What This Site Is All About, As Told In 38 Gifs


Before You Get Into The Site, Also Read:

A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Telling Stories to Live’

Somehow, you’ve stumbled upon this little corner of the Internet. Now you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s happening here. Giddy-up. Let’s go. Who runs this site? I’m John Agliata. I am a professional storyteller, expert father and husband, certified life coach, decent boys basketball coach, amateur comedian and a good faker at a whole […]


So what exactly is going on here?

Well, a lot.

This website is various measures of creativity, therapy, safety, career exploration, vanity and insanity (plus a few mystery ingredients I haven’t quite identified yet) — all dumped into one glass, shaken (not stirred) and poured into a 32-ounce Big Gulp cup.

To better understand what this is all about, it’s probably best to start with something I can’t talk about or even confirm the existence of.

No, I’m not talking about him.

Hypothetically speaking, when a company does some really scuzzy stuff and gets caught and called on it, sometimes they apologize, talk about how they’re going to do things differently in the future, and make it in the catcher/caller’s best interest to take his talents to South Beach. It’s just in those company’s … DNA.

Exiting the hypothetical world and back to reality …

… There came a point in my career where I wanted to find different employment. There was just one problem: I had very little to show prospective employers beyond my resume to demonstrate what I can truly do.

As much as I would love to blame this on others, dude, I’m not about that. It was me who gave power to others to determine my competence and creative range.

Never again.

When I finally broke the chains, I made a vow.

Well, three vows, actually, none of which had a thing to do with marriage:

  1. Never again would I be in any other position than one in which I could clearly show a prospective employer exactly what I was capable of and exactly how creative I can be in any medium for which they might have a need.
  2. Never again would anyone else but me determine what I can do and the value I bring to a business — and the part of the world I occupy.
  3. Never again would I allow anyone but me to tell my story.

So I found a great job, agreed to the money they offered and set about doing exactly what I said I would do in the interviews for the position — and then some.

In doing so, I found something I had come to believe wasn’t important:

I am a storyteller. I always have been. I just sort of forgot it for a while.

A writer is a writer only if he writes, so if you want to be a writer, just write, right?

I hadn’t written anything of value in a long, long time.

Until I did.

Meet Ms. Hollywood

Camille steps into Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis on the first cooler day leading into fall with her mom, Shantay, in tow. Ms. Hollywood has arrived. The 3-year-old Evansville, Indiana, girl recently underwent the first of what will be three limb-lengthening procedures before she hits her teen years. “When she walks into a […]

Suddenly, I remembered what it was like to reach people, to make them feel something.

I don’t care whether it’s the very factual 75th anniversary history book I wrote for the electric cooperative in which I served, the patient stories I’ve been writing since September 2020 for Shriners Hospitals for Children or the zany fiction that spills out of my brain through my fingers: Properly executed creativity makes people feel. What I found as I went about doing my job is that I still am pretty good at properly executing creativity.

And it was about more than my first passion — writing. I realized how much more was out there, how many other mediums through which I could tell stories. So I went and did that.

Graphic design, videos, email marketing. It didn’t matter if it was internal or external communication. I was going to bring next-level creativity to it and get better at the things I wasn’t as good at yet.

Suddenly, I had stuff. Lots of stuff. Articles, flyers, social media graphics, videos, email campaigns, marketing plans, photos and more.

But it was all under someone else’s control.

That’s fine in some aspects. I enjoy driving traffic from a teaser of one of my stories to my company’s website, for example. And I respect that the work is ultimately theirs, that I work for them and that what I do is primarily for their benefit.

I find that extremely rewarding — when something I did brings in new donor dollars or a new patient to receive life-changing care.

But I will not be caught without anything to show for my efforts ever again.

And that’s what led to the birth of Telling Stories to Live.

As is the wont of things recently born, the site started to grow.

I added a section to talk about the stories behind the stories, which, to me, are sometimes just as entertaining as the actual thing the public sees. It was very much “let’s look at how the sausage is made.”

And then it grew some more. As the creative me emerged from hibernation, I realized I had a lot of thoughts on the modern American workplace that I’ve picked up from three decades of toil.

So the stories-behind-the-stories section morphed into Ya Pay Peanuts, Ya Get Monkeys.


The Latest From ‘Ya Pay Peanuts, Ya Get Monkeys’

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Why Your White-Collar Job Is In Jeopardy

Far be it from me — a guy who struggled to get through high school algebra — to suggest performance on standardized math tests is the barometer by which we should measure a nation’s educational system. Yet it is true that those who do well in math and science move into more white-collar jobs than […]

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A Big Reason Your Workers Are Cranky About RTO

Here’s a workplace truth: Management often has no clue what the rank-and-file are thinking. This is often because employees suck at communicating directly, though their fear of doing so is often justified because of, shall we say, overzealous HR departments. Too often, however, it’s because managers are so used to being managers that they’re not […]

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The Biggest Hiring Mistake Managers Make

I received a phone call from the CEO of the company for which I served as marketing director at about 6:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. I was waiting in the parking lot of a nice restaurant for my wife to arrive. “John, our recent hires have been horrible. Why?” he asked. This was the same […]


After that, I realized something: When I wrote, I felt better.

And there was a huge world out there full of potential stories.

So if I was going to be a writer, I might as well write, right?

Because here’s a truth: Though I love what I do, it’s not what I want to do. Even before my dream of being the next great Yankees pitcher died when my elbow exploded at 16 …

… I wanted to be an author. I wanted to write books and bring in those big advances and have my name be the big text on the cover because that’s what sold the book.

Ego? Sure.

Vanity? Yes.

But more than that, it would mean my words had inspired people to feel something so strongly they couldn’t wait to feel it again.

Ultimately, it’s not about me. It’s about taking whatever gifts I’ve been given to help people connect with who they are inside.

My dream is to take the tales I turn, mix them with the ones still in my head and find an agent and a publisher willing to give me the push authors need to hit it big.

Do I think this will ever actually happen?

Of course not. I’d be crazy to actually place that bet.

Any would-be author need only go to a library in a reasonably large city and walk the aisles, taking note of all the writers with an actual book, books or series on a shelf whom he has never heard of and who have different primary jobs that actually pay the bills.

My dream has me on par in name recognition with King, Grisham, Patterson, Rowling.

And that, my friends, ain’t gonna happen.

Still, it’s a worthwhile dream, and it’s my dream, so I’m gonna keep dreaming it for now, thank you very much.

So over time, Telling Stories to Live became more than just a safety measure should I ever want to pursue different employment opportunities.

It became a playground where I could invite my friends to hang out…

… where creativity and self-expression flourished while I was pursuing the impossible dream …

… and, oh yeah, took care of my emotional health.

Do I hope people read what I write? Look at the videos I create? Share all this stuff with their friends and families?

Any creative person wants his creative stuff to reach people. But if I knew no one would ever look at what I’m doing, I would do it anyway.

I want to.

I have to.

I need to.

So welcome to this tiny corner of the Internet. I hope you find it a bit more hospitable and rewarding than the rest of it.

(Oh, and yeah. I know there’s 39 gifs. I had to do something to inspire you to get to the end, right?)


The Latest Stuff From ‘Telling Stories to Live’

Human Jewel Beetles — Dec. 3, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Beer Bottle Connections 🍺Ear Concerns 👂BTE vs. Deer 🦌 What exactly is reality? Is there a limit to the universe? How can something as heavy as the Earth be just sort of suspended … and what exactly is it suspended in? This is the rabbit hole I’ve fallen down, all while […]

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Be Yourself — Dec. 1, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩A Good Self 👋Urgent Care, Revisited 👩‍⚕️Slow Down 🐢 I remember this time back in sixth grade when a trusted adult was talking to me as I struggled through what turned out to be a pretty life-defining traumatic experience. The friends I’d grown up with since I was a small boy […]

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Deer Drama — Nov. 30 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Shooting a Fake Deer 🦌Time Spent Poorly ⏰Child Support 💸 About midway up my left shin underneath my leg hair is a scar about three inches long and the width of a deer antler. Well, a fake deer antler, anyway. “Deer-antler width” is hardly a standard unit of measurement, I know, […]

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Metallica! — Nov. 29 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Gods of Music Deliver! 🎸Insta-Anger 😠Unpleasant 😓 I was in need of something good to happen yesterday. Desperate need. The gods of music delivered. Metallica is coming to St. Louis in concert in 2023 for a two-day show at the Dome at the America Center. I found out about this at […]

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Double Ear Infection — Nov. 27, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Urgent Care 👂👂Alone Update 😔Rest 🛏️ It’s never a good sign when, less than two seconds after sticking a light in your ear and gazing through the little viewfinder thingy (patent pending), the doctor says, “Oooooooooh.” That was followed by a diagnosis of a “nasty” left ear infection and the question, […]

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Fitting in — Nov. 25, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Alone 😔Christmas Changes🎄My Two Skillz 🔪 I would venture to guess that most of us like the feeling of fitting in somewhere. Even the most self-confident, secure person likes to have a tribe. We’re social creatures, and to have a place we just seem to slide into safely is a blessing. […]

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Spouse+ Subscription — Nov. 23, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Marriage Talk 💑Requesting Money 💰Murder-Free 🔪 If you’ve been married as long as I have (rounding the corner and heading toward 26 years), you understand that conversations between spouses can sometimes be awfully weird. I mean, Wifey Poo and I have known each other more than 30 years now. How much […]

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Coffee Hand — Nov. 22, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Man Cold? 🤒Balloon Analogy 🎈World Flop ⚽ If you want to know how my Monday started yesterday, I poured coffee all over my hand. It isn’t that I don’t know how to pour coffee. I’ve done it a billion times. It’s that, on this particular Monday, somewhere in between the start […]

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What Healing Looks Like

Healing isn’t for the faint of heart. Not if it’s genuine. Not if you delve deep into the core where all that is ugly and wicked and broken has had time to take root and fester. Real healing is not all about finding sunny days and happy times. Maybe those are on the other side […]

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No Slides Allowed — Nov. 17, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Presentation Skillz 📽️No Tribe 😔Fuck 45 🖕 There was a time not all that long ago, cosmically speaking, that the mere thought of standing up in front of a crowd and giving a talk would have made me want to throw up in my shoes. In fact, there has been a […]

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What’s Funny? — Nov. 15, 2022

🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Boss Kudos 🙌Chill Time 😌One In 8 Billion🧍 It always feels good when the Big Bossman comes up to you and shakes your hand for a job well done. That happened last night when El Presidente of our company congratulated me on the video I wrote, shot and produced for our […]

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