Storytelling at Work
September 15, 2021
On Seeing Clearly

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Once there was a powerful, wise, and benevolent King who knew his time was coming to an end. Wanting to ensure that his Kingdom continued to thrive after his death, he called his three sons to his side.

"Blood of my blood," he began, "I know my loyal subjects are expecting me to pass my crown on to my first born -- and that is perfectly understandable, but I do not want my legacy ruled by assumptions and so I am inviting the three of you to enter into a contest to determine who the next King will be. I have designed the contest not to test your strength because I already know you are strong. Nor have I designed it to test your loyalty. I already know that, too. I have designed the contest to test your ability to see that which is not immediately apparent, since seeing clearly will be one of the most important skills you will need to rule wisely."

And with that he had his Grand Vizier escort the three boys down several long hallways and through a hidden doorway none of them had ever seen before.

Continue reading "On Seeing Clearly"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:35 AM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2021
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)

September 08, 2021
LIFE IS FULL OF SURPRISES

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Thirty two years ago I was walking on a street in midtown Manhattan with a friend of mine when I noticed a man, in a tuxedo, laying face down on the sidewalk. People, in both directions, nicely dressed, were walking by him. No one stopped. As I got closer, I could see that this man was Japanese, in a tuxedo, and bleeding from the forehead. As I bent to get a better look, I could smell the alcohol on his breath. Lots of it. Had he been mugged? I didn't know. But clearly, this bleeding man in a tuxedo was very drunk, in shock, and now beginning to moan.

"Call 911!", I yelled to my friend, trying my best to keep him calm, not wanting his bleeding to get any worse. The only thing I could think of, maybe from a movie I had seen years ago, was to keep him calm. So, I put my right hand on his shoulder, gently squeezed, and started telling him over and over again that "everything was going to be alright and help was on the way."

Nothing I did or said made a difference -- either because he was drunk, in shock, or didn't understand a single word of English. The more I spoke, the more he tried to wiggle away from me to the building just a few feet to our right -- trying, it seemed, to get the support he needed to stand. This, I knew, was a terrible idea as it would only quicken his bleeding. And so I kept on telling him, again and again, that everything was going to be alright and help was on its way.

But no matter what I said or how I said it, he kept making his way across the sidewalk to the marble facade on the building just a few feet away. And then, having moved beyond all my attempts to keep him still, he leaned against the wall and, wobbling, did his best to stand.

When this Japanese man in a tuxedo with a gash on his forehead stood to his full height, he immediately began to fall forward. That's when I reached out, in Good Samaritan mode, spread both of my arms wide and attempted to break his fall. And that's when he punched me in the face. I never saw it coming. BAM! A classic roundhouse. A sucker punch. My glasses went flying, both of my lenses popping out, me now bleeding from the bridge of my nose -- as the ambulance, sirens screaming, came screeching up to the curb, three paramedics jumping out and wrestling him to the ground, putting him in a straight jacket, then onto a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance, sirens screaming again as it drove away.

Crawling on my hands and knees, squinting and bleeding, I found both of my lenses and my frames, now very bent. Then I stood slowly, took the hand of my friend, and both of us, in silence, continued on our way.

More stories here
Photo: Dominik Leiner, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2021
You Are a Universe of Stories

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Astronomers, in 1996, attempted a very interesting experiment. They pointed the most powerful telescope in the world, the Hubble space telescope, into a part of the sky that seemed to be completely empty, a patch of the universe long assumed to be devoid of even single planet or star. This experiment was a somewhat risky one, since time on the Hubble telescope was quite expensive and in very high demand. Indeed, there were many highly respected scientists, at the time, who questioned whether "looking at nothing" was a wise use of time and resources. Nevertheless, the experiment proceeded.

Continue reading "You Are a Universe of Stories "

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2021
SHINE!

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This is Alex Romero. He shines shoes at the Denver Airport. I met him 30 minutes ago as I was making my way to Gate 54 and realizing what bad shape my shoes were in. That's when I asked him how much he charged and he told me "whatever you want to pay", which I found quite intriguing. So I took my seat, waiting for him to finish up with his other customer, and soon the shine began.

Rolling up my pant legs to my ankles, Alex asked me what it was that brought me Denver. I explained that I had flown in from Albany to attend an Intelligent Existence training, facilitated by Prem Rawat, on the subject of "noise" -- the all-too-common static in our heads -- and how we each have the ability to go beyond the noise to the place inside of us where real peace abides. Alex nodded. Then he went on to tell me that the noise in his head used to show up for him as worry, but now it has morphed into doubt.

Continue reading "SHINE!"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:33 PM | Comments (3)

August 25, 2021
The Curious Results of the Wisdom Circle Storytelling Poll

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Curious to know what kinds of stories people find most compelling to share and also listen to, I recently forwarded a 37-item poll to friends, clients, Facebook storytelling groups, and people who have attended one or more of the Wisdom Circles I facilitate. So far, 117 people have chimed in. Here are their responses, on a scale of 1-5.

4.79 -- The appearance of unexpected help
4.75 -- Finding your inner strength
4.72 -- An unforgettable moment with a teacher or mentor
4.72 -- Courage
4.71 -- The most remarkable moment of your life
4.70 -- Forgiveness
4.67 -- Accomplishing the seemingly impossible
4.66 -- Your most creative accomplishment
4.66 -- Gratitude
4.66 -- Overcoming fear
4.66 -- Inner transformation
4.66 -- Taking a risk
4.66 -- Finding your path
4.65 -- The power of intuition
4.63 -- What you've learned from failure
4.62 -- Breakthrough
4.61 -- Perseverance
4.61 -- Going beyond an old belief or assumption
4.61 -- Overcoming a difficult obstacle
4.61 -- Making a big change
4.60 -- An extraordinary encounter with a stranger

4.60 -- AVERAGE FOR ALL ANSWERS

4.59 -- Synchronicity
4.59 -- Letting go
4.58 -- Recovery/resilience
4.57 -- Adaptability
4.56 -- Trust/faith
4.54 -- Asking for help
4.51 -- Healing
4.50 -- A cosmic experience
4.49 -- A life changing dream
4.49 -- Going beyond the call of duty
4.49 -- A paranormal experience
4.46 -- Losing everything
4.45 -- Patience
4.43 -- A rite of passage
4.40 -- Your most embarrassing moment
4.40 -- Almost dying

Continue reading "The Curious Results of the Wisdom Circle Storytelling Poll"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2021
WOLFIE!

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Nine months ago (just enough time for a child to be born), I found myself, alone, in the basement of the home I had owned for the past 26 years in Woodstock, New York. It has come to this -- the time to empty it out and get ready for the new owners, nice people from Brooklyn who paid cash and, apparently, had no need for five broken CD players, eight boxes of National Geographic magazines, and more than two and a half decades of stuff that should have long ago been taken to the dump.

The basement was very familiar to me. Very. I had been in it many times before, me the furnace-adjustment guy, the sump-pump dude, the dead mouse finder, the humidifier man, not to mention stasher of too many things that had seen much better days.

Evelyne, God bless her, was in Mexico, Jesse in San Francisco and Mimi in Massachusetts -- our super dog, Chili (such a gooood boy!) gone too soon, which left you know who in the basement poking through boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff that seemed to go on forever.

When I got to the 20th box, I saw something I will never forget, one of those permanently etched-in-the-mind moments that might have made a good hieroglyphic -- something future archeologists would never be able to decipher. There, at the bottom of the box, one filled with missing winter socks, staplers, cassette tapes, paper clips, post-it pads, and instruction manuals from kitchen appliances we no longer owned, was WOLFIE -- one of my kids' favorite puppets -- an oversized, extremely furry puppet who had entertained my kids for what seemed like forever.

"WOLFIE! DUDE! MY MAN!" How did it come to this -- that you would now be sideways at the bottom of a box, 15 years on your own, hearing nothing but footsteps overhead and MAYBE some James Taylor from the living room?

"Wolfie! Wolfie! I am so sorry, bro" -- and with that, I reached in and pulled him out, none the worse for wear, it seemed, just a little bit damp and, from what I could tell, somewhat lonelier than I had remembered him to be. Unable to contain myself, I found that perfect place where a father’s hand belongs and held him high overhead so he might breathe and survey the room before the show went on.

My wife and kids were thousands of miles away. My plan for the day was gone. There were no birthday parties upstairs, no birthday hats, no candles, no cake, just me and Wolfie in the basement. Wolfie and me. Just the two of us. I was so glad to see him, as I found my Wolfie voice and performed a 5-minute puppet show, my eyes filling with tears, my voice quavering, the great play of life taking one more turn towards home.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2021
The Path Is Made

Storytelling for the Revolution
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2021
The Many Faces of Love

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There are many forces at work, in our lives, that defy logic and the mind's ability to comprehend. These forces have been variably referred to, over the years, as serendipity, synchronicity, grace, lila, karma, God's play, maya, and the great mystery of life. All of us, in our own unique way, have had these experiences -- small, medium, and large -- unforgettable moments that cannot be explained.

The following story of mine, one that I have hesitated to write for the past 49 years, is infused with some of these moments for your inspiration and delight. My purpose in sharing it with you is not to call attention to myself or promote my particular point of view, but to focus your attention, however briefly, on the magic of life we sometimes forget, ruled as we are by the density of things on planet earth -- especially during these dark and difficult days of the Coronavirus.

Ready? Here goes:

Continue reading "The Many Faces of Love"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:14 AM | Comments (1)

July 28, 2021
To My Mother on the Day of Her Funeral

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NOTE: The following eulogy I read at my mother's funeral 18 years ago. Ten minutes ago I rediscovered it, quite by accident. I offer it to you now in honor of all our mothers.

What can I say about my mother -- the one I called "mom" and "mommy" and "ma" and "Sylvie" -- the one through whom I was born, who fed me with her own blood before I entered the world?

There is something about the mother/son relationship that can never be explained -- a relationship that is way more about feeling than thinking -- and I thank my mother for awakening feeling in me, even when she was unaware of it in her self.

I have very good memories of my mother -- the woman you came here to honor today -- not so much for the things she did, but for the being she was, an advocate for love, appreciation, and simplicity.

Continue reading "To My Mother on the Day of Her Funeral"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2021
You Have Wisdom to Share (and it's hiding in your stories)

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All 7.6 billion people on planet Earth are composed of the same six elements: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorous. And all 7.6 billion people, no matter where they were born or what language they speak, are composed of 75% water, 23 pairs of chromosomes, and approximately 37.2 trillion cells.

Continue reading "You Have Wisdom to Share (and it's hiding in your stories)"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2021
44 Awesome Quotes for Writers

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Thinking about writing a book? Inspired to write a book? Feel called to write a book? Excellent. If so, take a look at the following quotes on writing from 44 accomplished writers who have been there and back and lived to tell the tale. Find a few quotes that really sing to you and contemplate them. Enjoy the journey! You can do this!

Continue reading "44 Awesome Quotes for Writers"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2021
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
Oxytocin-generating book excerpts

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

June 17, 2021
How Leonard Cohen Got His Song

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2021
How to Discover the Stories You Want to Tell

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"The most important question to ask is: What myth am I living?" -- Carl Jung

No matter what your age, a lot has happened to you in this lifetime -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- finding love, losing love, being hired, being fired, overcoming obstacles, falling on your face, births, deaths, victories, failures, and everything else in between. Choosing which of this stuff to tell as story presents an interesting challenge. The good news is there are many ways to make that choice.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE STORIES YOU ALREADY TELL: All of us have favorite stories we tell -- often, more than once. Even if you don't consider yourself a storyteller, there's a good chance you have recounted some of your life experiences to others -- people you trusted, loved, or wanted to communicate something meaningful to. Maybe it was your parents, sister, best friend, client, teammate, neighbor, doctor, spouse, or local bartender. Every time you tell one of them the story, he or she listens. What are those stories?

Continue reading "How to Discover the Stories You Want to Tell"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2021
The Robbers

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When I was 13, my sister was 18. She was the proverbial big sister. I was the proverbial little brother. And though she called me "twerp" and I called her "fatso", it was always comforting to know she was in the next room, especially on the nights when our parents went out. I wouldn't be alone. My sister was there.

But when she went off to college, everything changed. Now I was the only child in the house. Now it was just me.

I will never forget my first night alone. My parents, after dinner, casually informed me they were going out for the evening but would be back at a "reasonable hour." They petted the dog, gave me a hug, and were gone in a flash. I stood by the front door, listening, until the sound of their Oldsmobile disappeared into the distance. Then I made myself a huge bowl of ice cream, retreated to my room, turned on the TV, flopped down on my bed, and started doing my homework.

Continue reading "The Robbers"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2021
TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT

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Many years ago, with my good friend, Bill Chiricos, I drove from Denver to Miami Beach in a Ford pickup truck that had seen much better days, stars in our eyes, gas in the tank, and only one CD -- The Best of the Eagles. We must have played that CD a hundred times, never once tiring of it on our way to see the one who had showed us, just few years before, how to enjoy the ride, no matter where our destination. We barely slept. There was no reason to. We talked, we sang, we breathed, "Take It to the Limit" playing over and over and over again, many more times than made sense. But you see (and you do), when love is in your heart and you are driven by it, EVERYTHING sounds good, absolutely everything. In that divine interstate of being, there is no such thing as boredom or complaint, no such thing as lack. Birds sing, flowers bloom, and the road continues opening wider and wider, two young men singing at the top of their lungs, pounding out rhythms on the dashboard. And when, some 2,066 miles later, we finally arrived, unwashed but not unloved, we listened to the one we had driven all that distance for -- a man, it sure seems to me, the Eagles would have very much loved or, at the very least, dedicated their next song to, such sweet harmonies now being heard in between the deepening silences.

PremRawat.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:49 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2021
A Good Story, Like Perfume...

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A good story, like perfume, is evocative. Listening to it calls forth a response that moves a person from one state of mind to another, not just for the moment, but for all time -- because a story, well-told, is long remembered. And what it is that moves inside us is not just the plot, or the characters, or even the message, but the space of discovery that the story opens up.

Music is a perfect example of this phenomenon. A good piece of music is composed of pauses as well as notes. Indeed, it is the spaces between the notes that is often responsible for evoking the feeling, allowing the listener to more deeply experience what is being heard.

Amateur composers tend to do too much. They clutter their compositions with themselves, making the music more about their own proficiency than the depth of what's possible to evoke in others -- a phenomenon that led jazz-great, Dizzy Gillespie, to once confess, "It took me my entire life to learn what not to play."

The same holds true with story. Skillful storytellers don't say too much, don't clutter the tale with their telling. Instead, they provide just enough nuance for the listener to enter their world and participate. That's the goal of any work of art -- to create a space for something meaningful to be explored.

Ultimately, the storyteller's task is a simple one -- to create the stage upon which the human heart can dance -- what hearing a cello in the distance evokes at dusk or how you might feel just before opening a love letter.

"Creating a stage upon which the heart can dance" -- Prem Rawat
Excerpted from this book
Not excerpted from this book
Photo: Drew Collins, Unsplash

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

April 30, 2021
Is That So?

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Once upon a time, many years ago, before the invention of Starbucks, Velcro, or Fructose, there lived a humble monk in a remote monastery in China. His name was Wan Loo and he was much beloved by everyone he met, dedicated, as he was to realizing the highest truth with every fiber of his being.

Every morning, he meditated with the other monks in the Central Hall, then ate breakfast, washed his bowl, and worked in the garden for the rest of the day, taking brief moments now and again to read the sutras and teach calligraphy to the younger monks. Life was simple for Wan Loo. And very fulfilling. He couldn't have imagined a better life.

Continue reading "Is That So?"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:30 PM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2021
The Dream Letter

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Stories, like air and most people's discomfort with their driver's license photo, are omnipresent. Stories are everywhere, even in our dreams.

Deconstruct any dream and you will find story, the narrative our subconscious mind conjures up even while we are sleeping. Yes, our body may be asleep, but our mind is not, continuing the saga of our lives. We are late night scribes, it seems, purveyors of tales that need to be told, at least to ourselves.

What follows is a story I dreamed, one night, early in my 29-year marriage to the extraordinary Evelyne Pouget -- a marriage that has recently come to an end. Ah... the dream of it all!

Continue reading "The Dream Letter"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:45 PM | 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