Storytelling at Work
November 12, 2021
The Relationship Between Revolution and Revelation

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We, as a human species, are standing at a crossroads. The name of this crossroads doesn't really matter. Different people will describe it differently, no matter what the signposts say. What DOES matter is the fact that each and everyone of us, now more than ever, is facing a monumental choice -- and that choice has a lot to do with the kind of lives we want to lead.

Some people call the crossroads the intersection of Light and Dark. Some call it the crossroads of Right and Wrong. Others, call it Life and Death or any other pair of words that give shape to the polarity of our lives. But no matter what words we use to describe where we stand, a choice is definitely before us and a choice needs to be made.

Heroes in all stories face this same choice. Do they take the high road or the low? Do they accept help from a stranger or go it alone? Do they face the beast head on or sneak out the back? That's what makes stories interesting. The intrigue. The unknown. The conflicts navigated by the hero and, of course, how that hero deals with the obstacles that inevitably head their ugly rear along the way.

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One choice we all have, as teller of tales, is the choice between revolution and revelation, two words that sound almost exactly alike, but conjure up very different images in the mind.

Let's start with "revolution". Why is revolution a concept storytellers need to be mindful of? Because every truly great story IS a revolution -- both in the sense of revolving around a core theme and being an uprising, of sorts -- a conscious taking on of an old way of being that needs to be overthrown, enabling the hero to be saved from the burden of whatever it is that has kept him or her down and out: fear, doubt, hesitation, greed, selfishness, powerlessness, tunnel vision, assumptions, confusion, envy, or any of the other obstacles that prevent human beings from being on top of their game.

Simply put, storytellers are revolutionaries, taking on whatever systems or structures are no longer working. Being a revolutionary can be a very exciting path -- energizing, absorbing, and highly purposeful. But being a revolutionary -- pushing back against an existing order -- is only half the story. It's easy to fight against "the wrong", but it takes an entirely different mindset to live "the right".

Which is precisely why a lot of revolutionaries who end up in power don't make good leaders. They don't necessarily have what it takes to SUSTAIN their apparent breakthrough. And because they don't, they become ripe targets for the next revolution, now fighting valiantly for yet another cause.

Which brings us to the word "revelation" -- the act of revealing, the disclosing of some kind of timeless truth or wisdom. Good storytellers are not just revolutionaries. They are revelationaries, too.

What do storytellers reveal? Two things: access to feeling and the re-cognition untapped wisdom of what it means to be a fully conscious human being -- curious, awake, aware, adaptive, resilient, creative, reflective, responsive, kind, compassionate, evolving, generous, grateful and a whole lot of other words you can find in your nearest thesaurus.

That's why we tell fairy tales to our children. We want them to gain access to the wisdom they will need as they mature. And that's why we go to the moves, watch TV, or read a book. We want the experience of breakthrough, resolution, and wisdom made real -- even if the path to these noble aspirations are filled with conflict, obstacles, and angst.

You can't have one without the other. Revolution and revelation go hand in hand. If you have any doubt, all you need to do is read about the lives of some of the great souls who have walked this earth. Buddha had to leave his entitled life as a Prince and endure countless hardships as an ascetic monk before his enlightenment came. Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, too, all revolted against the existing order, but they did it in a way that brought revelation -- not only to themselves, but to countless others, too.

The "Hero's Journey" is what Joseph Campbell called it -- the path all of us are on, regardless of the name we give it.

As a storyteller, your responsibility is to increase the odds of other people going on this journey -- not only joining the storytelling revolution, but riding it as far as possible until the revelation comes.

My 2018 book on this topic
My 2015 book on the topic
Fuggedabout it! Sometimes all you need is poetry

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at November 12, 2021 06:24 PM

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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.
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.