Storytelling at Work
July 31, 2019
The Power of Storytelling to Change Our Future

Thanks to Evelyne Pouget for the heads up

Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:27 PM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2019
A Tidal Wave of Storytelling in Germany Has Begun!


Ta da! Proof that Storytelling for the Revolution has an international audience! Here is the very wise, talented, multi-lingual, creative, brilliant, contemplative, self-aware, humble Rainer Poulet reading it in Koblenz, Germany! Might this be the beginning of a tidal wave of interest in Germany and all of Europe?

And Rainer isn't the only one who likes my book. Here's what other people are saying about it -- some of whom you might know.

Available on Amazon and in my garage. Soon to be available as an audio book.

My other book on storytelling

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2019
The Power of Story in Politics

About George Monbiot
Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

Bedbound 11 Years, He Invents His Own Surgery

If you have a big challenge, problem, or seemingly insurmountable task, here is a homeopathic dose of exactly what you need. Nothing is impossible. Where there is a will, there is a way. Wow!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:40 AM | 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 24, 2019
What People Say About Their Experience of Wisdom Circles


Wisdom Circles are enjoyable, lightly-facilitated, two-hour gatherings of 6-12 people sharing meaningful, personal stories with each other -- stories that convey insights, humanity, lessons learned, and memorable moments of truth. What follows are a sampling of testimonials from some of the people who have recently attended Wisdom Circles in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Woodstock, NY.

"I didn't know what to expect when I attended my first Wisdom Circle; I had brought pen and paper, prepared for note taking and homework. Half way through the evening I found myself spell bound by the spinning of tales and stories, notebook forgotten. What if, in every day life, we paid attention to the stories of our peers with the same focus and respect? What would happen if we gave a child, a friend or and spouse 10 minutes of undivided, uninterrupted attention? At the closing of the Wisdom circle that night, I felt that I had been given the opportunity to glance at the human soul." -- Carole Clement

"Wisdom Circles make space for the human spirit by creating space for shared human experience. How unusual it is in these modern times to gather in a circle of friends and strangers and have the opportunity to share personal stories of growth and transformation in an intimate, safe and supportive space. The format is simple, but the impact profound. I always leave full of new perspective, insight, and feeling -- a deeper connection to my fellow storytellers and story listeners, but most importantly, a refreshed relationship to my own life path and deeper connection to my values, voice and truth." -- Akka B.

"I attended a Wisdom Circle for the first time last night, and left feeling uplifted, connected, and heard. Sitting together in community, listening to others' stories and unique perspectives on life, and bearing witness to one another's experiences is not only powerful, but healing. These circles are a microcosm of how I hope society at large might one day function -- truly seeing those around us, valuing them, and recognizing we are on a journey together in our shared humanity." - Karen Kinney

"There is no doubt in my mind that Wisdom Circles are a service of enormous value to the community. There is indeed great wisdom in exploring our own stories; in speaking them, sharing them and allowing them to be witnessed. The feedback, insights and questions from Mitch and the other participants open a door for us to reconsider from different perspectives that which we too often have only seen from one angle for too long, perhaps causing an inflexibility in our attachment to our story. It is quite possible to hold something too dear and too tightly; to offer that up to a group is to open to a larger picture and to yield to the process of letting go. I highly recommend the Wisdom Circle to anybody who feels that they have a story to tell, especially if they feel that they don't." -- Carlos F. Chancellor


"My Wisdom Circle evening was a heartwarming event. The remarkable stories we heard created an instant community of trust and empathy. I felt embraced by everyone. I went with one story to share in mind, but the stories others told tapped into a very different place in me, and a story that surprised me emerged from me. The experience gave me a new insight that stunned me, or really, it was an old insight that I had forgotten about and was deeply happy to have back. The Circle was a beautiful, totally engaging evening." -- Susan Page

"As a psychotherapist, I am, in a way, a professional listener. I encourage people to tell their stories, but no one is necessarily encouraging me to share mine. The Wisdom Circle was a unique experience. We came together as a community of supportive listeners, each person encouraged to share a story from their deepest heart. With no topic taboo, and no judgments, I did not need to fear the effect of my story on the listeners. There was an atmosphere of openness and safety in the room. How freeing this was for me. I could allow myself to find the tale that wanted telling and feel safe to tell it. Afterwards I felt a sense of relief and freedom. I felt seen and heard without judgment. This was not group therapy. This was community, each person listening deeply, listening with the third ear, which is the heart." -- Ellen Goldberg

"I went to my first Wisdom Circle with some interest, but as the first session unfolded, my interest piqued. I am hooked with the experiences that I am receiving in The Wisdom Circle. I find that days after I leave The Wisdom Circle I am still reflecting on the stories told. I had no idea that someone else's experience told in a story could affect me so deeply and would have an impact on my future thoughts. Mitch is interested and caring in his duties as the mediator. I love going and look forward to the experience with great anticipation." - Robyn Johnson

"One of the biggest takeaways I had from the Wisdom Circle was the importance of listening. I couldn't help but notice how my mind was constantly wanting to interject during other people's stories. Whether it was a joke, a comment of acknowledgment, or even just wanting to say 'yeah sure'. But through the process of listening to each person's story, really paying attention, and clearly hearing what it was that they had to say, I found that it was not only an enriching experience, but also something I've begun to implement in my day-to-day life." - Jon Jeffers

"I went to my first Wisdom Circle last week. It was wonderful. The space was loving and safe, with wonderful people, none of whom I had met before, but two hours later felt like I had six new friends. It's an inspiring environment that naturally evokes the sharing of stories. I'm going again." - Sharon Jeffers

"The Wisdom Circle evening I attended was not only stimulating, but conjured up stories of my own I hadn't even remembered, until my memory was stirred by the others in the circle. The facilitator made us feel safe and appreciated in sharing our stories and created an evening of ambiance, gratitude and mutual appreciation -- a place to be real.' -- Sher Davidson


"The whole experience renewed my interest in listening to, writing, and telling stories." -- Jean Paul Peretz

"Sharing our stories with one another is a beautiful way that humans support and teach and enrich one another. It is also a way to build community. Most of all, in hearing one another's stories we are aware of our shared, flawed, exquisite humanity." -- Diana Kuper

"I found it immensely moving to listen to people's core narratives at the Wisdom Circles I have attended. It deepens my appreciation of who they are and what their inner life looks like." -- Ruth Garbus

"Wisdom Circles are SO MUCH FUN. Under the facilitator's alchemical guidance, each and every storytelling gathering is a safe, encouraging, inspiring, profound, and creative opportunity to more deeply connect with myself and others." -- Lynda Carre

"I was invited to to attend a Wisdom Circle with my daughter and we spent a wonderful evening of storytelling and enlightenment. Sharing insights and bringing people together made it a memorable evening." -- Jean Buchalter

"The Wisdom Storytelling Circle is a simple, alive form that brought forth my deep narratives. Working within a theme, focused and strengthened my voice. Knowing that the facilitator was guiding the time, I relaxed, took in other's offerings, stayed engaged, and found my moment to speak. This is an ancient activity, arising again, in amazement." -- Barbara Bash

"Participating in a Wisdom Circle is uplifting, empowering, bringing forth empathy, trust and intimacy, sharing, learning, real listening, digging into and sharing one's own life and memories, community-building. It is so enriching to mind and soul -- truly rewarding. Am looking forward to the next one!" -- Eldad Benary

"This aspect of gathering the troops and sounding the clarion call is a way to say Let's Do This... Let's Connect... Let's Inspire and reward each other with heartfelt experiences. In our very busy lives, filled with all of the calamitous news, Wisdom Circles are a serene way to escape, for a few hours, back to oneself." -- Jan Buchalter

"Participating in a Wisdom Circle was a very freeing experience, as I am generally shy when presenting to a group. I developed a confidence in my ability to tell my story in a transparent and honest way without feeling that I had to make it better by exaggerating or leaving things out. It was also fascinating to hear the stories of others. The circle created a bond between participants that opened the door to understanding others by seeing things through their eyes." -- Dr. Alan Pizer

"I had a wonderful time at the Wisdom story telling session. I loved thinking about relevant story themes from my life, preparing for our evening, meeting with other storytellers, hearing their stories, and telling my story. I heard amazing and inspiring stories from each person and felt spiritually and emotionally enriched afterward. I felt connected to each person who shared. The facilitation was beautifully done, summing up the core of our stories, reinforcing the beautiful learning in each of our lives. The evening was truly memorable and meaningful." -- Corinne Mol

"Mitch Ditkoff's wisdom storytellers circles are transformative. This is what my life has been sorely lacking for a very long time. I am so glad that I stumbled upon his group. Through the process of storytelling using thoughtfully selected themes, we each delve into aspects of our lives that are not generally discussed or deeply considered. The questions and discussions that follow each story, facilitated via Mitch's keen insight, inspire the storyteller and other group members to tap into our own wisdom, with surprisingly wonderful results. His warmth, wit, and hospitality are an integral part of the group, setting the participants at ease, and creating an atmosphere of safe camaraderie." - Alan Powitz

"Upon meeting Mitch and the other Wisdom Circle participants, I felt that I was reconnecting with people I had met before. Sharing and hearing our stories brought tears to my eyes and laughter from my heart. In the Wisdom Circle, we were connected in our common experiences of grief at our mothers' death, the insecurity with using Another Tongue as a Second Language, and the power of carrying a strong voice and presence in response to imminent danger. The following morning I shed tears of loss and love as my story continued to grow in the meditation hall of the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery on Overlook Mountain that sits above the cottage where the Wisdom Circle grows. As I headed home along winding roads of Woodstock, Paul Simon shared with me his Mother and Child Reunion, a story sure to be right at home in our Wisdom Circle." - Fred Szczesiul

What story will you tell.jpg

To continue the conversation:
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling at Work

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

How I Spent 32 Years in Prison

Think you have it tough? Complaining about cash flow, writer's block, or the price of cappuccino? Listen to this gent. One pencil! Blue soap on a wall. Teaching through a heating vent in a prison for the criminally insane. Wow.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:56 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)

July 15, 2019
Getrude Matshe on Ubuntu

2013 TEDx talk by Getrude Matshe, the inspired Founder of HerStory Women's Empowerment Conferences.

"Ubuntu" is a Nguni Bantu term meaning "humanity". It is often translated as "I am because we are," or "humanity towards others", but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity".

HerStory on Facebook

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

Helping Children Truly Understand the Moral of a Story


As a so-called "thought leader"in the field of storytelling and an author of two books on the topic, Storytelling at Work and Storytelling for the Revolution, I tend to think that I am quite knowledgeable about the matter. And while this may true in some ways, a few months ago I had a chance to experience how little I really understand.

My epiphany was not sparked by newly released research or reading someone else's book on the subject. No. My epiphany was sparked by 26 second grade students attending Al Siraat College, an Australian K-12 school, in the Islamic tradition, just outside of Melbourne.


As part of my series of residencies at Al Siraat, I'd been invited by one of the school's most progressive teachers, Ms. Najma, to teach her second grade class how to write and tell stories.

Ms. Najma's invitation had come as quite a surprise to me, especially since I had never taught a second grade class before, my usual students being upwardly mobile movers and shakers from a wide variety of corporations. Not a single student in Ms. Najma's class has a corner office, reserved parking space, or high blood pressure. What they did have, however, was a noticeable twinkle in their eye and a whole lot of curiosity about what it took to become a writer and teller of tales.

Up for the challenge, I spent the night before figuring out what a three-week storytelling curriculum for 8-year olds might look like. I googled. I noodled. I made lists. But in the end, it became clear that this was going to be an organic process and that all I needed was a game plan for Class #1. The rest of the classes would take care of themselves.

Class #1 was a gas. Apparently, my quirky sense of humor and willingness to begin the class with a juggling demonstration was more than enough to win the kids over. In just a few minutes I had them in the palm of my hand, or, if not the palm, then at least somewhere near my elbow. They loved it. I loved it. And the aforementioned Ms. Najma loved it.


Not wanting to overload them, I kept things super-simple, asking them to tell me why stories mattered, why stories were so popular, and what their favorite fairy tales were. Then I gave them a brief tutorial about the five elements of a story. Boom! Victory! They got it!

A bow, a wave of the hand, and a promise to see them on Wednesday and I was out the door.

Class #2 was not only gas. It was also a hoot. I read one of my own stories and after it was told, we deconstructed it together -- teaching, from the "inside out".

Inspired as they were, I gave each of them a post-it pad and one instruction -- to think of a story they wanted to write and, as soon as they thought of it, to write the title of their story on a sticky note.

Somehow, for an 8-year old, having a title for their story is extremely beneficial. Like having a handle for a cup, it provides leverage and a sense of power -- something all of us can use just a little more of these days.

Titles written, I asked each student, one by one, to read their title aloud. Wow! 26 stories were begininng to take shape, 26 products of their imagination would soon be written and read!

Class #3 was the day of my unexpected epiphany -- a lesson I will never forget. Technically speaking, I was the teacher. But in reality, I was the student and the students were the teachers -- even if they had no idea that what I was about to experience would be a life-changing moment for me, as a teacher, writer, father, and storyteller.

For most second graders and, indeed, for most of the rest of humanity, stories are a kind of entertainment, a pleasant way to pass the time or be distracted from the "real world". The real purpose of storytelling, however is not to distract, but to communicate a meaningful, memorable, message -- a timeless piece of wisdom that will evoke, in the reader or listener, increased awareness -- what most of us have come to know as "the moral of the story."

The seed. The teaching. The takeaway.

This is the topic I wanted to introduce to Ms. Najma's class of second-graders -- how to increase the odds of the stories they wrote having a meaningful message at it's core.

At first, upon bringing up the topic, the students looked at me blankly, as if I was introducing them to geometry. Taking my cue from their confusion, I floated out the titles of a few fairy tales and asked what they thought the morals or messages embedded in those tales might be. Bingo! They got it. The concept clicked. Game on! So I gave each of them another post-it pad and asked them to write down the key message of their story.


Two minutes. That's all the time it took them. Only 90 seconds longer than it takes a kid to eat a cookie.

"Fantastic! That's great! Good job! Now, please stand up, come to the front of the room, and post the morals of your stories on the board."

Twenty-six students stood. 26 students found their way to the front of the room. 26 students posted, thrilled that their story's message was now, somehow, official. Then, at my instruction, they sat down on the floor so I could call on each of them, one by one, to read their morals aloud for everyone to hear.

I removed the first sticky note from the white board and read it aloud.

"Don't be rude," I announced to the class. "OK," I added. "That's the first moral of someone's story: 'Don't be rude'. Now let's see what the second one is all about."

I pulled the second one off the wall.

"Don't be mean." And then I pulled a third, "Don't go outside." And a fourth, "Never talk to strangers." And a fifth, "Don't interrupt".

A definable, disturbing pattern was emerging. Every single moral was a negative one. Every message began with either "Don't" or "Never". One by one, I pulled each sticky note off the wall and read them to the class. And one by one, I began to understand what the 26 second graders in Ms. Najma's class really thought stories were -- cautionary tales. What not to do. What shouldn't be done. Behaviors that were either not permissible, dangerous, or bad.


I could feel a great sadness welling up inside me. But at the same time, I could also feel a great opportunity, as I, again, read the first moral of the story aloud: "Don't be rude."

"Can anyone tell me another way the writer of this story could say the same thing -- maybe in a way that offered the reader a positive message?"

"Be kind?" one of the students offered.

"Yes. 'Be kind' is another way the moral of that story can be expressed. And do you know why delivering the message in this way is something you might want to try?"

"Because it feels better?" replied one of the kids. "Because it's not so scary?" said another.

"Exactly! You got it!" I responded. "And also because framing the moral or message of your story in a positive way gives the reader or listener something they can do -- a positive behavior they can try."


Class over, I made a bee line to the office of Mufti Aasim, the school's spiritual director and the Head of Islamic studies to tell him what I had just witnessed.

His response was immediate.

He put his head in his hands, closed his eyes, and shook his head from side to side, lamenting about the way in which society, schools, and parents have misused stories for far too long. Then, he asked if he could read me a few passages from the Quran which represented the essence of that holy book and how the true teachings of Islam focus on the bright side of what's possible -- what we can do, not what we can't.

"Would you teach the next class?" I asked him. "I want you to experience this first-hand."

And so he did with great love, patience, clarity, and wisdom -- reading three stories from the Quran and asking the students to identify the real message embedded in each of the stories he told. And when, they framed those messages in negative ways, as they had been accustomed to doing, Mufti Aasim gently worked with them to help them frame the messages of those stories in positive ways -- what they could do instead of what they couldn't -- choices of thought and language that helped those 8-year old students more deeply understand the timeless wisdom embedded in the Quran and how each of them could live their lives in harmony with that wisdom.

A WORD TO THE WISE: If you are a teacher, parent, grandparent, big brother, or big sister and find yourself reading or telling a story to a child, please be mindful of the way in which you frame the moral of the story. Like the second graders in Ms. Najma's class, it's all too easy to default to the cautionary tale zone -- to use story as a way to control behavior -- to warn, instill fear, or make wrong. This is not the high path. This is the low road.

The real purpose of stories is to increase the odds of the reader or listener becoming discerning, making wise choices, trusting their higher self, tuning into wisdom, and understanding what it means to be a fully conscious human being.

Using stories like a stick to control behavior is not the way to go. It's a misuse of the sacredness of story and a misuse of your opportunity to help a still-forming human being tap into their higher self. And while it is true that many stories provide a context for children to make distinctions between "good and bad", the real opportunity we have as teachers or parents is to help the young ones think for themselves and make wise choices, not just roboticly follow rules, warnings, or the instructions of their elders.


Cookie photo: unsplash-logoFischer Twins

Al Siraat College
Mitch Ditkoff
Storytelling for the Revolution
13 brief storytelling videos

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

Tangled Up in Blue

Every story, when retold, is a kind of cover by another musician, taking on new twists and turns and dimensions. Done well, it honors the original source material and keeps the story alive and moving people in new ways. Like this version of Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue by K.T. Tunstall.

Thanks to Val Vadeboncoeur for the heads up

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:22 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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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.
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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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