Storytelling at Work
May 28, 2022
When Your Last Story Is Told

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Let's assume for the moment that you are intrigued by the notion of telling your stories. So you begin thinking about your memorable moments of truth and begin writing them down -- at least the titles, that is. The more titles you write, the more stories you remember -- stories from your childhood, travels, work, relationships, quest for meaning, accidents, disappointments, visions, victories, breakthroughs, synchronicities, near death experiences, strange lights in the sky, and so on.

Let's say you top out at 85 titles. But let's take it one step further. Let's say you actually write your stories. But not only write them -- you tell them, too, until every story of yours has been told.

You could, of course, choose to tell your stories again to other people in other ways. You could choose to turn them into screenplays, novels, blog posts, songs, sitcoms, workbooks, iPhone apps, or webinars. But you don't. You feel complete, every story in you having been told.

So there you are with no more need tell a single story (not even the story of why you are no longer telling stories).

Like small puddles evaporating after a storm, your need to tell your stories has completely disappeared. Now there is only solid ground beneath your feet and a cloud floating by.

Your friends and fans, accustomed to your delightful story telling, are keenly disappointed, but you say nothing. You say nothing because you have nothing to say. You have no point to make. The words you would normally use to populate your tales have gone south for the winter. They are vacationing somewhere on a remote island, cocktail party chit chat for the night.

Your last story has been told.

Though you are fully awake and can see many things happening, you have no need to connect the dots, no need for a plot, characters, conflict, or resolution. Everything is what it is. You are what you are, breathing slowly, wanting nothing, enjoying the time before the first story was told.

You think of telling that story, but don't. You let it go. Like the milkweed floating by.

Or the leaf.

Excerpted from Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2022
The Art and Soul of Scott Cronin

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CELL 1, 48x48, Sold

Scott Cronin began creating art at the age of 50. Self-taught and joyfully obsessed with communicating the intricate beauty of life that exists far beyond words, his work is mind-boggling, soulful, and deeply insightful -- almost as if he was looking through an electron microscope into another world. Scott doesn't only walk to the beat of a different drummer, the music that moves him seems to originate from another world -- one he is intimately familiar with and committed to decoding for the rest of us.

The 14 pieces featured below are just a small sampling of the 186 pieces Scott has created in the past 18 years. All of them are for sale, ranging in prices from $650 to $6,500. If you want to learn more about Scott's approach to art and how to buy his work, simply scroll to the bottom of this post for his responses to some of the questions he is most frequently asked.

MILES AHEAD, 19x24, $650 print, $2,500 original

LOOKING CLOSER, 19x24, $650 print, $2,500 original

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FACING THE MUSIC, 36x16, $2,400


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TOPSY TURVY, 19x24, $650 print, $2,500 original

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TITIVATION, 20x20, Sold

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TANGLED UP IN BLUE, 18x26, $950

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SUN PIERCER, 19x24, $650 print, $2,500 original

SOBRIETY, 19x24, $650 print, $2,500 original

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FOCAL POINT, 36x36, $6,500

HIPPOCRENE, 30x24, $2,800

AZTEC COMES TO LIGHT, 23x23, $2,200


When did you begin to paint? And why?

Shortly after I turned 50, I decided to explore a creative outlet that was new to me. Visual art seemed like a good choice. Previously, I had the limiting assumption that because I was not good at figurative drawing that I was not an artist. I knew, in my gut, that I had something to say in terms of imagery, but I didn't know what exactly. So, I went to my local art supply store, bought a large sketch pad, some ink pens, pastel pencils and a variety of drafting templates and began creating what turned out to look like art.

What do you like about the process of painting?

I enjoy the feeling of experimentation and the random precision that unfolds. I tend to move quickly and make color and design decisions without much thought. As I create art, I experience a wonderful collaboration between my right brain and left brain that is both instinctive and deliberate. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. "Mistakes", to me, are a doorway to new directions and outcomes that have very little to do with my initial intent -- even when my intent wasn't obvious at the outset.

What have you learned about yourself via the process of painting?

Among many things, I have learned that I do, in fact, have a talent for combining color, tone and rhythm in a visually compelling way. Music is a near constant when I am at work on a piece. My choice of the music is sometimes consciously done as a way establish the "metronome" for the pace at which I move and the angles, orbitals and shapes that I choose. I have learned that my selective OCD is a gift -- that my need for detail and precision in some areas of my life results in the creation of imagery that is pleasing to other people -- a phenomenon that is very rewarding and delightful to me. I have also learned when and how to "break the mold" whenever I begin to repeat myself. It is at that time that I shift to a different style or approach. Additionally, I have learned how to superimpose an image on a canvas with my mind and brain. This innate skill of mine has become apparent to me, insofar as I have never sketched out an idea or design prior to beginning a new piece. And even if I did, I would likely erase it or ignore it.

What is your experience of the process of painting? What are you feeling and focusing on when you work?

It feels like a private affair, an intimate dinner for two where curiosity, focus, comfort and time are all in the right order. When I am excited or even stuck, I get intrigued by where the slipstream of the muse will take me. Sometimes, I will back myself into a creative cul-de-sac and paint myself into a corner in a way that contradicts the balance and theme present in another part of the canvas, at which point I either attempt to integrate one pattern into another or just hit "delete" and paint over what I have created up to that moment. I have been tempted, with a few of my pieces, to strip away layers to reveal what lies beneath. In some cases, I discover as many as five different abandoned ideas.

What materials do you work with?

Mostly acrylic paint as a base and oil paint pens.

What are some non-artistic influences in your work?

Music. Always music, primarily instrumental pieces. The music is very specific. I have built a playlist geared toward art creation: Philip Glass' compositions have a wonderful effect on the movement of the designs and patterns that emerge. The repetition and tonal qualities of his music are exquisite. Also, certain film scores and ambient music provides a sound canvas that I like to walk on. I am influenced by shapes in just about everything I do -- patterns in the sky, on wood floors, plaster on walls and ceilings. If I can see it, I can detect a design that can be re-worked or re-imagined. Since childhood I have been drawn to the microscopic world. My favorite toy was a very large magnifying glass used in my family's mortuary. My grandfather was a mortician and he used that tool a lot. As I child, I would wander, for hours, gazing at an unknown world that was absolutely enthralling to me.

Are you completely self-taught?

The short answer is "Yes". I have never taken an art class or worked with a teacher in the formal sense, though I have had mentors and muses over the years. Isaac Abrams, an early big brother figure to me, is an extraordinary artist and, to many, the "father of the psychedelic art movement." I have been motivated, supported and prompted by some significant muses in my time as well, though the proverbial "muse" can be quite demanding, so I make a conscious choice to ignore her when the voice gets too commanding.

How are you able to maintain the concentration you need to do such detailed work?

That has rarely been a problem, since I have always had the "on the spectrum" (before the term existed) tendency to get hyper-focused on whatever task I was engaged in, i.e. cleaning the house, cutting the grass, or cooking a meal. My task-focused approach tends toward high efficiency and fast-pace which, at times, can result in accidents, mistakes and occasional injuries. It also results in people getting out of the way and leaving me to do it things in isolation, which I mostly prefer. In that zone of concentration I lose track of time... or time loses track of me. It is a stupendous place to be.

What do you think people respond to in your art?

With a recognition of whimsy, rhythmic awareness and intrigue. Fortunately they, for the most part, recognize a native-like originality. It is extremely gratifying when people have a somewhat giddy reaction to my work. It is that reaction that motivates me to see what a broader audience will think, feel and react to. I am frequently asked "are you high when you paint?" The answer is "No" -- but I am definitely influenced by the experiences I have had of the "altered state".

How has your work changed over time?

On a core level I don't know if it has. Although I have ventured into a few different styles, the way I approach a blank canvas or paper has a familiar look to me. Whether it is pointillism, geometric, native-primitive or graphic design that harks from another era of jazz album covers, much of the finished product is a "deliberate accident."

What inspires you to create your art?

Curiosity, boredom, a want for a place to focus on that I enjoy, a desire to have alone time and an excitement that is singular in its charge, like going to visit an old friend that never disappoints.

Who are your influences?

I didn't have any when I began, but soon discovered (and was told that) I certainly must be into Kandinsky and Klee and the Bauhaus crowd. When I went to an exhibition of Kandinsky, I felt like I was in the company of a presence where mutual understanding of a very specific language was lucid and fluid.

How do you know when it's complete? Is it ever really complete?

I have gotten better over the years at making this determination, though I still have the habit of filling up more space than serves the overall impact of the image. Leaving empty space as is, is sometimes determined as an after-thought and I will return to a canvas and re-create it by painting empty space back into it. I still find myself looking at a "finished" painting and, in some cases, returning to it to add, subtract or augment color or design to bring it into its fresh and present state.

How can I buy one of your pieces?

1. Drop me an email ( and let me know which of the above pieces you want to buy.

2. Most of the pieces I post on Facebook are also for sale. You can always message me or email me.

3. I sell giclees (prints) of my work, as well as the originals.

NOTE: I am the process of putting the finishing touches on my website. If you would like me to send you the link when it's ready, let me know.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2022
The Art of Using Story as a Way to Communicate Big, Hairy Ideas


A priest, a penguin, and a newspaper reporter walk into a bar. The penguin orders a shot of Red Eye. The priest starts juggling three flaming chain saws. The newspaper reporter turns to the bartender, smiles and says: "I know there's a story here somewhere."

And yes, there is. There are stories everywhere. As the poet, Muriel Ruykeser once said, "The world is not made of atoms. The world is made of stories."

Almost everyone in business these days -- at least the people responsible for selling big, hairy ideas -- knows that the difference between success and failure often depends on what kind of story is told -- and how well. Content may be King. But it is Story that built the kingdom. Or as Steve Jobs once put it, "The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller."

The question, these days, isn't whether or not storytelling works. It does. It's worked for thousands of years. If you have any doubt, just ask your local neuroscientist. The question is how do you tell a really effective story -- one that not only informs and entertains, but gets results -- the kind of results that opens minds, influences behavior, and is remembered.

And this is precisely where the proverbial plot thickens. Why? Because most people don't think they know how to tell good story. At least, that's the story they keep telling themselves -- that they don't have the chops or experience to tell a good story. Spoiler alert! Not true.


Social scientists tell us that 65% of our conversations boil down to story -- narrative accounts with a beginning, middle, and end. Throw in a likable hero, a setting, some obstacles, a few juicy details, plot twists, and a resolution, and voila, you've got yourself a story!

Simply put, storytelling is "an unconscious competency" -- something human beings naturally do. The thing is -- we don't know how we do it. Like breathing, for example. Or thinking. Or riding a bicycle. But just because we can't explain how we do it, doesn't mean we're not good at it. Kapish?

You already know how to tell a story. You do. You've been telling stories ever since you were a child. In fact, you tell stories many times a day. On the job. Off the job. Hanging out with your friends. Wherever. Story is in your DNA. Indeed, neuroscientists like to say that the human brain is "wired for story." It's how we make sense of our lives. It's our communication default position. We are storytelling animals. And the more we practice, the better we get.

The simplest explanation of what story is? A narrative -- an account of what happened or what might happen. That account, of course, can be utterly boring ("I woke up. I picked up my dry cleaning. I returned home.") Or it can be utterly captivating -- what every movie you've ever seen or novel you've ever read has tried to accomplish. To capture your attention. To deliver a meaningful message. And to influence what you think, feel, and do.

For the moment, think of storytelling as a big, yummy pot of soup. It smells good. It looks good. And it tastes good. But at first glance, you can't tell what the ingredients are -- or the spices. Do you really need to know every single ingredient if you're being served a bowl of soup from a reliable source? Probably not. But if you're making the soup, you most definitely do. So let's sit down with our penguin, priest, and newspaper reporter for a few minutes and see if we can demystify what this whole mumbo gumbo story thing is all about.


First things first. If you want your story to pack a wallop, you've got to know your audience. If they're allergic to eggplant, don't put eggplant in the soup. If they're vegetarian, lose the chicken. And know your end game -- what it is you're attempting to communicate -- what you want your audience to think, feel, or do differently after listening to you. Whatever message you want to leave them with, be able to boil it down to 10 words or less.

Years ago, this would have been known as your "elevator speech". These days, if you can't deliver your message upon entering an elevator, you're screwed. Think about it. When Steve Jobs launched the iPod, he cut to the chase by distilling his message down to just five words: "1,000 songs in your pocket." That's what the iPod was. Technobabble? No. Overwhelming factoids and data? No. One clean soundbyte surrounded by a compelling beginning, middle, and end. When you think about the story you want to tell, be sure you can distill it down to a memorable meme -- what screenwriters do when they pitch their idea to a movie studio.

Just like the iPod has a shape, so does a story -- the beginning, the middle, and the end, as I've said before, but I'm saying again because I want you to remember just how important structure. It's the spine of your intended result.

The beginning is where you set things up -- the place where you hook the attention of your audience, the place where you set the scene and introduce your hero -- hopefully a likable one. Then you introduce the Big Bad Wolf -- the obstacle, the conflict that begets the drama -- which, in your case, if you are trying to sell a product or service -- might be the competition, a government regulation, or the cost of entering a new market. Get the picture? Someone or something exists and that someone or something wants to move forward towards an inspired goal, but his/her/its path is blocked. Time for nail biting and some popcorn. Hooray for adversity! Without it, there is no story. No Star Wars. No Rocky. No Three Little Pigs.

And the broth of the great story soup you are concocting? What might that be? Passion! Your passion. Your passion for the message you're communicating and your passion for the act of storytelling itself. No passion, no power. No passion, no presence. No passion, no purchase order. It's that simple.

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Bottom line, story is all about "emotional transportation" -- the journey you take people on from here to there, from known to unknown, from no can do to what's the next step?"

No matter how logical, linear, or analytical your audience might be, unless you can speak to their heart, you will never win their mind. Yes, of course, if you are making a business presentation, you will need to spice up your story with the fruits of your research, but only enough to keep the story moving, only enough to soothe the savage beast of the left brain. Data is the spice. It is not the main ingredient. If your audience isn't feeling what your saying, it doesn't matter how many statistics you throw their way. As Einstein said, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts."

It's Little Red Riding Hood on her way to Grandma's house we care about, not her shoe size or SAT scores.

Other things to be mindful of as your prepare your presentation? Keep your stories short. Speak in the language of the people, not the technologists. No one wants to hear an epic poem. What you're trying to do by telling a story is create an opening to drive the Mack truck of possibility through and maybe pick up a few hitchhikers along the way. You are building a bridge, not a shopping mall.

Lose the complicated back story. "The world doesn't want to hear about your labor pains, they want to see the baby," said Johnny Sain, an American right-handed pitcher for the Boston Braves, born in 1917, who was the runner up for the National League's Most Valuable Player Award in 1948 after leading the league in wins and compiling a lifetime ERA of 3.49 -- the last pitcher to face Babe Ruth). See what I mean? Your team may have put a lot of effort into the project. Months of work. That's great. That's nice. Show us the baby!

And please don't read from your PowerPoint slides. Not only is that boring, it's rude. Borderline, inhuman. There's no way in the world you can build rapport and "read the room" if you are staring at a screen. If you want your audience to look into the future, you've got to look into their eyes, not one boring slide after another.

Here's something to think about: If you really want to get the attention of your audience, "violate expectations." Like what Bill Gates did when, in the middle of a keynote presentation on malaria, he released a bunch of mosquitoes into the room. Talk about buzz! At the very least, infuse your presentation with some visual buzz -- analogies and metaphors that paint a picture for your listeners -- something they can see, not just hear about.

And when you want to crank things up, ask a compelling question or two. Then pause... and listen to the response. The more you listen, the more your audience will listen. Know that a good story is also a good performance. So, unhinge yourself from the dead zone -- the spot on the floor to which you have nailed both of your feet. Move around the room. Vary the lengths of your sentences and the volume of your voice. Gesture. Make facial expressions. Speak to one specific person at a time, not the generic "audience." But above all, trust yourself. If you don't trust yourself, no one else will.

Of course, you can only trust yourself, if you are prepared. So practice your ass off. Know your talking points. Write out a script. Understand the flow of what you want to say, the key milestones along the way and whatever anecdotes and facts you want to include. Then distill the whole thing down to few main points on note cards. Get the story in your bones. Then throw your note cards away. Or, if you absolutely need to hold onto your note cards, glance at them only occasionally. Otherwise, they will become a rectangular 3x5 PowerPoint show in your hand, yet another slow leak in the bucket of your storytelling brilliance.

Remember, there is no formula for telling a good story. Only guidelines. And there is no one right way to tell a story. There are thousands. Maybe millions. Or billions -- each one according to the style and personality of the teller. Your job is not to tell a story like Steve Jobs or Garrison Keillor or Winston Churchill. Your job is tell a story like YOU! And while it is perfectly fine (and often, useful) to read books on storytelling, study TED videos, and attend cool workshops, in the end, all you need to know is this...


You are sitting around the tribal fire with the elders. They want to hear from you. You've been on a big adventure for days, weeks, or even months. You've got important news to share with them, vital insights to reveal, memorable experiences to convey. The survival of the tribe depends it. You're not trying to get promoted. You're not worried about being cast out of the tribe. The only thing that matters is telling your story in a way that informs, inspires, and enlightens.

End of story.

Penguin Photo: Ira Meyer
Storytelling at Work
The Storytelling Workshop
Spark the innovation mindset with story
60 minute radio interview on storytelling at work

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:56 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.

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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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