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Flashback Friday - Juggling in Haiti

On one of my early trips to Haiti, after the earthquake, I decided to start juggling for the people in the village of Madan Beliz. Madan Beliz is so poor that when aid workers first arrived, many of the people did not even have clothes. There was no clean water source, no immediate local food source, and the lake nearby had been completely fished out. The people were living by subsistence however they could.

Yet in the midst of all that, it only took five rocks flying aloft to bring a smile to their faces.

Epic performing win, where it mattered the most.

(Photo by Brandon Vedder).

Madan Beliz Haiti 3/30/2010

rock juggling greg bennick
rock juggling greg bennick

My favorite person of the year...

Life goal accomplished.

This is Leonardo. He is 90 years old. For years, on random days, he has walked around Green Lake in Seattle wearing a homemade shirt that simply says "SPANISH LESSONS". I first saw him over a decade ago. I stopped him then and asked about his lessons. He immediately started teaching me words in Spanish for things around me. He finally pointed at the lake and said in English, "This...is my classroom". I looked for him again for years but never saw him until yesterday when there he was resting on a bench. I asked him if I could study with him even though I had no immediate need to study Spanish. He said he has no students anymore because everyone learns from computers now.

Today was our first lesson. We walked very slowly around the lake for two hours and he pointed out details of things around us and translated each of them into Spanish and had me repeat each one. "Most people," he said, "come here and see nothing. They don't take the time to really look at anything. I teach you more than just Spanish." Indeed.

How many of us would take the risk to walk around in public stating to the world "I offer something...you might not want it but I am offering it" the way Leonardo did? And even after his student base vanished? He just kept walking, waiting, hoping. Incredible tenacity, and courage, especially in an era of quick response and immediate validation.

He is a symbol for me of defining your OWN path through what matters most to you, rather than waiting for others to do it for you. He was out there walking, for years. We just didn't run into one another until yesterday.

Number of pupils: 1.

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About my work in Haiti and perspectives on it...

One Hundred for Haiti Sticker NEW - STICKER GUY
One Hundred for Haiti Sticker NEW - STICKER GUY

NPR ran a story yesterday about the recent spike in cholera cases in Haiti. This was a follow up to their story last week about cholera being on the rise. Then today, a major story on ProPublica broke about the Red Cross wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in Haiti since the quake.

As I travel the world, the thing I hear most often is "I want to do something but I just don't know what". One Hundred For Haiti's Rural Water Project saves lives. And we can only make that happen over the next five years with help from people, organizations, businesses, schools, bands, and so on who step up and spread the word and also donate.

We are as DIY as can possibly be. All labor for the projects is Haitian. No one makes money from One Hundred For Haiti and no money is wasted. We do what we can, when we can, with the resources we have. We do not have million dollar donors like the Red Cross and other inflated organizations. Our budget is small and bare bones. But we make things happen while others waste time and money on bureaucracy.

In the next few weeks, in addition to the water project, we want to launch a major anti-rape initiative to educate people about child sexual assault in rural communities throughout the south of Haiti where child assaults are on the rise. We can only do these things when people step up and help. If you want to be involved, and make a real change in the world in a place most people have forgotten about, the time is now.

Check out our website at: http://www.onehundredforhaiti.org. Be in touch with ideas, and more importantly action, anytime.

NPR links: Yesterday's story: http://tinyurl.com/npr-cholera1

Last week's story: http://tinyurl.com/npr-cholera2

ProPublica expose on Red Cross: http://tinyurl.com/propublica-redcross

New interview about work, Russia, and global projects

CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE TO READ THE INTERVIEW...or the link below!

The interview site said it best! Greg Bennick is an award-winning speaker, a writer, a curious world traveler, a film producer, the vocalist for the bands TRIAL and BETWEEN EARTH & SKY, a humanitarian activist, the founder of One Hundred For Haiti organization, The Legacy Project, co-founder of The World Leaders Project, a touring spoken word performer, and a guest keynote speaker for all kinds of conferences, companies, educational groups, and research institutes.

In other words, Greg is a dynamic human whose addictive performances, great charm, and thought-provoking angle on various subjects will not leave you indifferent. He's a passionate and funny entertainer who proves his reputation of utilizing an extraordinary power of language to transform minds using words as weapons.

READ THE INTERVIEW HERE

This interview features Greg talking about all the elements of his life that rarely if ever come up in his commercial work (but maybe they should more often?). A good read if you have some time...

The show must go on: one for the record books

Read this next part out loud in your best movie blockbuster announcer voice: "In a world gone mad...one speaker...determined to survive at any cost...makes his way through ice and snow and first class airfare...with no sleep, no food, no sanity...driven only by his sheer and unbreakable will...to get to a keynote on time."

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Never has spending thousands of dollars felt so worthwhile, even though in the midst of it, I wanted to fall into a hole and die.

Happy audience + happy client = happy Greg.

A championship winning humorous speech

Two nights ago I won the Toastmasters International, Humorous Speech Contest for District 2 with this 7 minute speech, "The Road to Love is Paved With Good Intentions". Toastmasters International contest speeches are between 5 and 7 minutes long and are judged on speech development, content, effectiveness, audience response, delivery, and vocal performance.

This one was a comedic account of my legacy as the last in a line of failed romantics. It was fun to write a special speech for the contest and I am glad it went as well as it did!

WATCH THE WINNING SPEECH VIDEO HERE!

New interview: Greg on Life Mastery Radio

I didn't know what to think when Life Mastery Radio said they wanted to do an interview. Was I worthy of being called a life master? Would I fit their demographic: an interview that started out with centering and deep meditation breathing might not be in line with me?

But as is true of most preconceived notions, they often fall quickly once reality sets in and I never expected that in the span of an hour we would cover heavy metal drummers, fear of death and how it affects our lives, nonhierarchical organizing, spoken word touring, One Hundred For Haiti and perspectives on international aid work, punk rock, the innate human drive towards creativity, why people might really consider quitting their day jobs, and how media and authority have inspired us to become mentally lazy and disempowered.

This was a great hour and I am thankful I got to be a part of it.

LISTEN HERE on the show's home page.  iTunes is HERE.

Speaker...ACTOR? Lessons from a film set in NYC

Movie star for a day... In 1995, I was just out of acting school - having attended in order to learn vocal technique to augment my stage presence as a speaker. Speaking and acting have some interesting similarities in terms of how a conversation is established between performer and audience, most often in live theatre. At the time I was in school, I was unlike my classmates in that I had little desire to be an actor, and no ambition whatsoever to do auditions, etc. I just wanted to be a better communicator. So as not to get swept up into the world of acting, I made an agreement with myself that any fame or fortune that would befall me in the acting world would come TO me, not happen as a result of me going to It. Right in line with that, just after graduation, I was approached by a local 17-year-old director named Gabriel Judet-Weinshel. Gabriel had written a film called "The Last Supper" about a man who learns that he is living his last day. The Person, as this man is called (a sort of Everyperson character) has to reconcile his entire life between sunrise and sundown. Quite a concept for a teenager to develop as much as Gabriel had. I played The Person, and we shot over five days in Seattle. Very few people saw the film, as it wasn't widely released, but what was significant about it was that Gabe and I worked together brilliantly. He looked at me on the last shoot day and said, "I am going to make movies for the rest of my life. When I cast my first feature, I am going to cast you in it."

Fast forward to 2011. Its a decade and a half later. I get a phone call. It was Gabriel, now age 30-something. He was in New York, having done exactly what he said he would have done: he had spent his life making movies. He was indeed casting his first feature and he asked me to co-star. My IMDB profile needs a little love, so that was just another reason to say yes to this project. I play, surprise surprise, an eccentric, out-of-work juggler....go figure...who helps a detective figure out a murder mystery and the reasons behind a bizarre set of circumstances in which he sees duplicates - twins - of himself around a city, not all of them benevolent. We shot the film over twenty-one days in New York, and just this past week after a few years had gone by, we reshot one of the scenes which was to have required a number of special effects to make it look the way Gabriel wanted.

The film will be finished later this fall, and if the gods of film have their way, it will be on the festival circuit next year. It was fascinating to be in front again of the camera and experience communication in a different way than I am used to with my keynotes and my spoken word appearances. You don't get the non-verbal cues that you get from conversation or from an audience. You also don't get the verbal cues either. You don't get anything actually: its all generative in your imagination and in how accurately you play the moment. There are good lessons here for when we don't get back what we hope for from the person to whom we are speaking. What happens in the moment? Do we let that crush us? Sure, we are all insecure fragile creatures but we can also - in moments of need - retreat to our imagination and put another of our abilities to the best possible use: our ability to imagine and envision.

If we envision a reality other than the one we are currently in (this is a uniquely human attribute...no other species in the animal kingdom does this) then we can live as if. As if we are getting the response we want. As if our point is well taken. As if the recipient is on board with us. Often in moments in front of audiences, especially for new speakers, being AS IF is a great method for getting through tight moments. Instead of reacting to the response we received, we can react to the response in a moment that we WANTED to have received. Is it out of integrity to do this? It doesn't matter: it is performance. And performance as reality creation is an inherent part of any communication. We use our words and tone in specific ways to bring out responses. This is performance too.

If it gets you by to the next scene, I vote to use whatever takes, go for it, and make it happen. Use whatever technique works to make the overall speech or presentation a success. When acting, I am thinking about the fullness of the reality of the situation, even if the camera doesn't respond in the way I want it to. I can make the result seem like it did.

This is what performing is all about...

Sometimes, the reasons why I do what I do are perfectly clear. Gaining clarity in moments isn't always easy, but helps when you have a friend who is a professional photographer to catch the moment on film.

In the last twenty years, I have appeared on stages in more countries than I could easily count, in front of literally hundreds of thousands of people in the widest variety of circumstances. I always try to have have every moment under control. It comes from a lifetime of experience as a professional communicator. Everything gets thought through, considered, prepared for, and that work and readiness is what leads to solid events.

But at the core of it all, what matters most to me is creating real connection and real communication. If those elements aren't there in a presentation then all I am doing, regardless of the intensity and specificity of the preparation for a particular event, is just going through the motions.

And life is too short to waste anyone's time like that, especially that of my generous audiences. This brings me to my favorite presentation of the year. This has been a year that saw me onstage in front of three thousand people in Singapore talking about international connectedness, and then later in a huge theater packed full of real estate experts in Wisconsin talking about putting people before profits, and then in a club filled with hundreds of intensely connected listeners in St. Petersburg Russia, and on and on. The world is a criss-crossed dotted map of my travels. But one event last week stood out amongst them all.

Sean's family with Greg Bennick
Sean's family with Greg Bennick

My friend Sean's mom hasn't been feeling well recently. The specifics of her illness are her personal business, but suffice to say, a hospital stay that was supposed to be short was extended recently and I drove up to Canada to visit her in the hospital. She was hopeful that she'd be getting out in a few days and I told her that I would come back up and juggle for her and for her granddaughter when she finally was allowed to go home. It was just a simple gesture really, but it was what I had to offer. Now, I don't think there is anyone who while in the hospital thinks to themselves with any sense of urgency, "This hospital experience is terrible...what I REALLY need right now is a keynote speaking juggler."

My offer served a dual purpose: first of all, I thought it might be fun (this is the prime motivator for almost all of my actions in life). I thought it might be especially fun for the little granddaughter. Secondly, it could give Sean's mom something to look forward to. We all recognize that when we have meaning in our lives that the meaningful thing, whatever it might be (an unfulfilled dream, a relationship, a hope, a goal) can be fuel for us through our darkest days.

Fast forward a week. She got out of the hospital, and I drove the three hours north back up to Canada to visit her at home. With me I had five juggling beanbags. Nothing more. No microphone. No stage. None of the things I bring to my commercial speaking engagements. No expensive designer suit and tie. No comedy lines custom written for the event. Just five juggling beanbags, casual clothes, and of course a passport (they tend to not let you into the country without one when coming home).

Whereas all other times the lights are on, the stage is set, and every detail has been looked after and prepared to perfection, this was a night and a performance of a very different kind. The audience - Sean's mom and granddaughter and three more family members out of frame - were sitting on chairs and a couch or on the floor in a living room exactly like yours. I too sat on the floor.

When everyone was ready, rather than launch into a professional presentation of some kind, all I did was launch those beanbags aloft. Five of them started in motion in what is called a cascade, the most basic of juggling patterns.

The little girl's eyes went wide. She instantly lost her mind in the best way, laughing all the while. It was as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing. "Has she ever seen juggling before," I wondered? If she had, she wasn't letting on by way of her three-year-old semi intelligible descriptions to everyone of what she was looking at, or by way of her laughter.

And her grandmother, Sean's mom, had a priceless smile too. But her smile was from a few different sources: not only for her granddaughter's joy, but also for herself for finally being out of the hospital and at home with her family, and in appreciation for all of us taking the time to share and connect. (Ok, maybe a bit in wonder too at what she was seeing before her...)

They were happy. So happy. And the juggling and interaction and playing with them with those beanbags, whether by way of me juggling or by them trying themselves, went on for over an hour.

Typical audiences need something new every few seconds or so. They are trained by culture and communication norms to need constant stimuli, channel to channel, website to website, topic to topic, what's in it for me or I am moving on. And I feel that too when I am onstage. My pacing reflects that. Laugh, idea, repeat. Give them something new to think about, to hear, to see. But this night we all got back to basics. It was about sharing in the simplest of ways and enjoying it deeply.

In his classic theater book "The Empty Space", author Peter Brook opened with the line "I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage". He meant that all one needs for theatre to happen is beyond the professional details. You need only a living room. A few willing people to watch. Someone with something to offer from the heart. And all of them with love to offer back. This moment, one that my friend captured so well, was simple. It was about connection and sharing. It was one of those moments which you reflect on after the face and realize with a smile, "Wow...that was something real."

Sean reflected on this moment later with me saying, "I'm trying to capture as many moments in my mom's life as possible. Its great to see her smile. Its few and far between."

After far more than half a lifetime communicating and sharing, I can say without a doubt that moments like that are what drive me - when there is a real need to connect, and then when sincerity and communication and willingness and wonder suddenly blend in a moment. To have a chance to help create moments like this is really why I do what I do.

(For more information on Sean's brilliant professional photography, please visit him here.)

New article just published in Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine about misguided marketing!

A brand new article was just published in Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine about common misdirections in marketing and how marketers HAVE to put client's needs first, before their own. People BEFORE profits, as a personal motto, is the only way to develop real relationships. Clients will always feel taken advantage of when there is no sincerity in a transaction. This is true in our personal transactions and especially in our business relationships. This article takes a look at new perspectives on those interactions. You can read the article here.

Speaking at the first live event in Frisco Utah in almost 100 years!

When I am not on the road doing keynote presentations at events for commercial clients, I tour speaking to various audiences about ideas, passion, world-transformation, and a host of other things. One of the best parts about my life is connecting with people and being in places that are as vast, distant, and varied as anyone can dream of. In the last year I have spoken in cities across the world from southern Florida to Singapore. On my last tour, I was speaking in Salt Lake City UT, and my friend Travis mentioned a VERY rural town he'd recently visited in southwestern Utah called Frisco. Travis is an interesting guy. He spends his time making short films about eccentric people and obscure places that most have never heard of, or would ever know about. So when he mentioned Frisco, I knew I was in for a good story. And I was right about that.

Frisco UT
Frisco UT

It turns out that Frisco, during the late 1800's, was the largest silver mining town in the world, and was thriving as a result. Frisco was the epitome of a rough-and-tumble western town, filled with drunken saloons, shootouts, bar fights, sheriffs and other nefarious characters, and lots of treasure. It was like a Hollywood western film, but in real life. After a sudden and tragic mine collapse which killed many of the town's workers, the mining there slowed to a halt and everyone moved out of the town leaving it finally empty after the 1920's. And that's where Travis comes into the story.

Having heard of Frisco, he went there with his film partner and they looked amidst the desert for evidence of the remainder of the town, and they found it, in a number of forms: from ruins of old mining gear and broken buildings, to the fallen mine itself, and also to a local man who had grown up near Frisco who had tapes - old and worn reel-to-reel recordings - of transfers of interviews with original inhabitants of the town. With footage shot onsite in what is left of Frisco and interviews with that man and the recorded interviews of the town's real-life inhabitants, Travis put together a short film about the long-dead town and its history called "Boomtown".

I immediately had an idea. I asked Travis if he was up for an adventure. I told him that I would book a night on my next tour, the tour which is now coming up in a week, for a spoken word event in Frisco. I told him that he and I should go out there together, sit near the mine - and that if anyone else wanted to come out, fine - but that at the very least that it would be the two of us by the light of a campfire, and I would do a spoken set for him as my audience...and that it would literally be the first live event to take place in Frisco Utah since the total death of the town nearly one hundred years ago. Travis being Travis and loving the weird side of life, agreed immediately.

And so...its booked: August 21st 2012, at 9PM: Greg Bennick spoken word at The Horn Silver Mine, Frisco UT. Just Travis, me, a campfire, anyone who ventures to join us...along with the words, whatever creatures of the night happen to drop by, and the ghosts of a town long dead.

See you there!

Rethinking Normal - A Success Story about Change

BACKGROUND: From 1985 to 2002, the City of Seattle had on the books a law called the 'Teen Dance Ordinance' (TDO). The TDO had multiple provisions that made hosting and promoting all ages music events realistically next to impossible. Why was that important to people over the age of 21? Afterall, wouldnt we just go to bar shows and forget about the entire thing? We could have, but there are some of us who believed that music and art is for people of all ages and that alcohol sales are not more important than artistic expression. As a result we fought for the overturn of a law that we didn't believe in. And we won, through very unconventional means, replacing that law with one we written by yours truly, Greg Bennick, along with my dear friend Dave Whitson.

In thinking as a keynote speaker about this issue, and in thinking about how as a speaker I cover ideas about unanticipated chance and change into my keynote presentations, the humorous aspects of the behind the scenes of how the new law came to be are relevant and entertaining. Its a story I don't often get to tell when I do keynote presentations, but its a good one nonetheless.

You can read this on the Dancing on Your Politics site amidst all the other news and ideas and updates here: http://dancingonyourpolitics.com/a-word-from-greg-bennick/

Thoughts on the Ten Year Anniversary of the Defeat of Seattle's 'Teen Dance Ordinance' by Greg Bennick

Ten years ago this month, a group of determined Seattle residents who felt that music should be for people of ALL ages succeeded in overturning the city's oppressive "Teen Dance Ordinance". The law had made it extremely difficult for all ages music to exist in Seattle. In honor of the anniversary there is a new website at http://www.dancingonyourpolitics.com/ that covers various aspects of the fight from the people who fought it.

Far more voices than just Greg Bennick as a speaker, or Kate Becker as an activist, or David Meinert as an advocate, or Lori LeFavor as a promoter, or David Whitson as a show goer...the ones with whom I happened worked most closely...made the struggle a victory. There were hundreds of people concerned and involved, and it took far more than one show-goer, one promoter, one speaker, one musician, one activist to make the win a reality.

From the start, fighting the Teen Dance Ordinance (TDO) was like trying to punch someone in the dark. You never could quite see where your adversary was, whether they were in front of you, to the side, or preparing a counterstrike from behind where they would be most unexpected and devastating. We had to invent strategies and reinvent tactics along the way.

When we started with the TDO, few people if any had really read it word for word. The city certainly wasn't willing to give it up, and I remember my friend Laura and I had to go down to the Seattle Public Library to research, find, and print out a copy. We felt like we had found a secret treasure. And one with mysteries that we didn't yet understand. It was kind of like the ark in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark: the TDO was similar in that it had been long lost, rumored to possess immense power, and holding the potential to destroy us all as we gathered in defiance of it. Thankfully life isn't the movies and we ignored Indiana Jones' advice to Marion to not look at the ark. We stared the TDO in the face and beat it. And the city has never been the same since, feeling lighter than ever as all ages music is embraced and supported.

But the journey from TDO mystery to the All Ages Dance Ordinance (AADO) passing, was not without constant struggle, and an ongoing sense of surprise and shock and from time to time even defeat. We arranged meetings in the mid-1990's amidst the all ages punk community. We spread the word about the TDO. We let people know what it demanded, why those demands were wrong, and what could be done to fight it. Our tactics and methods and plans were sometimes misguided (we focused for too long on the constitutionality of the TDO, when ultimately it was an alternative to it - simply a better law - that was what was needed). We formed coalitions which worked, some which didn't, and through it all we learned about the strength of a collective voice and the power inherent in that voice to bring about change, even as votes were cast against us, as opinions we had counted on changed, and as unexpected roadblocks suddenly appeared in our way.

The details of the history of the struggle, from the formation of the All Ages Music Coalition (AAMO) to the initial failed talks with the Mayor Rice municipal government, to the work to organize support under a new mayor amongst the city council for the Music and Youth Task Force (MYTF), to the meetings themselves, and the votes that came from it, and the rise of The Vera Project...are all elements of history that the greater story of the TDO struggle story will encapsulate. I hope we can all come together to fill in the details of that history somewhere and sometime soon. But what I will touch on here is the part that I contributed most to, which was the drafting of the All Ages Dance Ordinance. People like the brilliant Kate Becker played a critical role in meeting with the city council from the beginning to the end of the process, successfully lobbying their votes and persuading them with her incredible sincerity of the awesomeness (yes that is a word) of all ages music. And while I was there for some of those meetings, if these words serve to fill in a gap in the TDO/AADO story overall, the story if the drafting of the AADO is where my contribution to this anniversary can be most helpful.

During the MYTF meetings, there was progress only in fleeting moments. Select representatives of the city, show goers from all sorts of genres, the music business community, all sat across from one another like old friends and distant enemies. We spent many weeks trying to come to terms with one another about what we were even talking about: definitions and terms and interpretations and opinions colliding. It was enough to make even the most experienced and stawart fan of municipal legal drudgery want to throw themselves off the roof of city hall. But it was the best we had come to over a decade or so of struggling and we didn't want to give up and quit and have to then start again from scratch, an idea that was inconcievable because we knew how far we had come.

On the MYTF team was a guy named Dave Whitson. Dave and I had been involved together with politics for quite some time. We had been supporting the Western Shoshone Nation in a land right struggle in Nevada and had spent many hours together on the road and in person taking part in supportive actions and discussing tactics. We sat together at the MYTF often bored out of our minds and decided to speak further about it in a space where we clear our brains of municipal manipulations. Dave worked at the UW Bothell campus at the time and had access 24/7 to the computer lab there. So that is where we decided to meet, often from 10PM when the library closed, until 3 or 4AM. And it was because of high speed internet and the ability to play backgammon on yahoo.com that the AADO draft came to be.

At the time of this work, the internet was still a place where the basics we now know and love were exciting and new. And where high speed internet was rare, especially at home. The UW had high speed internet and one of those new internet things made possible by that high speed was Yahoo's 'games' page, where you could sign in and play games of all kinds online. Dave and I met at the UW, where the internet was blazingly fast, and quickly found that our discussions about the TDO there weren't yielding anything new. We were frustrated at the process and thought that perhaps the MYTF would go on forever with people arguing the finer definitions of words like "music" and "concert" and "dance". It all made us want to scream. And so, in the midst of our late night talks, we would take breaks from conversation in order to play backgammon online. The speed made it possible to actually chat online - what a concept - and we found it hysterically funny to sit next to one another at adjacent computers and have one of us start a game with someone somewhere in the world, and then have the other of us jump in from their computer to "observe" the game online and then interject while observing that game, starting fights with the person playing, or just being incredibly weird much to their confusion, without the other person knowing that Dave and I were sitting side by side conspiring all the while to make the weirdness even weirder. It was during hours of laughing about this and using yahoo.com in ways other than for what it was intended that we suddenly realized that we had been approaching the TDO fight and specifically the MYTF work with the wrong perspective as well. We had all been trying, seemingly, to come to terms with one another, which was exactly what was "supposed" to have happened. Dave and I, inspired by being idiots on backgammon, decided to pull an end run around the entire MYTF process. I can't remember which of us said it to the other, but one of us suddenly said "Hey, lets write a whole new law." And that's when things started to roll.

We had no idea what we were doing, so we compiled TDO's from around the country, and struck the parts we didnt like and reworked the parts we did like. When there were things we didn't understand in lines and clauses in other TDO's, we would reword them in ways that sounded official and then put them into our version, laughing all the while at how much we had just saved on getting actual law degrees.

If there must be laws, lets fashion them as we want...in the image of the world we dream of...and that's exactly what we did as we fashioned the AADO. We made it up as we went along, writing and revising to create the draft of a law that we could bring to the next MYTF and propose that we all discuss it, rather than continue the endless talks about the definitions of words and terms. And when we made this suggestion and presented the new law, we expected to be laughed at. Instead, it shifted the course of the conversation. Low an behold, in time, and with votes for and against along the way, the law was passed. Score one for acting like idiots in the middle of the night. It can evidently lead to great things.

My memories of the TDO / AADO struggle and victory are sweet indeed. So many people did so much over the years, many of them lost now to history, but their voices all contributed valuably to the process. And that said, specifically immense praise is due certain key players along the way. For example, to Sheila Capestany who served as liaison between the city and our team. She was sympathetic and supportive of our cause all the while, and the boost offered by her support kept us going during times when we would have otherwise begun calling for all city officials to be thrown to the lions in the middle of a mosh pit the size of Key Arena. Lets also not forget the contributions of Lori LeFavor, rightly seen as an expert in all-ages business issues by the City and feared for her intensity and knowledge of that which they were trying and failing to understand and regulate. Immense kudos too needs to go to David Meinert, who has a brain gifted with twice the number of neurons of any average human. His ability to synthesize ideas and generally be the perfect argumentative ninja at any given moment was one of the most valuable resources we had. I am so glad I was on his side of this struggle. There were many times during MYTF meetings that I had to stifle laughter as the faces of David's adversaries during argumentative moments reflected a growing desire to resign their positions and move out of state just to escape his words and well-aimed jabs.

Most people attending all-ages music events today in Seattle have no idea what the struggle against the TDO was like, what it meant, how long it took, how frustrating it was, or how deeply satisfying it was to see it all come together with a victory over a law that had stifled creativity for people of all ages in this city for well over a decade. There are times now when I am attending a show at the Vera Project, or any one of a number of local venues, when I look at everyone having fun, and I think to myself of the years it took to let that happen without disruption.

Being at a show these days is an deeply satisfying experience. Hearing music and seeing creativity develop and expand as it is supposed to, and seeing people having fun without unncessary restrictions by the city makes me know without a doubt that all those years fighting in the dark in order to finally join my friends at music events in Seattle in the light were entirely worth it.

Rethinking our roadmaps to success: Los Angeles CA, late spring 2012

I was asked to fly to LA to speak at the Farmhouse conference, a somewhat casual, independent thought conference for forward-thinking people. Imagine a TED conference which is independently run and that doesnt cost $6000 to attend. Fascinating speakers all day long, and I spoke about how maps can deceive us...they are based on perceptions and not reality necessarily. And when we have specific goals in mind, much like destinations on a map, we can get thrown off course by our own limited focus and the potential for lack of listening that comes along with it. I drew once again on experiences in Haiti to make my points, referencing my work with One Hundred For Haiti, my 501c3 organization doing ongoing development work in Haiti. I don't always or often include Haiti in my speeches to clients unless I'm specifically asked, but given the change its always a chance to share new and interesting perspectives. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPl8agvot1U

New ideas: IdeaWave 2011

I was honored to have been invited to speak at IdeaWave 2011 in Victoria BC, Canada about why we are reluctant to get involved with new ideas, transformation, and helping others. The brainpower in that room was immense. Thanks to everyone who made it possible for me to be there!  See you at TEDxVictoria in November 2011.

Spring 2010 - success in Haiti

When I last posted here, the idea of teamwork in terms of the work being done at the time by supporters here for Haiti was just a preliminary glimpse of what was to show itself to be possible in the weeks that followed.

We raised thousands of dollars in just 96 hours in order to bag and ship 30,000 lbs of rice to Haiti. The rice ended up going in two shipments, and in addition to the first shipment, we were able to add ten tons of medical supplies and tents.

In the midst of all that, I formed One Hundred For Haiti, a fundraising effort with a goal of finding one hundred individuals, companies, or groups willing to donate $1000 USD or more to humanitarian aid in Haiti.

So far response has been excellent. You can read more about the group and about the success we had delivering 35,000 lbs of supplies to Haiti by clicking on the logo below and exploring the One Hundred For Haiti website. People often ask me if I speak about Haiti when I am invited to present at events. I certainly can do that, but its not always part of the program.

I recently did a bit of that at the IASB showcase in New York City, an important international event in the speaking industry, and also at the local level to a group interested in being inspired by a call to social action. While I like to share Haiti stories (my presentation that day in NYC led to a $1000 donor for One Hundred For Haiti stepping forward!) its certainly not what I do on a regular basis, and especially not for groups who are looking for a comedy keynote. Haiti works as an excellent presentation subject for humanitarian events, social organizations looking for something current about which they can learn, groups looking to inspire people to action...but it doesn't work for all clients, and I know the difference.

Recent success stories in terms of my presentations have focused, like the "speaking" page talks about, on passion and purpose and solving the problem of confusion and focus and what meaning we are hoping to find in our lives and in our work.

So the question remains: why, on a site devoted to offering my skills as a speaker and presenter to keynote-needing, comedy-intrigued clients, would I post so much about Haiti humanitarian efforts, film projects about Haiti, and the reasons behind that all of that work? The answer is simple: because its real.

While we work, interact, socialize, we have to remember that social conventions are creations, and that we fall into an unfortunate trap when we forget that. The rules you follow are creations. The ways we interact are creations. This isn't to say that these things are inherently bad. Quite the contrary: we need these creations. We need structure and we need social organization in order to survive as the social creatures that we are. We'd create meaning if there was a lack of it.

My point is, that in the midst of so many ideas and directions to follow, that we often get lost ourselves. We find suddenly that we have lost meaning even as we have attempted to be a part of things that are meaningful. Maybe the motivation for our actions might not be sound, or the ideas themselves might not be ones we connect with immediately and sincerely. We get swept up in habit, in wanting to satisfy others, in wanting to do the right thing. But we forget to ask ourselves what habits we want for ourselves, whether or not we ourselves are satisfied, and what makes a thing "right" to do in the first place.

The work in Haiti isn't like that. Haiti gives us something very real to latch on to. Its an ongoing story which provides meaning, concern, inspiration, and hope. Haiti is immediate, its crystal clear, and its undeniable. Its real. And it strikes to people's core values: that people have the right to live and be healthy, to live without pain, to have children, and to care for those children. And they deserve to be able to do that in societies that are not physically crushed by disaster of any kind. Add to this example the fact that Haiti is our next door neighbor essentially, and you have a situation where people are going to want to know more, and want to help, simply because they realize on a deep level that the people they are reading about ARE THEM, themselves. This isn't illusion or creation. Its very real. And people appreciate real so very much. I have seen that over years communicating with people directly about issues that are most important to them. They want real life. Real experiences. They crave them. And they want to hear about other people who are taking part in them. This is where people find deep inspiration to think, feel, and to get involved.

If you are interested in learning more about what I do, both onstage or in Haiti, please feel free to be in touch anytime. For the moment, click the link below and learn more about how you can get involved.

Cheers, Greg

One Hundred For Haiti
One Hundred For Haiti

Feeding a city: sending thirty thousand pounds of rice to Haiti

Donations kept coming in today, as they have over the last few days after the post below about the initial idea to send ten thousand pounds of rice to Haiti. Jason (my full time amazing personal assistant) and I spent all day today and yesterday emailing and calling and facebooking people.

We started to realize that there was more potential here than we'd thought. The rice distributor (Sage V Foods from Little Rock, Arkansas) had offered us twenty thousand extra pounds of rice if we could take it off his hands and pay the additional transport costs. The Liberty Schooner, having just found a larger boat to take for this trip (the Halie-Matthew, with a 40,000 load capacity rather than just ten thousand pounds), agreed to take all the rice. What we needed to do: pay for the rice distributor to rebag the rice from enormous ballistic bags to manageable 50 pound bags so that it could get onboard the boat; pay for a truck to take the rice all the way from Little Rock to Key West; pay for fuel expenses for the Halie-Matthew from Key West to Haiti; pay for and arrange ground logistics in Haiti for the distribution of the rice to the village of La Source and to other places in need around the southern coast of Haiti. No problem. ;)

We received donations from new friends, old friends, friends of Trial (my former band - see the "Group Genius" post below), friends in the speaking and film industry...donations from people I'd not spoken to in years, from family, from people overseas, from people down the street, and from people we'd never even met (thanks to Reddit.com, twitter.com (@gregbennick) and wherever else we could post).

Amounts came in from $2 to $500 and everything in between. As the days went on, Jason and I feared that we might be able to cover some but not all of the expenses...but as today turned to night and the donations kept coming in, we realized that everything was going to be possible and that we were about to feed the equivalent of an entire city. I was on the phone for five hours today navigating through donations and working out details. Every second of it was exciting.

As of this moment, we've raised $4647.81. This all came in over five days, and is enough to do everything we possibly hoped to do. Thirty thousand pounds of rice, one country in need, one shipment, and a hundred different people getting involved and making it possible. All in a week's work. Thank you so much everyone. We did this. Not one person, all of us. Together we made a difference in the world. I appreciate all you've done and will continue to do. Any future donations which come in will be used towards expenses for the boat, for the upcoming water/filming project in La Source, and for providing medical supplies to my friend Dr. Jacques Denis' medical clinic in Port Au Prince. As always, 100% of donations are used for exactly what they are intended. No overhead ever. 100% direct action humanitarian aid.

Special thanks to Marton Szigeti in Budapest Hungary for getting me onto the radio for 25 minutes the other day in Hungary to talk about Haiti, the mission to bring much-needed supplies, the upcoming water project in La Source, the upcoming One Hundred For Haiti project, and how people who care about others can help. Those who read and understand Hungarian can check out the interview here. The radio station tied these ideas into local and regional Hungarian issues as well, letting people know how Hungarians can get involved with helping in their communities too in order to support poor people in need. As a Hungarian-at-heart (many generations of my family came from the city of Mukachevo in what was Hungary but is now in the western Ukraine) I was excited by the global community shrinking and the work in Haiti inspiring Hungarians to help their neighbors within their own country. It seemed so close to home for me, and really, it is. On a planet this small, anything that happens anywhere is ultimately very close to home.

There is more to do, always. An entire planet swirling and turning in and around and on itself, always in need, always transforming. We will be a part of it as it happens, willing and ready. Keep in touch, and be involved.

Ten thousand pounds of rice...

As of an hour ago I have 10,000 lbs of rice in a warehouse in Little Rock that needs to be shipped to Miami in order to get to Haiti. UPS is ready to ship it. The Liberty Schooner has agreed to bring it to Haiti. I have ground support set up in Haiti to distribute it.

I need $3000 by Tuesday to make it all happen.

What you can do: paypal anything you can to the effort. The Liberty Schooner (the ship on which I last sailed) has agreed to bring the rice to Haiti, in one trip, or split between two trips. More can be learned about them at their blog site.

On the ground in Haiti, I have coordinated logistics to distribute the rice from where it will arrive on the south coast of Haiti into the interior of the country. Some of the rice will be delivered to the village of La Source where Josue Lajeunesse is originally from. Josue is the star of the film I am currently co-producing with my friends about the installation of a permanent water system for that village. Rice will also be delivered to other destinations that come up as being in need. There are many. Some places have yet to see any food aid since the earthquake.

We are going to change that.

We are currently raising money to cover the transport, the shipping by sea, and the distribution in Haiti of that rice.

Coming soon for Haiti: ONE HUNDRED FOR HAITI. Through my journeys to Haiti, I've realized that I had to do something more about the situation there. Something on a major scale. Enter: One Hundred For Haiti. This initiative is dedicated to finding an exclusive group of one hundred donors each willing to donate $1000 or more to help the people of Haiti. One Hundred For Haiti will help with several different projects all focused on direct action for people most in need. From helping with the water and rice projects described above, to filling a Port au Prince medical center with supplies,

One Hundred For Haiti will bring direct results. Taking a grass roots approach will allow One Hundred For Haiti to cut through politics and solve problems far more efficiently.

GET INVOLVED: Haiti aid mission, February 2010

I just got back from Haiti last night. I sailed with nine people and ten thousand pounds of donated medical supplies and food on a boat from Miami on the 28th of January. We traveled 900 miles and seven days, to Jacmel Haiti where locals were so thankful to see us arrive with those supplies that one greeted us on the dock by saying "Welcome to Jacmel. We see you as if God has arrived". Our boat was an all volunteer boat, and one of the first, if not the first, independent boat from the USA to reach the southern coast of Haiti. I did a radio interview with Peter Greenberg Worldwide (300 stations and 1.5 million listeners) about the mission and you can listen to it here:

Overall, the trip was astounding, life changing, meaningful, and most importantly helpful for local people as well as being the start of an intensive campaign to bring a continuous flow of supplies via boat and other means to the Haitian people. We had our 10000 pounds of supplies distributed within two hours to aid organizations and local groups, and then I spent a day in Jacmel juggling at an orphanage for children with HIV and AIDS.

After Jacmel, I visited a remote area of Haiti for an afternoon assessing damage to Josue Lajeunesse's village (see "films" page for more on Josue) and connecting with his family. I left Lasource and drove to Port Au Prince to meet with the director of one of the main medical clinics in one of the poorest sections of the city. We are working together to try and find much needed medical supplies for his clinic.

People have been asking me right and left what they can do and its incredibly inspiring to see that happening. All too often people dis-empower themselves before they even ask the question as to whether or not its possible for them to contribute to making change happen right here, right now. The key: GET INVOLVED.

Its simple: want it, do it. That's all there is. Anything else between "want it" and "do it" are excuses or other priorities. You either want to help and you get the job done, or you want to help but you don't. There isn't another way to think about it. Maximum passion and maximum efficiency yields maximum results.

Write me if you feel the desire to do something but don't know what, or if your organization can help on a large scale, or if you even imagine that it can. I will help you get involved.

-greg

TEDxPugetSound - September 2009

I spoke this last week at TEDxPugetSound here in Seattle, on a topic that integrated passion, creativity, and the human condition. My thought is that our desire to experience the abundance life has to offer can best be fulfilled if we engage via creative process with the seconds we have to live, in the same way an artist would engage with his/her process of creating a work of art.

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