Storytelling at Work
October 10, 2020

Camel 18.jpg

Storytelling is the swiss-army knife of transformational catalysts. Done well, it can be used to build community, inspire, delight, transmit tacit knowledge, share wisdom, educate, inform, change behavior, and spark elegant solutions. The following story (a re-telling of a classic tale), accomplishes many the above, but is primarily about sparking elegant solutions. When you come to the end, I invite you to take a few minutes to reflect on the questions that follow.


Once upon a time, in Egypt, there was a much beloved camel merchant named Hamid. Hamid was known throughout the land as not only a connoisseur of fine camels, but a kind-hearted, generous, and wealthy man. So, when, one hot summer day, at the age of 55, he had a sudden heart attack and fell off his camel, the entire country went into mourning.

In no time at all, thousands of people gathered at his estate for the funeral and celebration of his life. When the gathering was over, Hamid's Chief Executor sat down with the camel merchant's three sons for the ritual reading of the will.

The boys were stunned by the size of their inheritance, but of all the treasures bequeathed to them, the most precious were their father's prized camels -- 17 of them, which he requested be divided in the following way: one-half to his eldest son, one-third to his middle son, and one ninth to his youngest.

But since 17 cannot be divided up equally in this fashion, the three sons began arguing, then pushing each other, then wrestling on the ground . Realizing they needed help to resolve their disagreement, they called for the local wise man.

After listening to each of the three sons make their case, the wise man explained he needed some time to think about the matter and would return, God willing, in an hour.

Sixty minutes later, the three sons, in the middle of yet another argument, look up and see, off in the distance, the wise man, riding a very large camel, approaching them.

"Boys," he exclaimed, upon dismounting, "I have so much respect for your father that I've decided to donate one of my own camels to your inheritance. Now you have eighteen.

"Let's see..." he said, stroking his beard. "Half of 18 is nine... so the eldest of you will inherit nine camels. And... hmmm... one third of 18 is six, so the middle son will inherit six... and one ninth of 18 is two which means the youngest of you will inherit the remaining two.

Then he looked up at the sky, paused, and spoke again.

"Based on my calculations, 9 + 6 + 2 = 17 -- which is the exact number of camels your father bequeathed you. That leaves one camel left over -- mine -- so i guess I'll just get back on top him and continue on my way. May Allah be with you, oh sons of Hamid. Enjoy this fine day!"

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Every problem has a solution, even if the solution may not be immediately obvious. Your challenge is to think about your problem differently than you usually do. It's possible. It is. You just need to let go of some old assumptions, go beyond the status quo, and look at things from a fresh perspective.

What pressing problem of yours, these days, do you need to approach differently? To begin with, you might want to frame your problem as a question, beginning with the words "How can I?"

20 elegant solution-sparking questions

Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling as the 18th camel

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at October 10, 2020 08:35 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.

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.