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Inspiring Cultural Awareness Around the World with Chris Bashinelli

Chris Bashinelli (“Bash”) is one of the most exciting young inspirational speakers in the world today. He’s acted (on The Sopranos), spoken on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly Hall, been a TV host (Bridge the Gap) and more. But, the most important thing to him is being a positive, powerful, productive global citizen.

Thank you for joining us Bash! You have traveled the globe and immersed yourself in a variety of cultures. What are some of the main challenges and opportunities for organizations looking to embrace diversity, inclusion and cultural awareness?

I think people tend to make these ideas much more complicated than they are. To me, the most important thing in any workplace when it comes to cross-cultural interaction is Intention. What is your intention? If it is coming from a selfless place, then you have nothing to worry about. If it is coming from a selfish, judgmental place, or from a place that is aiming to point out the differences in others for the sake of separation, that is not OK.

We will all make mistakes. We will all say things that offend others, that are not ‘culturally competent’. That is fine! We’re all human. But the point is to learn from mistakes, and to try to not make the same mistakes over and over again.

Can you give us three tips for increasing organizational cultural awareness?

1) Listen, listen and listen! This goes for all of us. So often we’re not actually listening, but biting our tongue for our chance to speak. The more aware we can be of the person sitting in front of us, the more present we will be, and the more we will be able to respond with wisdom.

2) Find a place, a physical place, which feels safe within or nearby your office. Find a place where you can chat with co-workers without feeling as though you are being judged. This could be as simple as the cafeteria, the lobby, or the stairs leading to the entrance of your building. Safe places allow for meaningful conversations.

3) Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and experience your co-workers life. Make the effort to visit your co-worker when you are not working. Share in a meal in their home, take to the waves on your surfboards, or simply walk down their favorite street. It’s important to make it about them- what matters to them- what’s important to them. If you adopt this other-centered mind, chances are, they will as well.

You are considered one of the most inspiring young speakers on the speaking circuit today, what inspired you to become a speaker?

Speaking was never something I planned on, it just sort of happened. My passion for the longest time was acting. After almost a decade, I lost my desire to be in front of the camera. So I decided to travel to Tanzania with a video camera. When I returned I realized that I still wanted to entertain, but this time with a clear purpose- bridging the gap between people and cultures.

As I began pursuing this passion I was asked to speak at a few youth conferences. From there, I was invited to speak for the United Nations in Brazil. The coordinator for the UN event really took a chance on me- a 23-year-old speaker with no prior experience- and I’m thankful he did. Since then, I’ve been traveling around the world, meeting audiences from all backgrounds and cultures.

What do you want people to learn / take away from your presentations?

There’s a wonderful saying- ‘I don’t care what you do for a living- I care about how you treat the waiter’. I love that saying because it’s touching on a very important theme- equanimity. Equanimity is the idea that everyone’s life is just as valuable as our own. The main takeaway I’d like people to understand is that in order to create equality in our world, in our business, in our home- we must first recognize that each and every individual’s happiness is as important as our own. By taking attendees on an overtly funny and exciting journey through my TV Shows, hopefully they will understand the deeper, underlying message of compassion.

How to you prepare for your speaking engagements? Do you do any special prep work prior to an event?

I’ve been so fortunate to come from an acting background because I’m able to pull from my acting warm up and incorporate it into my pre-speech routine.

I know this sounds simple, I never eat anything crazy the night before or the day of my event. I also make sure to have a solid night’s sleep if I am able. I make sure to meditate, and to really step into the void first thing in the morning before any speech. This connects me with a greater intention.

If time permits, I’ll actually go to a nearby gym, or do a quick hotel-workout to get the blood flowing. After that I will stretch my vocal chords with some limericks and make sure I’m breathing from my stomach. Finally, I will connect with my greater intention once more before going on stage.

You have traveled around the world, visiting many cultures. Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?

One of my most memorable speaking engagements happened last year. I had the good fortune to present for the Entrepreneur’s Group in Saudi Arabia, directly next to a mosque. During the speech the “Adhan” or “Call to prayer” began. I paused the speech, allowed for a moment of silence to respect the present moment, and after checking with the audience for permission, continued the presentation.

What other projects are you currently working on?

We just discovered that our Mongolia episode of our TV show Bridge the Gap has been picked up by a major international network. This gives powerful legs to the Bridge the Gap series. My new focus is expanding on the digital frontier. I’m in talks with a few recognizable digital platforms to develop a like-minded travel show. The series will be a bit of Vice meets Explorer meets Parts Unknown. If I can successfully channel three of my professional role models- Dr. Jane Goodall, Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain- it will be a hit! (editor’s note: Jane Goodall has said, “We need more people like Chris in the world”!).

Thank you Chris! If you’d like to bring Chris’ inspiring presentation to your event, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com.

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  • Chris Bashinelli Chris Bashinelli (The Sopranos, HBO) was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After years of reading headlines about world hunger, human suffering and extreme poverty, he decided to move to Tanzania. Now he travels to impoverished areas worldwide to find out first hand how the other half of the world lives. Chris is the ... more

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