Storytelling at Work
January 29, 2019
A Jar of Minced Garlic

minced garlic.jpg

So there I am at La Comer, San Miguel de Allende's biggest grocery store, having just located the papayas, soymilk, and rice cakes, when I look down at my list and notice there is an item I've still not found -- an item my dear, sweet wife needed badly in order to prepare her special dinner tonight: MINCED GARLIC.

Unable to remember the Spanish word for "garlic", I realize there's no point asking anyone in the store to direct me to the proper aisle for an item I can't name, so I begin aimlessly wandering around the largest grocery store in San Miguel, as I attempt to identify what category of food "minced garlic" might belong to: Condiment? Vegetable? Spice?

"Garlic, garlic, garlic," I begin chanting under my breath, but no Spanish equivalent comes to mind. Nada. Zero. Zippo. This goes on for way too long. And then... praise the Lord...and pass the guacamole, appearing from who knows where... badaboom, badabing... it comes to me in a flash: "OJO!" Yes, OJO! That's it! The three-letter word for garlic in espanol has somehow bubbled to the surface of what is left of my mind.

Brilliant! Genius! Ojo!

My energy newly soaring, I'm an hombre on a mission and though I have no clue how to say "minced" in Spanish, I don't really care. I mean, how difficult could it be to find the fourth item on my list -- especially since I know the word for "small" in Spanish is "pequeno" which is almost exactly the same thing as "minced". Right?

Boom! Claro! Excelente!

Not wanting to spend the rest of my day wandering aimlessly around the largest grocery store in San Miguel, I set off to find the nearest clerk, which I accomplish in less than a minuto. There, only 30 feet away, stocking cereal in Aisle 5, is Javier.

"Senor," I say, respectfully, "una pregunta, por favor. Donde esta los ojos pequenos en una botella?"


Javier just stares at me. That's it. He does nothing. He says nothing. He just stands there with a faraway look in his eye -- somewhere near New Jersey.

"Dude," I think to myself. "Mine is not that difficult a question. All I'm asking is where the freaking minced garlic is. You work in this store, right? One would think you'd have at least SOME idea where the minced garlic is, no?"

Javier keeps looking at me, his head now cocked to one side -- a change of body language that moves me to begin making odd little hand gestures in the air -- my own, self-invented sign language for "minced garlic."

That's when it dawns on me that Javier must be a NEW employee at La Comer, confused as he was about the whereabouts of minced garlic. So I bid the boy a buen dia and keep on truckin', looking for SOMEONE with way more grocery store expertise than the obvious wet-behind-the-ears, Don Javier.

And I find her in a heartbeat in Aisle 6 -- the fabulous Guadalupe, she of the big brown eyes, hairnet, and cherry red lips.

"Senora," I begin, "por favor, donde esta los ojos pequenos en una botella?"

Guadalupe must have been Javier's older sister because she looks at me with that same blank look in her eye. Was she sleep-deprived? Probably, what with the eight brothers and sisters she had to take care of at home, her father working two jobs in Dallas, her mother diabetic.

Guadalupe continues looking at me, but no one is home. Not even close.

"Gracias, senorita, no problema," I manage to say, moving slowly away and returning to my random aisle-cruising technique from just a few minutes ago, when, lo and behold, there, smack dab in front of me, positioned perfectly at eye level, in Aisle 8 (the imported foods section), I see a guapo looking jar of minced garlic, it's label clearly lettered in English for people like me.

FINALLY, I have everything on my list! Hooray! Yahoo! Papayas? Check. Soy milk? Check. Rice cakes? Check. Not to mention the previously undetectable bottle of minced garlic. I'm done! Mission accomplished! Yes, I am a very good husband!

It was only on the ride home, having entered into some kind of Newton-under-the-manzana tree-trance, that I realized the Spanish word for garlic is "ajo", NOT "ojo" -- and that I had been asking perfectly innocent grocery clerks, for the past 20 minutes, if they could help me find "a jar of small eyeballs" -- even going so far as to make totally ridiculous hand gestures in space for what imagined to be the international symbol for minced garlic.

AJO! Not OJO! Welcome to my mundo.

More stories of mine in this book
This one, too
Taking it to the streets (and into homes)
The business version
What I learned from 26 second graders about storytelling


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2019
Storytelling is the Trojan Horse of Wisdom


Most people, sometime in their life, enter into a period of seeking. The language they use to describe their quest may be different, but the intention is the same -- to tap into a higher dimension of knowing and become self-realized. The specific form their seeking takes is quite variable. Some go on pilgrimages. Some retreat to caves or mountains. Others join ashrams, read holy books, meditate, practice yoga, or try to find a great teacher.

But no matter how you slice and dice it, the underlying assumption of all these seeking strategies is pretty much the same. "There is something I don't know. There is something I've not yet experienced. There is a deep wisdom I need to find." And so begins the hero's journey. Or the heroine's.

And while all this seeking sometimes leads to the kind of awakening the great sages have been talking about since the beginning of time, methinks there is a complementary, start-where-you are strategy that also needs to be considered -- not to replace the classic quest for Knowledge, but to help seekers understand that they already have, within them, much of the wisdom they are seeking. It's just hiding.

And where it's hiding is in story -- those magical, memorable, tell-able moments of truth that have already happened to us -- times when the light went on and we connected to a timeless knowing, even if the catalyst for that unforgettable experience seemed mundane.

Story, quite simply, is the trojan horse of wisdom, the shape our life lessons take, the container for all the clues we need to live a conscious life. But until and unless we open the "trap door" of this trojan horse, much of our potential remains unknown to us.

It's like the classic story of the poor farmer and his wife. Every day they worked the fields from dawn to dusk. Every night, for dinner, they ate boiled potato skins and shivered in the cold under the only threadbare blanket they could afford, Then, one day, the original owner of the house stopped by, escorted them into the kitchen, and lifted a loose floorboard to reveal a big bag of gold, which he then bestowed on them. For 50 years, the farmer and his wife had been walking above it, never more than a few inches away, living their lives in total poverty. But now... they were rich beyond belief.


If you like, think of your journey into the power of story as a lifting of the floorboards. What you will discover is the great treasure there and the undeniable fact that you have already learned much of what you need to know. Now all you need to do is reach in and grab your stories, explore the riches within them, and start sharing them with others. Not only will you benefit from the telling, but so will everyone else who is privileged to hear what you have to say.

It's a revolution of storytelling that's being launched, folks -- each of us coming out of the closet to share what we know and what we've learned along the way -- not to preach, impress, manipulate, educate, or bend others to our will, but to fan the flames of wisdom in a world that sorely needs it.

Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling at Work

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2019
STORY THE FUTURE: Online Workshops and Interviews on the Art of Storytelling


Click here to register for STORY THE FUTURE'S most recent online offering -- a great way to learn more about the art and science of storytelling. Includes a wide variety of sage input, methods, techniques, and conversation from some wonderful thought leaders, change agents, and on-the-ground practitioners in the storytelling space.

My most recent contribution to the field

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2019
The Man from Croatia

Writing with red pencil.jpg

It was a bone cold night in January, four hours after my wife and kids had gone to bed, and I was sitting alone in my man cave, with nothing but a laptop, i-phone, and the painful recognition that even though I had written five books, created a successful company, and had supported my family for 15 years, I had yet to accomplish a single meaningful thing in my life.

This is a feeling many writers know all too well, the moon howling moment of dread when they recognize that their early promise of genius had either not yet born fruit or the fruit they did manage to pick was rotting in a bowl of an unhungry stranger many miles away -- the kind of feeling, I imagined, that was at least partially responsible for Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his ear, a man who had sold only a single painting his entire life, and to his brother, at that, a man he knew was buying mostly out of pity.

It was at precisely at this moment, too late to be early and too early to be late, that I just happened to glance down at my inbox and noticed an email coming in from someone I did not recognize, a man with very few vowels in his last name.

Clearly, this communication wasn't from a friend of mine. No. This was something from a stranger -- a man, he explained, from Croatia, who had been reading my blog for the past five years and now that he had been diagnosed with a terminal disease and maybe had three or four months left to live, wanted me know that last night's posting had touched him deeply in a way that filled his whole being with gratitude. An oasis the writing was for him, he explained -- a place where he could rest and renew. He was writing to me at this late hour to thank me and request that, no matter what happened in my life, I continue making the effort to write... and that it mattered, at least to him.

I just sat there, stunned, my whole body shaking, tears of joy rolling down my cheeks.

Excerpted from Storytelling for the Revolution.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

Wisdom Circle Ground Rules

Circle Hands 2.jpg

A Wisdom Circle is an opportunity for a small group of people (6-12) to come together in a relaxed setting to share their life stories with each other -- memorable moments of truth that have, contained within them, a specific kind of message or meaning.

Simply put, all of us have wisdom inside us -- insights, awakenings, or "lessons learned" that we have experienced along the way. A Wisdom Circle is an opportunity to share this good stuff with others and then "unpack" the stories a bit. The message or meaning we have for each other is delivered via the telling of our stories -- not by teaching or preaching or advising. The storytelling does most of the work.

In order for a Wisdom Circle to be effective, the people participating in it need to be willing to abide by a few key ground rules. These "banks of the river" keep the energy flowing and increase the odds that everyone will enjoy the process and receive maximum value.

Here are the ground rules:

1. Keep your stories to five minutes or less.

2. When telling your story, remember you are telling a story about a specific "moment in time" (with a beginning, middle, and end). You are not telling the "story of your life" to a captive audience.

3. When someone, in the circle is telling their story, listen deeply and non-judgmentally. Be fully present!

4. When it's time to respond to someone's story, after they've finished telling it, either ask a question or reflect on how the message of the story applies to your own life. If you have nothing to say, that's fine.

5. No therapizing, fixing, or advising allowed.

6. Allow the facilitator to facilitate. In other words, if the facilitator asks you to wrap up your story (because you are exceeding your 5-minute limit) or if the facilitator intercedes for any reason, allow that to happen.

7. Honor confidentiality.

Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling at Work
The creator of Wisdom Circles

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2019
26 Quotes on Storytelling

26 inspiring quotes about the power of stories and storytelling.

Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling at Work

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

January 14, 2019
Testimonial from the Executive Director of the San Miguel Writer's Conference & Literary Festival


This just in from Susan Page, Executive Director of the San Miguel Writer's Conference and Literary Festival in response to my storytelling presentation at the January 10th Literary Sala.

"Mitch Ditkoff is a wonderful ambassador of the power of storytelling to transmit wisdom and has the rare talent to keep an audience riveted. His message is inspiring and authoritative, and his presentation, entirely entertaining. For a keynote or workshop that will leave your audience smiling and diving deeper, long after the talk, and in love with the speaker, don't miss this seasoned, skilled presenter."

More about what I am up to these days
Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:34 PM | 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.

Order the book:
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.
Top 5 Speaker
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.
Authorized Reseller Logo –
Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN