Storytelling at Work
August 22, 2017
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"

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August 19, 2017
The Four Shamanic Questions

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"In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?"

- Gabrielle Roth

Storytelling at Work

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August 16, 2017
Listening is a Superpower

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As an innovation provocateur and storyteller, I am continually fascinated at how rare real listening is in most organizations. Everyone seems to be moving so fast or just WAITING for their turn to speak, that real listening rarely happens. Methinks, it goes all the way back to our childhood where we were deeply appreciated for speaking our first word, but never appreciated for the first time we listened. If you want to be a good storyteller, begin by being a good story listener.

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August 14, 2017
The Fence to Nowhere

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"Good fences make good neighbors," wrote the poet, Robert Frost, 63 years ago -- a now iconic poetic meme that looks at both sides of the human condition from two very different perspectives. Yes, it's true -- fences do make good neighbors. But not always. Sometimes, fences do other things -- like make good catalysts to help people understand the distinctions between selfless service, non-attachment, and idiocy.

The year? 1977. The place? Kissimmee, Florida. The occasion? A week-long, outdoor festival of spiritual seekers wanting to experience love. And I was one of them, having traveled 32 hours from Colorado for the chance to listen, learn, and be of service -- my chance to "give back" in response to the extraordinary gift I had been given six years earlier by the man whom all of us had traveled such long distances to see.

Continue reading "The Fence to Nowhere"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2017
Moses, Jesus, Jonah, and Me on The Toledo On-Ramp

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The spiritual literature of Planet Earth is full of stories that track the trials and tribulations of earnest souls on the path to God. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale. Like Moses in the desert. Like Jesus on the Cross. Every culture has their own, just like they have their own creation myths and favorite cheese. Indeed, the heroes and heroines of these soul-shaping stories have, in time, become a kind of code for the hard-to-describe qualities that define what it means to be an evolving human being -- the kind of stories we tell our kids whenever we want to impress on them something timeless and profound.

Continue reading "Moses, Jesus, Jonah, and Me on The Toledo On-Ramp"

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August 09, 2017
The Four Healing Salves

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August 08, 2017
I'm From Woodstock. Yes, I Am!

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I'm from Woodstock. Yes, that Woodstock, the famous Woodstock -- the most famous small town in the world, some people say. Former home to Bob Dylan. Jimi Hendrix lived here for a summer in the house right across the street from where I live now...

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2017
Why Your Brain Likes a Good Story

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Lucid, Harvard Business Review article on why your brain likes stories. Oxytocin anyone?

Storytelling at Work
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2017
MONIKA'S STORY: Just One of the 140 Million Orphans in the World

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This is Monika. She is six-years old. Soon after Nepal's devasating earthquake in 2015, she was found, abandoned and alone, wandering from tent to tent, village to village, begging for food. That's when the Himalayan Children's Charities first heard about her and that's when Monika's life took a major turn for the better. Read the full story here in the Huffington Post by the author of this blog.

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July 31, 2017
The Dalai Lama Speaks

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July 28, 2017
Steve Jobs on Storytelling

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My book on storytelling
Sparking innovation through storytelling
Storytelling and big hairy ideas
The mothership

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July 25, 2017
Kahili Gibran on Storytelling

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Storytelling at Work
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July 21, 2017
Why Tell Stories?

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In the last 60 seconds, here's what happened:

168 million emails were sent, 700,000 Google searches were launched, and 60 hours of YouTube videos were uploaded, not to mention all the spam, banner ads, phone calls, Facebook posts, tweets, texts, and telemarketing calls that found their way to your doorstep.

A whopping 90% of all data in the world has been generated in the past two years alone. Think about this: Before the dawn of civilization, approximately 5 exabytes of information had been created. Now, that much information is created every two days!

The common term for this head-spinning phenomenon is "information overload" -- the inability to absorb and process all of the information we are exposed to.

Continue reading "Why Tell Stories?"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2017
French Camembert

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As the story goes, camembert was originally created in 1791 by Marie Harel, a dairy farmer from Normandy upon receiving some advice from a Catholic priest from Brie. It's unique smell has been variably described as funky, earthly, mushroom-like, foul, stinky, nauseating, and the secret project of a chemical company.

Camembert, one of France's most popular cheeses, is made from unpasteurized milk and is rich in chemicals like ammonia, sodium chloride, and succinic acid. It is rated, by a leading food blog, as the second stinkiest cheese in the world, just behind Pont l'Evesque. Even when it's wrapped in its fashionable French box and the box is contained within an unfashionable plastic container in the refrigerator, it still stinks to high heaven.

Continue reading "French Camembert"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:18 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2017
She Doesn't Leave Her House All That Much Anymore

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She doesn't leave her house much any more. Sometimes, yes, but not very often. Sunday is her big day out. That's when Joelle, her youngest, now a grandmother herself, picks her up at 5:00 and brings her home -- just a 3-minute drive in a small, white car Henriette used to enter and exit with less difficulty, her right leg needing now a bit more time before the passenger door can close.

Everyone in the family is always happy to see her, taking turns kissing her cheeks and easing the short distance to her favorite couch where she sits and lets out a sound only the French can translate. She is happy to be here -- the table being set in the next room, the flurry of activity in the kitchen, her three great-grandchildren fighting over a toy on the floor just a few feet away.

Continue reading "She Doesn't Leave Her House All That Much Anymore"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2017
Written Watercolors from France

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For the past two weeks I've been living in France with my wife, Evelyne, helping to care for my 90-year old mother-in-law. It has been a very moving journey -- so much so, that an entire new dimension of storytelling has emerged for me. "Written watercolors," I like to think of them, sketches of the timeless human spirit as the body starts to age. Each of the stories will take you less three minutes to read, but the feeling contained within I hope will stay with you forever.

The Sign

The Table
Waving Goodbye to Henriette
My Mother-in-Law's Basement
The Phone in France
Jean's Wine Cellar
She Doesn't Leave Her House All That Much Anymore
French Camembert

Continue reading "Written Watercolors from France"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:53 PM | Comments (1)

The Table

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This is the cement table, my wife's father, Jean Pouget, built with his own two hands, 40 years ago in the French countryside -- a place for him to sit and sip aperitifs after work. Sometimes he sipped alone, sometimes with his wife, Henriette, now my 90-year old mother-in-law. The base and top were made from a mold and so were the sections of the small patio on which it rests, now all at odd angles to each other, like neighbors who no longer speak. The mosaic tiles, on top, are not exactly where he placed them, the grout having long ago come undone, so many storms having come and gone. Henriette, dear sweet Henriette, is no longer able to make her way down from the front porch to the table. She's not walking as well as she used to and she doesn't want to fall. So the tiles just sit there, sharp pieces of a puzzle no one puts together. Time has moved on... and so has Jean -- a man I have never met, but feel him, today, sitting next to me, like a rock, the last few rays of light finding their way through the tree tops where the two of abide.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:38 AM | Comments (0)

My Dad Loved Plaid

This just in from a long-time friend of mine, Cathy Deutsch:

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My father was a garmento. He worked on 36th Street in the very heart of the garment industry for over 40 years and had a passionate love of plaid. His name was Stan and all who knew him called him "Dapper Stan". He wore plaid shirts almost every day. Not flannel, as he was no lumberjack, but crisp beautiful shirts from the menswear department at Macy's which was just up the street from his office.

Every day or so he would come home from work with a Macy's bag with yet another plaid shirt. When I was a little girl of maybe 9 or 10 I remember going school-clothes shopping at A & S with both my parents. I fell in love with a plaid jumper. When I came out of the fitting room, all excited, he inspected the seams.

"The plaids don't match up", he said and wouldn't let me buy the dress. He felt quality at any price was important and taught me to look for small details.

He never set foot in Barneys or Bergdorfs, but boy did he have style! When he was a young man, he had his suits made in Chinatown because they got the pleats on the pants just right and he had all my mother's clothing, for special occasions, custom-made at one of his showrooms.

Sadly, my father passed 15 years ago. We honored his love of plaid by laying him to rest in his very favorite plaid shirt and khaki trousers. I miss him, terribly, every day and always feel him over my shoulder looking at seams and details when I do my buying. If he were still with us today, I would treat him to a Burberry. He would have loved it -- after inspecting the seams, of course!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:20 AM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2017
Jean's Wine Cellar

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It all began in Paris. That's where Mr. Boulet, the wine merchant, would knock at the front door and sit with Evelyne's father, Jean, once a month and talk about all things oenophilic -- the uncorking, the flavor bouquet, and the best buys of the season being just a few of them. Mr. Boulet, a rather large man with shiny black shoes, would pass his knowledge on to Jean, one sip at a time, and then, just before dinner, with great respect and a joke or two, make his best attempt to sell, he too having a family to support. Evelyne, only seven at the time, watched from across the room, her mother in the kitchen or, if someone's button had fallen off that day, sewing nearby.

When Evelyne turned ten, her father, having just been promoted, moved the whole kit and kaboodle to Strassbourg, 397 kilometers away from Mr. Boulet, but fortunately, deep in the heart of Alsace, the region, some Alsacians like to say, that's the birthplace of France's finest wines. For the entire time Jean lived in Strassbourg, he never bought a single bottle from a store. Not once. He couldn't. He wouldn't. Only from a vineyard would he buy, needing to be close to the source.

Continue reading "Jean's Wine Cellar"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:56 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2017
The Phone in France

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The phone in Evelyne's sister's house, in France, rings 25 times a day at least, the calls always from the same person, Henriette, her mother, who lives less than a mile away, alone. They begin around 9:30 in the morning.

If we don't answer, the phone rings again three minutes later, but not for as long. Perhaps, Henriette thinks, she dialed the wrong number the first time and if she dials again, she will find us home. Our strategy for responding to her is not all that clear. If we answer each call, that will, it seem, only enable Henriette and she will call again in 30 minutes or less, having nothing again to say, but wanting to hear a voice on the other end. Does she need anything? No. Does she have any updates for us? No. Does she want us to pick something up at the store? No. She just wants to hear a familiar voice -- a break from a day of game shows on her flat screen TV.

If we don't answer, which is sometimes our plan, Henriette ends up feeling ignored, which is never a good thing, but sometimes we are simply not at home. Joelle and Evelyne tell Henriette, firmly, there is no need for her to call so often. They tell her that they love her and will stop by later in the afternoon, but this rarely does any good. Henriette likes to dial the phone. It is one of the things she still knows how to do, having stopped crocheting and crossword puzzles three years ago.

I think about the ninth call or the 15th of the day when Evelyne and I just look at each other, not quite sure what to do. Sometimes we take a step or two towards the phone, then stop, letting it ring. Sometimes we don't even get up from the couch. Sometimes we pick up the phone immediately, even though we agreed earlier in the morning that we would not do that.

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Unspoken Word
My book of stories
TimelessToday

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:27 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.

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Storytelling at Work is more than a blog. It is also a book, featuring 38 stories from the front lines of business and 16 essays about the art and science of storytelling. Available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.
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