Storytelling at Work
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"

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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"

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September 09, 2020
Bring It Down to Here

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

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September 03, 2020
Quarantining My 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 My Mind"

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

August 25, 2020
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)

August 18, 2020
Words Written to Ease the Passing of My Friend's Dying Mother

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A few days ago, I got an email from a friend of mine, in Denmark, telling me that her mother was dying and would I be willing to email a few of my stories to her that she might choose one to read, bedside, to her mother.

Whoa! This was not a request that had ever come my way before and I was not at all sure I had anything up to the task. Curious, I began looking through my stuff and, after a few minutes, found a few that seemed sort of possible and sent them on their way.

Tina chose this one and read it to her mother on her death bed -- her mom smiling upon hearing it, nodding, and squeezing Tina's hand.

Continue reading "Words Written to Ease the Passing of My Friend's Dying Mother"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:08 AM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2020
The Last Story of a Dying Woman

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See this photo?

It was taken a few days ago in a hospital room in Copenhagen -- a photo of a story I wrote five years ago about an unforgettable moment I experienced, with my son Jesse, when he was just four years old.

Last week, a friend of mine, Tina Lindgreen, in Denmark, asked me to send her some stories of mine to read to her mom on her death bed. This is the one she chose. Her mom loved the story, squeezed Tina's hand as it was being read, then nodded and smiled. The next day was her last.

In 1998, when the experience I wrote about happened, I had no idea that 22 years later, it would help ease the transition of a 96-year old woman 3,790 miles away. Bottom line, we have very little idea about the impact our thoughts, words, and actions have on other people.

We are all connected.

Excerpted from this book
Not excerpted from this book
Or this book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

"Dada, Do You Have Time to Catch My Bubbles?"

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One morning, 22 years ago, I found myself standing in my closet, madly searching for clean clothes in a last minute attempt to pack before yet another business trip, when I noticed my 4-year old son, Jesse, standing in the entrance. In one hand he held a small plastic wand, in the other, a plastic bottle of soapy water.

"Dada," he said, looking up at me. "Do you have time to catch my bubbles?"

Continue reading ""Dada, Do You Have Time to Catch My Bubbles?""

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2020
Down to the Very Last Breath

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Soon to turn 73 and increasingly realizing, in my bones and my joints, that I am mortal, I would like to take the next few minutes, if I may, to share, just a little bit, about the preciousness of life -- something I've always sensed, but didn't know, for sure, until the moment I almost died at 21.

Looking back to that time, 52 years ago, beyond the massive trauma of it all, I understand, now, what a great gift I was given, tough love from the universe, shock therapy for the soul.

I will spare you the back story and just cut to the chase.

Caught in a rip tide, I was drowning. I was going down for the third time, gulping water as I climbed an invisible ladder to nowhere, gasping. My strength was gone, completely sapped. I had nothing in the tank. Nothing. At that moment -- only one thing was clear. I was just about to die. This was the end.

Continue reading "Down to the Very Last Breath"

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August 11, 2020
Ethan Hawke on Creativity

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August 09, 2020
FEEDING OTHERS

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The following is a guest post from the very soulful and talented Burrill Crohn

The COVID crisis has only increased (vastly) the disproportion between the privileged haves and the far larger population who are somewhere on the scale between hungry and starving (often to death).

While the crisis has seen more hoarder mentality in many, there are others -- individuals and organizations -- who have been able send massive amounts of food to those with little or none. And so can we all, in whatever capacity.

But there is another approach as well, borrowed from the long-time Buddhist loving/kindness meditation practice -- one that breathes in the suffering of others, whether a specific individual or all sentient beings, and on the outbreath sends love and compassion to one and all.

When eating, I do my own variation.

As I eat -- whether snack or meal -- I invite others, anywhere, to come and share in the taste, nourishment and sheer joy of this food. Sometimes it's a blanket, open invitation. Sometimes I focus on a group: prisoners in isolation, someone I read about in the news, or a homeless family I see on the street. Other times I send this energy out into the non-material world seeking specific others or just any and all who can tap into what I'm sending.

One morning, for instance, eating a hearty breakfast, I specifically focused on all the front line COVID emergency responders who might have left home without a nourishing breakfast, or maybe were feeling a mid-morning let down of glucose metabolism and needed a pick-up.

Sometimes I see this like Keith Haring graffiti, lines of energy flowing from me to others; sometimes it's like inviting strangers, as is almost a requirement in many cultures and religions, into my own home (or in this case, body) to share a meal. There are other variations, as well, but you don't need examples from me. As you develop your practice -- if you so choose -- you'll find plenty of your own.

Certainly, facing the horror of pandemic hunger, there are those who will say only action counts. But we also live in a world where we send good wishes to others, offer prayers in houses of worship and the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of more than a half a billion people, says, "Think peace".

So I say, "Think food." It can't hurt, it might even help.

-- Burrill Crohn

Photo: Ashkan Forouzani, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2020
FOOD FOR BEYOND THOUGHT: The Nourishing Power of Storytelling

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Years ago, in a faraway land, there lived an evil sorcerer who was in a bad mood most of the time. Plus, he smelled bad.

One day, in an especially cranky frame of mind, he decided to work his dark magic in a particularly nefarious way -- he cast a spell throughout the land that locked everybody's arms at the elbow.

The first few days of this massively uncomfortable condition wreaked havoc throughout the land, especially at meal time, because people could no longer feed themselves.

The only way anyone could get food in their mouths was to eat like a dog, an option that was not a popular one to this proud race of people. Indeed, mostly everyone chose to go hungry rather than eat this way.

That is, until the third day of this mass affliction when one particularly bright young girl came up with a brilliant solution.

Continue reading "FOOD FOR BEYOND THOUGHT: The Nourishing Power of Storytelling"

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August 07, 2020
You Tawkin' to Me?

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August 04, 2020
THE STORY UNFOLDS! Zoom Wisdom Circles in September

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"The shortest distance between two people is a story."

Knowing that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways for people to connect and share the very best of who they are, I've decided to launch a series of online Wisdom Circles in September. I've resisted "going virtual" with storytelling for months, attached to my concept that REAL storytelling requires that everyone is the same physical "around the fire" space. And while that is still my preference, the times they are a changing.

Instead of wearing our mask, we get a chance to take off our mask.

If you're interested, send me an email (mitch@ideachampions.com) and I will get back to you with details.

At this point, I'm thinking the ZOOM Wisdom Circles will happen once a week, for 60-90 minutes, and cost $15 per person. People can come to one or the entire series depending on available space (limit of 12 -- committed as I am to the coziness factor).

Here's what one person had to say about his experience of participating in a Wisdom Circle from 5,000 miles away:

"My first Wisdom Circle was a very personal, energetic, intimate experience. I enjoyed meaningful stories in a small group and received validation that we're all connected and can see the me in all of us. And I was 5,000 miles away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! Instant connection without visual distraction on a cellular level." - Casey Holt

More info below:

What is a Wisdom Circle?
Testimonials
My 2018 book on storytelling
My 2015 book on storytelling
Who am I?

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

July 27, 2020
The Pencil

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"To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour." - William Blake

In six weeks, I will be turning 73, the same age Ray Charles, Federico Fellini, and Charles Darwin were when they left their mortal coil. Based on the most recent actuarial tables at my disposal, I have another 12.43 years to go. That will make me 85 when it's time to split the scene. Of course, the actuaries might be wrong (just ask their teenage kids). Today, for example, could be my last day. Or maybe I have 30 years left. I have no idea.

What I DO know is this: In the many years I've been alive, I have spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to communicate, in writing, the ESSENCE of things -- what it means to be a conscious, loving, evolving human being on planet Earth. Towards that end, I've written seven books, 4,500 blog posts, 750 poems, 350 speeches, 125 magazine articles, 25 songs, 500 power point shows, five book reviews, 150 unpublished journals and God knows how many love notes and letters.

Do I like what I've written? Some of it, yes. Have I received some positive feedback along the way? Yes, indeed. Have I truly communicated what my howling heart has hungered to express? Um... well... er... not really.

Enter, stage left, the sound of one hand clapping or, perhaps, a wolf, head tilted towards the sky.

This age old dilemma/paradox/contradiction -- the inability of our species to communicate the inexpressible -- was described, some years ago, in a single sentence by my favorite person in the whole world, Prem Rawat:

"It's like trying to describe the taste of a mango."

OK. I get it. Words don't cut it. While they may, on a good day, be the finger pointing at the moon, they are not the moon itself. Still, in my heart of hearts, I still believe it's possible for words -- the soul's hieroglyphics -- to evoke the feeling of moonlight, if not the lunar landscape itself -- love's luscious luminescence that... just... might... be enough to see by... on any given night... to reveal a field, off to one side, with just enough space for YOU to dance in. Or, if you don't feel like dancing, then at least have a chance to catch your breath.

And so, my friends of cyberspace and beyond, in the spirit of knowing I am mostly deaf, dumb, and blind to that which is calling me, I am doubling down during these crazy days of quarantine -- and promise, with absolutely no guarantees, to write a story, soon, about what I learned from a single pencil rolling off my desk, onto the floor, in the middle of a Prem Rawat Knowledge Session in India, ten years ago -- a time in my life when I was just beginning to learn how to serve without making such a big deal about it.

To be continued...

Photo: Jan Kahanek, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:44 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2020
NEW FROM PREM RAWAT: Once Upon This Time There Lives You

NEW from the master storyteller, Prem Rawat! ONE 2 ONE, a series of daily talks about the story of all our lives -- the real plot... the true telling of the tale... and YOU are the character.

Feel free to subscribe to his newly launched YouTube channel to stay up to date with the timeless.

Continue reading "NEW FROM PREM RAWAT: Once Upon This Time There Lives You"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:14 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.
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