Storytelling at Work
June 03, 2020
The Long Lost Parable of the Brussels Sprouts


When I was 24, I lived on Martha's Vineyard, an idyllic island off the coast of Cape Cod. The island, with its endless beaches, blue skies, and perfectly winding country roads, was a dream come true.

One of the most extraordinary things about the island, however, had nothing to do with its natural beauty. It had to do with a bakery -- the Scottish Bake House, to be more precise, a cozy, little establishment owned and operated by the very Scottish Mrs. White. The only thing that transcended Mrs. Whites' scones and short breads was her extraordinary generosity. She always seemed to sneak in an extra cookie with each purchase. And then, one fine Spring day, as if that wasn't enough, she donated a full acre of her land to my friends and I to use as a community garden. Bingo!

Visions of homemade pesto sauce dancing in our heads, we planted whatever seeds we could find: tomato, basil, pepper, asparagus, lettuce, string bean, zucchini, cucumber, carrot, cantaloupe, watermelon, cauliflower and the hero of our little story -- Brussels sprouts.

We showed up every day. We watered. We weeded. We mulched. And, before we knew it, in keeping with thousands of years of natural law, everything was in full bloom. Everything, that is, except the Brussels sprouts.


Oh sure, the stalks grew and lots of big, floppy leaves, but no actual vegetables were forthcoming. Figuring we must have bought some bad seed, we shrugged our collective shoulders and went about our business of harvesting the rest of our crop.

And then... badabing, badaboom -- the moment of truth.

As I was tending the tomato plants, just before harvesting, I accidentally dropped my glasses, bent to retrieve them, and just so happened to look in the direction of the pitifully under-performing row of Brussels sprouts.

Lo and behold! I say unto you! There, as far as the eye could see, were Brussels sprouts everywhere -- enough, it seemed, to feed a small nation. Clustered on the stalks, the Brussels sprouts were growing under the leaves. From a standing position, it was impossible to see them. Who knew? They were hidden from sight, amateur gardeners as we were.

For the next two hours, all we did was pick Brussels sprouts -- six bushel baskets worth. For the next few weeks, we ate more kinds of Brussels sprouts dishes than most people eat in a lifetime.

When I stop and think about it, discovering the naturally occurring goodness inside of us is not all that different. It's there, but sometimes it's just hidden from view. We don't see it, so we think it doesn't exist. But it does exist. It does. All we need to do is know where to look.

Then we can feast.

Photo #1: Cyrus Crossen, Unsplash
Photo #2: Darren Wanliss, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at June 3, 2020 09:15 AM

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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.

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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.