←   Updates & Perspectives

Billy’s Book Bag – with Special Guests Book Review

Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us

By Mark Yaconelli

Can you remember a time when you heard a story so well told that it transformed the way you view the world?

“Between the Listening and the Telling” by Mark Yaconelli offers a surprisingly fresh take on the art of storytelling.  It serves as courageous inspiration for those embarking on the transformative journey of excavating our own narratives, as well as those of our evolving organizations. As someone navigating the complexities of personal storytelling, I found the insights in the book to be both illuminating and invaluable in shaping my approach to crafting my own story.

Yaconelli’s emphasis on the importance of authenticity in storytelling resonated deeply with me, challenging me to embrace the raw, unfiltered truth of my own experiences. He writes, “Our wounds and struggles are often where the Spirit is most alive in us. Our shadows can become the seeds of our creativity”.  This quote is a powerful reminder that our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses to be hidden but rather sources of strength and creativity. It encouraged me to confront the discomfort of sharing my innermost struggles and insecurities, recognizing that it is through these moments of raw authenticity that the true essence of my story will emerge.

He suggests that authentic stories are “we” stories, not “I” stories –  stories that convey the experiences of all of us, not only the individual telling them. In telling these stories, we build collective empathy and courage, effectively transforming us at the core of our being.

One of the most transformative aspects of Yaconelli’s approach is his perspective on the power of silence in storytelling. He writes, “The true storyteller lives in the space between the listening and the telling. They understand that the silence between the words is pregnant with meaning“.  This insight challenges me to cultivate a deeper sense of mindfulness in my writing, learning to embrace the pauses and silences that provide reflection and introspection. It reminds me that storytelling is not merely about the words on the page but also about the spaces in between, where meaning wants to be found.

Throughout the book, Yaconelli emphasizes the importance of embracing the messiness and imperfection of our stories. He writes, “Our stories are not neat and tidy. They are messy, chaotic, full of contradictions and paradoxes. And yet, it is in this messiness that the beauty of our humanity is revealed”.  This quote is a powerful reminder that our stories are not meant to adhere to linear timelines, structures or expectations but rather to reflect the complexity and nuance of our own life experiences. I am learning to embrace the imperfect, unfinished nature of my own story, recognizing that it is through its messiness that its true beauty will shine.

One of the most personally touching chapters in the book looks at the theme of redemption and transformation in storytelling. Yaconelli writes, “Every story has the potential to be a story of redemption. No matter how broken or lost we may feel, there is always hope for healing and renewal”. This has led me to reflect on my own narrative not as a fixed, immutable reality but rather as a dynamic, evolving journey of growth and transformation.

“Between the Listening and the Telling” is a unique and beautiful take on the art of personal and organizational storytelling.  He points to the idea that to be a transformational storyteller is to be a skillful storycatcher. Only through deep listening to ourselves and to others can the insights be revealed, and a new story be told in a way that changes how we see the world.  This book is a wonderful teacher for those people who are also working to shift the narrative of their organization.  It invites you to embrace the past, not hide from it, and to share fears and the messiness of transitioning from an organization for profit to a successful business for good. This book has helped me see how we can truly save ourselves through telling our stories.


From Billy Afghan: I invited a few colleagues to write a review on a book they were each raving about that they had recently read. They enthusiastically took up the invitation. I was reminded of why I hold these relationships and the work they do so dear to me. Here is their shared review, including how they see this book influencing their own work in the world. Their review has me adding it to my own list of must-reads.

“The World for Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources”

by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy

This book takes a provocative look into the intricate realm of global commodity trading, delving into its origins, the personalities driving its evolution, and the societal reverberations of their actions. With storytelling and in-depth research, the authors peel back the layers of secrecy shrouding trading companies, offering unique insight into their inner workings.

Reflections from Chris Chukwunta, CEO at International Renewable Energy Systems Inc

The first thought that crossed my mind when I got into the first chapter of the Blas and Farchy’s book was – “This is crazy! Who would put their lives and that of others at such great risk just for capital gains?”  Coming from someone who had escaped two kidnap attempts in the Niger-Delta and travelled for three years around oil and gas fields of Basra, Iraq with military contractors who were former MI6 and Marines, wearing bullet-proof vests in four bullet-proof vehicle convoys, and not for show, I obviously had no moral grounds to question the audacious ‘escapades’ of the young commodity traders portrayed in the book.  I got past that initial thought rather easily.

I began to settle into, enjoy and even feel motivated by the daring professional pursuits of the commodity traders as they exploited market differentials using their ‘dark-web’ style connections, large sea-going vessels, and extensive multinational resources. It was particularly interesting to see how embargoes, intended to influence geopolitical realities and achieve specific outcomes of ‘common good’ (which is most often not that ‘common,’ instead leading to one-sided outcomes favoring the most influential countries and corporations) became ineffectual. This was due to the network and power wielded by these commodity traders, spanning from Libya, to Venezuela, Iran, and Russia.  The national and global reverberations of their actions or inactions resonated with the activist cliché that “the system is broken, so let us bring it down and rebuild from scratch!” Most HR professionals are aware that the prospect of making such a substantial impact, particularly on such a broad scale, strikes directly at the ‘soft spot’ and core motivation of most millennials and Gen-Z individuals.

Almost on cue, the book took a darker turn towards unbridled capitalism, which fostered greater poverty and inequities in global markets.  From exacerbating conflicts in the Congo  soley to extract  more precious minerals out of the country (for context, about six million people have been killed and another six million displaced in Eastern Congo DR due to this conflict), to impoverishing cocoa farmers across sub-Saharan Africa, the manner in which these commodity traders played a pivotal role in shaping global market structures to exploit resource-rich countries and regions was simply  pure evil.

When Chika Obani, my good friend for over twelve years, wrote a glowing post about the book on LinkedIn, my response bordered on the irrational as I reacted with those pent-up emotions without properly reading his post.  I had to go back and apologize!

Overall, Blas and Farchy did a fantastic job exposing the hidden world of commodity traders. My one piece of advice for anyone picking up the book is: please finish it, else you will miss its essence!

Reflections from Chika Obani, Senior Pipeline Asset Integrity Engineer and Host of The Obani Show Podcast

“The World for Sale” resonated deeply with me for its compelling narratives that vividly illustrate complex concepts, a testament to Javier and Jack’s storytelling prowess. The book’s emphasis on remaining calm amidst crises has been particularly impactful in my professional journey. It serves as a reminder that crises are merely shifts in the landscape, providing opportunities for reflection and realignment rather than panic. This mindset shift has transformed how I approach challenges, turning each crisis into an opportunity for growth. As I delve deeper into the book, I find myself asking introspective questions about courage and awareness. How courageous am I in pursuing my goals? And how much of the world’s intricacies am I truly cognizant of? These questions linger, prompting deeper reflection on my personal and professional journey.

Reflections from Tayo Osiyemi PMP, Executive Director at SKLD 

Resource control is critical for advancement of any kind, whether it pertains to countries, companies, and families. It is important to note that resource control is not necessarily a function of possession but rather mobilization in the direction where it can command value.

Negotiation lies at the heart of successful business, and it is never unidimensional. Finding ways to understand what tradable assets you possess that the other party might find interesting is primal.  While a win-win outcome is the ideal goal, it is often hinges on differing perspectives.  Developing great negotiation skills is key.

Trust is a currency that has more value than fiat. Building trust entails going the extra mile to fulfill your commitments, even when it’s not convenient.  Adversity and constraints serve as the cradle for building trust, and the payoffs  are certainly worth the trouble.

Read more about how to build trust in your leadership in Joseph Friedman’s Kaleidoscope article On Trust. 

If you enjoyed this, would you share it with someone important to you?