg Bennick mit dem menschlichen Bewusstsein, Gefühlen wie Angst und Aggression, Aktivismus und Motivation

Der Titel des Vortrags lautet: LIVING RADICAL LIVES IN DESPERATE TIMES (Vortrag in englisch)

Eine einmalige Chance einen der besten internationalen Dozenten im bayerischen Wald zu erleben.

Der Vortrag beginnt um 20:00.

Voice over / narration complete for WILLPOWER film

Thanks and love to Willpower Running in Europe for having me do voiceover for their new film “The Essence” about Willpower Athlete and ultra marathoner Lisa Mehl. "The Essence" was filmed, edited, and produced by Stephan Wieser and Valentin Rapp Film / Photo. Photography completed at the Zugspitz Ultratrail in Germany. Narration co-written between Chris Zehetleitner of Willpower and me over an excited 24 hours last week.

Watch the full video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Ief9Wba9Mwk. Click subtitles for the German version. And check out Willpower online HERE.

The here and now. Not alone but on your own. Surroundings vanish. Thoughts melt. The people around you fade out, becoming shadows. Your challenge comes into sharper focus. And then there is motion.

This struggle is consuming and liberating at the same time. Suffering is ever-present but also meaningless. Following a given path, created by no one but yourself. Breathing in pain. Exhaling sheer power.

‘Home‘ is not only a physical place anymore. It’s somewhere enshrined in your heart. A goal. A momentary respite along the way. Warmth and solace rise from small gifts. But these are not to be savored too sweetly. You are soon alone again.

All you have to give is being taken, used, exhausted. Redemption remains unclear. It is a dark place. It is a path of opposites. But you love it here. And you have entered this place on your own accord.

In time, everything becomes clear. And amidst the constant motion you realize… “I am a runner.”

Spoken word show announced for July 22nd in Southampton England

I am heading back to Europe this July for a series of spoken shows. And since I can't just say Europe and have that include England any longer thanks to silly Brexit, I am posting this show separately than a Europe announcement. Ideas on supporting and changing the world from three different speakers in one night:

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New online interview explores on "7 Splinters in Time" on Idioteq.com

My friend Karol Kaminski at Idioteq asked me some questions recently about the upcoming sci-fi thriller "7 Splinters in Time". This is an interview with an unspoken inspiration from the filmmakers amidst it. One thing often unsaid about the film is that director Gabriel Judet-Weinshel and producers Ty Walker, Edoardo Ballerini, Isen Robbins and Gil Holland worked for nine years on it. And not just a linear nine years, but a nine years of figuring out how to get the movie completed and ultimately completing it brilliantly.

How many of us commit to a project over such a long period of time, even when a clear end point isn’t apparent? They did. And that inspires me immensely.

The film will be out in July in select theaters and on July 13th via Video on Demand.

Upcoming screenings:

Monday July 9th NEW YORK CITY - 7pm at Anthology. Details available soon. Wednesday July 11th LOS ANGELES - 7PM Laemmle Music Hall Beverly Hills

Read the interview here!

Spoken word show tomorrow in support of Jonah Matranga in Oakland CA

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Bay area friends: I am doing a spoken word set tomorrow (Saturday) about vulnerability and innocence and how we need both to survive and thrive. The show will be in Oakland CA in support of Jonah Matranga who is celebrating the 20 Year Anniversary of Far's 'Water and Solutions'. The show is 21+ so as always with 21+ shows, I will do an informal set outside the show beforehand for anyone who can't get in because they aren't old enough to drink. Message me if you're interested and we will make a plan.

For everyone else: https://www.facebook.com/events/130236141184667/

JONAH MATRANGA JONAH ON FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/jonahmusic JONAH ONLINE: http://www.jonahmatranga.com

THE PAUSES The Pauses on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thepauses The Pauses online: http://www.thepauses.com

$13 in advance | $15 at the door

Doors: 3PM Pauses 5:40-6:20PM Greg Bennick Spoken Word 6:20-6:45PM Jonah Matranga 6:45-7:30PM

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How to capture an audience's attention...

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When speaking to 400 elementary schoolers about picking one thing they think is cool, practicing it every day and becoming better at it, and then sharing it with the world, even if they are the only one who thinks it’s cool...always balance a chair on your face. It really helps clarify what you’re trying to say.

The Poetry of Punk book out now in Europe

Smart friends doing cool things chapter #43: my friend Gerfried Ambrosch in Austria spent seven years working on his book The Poetry of Punk which was just released this past week. It explores the significance and passion of punk/hardcore lyrics from all sorts of angles.

Gerfried included previously unseen photographs of the '90s/early 2000s punk/hardcore scene, and exclusive interviews with members of Minor Threat, Propagandhi, Youth of Today, Dead Kennedys, Kid Dynamite, Paint It Black, Fugazi, Catharsis, Black Flag, Fall of Efrafa, Active Slaughter, Trial, Petrol Girls, Pettybone, Anthrax (UK), Good Riddance, Inner Terrestrials, Shelter, Arboricidio, and a number of punk activists.

I wrote the foreword to the book. Check it out and get your smart on.

https://www.routledge.com/The-Poetry-of-Punk-The-Meaning-behind-Punk-Rock-and-Hardcore-Lyrics/Ambrosch/p/book/9781138502345

Cornish College of the Arts grants me a Distinguished Alumni Award

When I was told at the end of my junior year in college that I was likely to be expelled from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle for a lack of academic and creative focus, I never would have dreamed that in 2018 I would be honored with the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award...but tonight at Benaroya Hall in Seattle that’s exactly what happened.

Here’s photos of the bio and award. I told the graduates about the four rules which guide my life in hopes that the rules guide theirs too.

1. Don’t die. 2. Keep creating. 3. Contribute to the world. 4. Never have a day job.

Deep thanks to the Cornish faculty, Board of Trustees, President’s Cabinet, and Academic Council for what is an incredible honor.

PS So great to see Trial, Between Earth & Sky, XBystanderX (and 7 Splinters in Time) printed in the program. Punk rock for the win.

The Rumble: Speaking in Chicago

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Flying home today from The Rumble in Chicago. It was amazing to be back there after so many years. The entire set was filmed for a mini documentary on my spoken word being put together by LA film director / poducer Dan Elswick.

I'm very excited about the response to my set this past weekend and appreciative of all the work that Shane Merrill and friends put into booking the fest.

Photos by K.B. Imaging. Kyle selectively chose to photograph moments without stage dives during my spoken set but I assure you there were hundreds.