Storytelling at Work
January 20, 2021
Five Feet Off the Ground

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Many centuries ago after years of wandering alone in the forests of India, a young seeker of truth found himself, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, at the entrance of the most remote ashram in the land. Gathering whatever strength he had left, he knocked on the ashram's massive wooden door and asked the gatekeeper for shelter, a request granted, under one condition -- at sunrise, he must be on his way.

Thrilled at his good fortune, the young man agreed to the condition and was escorted to a room with a mat on the floor, a tray of food, and a faded photo of a bearded man whom he assumed was the resident guru.

Sleep came easy to him that night, grateful as he was for a good meal and a chance to rest his weary bones. And rest he did. Deeply. That is, until the door to his room swung wildly open and there, standing just a few feet away, holding a small candle, loomed the man in the faded photo.

"Stand up now!" he commanded. "Stand up and follow me. We don't have much time."

Continue reading "Five Feet Off the Ground"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2021
Inspiring Cows

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"Practice," it has been said, "makes perfect". Practice, indeed, is how human beings translate theory into action. Practice is how any of us get good at anything. Of course, there are a million of ways to practice. In a group. Alone. In a cave. In a gym. In your mind. Online. Off the wall. With a teacher. Without a teacher. The sky's the limit and even then there are pilots who can help. The following story is all about practice -- a version of it I never imagined I would try.

Here goes:

Some years ago, I was living in a commune on a 600-acre cattle farm in Virginia. We were three couples, two cats, and one child in a five bedroom house. We called ourselves "Ananda Household" (at least that's what it said on our checkbook), ananda being a Hindi word for bliss -- our go to word of the moment because all of us were students of the same teacher who, among other things, was helping us awaken to the source of bliss within ourselves. Or like, whatever.

Continue reading "Inspiring Cows"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2020
Words Matter. So Does Dreaming.

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I had a very interesting dream this morning. Here goes:

I was sitting around a festive, holiday table with a bunch of people -- me being one of many guests. The dinner was over and, as I was preparing to leave, one of the other guests began complaining about something -- his intention, apparently, to bond with me before I exited -- his attempt to find some kind of "common ground" to talk about.

As I listened to his diatribe, I could feel my whole being shrinking and the pleasures of the evening beginning to dissipate. It was precisely at this moment that I realized I had a choice -- either sit passively by, nodding my head in agreement -- or speak my truth, which is what I decided to do.

What I said, was something like this (and I paraphrase): "What you are saying, my friend, has an affect on me -- but not a good one. Please know that your words matter -- all our words matter -- they affect things, especially the people around us. In fact, what you say goes into me and has the power to bring me down or awaken the part of me always wanting to become more alive. Speak to THAT part of me. When you do, the best in me awakens. Your words are a kind of fishing line you cast. They go into the people around you. Why not cast your line for love and see what nibbles you get there..."

MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:51 PM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2020
A Story That Might Save Your Life

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Ten years ago, Evelyne got a very bad case of Lyme's disease. So bad, in fact, that it turned into spinal meningitis -- a very scary situation that required her to have a port installed in her arm and receive IV antibiotics for 45 days. Not fun. Spooky. And very stressful, to say the least.

In response to her health challenge, I began to think that I also had Lyme's disease -- as many of the symptoms she was experiencing I began to experience, as well. And so I began reading about Lyme's disease, online, and became increasingly convinced I had it.

Two weeks into this saga, I flew to Florida to visit my sister, Phyllis, who was having her own health challenges -- and, during my visit, told her that I thought I had Lyme's disease and asked if she could make an appointment, for me, with her primary physician, which she did immediately.

Continue reading "A Story That Might Save Your Life"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2020
Inspiring Quotes on Storytelling with Islamic Visuals

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How I connected with an Islamic school in Australia
What Is a Wisdom Circle?
Wisdom Circle Testimonials
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling at Work

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2020
THE POWER OF IMMERSION (and the Island of the Fireflies)

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The year was 1981. Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President. Lady Diana had just married Prince Charles. And I had just landed a job, in Los Angeles, with the highly respected consulting firm, The Inner Game Corporation, who was on the brink of landing a big contract with Atari, the $900 million dollar maker of Pacman.

And so, as negotiations heated up, Inner Game's chief negotiator, the very savvy Prentiss Uchida, decided to sweeten the deal by promising Atari that we would deliver, in time for their upcoming computer summer camp, an interactive, make-you-own-adventure children's book that would teach young teens how to learn faster, the Inner Game way, with much less stress than ever before.

I was thrilled to hear that Prentiss had closed the deal. That is, until I found out who was going to be writing the book: me -- especially since the deadline was only 30 days away and I had never written a book before.

Continue reading "THE POWER OF IMMERSION (and the Island of the Fireflies)"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2020
THE INDEX CARD

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I don't know how many "theories of the universe" exist, but I am guessing there are probably a lot -- ways in which philosophers, astrophysicists, savants, and pundits have attempted, since the beginning of time, to wrap their heads around the unwrappable -- one of the fun sports of being human, I guess, no less meaningful than collecting stamps, crocheting, or guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar.

Continue reading "THE INDEX CARD"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

Quarantining the Mind

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The practice of quarantine began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit, at anchor, for 40 days before landing. This word for this phenomenon harkens back to two Italian words, "quaranta giorni", which translate as "40 days".

OK. I get it. Quarantining makes sense. When someone or something is infected and contagious we remove it from society. We protect the whole, by isolating the parts.

But the body is not the only part of us that gets infected. So does our mind -- what the dictionary defines as "the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences -- the faculty of consciousness and thought."

Continue reading "Quarantining the Mind"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:14 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2020
The Zen Filing System

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Some years ago, when I was the "Community Coordinator" in Denver, Colorado, I worked closely with a very Zen-minded man named Jon Lieben. Jon was in charge of all maintenance and repairs to the Community Center and had an office next to mine.

One day, as I was walking by Jon's office, I saw that he, with his left arm, was sweeping all of the papers and files on his desk into a big empty box on the floor. My first impression was quite judgmental -- that what Jon was doing was NOT a very skillful way to organize all of the many papers, projects, and details he was responsible for -- anyone of which, if left undone, would end up affecting hundreds of people and possible causing big problems, some of which that I would have to deal with later.

"Jon", I called out," What are you DOING, man? That's a lot of important papers you're just chucking into the trash. Don't you think you should, at least, LOOK at that stuff before throwing it away?"

Jon looked at me with an enigmatic smile. And paused.

"The way I figure it, Mitch, is that if any of these are REALLY important, somebody's gonna call me."

While I was absolutely bamboozled by Jon's approach at the time, the older I've gotten, the more I've come to realize how brilliant it was.
I've got files up the wazoo in my office, stacks of multi-colored folders in more than a few places, each file with a carefully written label telling me what's in it -- or, in some case, big bold words I've written on the folder, itself, words like "DEAL WITH THIS NOW!" or "IMPORTANT FINANCIAL STUFF."

Basically, this stuff just sits there like high school geometry homework waiting to be filed, which I rarely do. When I finally get guilty enough or anxious enough to actually DO something, I look through these stacks and discover that 95% of them are completely useless -- some kind of "paper trail" I never need to follow, the flora and fauna of somebody else's concept of what's important in my life.

If Jon was standing in my office, he would have, a long time ago, simply swept them into a big empty box on the floor, freeing me up from having to look at this stuff -- a visual phenomenon that has always left me feeling there was something UNDONE in my life and that something that REALLY NEEDED MY ATTENTION, when in fact, it didn't.

Let's hear it for Jon Lieben, ladies and gentlemen, and the realization that life is much simpler than how we perceive it most of the time.

(Jon, if you are reading this. THANK YOU!)


MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2020
WHAT REMAINS

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Recently, I spent 10 weeks, 7 days per week, 10 hours per day, sorting through 26 years of possessions, preparing to sell my Woodstock home -- infused, as it was, with countless memories of birth, death, fire, celebration, devotion, love, friends, inspiration, rites of passage, madness, dreams, dancing, bedtime stories, baby showers, live opera, dead mice, and ten thousand outtakes from the movie that seemed to be my life. I kept having to decide what to take, what to toss, what to give away, what to sell, and what to store.

Michelangelo, when asked how he created The David, said it best. "I simply took away everything that wasn't." Indeed! The statue was always in the stone. All he had to do was remove what wasn't. Less is more. Or as Dizzy Gillespie once said, "It took my entire life to learn what not to play."

And so, as I gave away, threw away, tossed, sold, and stashed, I got to experience the odd revelation of seeing what remained -- my own David, you might say, being revealed to me. What I noticed was this: no matter what form these objects took, they all served the same function: REMEMBRANCE!

What remains of my estate reminds me of what I truly value in this life. A FEELING! A sacred moment out of time. My souL's longing. God within. A wink from the Great Beyond. The experience of presence, contentment, and joy. The form it takes? Many Buddhas, especially, Hotei, the laughing Buddha. Photographs of Evelyne, Jesse, Mimi, and me when we were at our best. A 40-year old I-Ching. The Tao Te Ching. The poetry of Hafiz, Rumi, and Kabir. A child's drawing. A puppet. Many photos of my amazing Master, Prem Rawat. A black and white photo of my parents kissing on their wedding day. A picture of my sister, Phyllis, God rest her soul. My dog Chili's collar. An old turquoise beret. And several boxes of journals I have never been able to throw away -- the hieroglyphics of my heart on fire.

This is what remains. This. This is my David. The rest? Just stuff.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2020
What a Story Is Not

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For the past three years, I've been facilitating Wisdom Circles in the US, Mexico, and Australia. They have been an absolute delight -- wonderful gatherings of open-minded people who intuitively understand the power and glory of storytelling. And yet, during that time, I've noticed a curious phenomenon: Even though the word "story" is well-known to everyone, not everyone understands how to tell a story with impact.

Continue reading "What a Story Is Not"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2020
My Father, On the Tarmac

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Years ago, before terrorism, shoe bombs, and 9/11, my father and mother were on their way back home from a vacation in the Caribbean. When my father checked in at the airport, tanned and rested, the ticket agent informed him that the flight was "overbooked" and he would have to be re-ticketed and put on a later plane, along with my mom.

This, shall we say, did not sit well with him. After all, he had a confirmed ticket in his pocket and NEEDED TO GET BACK TO WORK. The ticket agent, following airline protocols, repeated the party line, explaining ever-so-politely that Mr. and Mrs. Ditkoff would need to be re-ticketed, which she would be happy to do. This was not the response my father was looking for. Not even close.

Continue reading "My Father, On the Tarmac"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2020
What Stories Will You Tell Today?

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Here's a story you can probably relate to: You are walking down the street when a friend, coming the other way, stops and asks "Whassup?" It's a question you've heard a thousand times before -- the default, open-ended salutation. Your choices are many. You can answer any way you want, from the predictable "Fine, whassup with you?" to an elaborate monologue on any number of topics: the weather, your vacation plans, the economy, the latest terrorist attack, local politics, your job, and the latest viral video.

Continue reading "What Stories Will You Tell Today?"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2020
HOW TO USE A STORY TO SOLVE a TOUGH PROBLEM: The 18th Camel

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Storytelling is the swiss-army knife of transformational catalysts. Done well, it can be used to build community, inspire, delight, transmit tacit knowledge, share wisdom, educate, inform, change behavior, and spark elegant solutions. The following story (a re-telling of a classic tale), accomplishes many the above, but is primarily about sparking elegant solutions. When you come to the end, I invite you to take a few minutes to reflect on the questions that follow.

THE 18TH CAMEL

Once upon a time, in Egypt, there was a much beloved camel merchant named Hamid. Hamid was known throughout the land as not only a connoisseur of fine camels, but a kind-hearted, generous, and wealthy man. So, when, one hot summer day, at the age of 55, he had a sudden heart attack and fell off his camel, the entire country went into mourning.

Continue reading "HOW TO USE A STORY TO SOLVE a TOUGH PROBLEM: The 18th Camel"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2020
TRANSPARENT: Eva Snyder

Wonderful new release by up and coming singer/songwriter Eva Snyder. More to come!

Eva's youtube channel

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2020
The Afghani Cab Driver and the $250M Dollar Salty Snack Food

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I am getting into the back seat of a yellow cab, as I've done a thousand times before, having just tipped the too-smiling bellboy too much for holding open the door and inviting me, as he had been trained to do just last week, to "have a nice day."

Continue reading "The Afghani Cab Driver and the $250M Dollar Salty Snack Food"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2020
The Art of Unpacking Stories

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Stories are gifts. When received, they animate, uplift, reveal, and inspire. Like any gift, however, stories need to be opened, not just received. Being given a gift is one thing. Fully enjoying the gift you've been given is something else -- and that requires removing the gift wrapping to see what's inside.

How do you remove the wrapping from a gift you've been given? How do you unpack the stories that are shared with you in order to discover what's contained within -- what most people refer to as the "moral" or the "message"?

Continue reading "The Art of Unpacking Stories"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2020
There Is No Storytelling Without Story Listening

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When small children speak their first words, the reaction of their parents is fairly predictable. It begins with lavish praise, high fives, hugs all around, and the ritual calling of Grandma and Grandpa. Everyone is thrilled. The baby has spoken! But the first time the child listens? No response at all. Indeed, it's a rare set of parents who even notice when their child listens for the first time.

As a species, speaking is far more highly regarded than listening. The ability to express... to make one's case... to be heard is primary. Listening, it seems, is the booby prize -- only suitable for people who have nothing to say or nothing better to do than be on the receiving end of someone else's monologue.

Continue reading "There Is No Storytelling Without Story Listening"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2020
The Wordless Sermon

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As the story goes, 2,500 years ago, Buddha gave a wordless sermon to his disciples. All he did was hold up a single white flower -- a lotus. That's it. No words. Just a flower. All his disciples were mystified, except, that is, Mahakasyapa, a young monk who immediately smiled, signifying the direct transmission of wisdom from Master to student -- a moment referred to in Buddhist literature as "tathagata", the ineffable nature of suchness.

Something within Mahakasyapa instantly understood the non-verbal essence of what Buddha was communicating. He got it in a flash. No thought was necessary, no analysis, no intellectualization. It was, as if, a veil had lifted and he got to experience something profound that was previously inaccessible to him.

Continue reading "The Wordless Sermon"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:53 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2020
Bring It Down to Here

Wonderful new song by Wooodstock's Tim Moore. Turn up the volume. Feel it.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

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ABOUT THE BLOG

Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

Order the book:

Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
Storytelling at Work
"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
FAQ
Do you want to know more about the book before buying it? Click here for Mitch's response to frequently asked questions about Storytelling at Work – the perfect book for people who think they have no time to read.
The Workshop
Storytelling is an "unconscious competency" – an ability we all have that all too often remains inaccessible to us. Enter the Storytelling at Work workshop – a simple way to activate this powerful, innate skill.
Wisdom Circles
Want to establish a culture of storytelling in your organization or community? Looking for a simple way to help people to share their meaningful, memorable stories with each other? Here's how.
Podcasts & Videos
Click here to view and listen to a series of interviews with the author of this blog. Go beyond the written word. Listen. Feel. Elevate the conversation. Understand what the big deal is about personal storytelling.
Blogs 'R Us
If you like this blog, you might also like Mitch's other two blogs: The Heart of Innovation and The Heart of the Matter. Mitch is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
Idea Champions
When Mitch isn't writing, he's captaining the good ship Idea Champions, a leading edge innovation consulting and training company based in Woodstock, NY. What their clients say.
© IDEA CHAMPIONS