Storytelling at Work
October 06, 2022
The Robbers


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.

So far so good. The ice cream was yummy. The capital of Montana was Helena, and the Mets were leading 4-2. That's when I started hearing the SOUNDS -- very strange sounds coming from the kitchen... troubling sounds... scary sounds... the kind robbers make when looking for things to steal.

Like my mother's set of sterling silver, for example -- the extremely expensive set of sterling silver given to her years ago by my rich Uncle Herman.

The sounds from the kitchen continued -- sounds I had never heard before. And then... absolutely nothing... nothing at all... just silence... a deadly silence... the kind that could only mean one thing -- the robbers had just poisoned my dog. Or strangled her.

The moment of truth was upon me. Laying on my bed, eating the last of my ice cream, I had a decision to make. A big one. Do I turn up the sound of my TV so the robbers will know someone is home and leave on their own, or do I confront them, saving my mother's sterling silver before they get away?

It may have seemed like a choice, but it wasn't. I knew, in my heart of hearts, there was only one thing to do. So I got off my bed and began making my way, ninja-like, oh so slowly, out of my room, down the hallway, past the bathroom, closer and closer to the closed kitchen door. My heart was pounding, my breath coming faster, my mind was racing. Standing just a foot from the door, I stopped and listened. An eternity passed. The sounds from the kitchen continued. And then, raising my right foot, I kicked open the door and leaped into the kitchen, letting out the kind of scream karate guys make when they attack.

The first thing I saw was my dog, Doxie, looking up at me, wagging her tail. She was alive! Alive! I bent down to pet her, no robbers in sight, having obviously heard me coming and vamoosed out the side door. I stood up and walked a few steps to the table where the sterling silver set was supposed to be in its velvety blue box. It was there -- just a few inches away from the spice rack and the stack of Life Magazines. I open it slowly. Not a fork or spoon was missing. Not a knife. I made my way to the pantry and gave my dog a treat. Then I returned to my room, finished my ice cream, memorized the capital of Vermont (Montpelier) and watched the end of the baseball game. Then I turned on my clock radio and went to bed.

This same drama must have played itself out at least 50 times in the next two years. My strategy, I must say, worked like a charm . From the time I was 13 until I was 15, not a single thing was ever stolen from our house.

COMMENTARY: This little story of mine played out 59 years ago. For the six decades that followed, only two people ever heard about about my heroics -- my best friend, Matt, and my wife, Evelyne. And yet for me, now 72, taking the time to reflect on this story and share it with you has been a revelation. While laughable in many ways, I've gotten some keen insights into my psyche and how I, at an early age, became wired to deal with the unknown, whether real or imagined. My self-invented rite-of-passage was how I learned to deal with fear and the choices before me. First, I learned I needed to be alert to the subtle clues around me. Then I learned I had a choice. Then I learned I had to choose. Once my choice was made, everything was cool. I was no longer a victim, no longer a boy hiding in his room, but a man of action. And the danger? Gone.

Excerpted from Storytelling for the Revolution
Pet Portraits by Evelyne Pouget
Photo: Artem Sapegin

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

March 22, 2020
Want to Listen to a Story?


If you're in the mood to listen to some inspiring stories, here's a treasure trove, courtesy of StoryCorps. Enjoy!

Or, if you prefer to read a book of stories, here's one

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2020
The True Meaning of Composure

This scene from Titanic completely knocks me out. As the ship is going under, four classical musicians, on the main deck, gather together, with complete composure, to play "Nearer My God to Thee." There is something for all of us to learn from this scene, especially these days, with all of the "sinking feelings" going on.

Composure from a martial arts master
Storytelling for the Revolution
You are a universe of stories

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:15 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2019
Every Song Is a Story

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2019
Why Do People Want to Listen?


Everyone I know wants to be listened to when they speak. And everyone SAYS that listening is an important thing to do and there is way too little of it going on these days. As a facilitator of Wisdom Circles, I am very interested in this topic -- especially since there is no storytelling without story listening.

And so... I polled a whole bunch of people and asked them what motivates them to listen to another person. 79 people responded. On a scale of 1-5 (with "5" being the highest rating), here are their reasons for listening:


4.51 -- Reduce misunderstanding
4.44 -- Improve my personal relationships
4.41 -- See through other's eyes
4.40 -- Get to the heart of the matter
4.39 -- Tune into what people are really saying
4.31 -- Deepen my connection to others
4.31 -- Feel more empathy for others
4.25 -- Understand people better
4.22 -- Help people feel better about themselves
4.19 -- Experience more empathy with others
4.17 -- Solve problems faster
4.16 -- Learn about new things
4.14 -- Improve my ability to collaborate
4.09 -- Gain peoples' trust


4.00 -- Get different perspectives
3.89 -- Connect to the world around me
3.85 -- Spark new ideas and possibilities
3.82 -- Become a better person
3.80 -- Improve the quality of my life
3.79 -- Inspire people to tell their stories
3.64 -- Increase the likelihood of people listening to me
3.60 -- Improve my business relationships
2.97 -- Improve my social life

How about you? Why do you listen? And what, if anything, can you do to become a better listener?

Want to take the poll?

Idea Champions is in the process of creating a new workshop on listening. The content and design of the workshop will be very much informed by the above results and our own fascination for the topic. If you want to be informed when our workshop is ready, email with the words LISTENING WORKSHOP in the subject heading.

Our approach to workshops and trainings

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2019
The Power of Listening in Helping People Change


Good article on listening from the Harvard Review

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2019
Two Soulful Men Singing

Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2017
Listening is a Superpower


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.

24 quotes on good communication

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)


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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"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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