Storytelling at Work
January 31, 2020
My Vision for Fostering a Revolution of Inspired Storytelling

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Although I have been deeply involved in the world of storytelling for the past eight years, I think it's fair to say that I am relatively new to the game.

Anthropologists tell us that oral storytelling emerged about the same time as language -- approximately 100,000 years ago. Based on my calculations, that puts me about 99,992 years late to the party. Oh well! Better late than never, eh?

That's one of the great things about storytelling. Done well, it helps people experience that which is beyond time. Not "out there" stuff only noted in holy books. But "in there" stuff, embedded within each and every one of us.

And this is precisely what's inspiring me, these days, about storytelling.

Storytelling is one of the simplest, most powerful ways to spark awareness, community, insight, wisdom, and behavior change. Indeed, that is why I wrote my new book, Storytelling for the Revolution and why I wrote my previous book, Storytelling at Work. It is also why I deliver keynotes, workshops, and Wisdom Circles.

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That being said, I am not just interested in selling books and getting a few good pay days. What is WAY more interesting to me, is sparking a revolution of meaningful storytelling on planet Earth -- the kind of storytelling that uplifts, inspires, and awakens -- a simple way to open minds, open hearts, and elevate the conversation.

Towards that end, I share with you, below, my current vision for how I intend to accomplish the above. If you see yourself plugging into this vision in any way, let me hear from you. I'm just an email way (mitch@ideachampions.com).

1. Facilitate Wisdom Circles -- a chance for people to share (and learn from) their most meaningful, memorable, personal stories -- and the stories of others.

1. Train Thousands of People How to Facilitate Wisdom Circles.

3. Teach and Empower Thousands of Youth Activists How to Use Storytelling as Way to Get Their Massage Out There (starting with this NGO)

4. Deliver Storytelling Keynotes and Workshops to forward thinking organizations

5. Get my two books on storytelling read by a million people. This one. And this one.

6. Publish my Storytelling for the Revolution audio book, so people can listen to my stories, not just read them. Here's an excerpt.

7. Develop a model for how schools can better integrate storytelling into their curriculum -- starting with Al Siraat in Australia.

8. Make it easy for thousands of aspiring storytellers to learn what it takes to have more impact

9. Choose to tell a life-enhancing story whenever the opportunity arises.

10. Continue publishing my storytelling blog -- a free resource for aspiring storytellers and wisdom keepers everywhere.

Want to connect? mitch@ideachampions.com

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You have wisdom to share
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2020
Why Storytelling is Essential to Jews and Judaism

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Wonderful article by Rabbi Jonathan Sachs on storytelling and Judaism.

AN EXCERPT: "Tibet has been governed by the Chinese since 1950. During the 1959 uprising, the Dalai Lama, his life in danger, fled to Dharamsala, in India, where he and many of his followers have lived ever since. Realizing that their stay in exile might be prolonged, in 1992 he decided to ask Jews, whom he regarded as the world's experts in maintaining identity in exile, for advice. What, he wanted to know, was the secret? The story of that week-long encounter has been told by Roger Kamenetz in his book, The Jew in the Lotus. One of the things they told him was the importance of memory and storytelling in keeping a people's culture and identity alive."

Big thanks to Steven Ornstein for the heads up.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2020
Woodstock Wisdom Circles

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Woodstock, New York is famous for a lot of things -- the 1969 music festival, it's creative community, spirit of freedom, laid back lifestyle, mountain views, Tibetan monastery, Halloween parade, and Santa's Christmas appearance on the town green, just to name a few. One thing it is NOT famous for, at least not yet, is its Wisdom Circles.

If you have not heard of Wisdom Circles, you are in good company because they are a new phenomenon in Woodstock. Created and facilitated by Mitch Ditkoff, organizational change agent, and author of Storytelling at Work, and Storytelling for the Revolution, Wisdom Circles are a fascinating, new way to build community, elevate the conversation, and transmit wisdom one story at a time.

Bottom line, they are an opportunity for a small group of open-minded people (up to 12) to come together for an engaging evening of storytelling -- each person getting a chance to share at least one meaningful, memorable story from their own life and have an all-too-rare opportunity to have other people respond with heart and soul.

Here's what a sampling of Wisdom Circle participants have said about their experience of it.

WOODSTOCK WISDOM CIRCLES: 7:00 -- 9:15 pm

Friday, January 31
Friday, April 3
Friday, April 17

What actually happens in a Wisdom Circle?

To register: Email mitch@ideachampions.com (with "Wisdom Circles" in the subject line)

Fee: $15

After I receive your request, I will email you the address and the topics for the evening(s) you have selected.

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MitchDitkoff.com
Wisdom Circle Testimonials
Storytelling for the Revolution
What people are saying about my new book
You have wisdom to share

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2020
The Birthday Gift

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Twenty four hours before Prem Rawat's birthday this year, I made my way to the nearest San Miguel FedEx store, first thing in the morning -- the place where I had shipped my birthday gift to him just three days before.

Since my present had not yet reached it's destination, I was very concerned. Actually, "concerned" was not really the right word to describe my sorry state of mind. I was actually somewhere between "extremely disappointed," "impatient," and "pissed off." For months I had been working on Prem's birthday gift and had made every effort imaginable to make sure it arrived at his residence on the day before his birthday.

But it didn't.

So here I was at the Mexican FedEx office trying to figure out what happened and when I could expect the package to arrive, especially since I had paid an ungodly amount of money to get it there on time.

While the delightful woman behind the counter did not speak English, she was able to secure the help of one of her bi-lingual co-workers who proceeded to explain that she had no idea where the package was and why it hadn't arrived and when it would arrive -- if, indeed, it was ever going to arrive.

Pointing to the third line on the nearest FedEX form, she mumbled something about "customs" and mentioned a few other things that didn't make sense or make me feel especially confident that my birthday present was going to arrive at Prem's residence any time soon.

I could feel the "irate customer" within me rising to the surface and, at the same time, could also feel the humor of the whole situation, followed by a gradual, somewhat curmudgeonly, letting go into "what will be will be" mode. Besides, this was Prem Rawat's birthday I was wanting to celebrate. It just didn't feel right to get uptight about the whole thing. Right occasion, wrong feeling.

So I diligently wrote down the US customer service number and my very long FedEx tracking number, thanked the two mujeres behind the counter for their efforts and made my way to Zentenos, my favorite cafe in all of San Miguel, just a 3-minute walk away.

Ordering a cappuccino grande, I took a seat and got ready to call FedEx customer service. At the exact same moment, Fernando, the cappuccino maker, waiter, and all around good guy, walked over to my table, and placed, with great cuidado, my cappuccino before me.

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D'oh! What? Huh? The image staring up at me was not the usual heart I had been accustomed to seeing in my froth for the past 100 visits to the cafe. Instead it was a a swan with a heart for a head.

Time stopped. And space, too.

The swan, I knew, was an image near and dear to Prem and his own father, Shri Hans Ji Maharaji, one he had referred to many times before in his talks as a symbol for the divine -- a creature with the ability to be able to drink from a mixture of milk and water and be able to drink only the milk. "Hansa", as the swan is referred to in Hindi, is often identified with the Supreme Spirit, Ultimate Reality, or Brahman. Indeed, hansa symbolizes "moksha", the release from the the cycle of life and death.

One hundred times I had been to this cafe and 100 times I had ordered a cappucino and never -- not once -- had I ever seen a swan in my cup.

The curious thing? I thought I had been making so much effort to deliver Prem's birthday gift on time and yet, here, now, in this Mexican cafe, staring into my cappuccino, I got to experience his gift to me -- the choice I have to enjoy the present moment and the extraordinary play of life... the choice I have go beyond my mind... to be liberated from the illusion... to be grateful for the many gifts being bestowed on me every single day -- and often when I least expect it.

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First photo: Ibrahim Rifath, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2020
KIDS CORNER: How Storytelling Builds Attachment

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If you have ever heard a child say, 'Tell me a story,' you may have thought she merely wanted a good story. Not necessarily true. There's a very good chance the child was motivated more by the need for your attention -- a chance to connect, bond, and simply BE with you. More about this phenomenon and how it relates to attachment theory in this lovely blog post by the authors of How to Tell Stories to Children.

Big thanks to Janice Wilson for the heads up.

Storytelling for big kids. Like YOU for instance
Learn to be a transformative storyteller

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

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.

I am not going to give you instructions for how to do that. Why not? Because you already know. You do. It's just that, sometimes, funky old habits get in the way. When you let go of those habits, the story you want to tell will shine. (Kind of like what Michelangelo said when asked how he made the David: "I simply took away everything that wasn't.")

So...here goes: six things storytelling is not:

1. A Chance to Tell the Story of Your Life: Just because you have a captive audience doesn't mean you have to rewind the tape of your life and tell them everything. No one really wants to hear it. While you may feel better at the end of your monologue, no one else will.

2. You Talking About Things: Simply stringing together a bunch of things that "happened" to you is not a story. It may be a report, a list of accomplishments, or you "waxing poetic" about something you care about, but it is not a story. Stories have a dramatic arc -- a beginning, a middle, and an end. TheY flow, like a river, to the ocean. They are not random puddles.

3. A Sanitized Summary of an Experience You'd Had: Most amateur storytellers tend to underplay or completely omit one of the most important elements of a story -- the obstacle. Little Red Riding Hood had to deal with the Big Bad Wolf. Perseus had to deal with the Minotaur. Luke Skywalker had to deal with Darth Veda. No obstacle, no story. Of course, this obstacle might be an "inner" obstacle like fear, doubt, or procrastination. That's fine. Just don't forget to give your obstacle its proper due.

4. Multiple Stories Threaded Into One: Dizzy Gillespie said it best: "It took my entire life to learn what not to play." Translation? Be economical in the telling of your stories. Be selective! Know what to leave out. Just because something in your story reminds you of something else, that doesn't mean you should include it. If you do, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin and your audience losing interest.

5. Talking to Yourself in Monotones: Some aspiring storytellers, not sure if their story is a "good" one or that anyone will listen, have a tendency to speak in a very soft voice or forget to make eye contact. Oops! Not a good idea. If no one can hear your story, what good is it? And remember, it's not just about the words, it's about the feeling behind the words.

6. Retelling an Experience (Instead of Reliving It): It is not uncommon for aspiring storytellers, in their commitment to "tell what happened", to leave out the emotion of the story. Facts are one thing, feeling is quite another. Without feeling, your story becomes lifeless -- merely an 11:00 news report. Embodying your story is the real work. Inhabiting it -- not just hydroplaning on the surface of events, but diving in to the deep end of the experience you are attempting to convey. (Big shout out to Gail Larsen for this important distinction.)

Painting: Lisa Dietrich

How to Tell a Good Story
Why We Tell Stories
Ten Reasons Why People Don't Tell Their Stories

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

January 21, 2020
ANNOUNCING MICRO-LEARNING FOR STORYTELLERS: May, 2020

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One of the powerful things about storytelling is that it doesn't take a lot of time to deliver the goods. Indeed, a meaningful, life-changing story can easily be told in five minutes or less. Sometimes, one minute or less.

And yet, curiously, most storytelling workshops and books require hours of your time. Sometimes, days. Which is precisely why I've created a super-simple way for aspiring storytellers to get what they need in order to develop their chops without a lot of huffing and puffing -- and without a lot of expense.

I call it "Micro-Learning for Storytellers" -- the perfect blend of simple, deep, fun, engaging, and self-paced.

It begins with a live, 90-minute, online Storytelling Master Class from award-winning author and Wisdom Circle Founder, Mitch Ditkoff. After the session, participants receive a link to Mitch's Micro-Learning for Storytellers page -- access to more than 100 mind-opening videos, articles, stories, and podcasts on how to become a transformative storyteller.

Who is this for? Anyone who wants to explore new and better ways of communicating a meaningful message via the medium of oral storytelling.

The next Storytelling MasterClass is planned for May, specific date to be announced. Very affordable.

Interested? Simply click this link and then the "email us" link and Mitch will get back to you ASAP.

Mitch Ditkoff
Storytelling for the Revolution
What people are saying about the book
Storytelling at Work
Wisdom Circles

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2020
MY ONLY HIT OF THE SEASON

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There are entire years of my life I can barely remember, but I will never forget the nanosecond, as a 16-year old right fielder for Camp Scatico, when I got my only hit of the season.

It was a bullet up the middle, right through the pitcher's legs, over second base, and into center field before you could say "Duke Snider." Bam! It was a perfect hit. Seriously. A major crack of the bat. A single for the ages. Pete Rose-like. Derek Jeter-like. Tony Gwynn-like.

There were two outs at the time and my best friend, Matt Weinstein, our rather over-sized catcher, was on second. As soon as I made contact, Matt was off and running, heading to third, lumbering, as most catchers do, not all that quickly. Me? I sprinted out of the batters box and got to first in a flash, stunned that I now had a batting average and had earned the right to stand on first base and take it all in -- the glory, the accomplishment, the sense of timeless connection to all of the lead off hitters since the beginning of time -- "speedsters" was how people referred to us. "Table setters".

But Matt got thrown out at home! Truly. Really. I shit you not. My only chance for an RBI the entire season got gunned down at home by the maniac center fielder who must have been a relative of Roberto Clemente. Yup. Big Matt got thrown out. It wasn't even close. He was out by 15 feet. And it was the third out, at that. Third out, as in end of the inning.

Finito. Kaput. No, I was not allowed to stand on first and admire my handiwork. There was no time to accept high fives from the first base coach. The inning was over. Done. End of story. Now I had to run back to the dugout, get my glove, and make my way to right field.

Every time I've seen Matt since then, here's what I say:
"MATTHEW, HOW THE FUCK COULD YOU GET THROWN OUT AT HOME? HOW? MY ONLY CHANCE FOR AN RBI THE ENTIRE SEASON AND YOU GET THROWN OUT TO END THE INNING? REALLY? REALLY?"

I can barely remember my first marriage. I have no memory of high school geometry. But I remember absolutely EVERYTHING about that summertime at-bat 57 years ago. Everything.

Did I mention it was my only hit of the season, a single up the middle, through the pitcher's legs and over second base before anyone could even blink? That's how hard I hit the ball. I mean, it literally rocketed off my bat. And I sprinted to first. Sprinted. And the crowd went wild. Totally wild. And my good buddy, Matt "I'm-Not-Exactly-Usain Bolt" Weinstein, GET THROWN OUT AT HOME! THROWN OUT! TO END THE INNING! YOU CAN ASK ANYONE!

It wasn't funny then, but it is very funny now.

THIS is precisely how I want to live my life, ladies and gentlemen. One swing of the bat! CONTACT! And I am running, like a man on fire, to first, enjoying the moment for as long as I can, no matter what happens next. Or doesn't.

PLAY BALL!!!!!

Excerpted from Storytelling for the Revolution
MitchDitkoff.com
Baseball!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:15 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2020
ANNOUNCING: Wisdom Circle Facilitator Training -- Spring 2020

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If you are a lover of storytelling, believe in its power to awaken, heal, inspire and want to learn how to facilitate Wisdom (storytelling) Circles in your home, community, or organization, this blog post is for you.

In the Spring, I will be launching an online Wisdom Circle Facilitation training that will teach you everything you need to know to become a masterful facilitator of storytelling circles. And all it takes is two hours. That's it. Two hours.

As the author of two books on storytelling (see below) and the Founder/Facilitator of Wisdom Circles in the US, Mexico, and Australia, I am now ready to share what I know with others who are wanting to carry the "storytelling torch". My vision? That all over the world, on any given night, there will be thousands of Wisdom Circles happening -- soulful, engaging, life-enhancing opportunities for friends, neighbors, and co-workers to gather together and share their memorable, meaningful, wisdom-infused stories with each other.

Towards that end, I have distilled down everything I know about facilitating Wisdom Circles and will be soon be sharing it, once a month, with the rest of the known universe. Each participant will also receive (at no extra charge) a link to my "Micro-Learning for Storytellers" service -- a self-study curriculum that includes 52 videos, articles, and stories on the art and science of storytelling and group facilitation. Whoo hoo!

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The date of the upcoming online training? TBD. Probably in May. The price? I'm still figuring that out, but know this -- it is going to be affordable. (PS: You can earn back the cost of the training with the first two Wisdom Circles you facilitate).

If you want me to keep you in the loop, email mitch@ideachampions.com and I will keep you posted.

MORE ABOUT WISDOM CIRCLES and STORYTELLING
What people are saying about Wisdom Circles
What happens in a Wisdom Circle?
Why We Tell Stories
Ten Reasons Why People Don't Tell Their Stories
My Vision of a Storytelling Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling at Work
You Have Wisdom to Share

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Painting for Rukeyser quote: Lisa Dietrich

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2020
What Actually Happens at a Wisdom Circle? The Format?

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The format and flow of a Wisdom Circle is very simple. Prior to the gathering, via email, I let everyone know what the storytelling themes of the evening will be, so, if participants want, they can identify -- and even practice -- a story they want to tell.

On the night of the Wisdom Circle, I begin by welcoming everyone and asking each participant to introduce themselves and state what they hope to get from the evening -- "what's in it for them." I then set the context -- including a brief introduction to storytelling as a communication medium, the ground rules for the circle, and an explanation of my role, as facilitator.

To kick off the storytelling part of the evening, I tell a brief story (5 minutes or less) and invite everyone in the circle to "unpack" it -- either asking me questions about the story, asking for further elaboration, or reflecting on how the meaning/message of the story relates to their own life. In effect, each story told becomes a catalyst for insight, reflection, and positive change.

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Then, the floor is open for the next person to tell their story and for the rest of us to "unpack" it. And so on, for the next two hours or so. Storytelling is voluntary. Some people prefer just to listen and reflect on other people's stories. Some people may end up telling more than one story. The process is very organic.

Some evenings, depending on the number of participants (never more than 12), I may choose to divide the group into smaller groups so more people get a chance to share their stories.

At the end of the evening, the group gets a chance to reflect on some of the key themes of the evening and how those themes relate to their current life challenges/opportunities.

A Wisdom Circle is not a class, seminar, class, therapy session, or lecture. It is a chance for people to share their meaningful, memorable stories with each other in a safe, engaging, and non-judgmental environment. Bottom line, it's a fun, uplifting, insight-invoking evening where real listening happens and everyone has an inspired opportunity to learn from their own and other people's life experiences.

You have wisdom to share
What a story is not
Wisdom Circle ground rules
Testimonials
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling at Work
Illustration: gapingvoid

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2020
An Intriguing Invitation for Pet Store Owners Everywhere

Greetings! Mitch Ditkoff here, Rep/Agent for pet portrait artist, Evelyne Pouget. If you have customers who might be interested in commissioning Evelyne's services, you will likely find our new Finder's Fee offer worth considering. It costs you absolutely nothing and opens the door for you earning a 10% fee on all clients you send Evelyne's way.

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Bottom line, as Evelyne's Agent/Rep, I am looking for simple ways to promote her work to the general public. And, since you, as a pet store owner, interact daily with the demographic most interested in her services, you are the ideal person for me to reach out to.

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A SAMPLING OF TESTIMONIALS FROM EVELYNE'S CLIENTS

"I LOVE the painting! It is so life-like and I truly feel Sparky's presence in the house. It's truly remarkable. I'm so very grateful to Evelyne for creating such a timeless treasure. The painting will be displayed prominently in my living room for all to see. He's watching over me still. So much gratitude to you!" - Suzanne Leon

"The oil pastel work Evelyne created of my dog, Kaya, is one of my most prized possessions! Evelyne truly captured Kaya's essence -- her sweetness, bright spirit, and loving nature. This beautiful piece is something I will always cherish." - Sarah Jacob

"Evelyne nailed the tender, sweet nature in Bonnie's eyes precisely, and brought Bonnie's spirit to life! Seeing the completed oil pastel painting for the first time brought Janey to tears. Bonnie's painting will be a daily inspiration for Janey." - Colin Pence

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HOW OUR FINDER'S FEE PROCESS WORKS:

1. At your request, I email you a PDF of Evelyne's Pet Portrait poster (showing samples of her work and describing her services).

2. You print out the poster and post it in your store.

3. Interested customers of yours email me and ask for more info. I respond via email or a phone call -- whatever they prefer.

4. If any of your customers decide to engage Evelyne's services, I email them (and you) a Letter of Agreement, noting fees.

5. Within 48 hours of receiving final payment from the customer you referred, I pay your 10% commission (via PayPal or snail mail.)

All of the above is designed to be super-simple, stress-free, and win/win/win. Your customers get an awesome portrait of their beloved poochie or kitty. You receive a 10% finder's fee. And Evelyne gets to do the work she loves to do.

Evelyne works in two mediums: oil pastel and oil painting. Her fees range from $500 - $2,000, depending on the medium, size, and complexity of the painting. Your finder's fee will, therefore, range between $75 - $250. The only effort required, on your end, is to post Evelyne's promo poster in your store. There is nothing else to do.

NOTE: As a matter of protocol, I always ask prospective clients where they learned of Evelyne's pet portrait services. So... I will always know if YOU were the referring source.

My day job is President of Idea Champions, a consulting and training company, based in Woodstock NY. Here is my bio. And here are my clients.

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Questions? mitch@ideachampions.com

EvelynePouget.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2020
EYE THOU: Seeing Scott Cronin

Here is a sampling of the extraordinary work of Scott Cronin. I will be posting more here in the weeks to come, along with Scott's fascinating story -- a compelling example of true "outsider art."

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:16 PM | Comments (2)

January 01, 2020
Two By Emilia Ditkoff

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

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:

MitchDitkoff.com
Click here for the simplest, most direct way, to learn more about Idea Champions' semi-fearless leader, Mitch Ditkoff. Info on his keynotes, workshops, conferences, and more.
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.
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Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
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