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How Don (A Complete Newbie) Stumbled Into Interactive Storytelling With Extraordinary Results

 

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Meet Don Rickard — he used to get his coaching across using traditional means of communication.

Don’s a leading coach to recovering Catholics, helping people on their unique spiritual journey.

What he didn't know was how to get his message across and give people the autonomy to explore who they truly are in a safe online environment.

Let's break it down:

Who? Don Rickard

Problem: Unable to leverage modern interactive experiences.

Solution: Join Interactive Storytelling Accelerator (my 6-week training program that shows you how to build a unique elearning portfolio piece by leveraging interactive storytelling, not PowerPoint).

Did it work? Yep. Don is now sharing his practical wisdom and unique spiritual guidance through a modern choose-your-own-adventure experience!

We even showed Don how to collaborate with a professional illustrator —

I asked Don what advice he’d give someone just joining Interactive Storytelling Accelerator and this is what he had to say:...

“Enjoy yourself. When we have fun, it somehow connects with creative energy. So granted, there are dimensions of work that can be laborious, can be painful, can be difficult... But,... work is not encompassed by those, it's not synonymous to those. So at least for me, or those like me, this going back into the world of images was like rediscovering art, rediscovering, some people speak of ‘inner child’... It's just let yourself be playful.”

So, do you want to rediscover your inner child and be playful like Don?

If you do — Click here to see if and how we may be able to help you.

-Anna

TRANSCRIPTION

Anna:
Hello, everybody, Anna Sabramowicz here. Thank you so much for joining me. I have a special guest with me today, Don Rickard, and he is one of the members of our Interactive Storytelling Accelerator, and recently launched his own interactive story, and I thought, let's talk, because he has a great journey to share. And also he's a bit of an outlier in our community. So Don, thanks so much for being here.

Don:
Oh thank you, Anna. I'm glad to be here.

Anna:
So we are definitely going to get into your interactive story, because it is something awesome to behold. But I wanted to know, it's funny, because the people who are in our community or usually who I attract are people who are in the learning space or instructional designers, but you come from a completely different discipline. And I was wondering, so before you even jumped on, tell us a bit about you and how you got to this moment here.

Don:
Well, I've always been someone who has enjoyed stories, and that has played out in a lot of ways in my life professionally. And in that professional journey, it's always been one of service, and making a difference for people. And I have found that doing that, people make a difference for me as well. And so actually, it's pretty personal. My wife, who is an instructional designer, saw Anna and Ryan's program, and was too busy to sign up for it. And she asked if I would. So I said, "Sure, I'll do it."

Anna:
So weird.

Don:
So I jumped in to do it for that reason, and said to her at the same time, "If I don't take that learning and apply it to things that matter to me, I'm not going to get it as well." So I said, "I've got to come up with a project." So that's how the project of Whose Wedding Is It Anyway emerged, because I wanted to make sure I learned it well to pass it onto my wife, but then it became so much more for me, that whether she does something with it or not, eventually I still want... I lucked out.

Anna:
Totally. And it was so weird because I thought, "Okay, what is Don trying to do here? He's a coach, with a very focused goal. But it's so cool. Let's talk about your interactive story, because I think that it'll also give us some context about what you're trying to achieve with it, and where you're coming from with the kind of people you want to impact and how you want to impact them. So tell us, who is it for, and who are you trying to impact? What's going on?

Don:
Well, I think on one level you could say it's for anyone, because ultimately all of us have our coming of age experiences, and those play out in different ways. But one way it almost inevitably plays out is with mom and dad, brothers and sisters. We all come from families and groups. And so on that level, someone needn't be a Catholic to resonate with it. They could have had these type of relational tensions and grist in the mill and celebrations and everything else in between if they were Muslim or Jewish or whatever. But because my background is Catholic, and I've worked in a variety of ways as a Catholic, that's where I landed it.

Don:
So additionally, there are different moments in all of our lives that are more critical, starting a family, leaving home. We'll talk about launching, going from mom and dad or whomever your parents are. So wedding, getting married, is big in whatever religion or culture you're in.

Don:
And I've worked with so many people in that setting, that I am just familiar with the struggle that it can be. So I wanted to make something that would, I believe, resonate and connect with people in more of the younger adulthood, so 20 to 32. But I'm sure there are people who are going to be 50 and they'll look at it and be like, "Oh, yeah. I can relate to that." And maybe from the parents' side, rather than the bride's side. So that's pretty much who it's for. And I think it's for them, in a way, of not in any way telling them what they should be doing, because too often that's the problem, rather than helping them realize what they are doing or want to do, and identifying maybe the hurdles or the complications of realizing that.

Don:
Because I did a lot of things my parents wouldn't have wanted me to do, and I love my parents. And some of that was stuff that I probably shouldn't have done. And then others was just stuff me becoming me. And so that is very much, I think, part of what I believe is possible in the story, that people, even in a first pass or two, that feel like, "Oh, I'm seeing." Somehow that story makes them realize others have known this journey in their own world, and resonate, and then therefore, maybe someone worth talking to and connecting with for support.

Anna:
So the story is of... the protagonist is a young woman. Tell us a bit about the story.

Don:
Well, I actually put Bailey, so that's her name, I put her in a fairly traditional... So I am Irish Catholic, one of eight siblings. And some of this stuff is almost stereotypical. And so even that of a generation, "They'll have a lot of kids," and, "We have a lot of kids," or if their parents are able, go to parochial schools or Catholic schools, and that affects their education. But actually it's as typical, whether it's Irish Catholic, Italian Catholic or whatever Catholic, that we're not homogenous, because people aren't homogenous. We are not just one way.

Don:
And so anyway, she's thinking when she gets her diploma from high school, that she's finally going to get to make a big adult decision and decide where she gets to go to college. And unfortunately, that wonderful day was dulled when her parents basically said, "Yeah, we'll help pay for your college if you go to a Catholic college."

Don:
And that is on the level of her feeling like she was starting to create her own life, disappointed her, if not worse. And then it also rubbed against her not feeling like the Catholic religion was one that was really where she was continuing to land.

Don:
So ultimately that's my journey, in a way. I took it very differently than her, because I became a Catholic priest. I was a missionary for 13 years, and it took a long ways to get to where Bailey did a lot more quickly. But it's the same thing of, "How do we hear this sacred?" And she was hearing it different than her mom or dad. Doesn't mean mom and dad are wrong. Doesn't mean she's wrong. They're just different.

Don:
So that's where the crux happens, where she gets that disappointment, and ultimately, I won't say more, because I don't want to be a spoiler alert, but it goes further down the line where she falls in love, and that reactivates that whole question of Catholic expectations within a family, what do mom and dad want, and then religious sensibilities in a person, what am I inclined to. Do those resonate, or do they stand at intention? And so that's where it goes.

Anna:
So this idea, what's really cool, I thought, about your interactive story, and people have commented on this, it's a story, and the idea is to make you aware of certain maybe patterns of communication or behavior that you're falling into. Where did this come from?

Don:
Well, it came from you and me and all of us who are humans, because as much as we are unique and different, there are common dynamics or patterns in communication. Some of those are more inclined in one culture or another. So it touches dimensions of a spectrum of the way people can respond, but it's not exhaustive.

Don:
So some of it, we know when somebody has pushed our button and we come back at them like this, you know? Well, so some of the responses are that reactive energy. There's other times where know we said stuff where we half sold ourselves out, bad compromises. So some of them are that. And then there's times when we just speak our truth in a way where we're not defensive, we're just flat out open and honest and, "Hey, here's who I am and how I am." So I picked common ways that humans respond to these things, whether they're Catholic again, or Jewish or Muslim, or... This is just stuff that occurs when we try to communicate with one another.

Anna:
Fabulous. So now getting back to you, even jumping on, you said that your wife, who is an instructional designer, said, "Okay, you got to jump on and I'm too busy, so can you learn this for me?" So that was it. You were just like, "Okay, well, I guess, sure."

Don:
Yeah. Well one thing about me is I love learning, and it's this little Buddhist banner behind me, but one of the statements that I find in Buddhism that's really valuable is approaching experience with a beginner's mind. And that can be hard in things we're familiar with. And yet, in some ways, it can be easy when we know, "Oh, I am, flat, a beginner." So I knew I was coming into a pool of people like my wife who are proficient or more expert in these learning things, and I mean, I do know relationships and communication, but I didn't know any of this. And so beginner's mind in this moment was easy. And more importantly, for anyone who's listening to this, the welcome of the array of mentors in the community, from you, Anna and Ryan, who lead it, to others all around, it actually brought me back to my experience in Guatemala, where I went there, not knowing how to speak Spanish. And people didn't look down on me for that, but actually facilitated and helped me learn.

Don:
So anyway, it worked well. And again, my wife, Lorna, she's excited and happy, because it actually revitalized things that have been a bit dormant. And a lot of what's coming of this experience, part of the beauty of it, is I know I didn't plan it. And I know when that happens in my life, and then it works, because it's like, "Oh, okay... Didn't see this coming." But I see it for what it is.

Anna:
That's awesome. So when you first started, I know, it's almost like a beginner's mind is a beautiful thing, because you looked at a broken coworker basically and said, "I'm going to do this. I'm just going to build one of these for myself." That's what you did. Tell us a bit about that process, like you just-

Don:
Well, honestly, I come from, in some ways, a highly academic arena where intellectual property and references are paramount, and you got footnotes and this and that. So I can remember saying to you early on, because it was like you and Ryan just said, "Oh, here are all these resources. Just feel free to use them." And I was like, "How do I reference it? And so when I realized, because I needed to confirm, and you all did that clearly, that I could take the template and pretty much copy it. And then I realized there actually is quite a bit out there that we do that in other sorts of software, other things, that the openness and the generosity was remarkable. But maybe even more importantly was, it allowed me to run with it.

Don:
And so having the full script, I could go with that, and even goofing it up on that became learning lessons as I realized, I played to my wheelhouse of writing, and only later learned about the Marvel Method, and how important images would be, and other things that you all have identified in the process of ISD to say, "Whoa, I'm learning something totally new about effective, highly energetic connections with people around important topics." And so that's what I found was really good with it.

Don:
And then I think also the pacing that you have constructed, where there's the opportunity if a person's schedule and other allows, that we get to meet twice a week for up to a couple hours, to if we can't make it, there's a recording and you can catch up, that there was, for me at least, especially being so new, there was enough frequency to assimilate and integrate and learn more quickly than if I had been on my own, for sure, to even if it was just slower. Because I have been in other programs where sometimes too much is tried to be achieved too quickly, and ultimately what it does is leave it in the learner's lap, and I got to look back hard and fill in all those blanks, because it was at too quick a pace. So the pacing, and the connection, context, all of it was just... It worked good for me.

Anna:
Seriously, it's so fun having you on, because we have Don moments every session. It's awesome. We call them Don moments now. Anyways, okay. So as far as when you joined, what surprised you about the program? Was there anything different than you expected?

Don:
Here's what I'd like to say, at the deepest heart level, is I hope I never stop to marvel when I encounter open hearts in generous people. And so there has never a been there done that when it comes to that. So just having the experience of whoa, feeling on the same wavelength. So whether it's your work with the Norwegian Refugee Council, or Adidas, or a broken coworker, all of these things have a feel to them, and the way you work with people, that's just... I don't think anyone should ever take that for granted. And sadly that isn't as frequent as our world would like and/or need. So when it happens, it's just like, "Wow."

Don:
So that's on the deepest level of the spirit behind how you do the work. The other biggest... I mean, I would say this would border on an epiphany, where almost taking me back to what is it that we can learn as children through images in these children's illustrated books. That is where many of us started taking in meaning. And I really actually just said to a friend, because my page is in psychology and just theology, and my chair recently passed, Larry Graham. And I said, "Oh, I bet Larry's just smiling knowing that now I'm doing comic book theology," because Larry was a pragmatist. Larry was a pastoral theologian, which is a theology that's about making a difference for people, not some systemic thing, dogma and theory.

Don:
And just the epiphany of how powerful this method of communication is, of just connecting with people emotionally and helping them see the possibility of making a change, and giving them ways to connect with that and pursue that. I didn't expect that either, because I've been around. I've been in a lot of classes. So when you learn a different approach, it's like a paradigmatic shift, rather than well, there's dozens of chapters and pages. And it was just like, boy, this just gets to it.

Anna:
I remember, because I know you worked with a professional illustrator, and just how excited you were when the drafts came in, and yes. And visually, it's such a cool... It's a piece of art. It's a piece of art. Yeah, it's beautiful.

Anna:
Okay. So as far as maybe pieces that you could take away, let's say, I mean, you're already a successful coach. You work with people. But are there pieces here that you felt you could professionally take away, as far as skill that you learned?

Don:
Oh, yeah. I mean, so this is just the breadth of possibility, and just spontaneous response to your question. I just finished writing a letter to the CEO of Allstate. And the letter had solid, you might say, evidence of the research, addressing the question that was at the forefront. And then all of a sudden, it just struck me. I haven't started from the place that I need to, in terms of connecting emotionally. And so I think I wrote something where it said, "Oh, I can remember since I was young, the notion of being in good hands with Allstate," and how enduring that branding is, and talking about what is conjured when we talk about being in good hands. So it was about emotional connecting, essentially, to the CEO to say, "I need you to care enough to let me be in your good hands." And then went into the issues.

Don:
So it was just a different framing. And you probably could pick this up from even this interview. For good, I can be verbose. So there's moments where that's good. Sometimes it's not. And this has heightened my awareness, particularly if it's an intentional project. If I were even just writing an email even, but especially if I was looking at designing a program to really not over identify or overdo words, and to just trust that really, it can sound cliche at this point, but less can be more. It really can be more. I've just learned that at a level that I never knew, particularly in this sort of arena. Because so much of my exposure, in terms of learning, has leaned heavy toward that lots of words, lots of reading, data dumps, rather than connecting with what people's needs are, what people's emotions are. It's really good.

Anna:
Wow. Those are great lessons. Yeah, awesome. And so powerful. It's funny, because script writing, and when you have such massive constraints on space, you're like, "I have this little box. How much can I really say?" And I thought one of the things that was really cool is how open you are to feedback, and how open you are to iterating and killing your darlings. And not everybody has that built in. And I think, I don't know if you developed that or built, but it got to me was amazing how open you were to that. Okay, we're just going to let this go. It's fine. I think that it happened 50 times.

Don:
Well I can say having three people on my dissertation committee, and everybody's got their own perspective, is like herding cats. And so, "Add this. Take this out." So I really did grow in that way, to accept it as about constructive collaborative conversation, and not take things personally, or like, "Oh, wait, that's... It's just oh, this person's giving me a solid opinion from where they're coming from." I feel it really helps a lot.

Anna:
Yeah. So, okay. If you could give yourself advice to yourself, let's say starting back, or anybody starting fresh in the Interactive Storytelling Accelerator, what would you say to them? What would be your advice?

Don:
Enjoy yourself. When we have fun, it somehow connects with creative energy. So granted, there are dimensions of work that can be laborious, can be painful. It can be difficult. But work is not encompassed by those. It's not synonymous to those. So at least for me, or those like me, just going back into the world of images was like rediscovering art, rediscovering, some people speak of inner child. It's just... let yourself be playful as well.

Don:
So even some of our sessions, where we look at the hero's journey, and we're looking at old movies and certain characters that we recognize, that's just a blast. So in some ways, it's weird. If I push myself to be productive, I'm not actually as productive if I let myself relax into creativity. So there's some level where it's just being creative and just let it flow.

Don:
It's different and it's good. So for me, if I were to give advice to people, I'd say, especially if you happen to be in a setting where you do have legitimately people demanding and productivity and all that, to the degree you're able to just take a breath and put that away for a moment, and imagine these pictures, because I remember even being in this phase, when go to Google images, and just pick pictures of this energy or character that you want to have, that was a blast. That was a blast. It's like cutting out pictures out of a magazine is always like. So fun, I think, is a big part.

Anna:
I'm glad you said that. I really do have fun on those sessions, even though we're not really working. And I love when we can say, "Now you have to do research." And our research is still super fun.

Don:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, yeah.

Anna:
So Don, where can people go to connect with you or to learn more, or actually experience your interactive story?

Don:
If you go to www.recovering-catholic.com, that'll lead you to the story of Whose Wedding Is It Anyway. And in there, if you want to connect with me, there's resources to connect with me. But that's a good way to get to the story. And if the story strikes you, happy to just give a complimentary half hour chat about it, or whatever else you think [inaudible 00:00:01].

Anna:
That's awesome. And I will also put the link to this either in the notes, so that you can just click on it and go there and experience the awesomeness. Thank you so much, Don. This was so fun.

Don:
Thank you, Anna.

Apply To See If You Are A Good Fit For Our Services

Now that you know this makes sense and is totally doable, if you feel you're ready to STEP UP, then apply now and let's see how I can help BOOST your career by clicking below now...

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