On Sunday, 29th March, Kevin Spacey joined the first Bits & Pretzels Virtual Founders Breakfast in which Kevin shared his first-hand experience in dealing with uncertainties when life comes to a halt. In his moving speech Kevin talked about resilience and how to deal with uncertainties. Many people reached out to us and sent many messages to support Kevin Spacey and to share their thoughts about his speech, you can read them by clicking here. You can also listen to the full talk on Bits & Pretzel’s podcast at the bottom of this page and read the transcript below.
Kevin Spacey’s speech for Bits & Pretzels
Good morning, I want to begin by saying that I hope that you and your family and your friends, are all doing ok in this very frightening and challenging time. I have no magic wand that I can wave around and make all this go away, because believe me if I did I would have used it already. First of all I want to tell you that I’ve written down what I want to say today, because It’s been a long time since I’ve spoken to so many people, I mean, at least they tell me that might some people watching today so I’m gonna refer to this notes, even though my only audience is actually laying on the floor in front of me, my dog Boston is here and so, if you hear any noises during my talk, is probably just her, snoring. And also, as you can see, it’s never too early to dress up for Oktoberfest. On a more serious note, I wanna say thank you to all of the health professionals all around the world who are doing all they can to save as many lives as possible and to slow down the spread of this terrible virus. What they do is incredible. And I also want to thank Andy, Felix and Bernd, for their kindness and asking me to be part of this first Bits & Pretzels Virtual Founders Breakfast. I will do my best to share some of my prospective on what it feels like to suddenly find yourself in a situation you could not possibly have prepared for or anticipate it was coming.
I don’t think it will come as a surprise for anyone to say that my world completely changed in the fall of 2017. My job, many of my relationships, my standing in my own industry, were all gone in just a matter of hours. I don’t often like to tell people that I can relate to their situation, because I think that undermines the experience that they may be having which is their own, unique and very personal experience, but, in this instance I feel as though I can relate to what it feels like to have you world suddenly stop. And so while we may have found ourselves in similar situations, for very different reasons and circumstances, I still believe that some of the emotional struggles are very much the same and so I do have empathy for what it feels like to suddenly be told that you can’t go back to work or that you might lose your job and this is a situation you have absolutely no control over.
You know, in talks that I’ve done before, I’ve always try to highlight the commonalities that we have together, artists and entrepreneurs; I think we do have a lot in common, I mean, let’s face it, we’re all a little bit crazy, right? and for good reasons. We all have a vision, we think the impossible is possible, we dream, we dream big either about our own talents and what we think we can do with them, or a company we want to start, or an idea we want to develop and these are the dreams that we chase even when we know that the odds are against us; and I don’t have to tell any of you the resilience it takes to keep going in the face of a lot of people who want to remind us that we are heading down the wrong road. But often times, in our pursuit of these dreams, we don’t bother to check the engine light, you know, we just want to keep driving a few more miles. You know, god forbid, we should stop the car and check the tires or look at the oil gauge; It’s just all about gas, it’s just pedal to the metal, GO, GO, GO! And that may very well be what we needed to do to get us that far but when the car finally does come to a stop, either through success or through failure, we may have no idea where we are or, even worse, we may have no idea who we are. And that’s exactly what happened to me.
I was so busy defining myself by what I did or what I was trying to do, that when it all stopped I had no idea what to do next, because all I ever knew was how to act, all I ever wanted to do was act, from the time I was 11 years old I dreamed of acting. I thought I was born to do it. I did it my whole life and when my career came to a grinding, screeching halt, when I was faced with the uncertainty that I might never be hired as an actor again, I had to ask myself a question I’d never asked myself before which is, If I can’t act, who am I? I mean, I only ever valued myself through my work. I only defined myself through my work. That’s who I was, but if that wasn’t going to be a possibility anymore… then who am I, when all I’m felt with, is just me.
It’s not something I ever thought I’d have to contemplate, so this is some of the work that I have been trying to do and while I don’t want to sugarcoat this devastating time that we’re in, I am hoping that I can encourage you to see an opportunity in all of this and turn this into a positive. Sure, there may be issues to deal with in your business life but there’s nothing more important than your life. I know it may be hard to hear right now but it’s at these kinds of moments that we have the chance to remember that the most important thing in life is our health. Our physical health but also our mental health. The health of our family, of our children or our parents, if we’re still lucky enough to have them with us; and right now we have this opportunity to just stop and reflect on our lives and maybe even learning a little bit more about ourselves. Because as bleak and as horrible as things can look, as they did for me two years ago and as they might look for you right now, it will get better.
No doubt your questions will be different from mine and they will change over time because it’s a process and I’m still in my process but this is a process that has allowed me to ask other questions I’ve never asked, have conversations I’ve never had, delve into issues I’ve long avoided, face truths I kept hidden, I hope that you can, too, find out that as painful as these moments are, as difficult as the questions you may ask yourself might be, that you may soon discover a new part of you that has been begging to be heard. And I know, as you sit there in your living room or your office at home, it might feel a long way away but before you know it it’s going to be back to business as usual, which is all the more reason to take this moment now to engage in your life in a new way; and believe me I know it’s not easy to do, it’s not even easy to talk about and if I didn’t have someone checking in on me everyday, I’m not sure how I could have gotten through the first day let alone this day.
And let me leave you with this; this past week I got a letter from someone asking me to sign an American Beauty poster and as I was looking at the poster I noticed just under the title are two words, two really simple words, it says “Look Closer”; and I realized I never really saw that before, I mean, yes, I saw it, I mean, I must have looked at that poster more times than I can count, but I never really saw it, I never really stopped and looked closer at my own life. But when you do stop and explore the personal, the spiritual, your health, your relationships, the changes can be real and the rewards will keep coming. And even though we do want to conduct ourselves with the appropriate social distancing we can still be kind. Because kindness, of any different distance, bring us closer. So, begin by being kind to yourself, might be the hardest place to start, it certainly was for me.
When my business partner Evan Lowenstein and I went to Munich in 2016, when I gave the Keynote, we had an incredible experience and when we returned in 2017 we were welcomed again with such friendship by our partners. So I thank the entire Bits & Pretzels family and I particularly want to say thank you to the Bits & Pretzels team for having asked me to join you all today. I hope it won’t be too long before we’re all back together, sharing a night in one of those outrageous tents in Munich, hearing amazing stories and how you got through this difficult time. I’m looking forward to seeing you and your tight fitting leather pants, your lederhosen as you like to call them, drinking way too many steins of beer and sharing the camaraderie that’s always made Bits & Pretzels such a sought-after destination.
Until then, thank you for allowing me to share some of my thoughts, I hope, in some small way, I’ve been able to bring you some comfort. Keep fighting the fight, stay safe and healthy and take care of yourself and those you love.
RELATED LINK: Ruins by Gabriele Tinti – an audio guide to relieve Kevin Spacey’s performance of “The Boxer”