Hudson Valley Current member Doug Motel says storytelling is at the core of his work as a writer, speaker, and coach. “I was writing sketch comedy and performing at 16,” he says. “A lot of my work now focuses on teaching individuals and businesses the art of telling their own stories in a focused, compelling way.”
Born and raised in Atlantic City, Doug moved to Manhattan at 18 and was cast in a play within a couple of weeks. “I studied acting both at various schools and had on-the-job training,” he says. “Then I moved to LA and worked in film, TV, and theatre. And it was there that I developed my coaching practice.”
With a play script in hand, he moved back to New York to be nearer to Broadway. It was 2001, and the world was about to shift.
“I took a temp job in an office with a great big window facing the World Trade Center,” he says. “My first day on that job was September 10.” On September 11, that skyline view was an agonizing front row seat.
And his play, which had themes of grief and loss, was a non-starter when the footlights came back on and the theatre world wanted lighthearted cheer above all else. But at a party in Harlem, he met an enchanting young woman named Carrie Wykoff. “I was instantly smitten,” he says. “I told a friend that night that I’d marry her.” A couple of years later, when their baby was born, they bought a place in Rosendale and moved upstate.
Until early March, Doug was busy organizing retreats, conferences, and coaching sessions, sharing his unique blend of comedy, empowerment, and insider marketing tips from the thousands of stories he’s helped craft, including those of ABC, Comedy Central, and Playboy Enterprises. Locally, he’s helped the Williams Lake Project clarify their intentions and gain community acceptance.
Doug became a Hudson Valley Current member in 2014. “It started with the personal connection,” he says. “I heard Chris Hewitt’s presentation about local currency and not only did it make sense, his manner just radiated fun.” And in normal times, he loves spending his Currents on tasty sustenance through fellow Current members like Satisfy Hunger, Outdated Cafe, and the Hoot Owl.
Since the advent of COVID-19 and all that comes with it, Doug—like so many of us—has shifted into remote mode. “I’m working to help people create the content that will help them succeed in communicating who they are in a way that is sensitive to what’s going on. I’m no stranger to being blindsided, and that’s what’s happening to our entire world right now.”
Having witnessed 9/11 up close and lost a dear friend to a random murder, he says there’s a takeaway to be had from massive disruptions. “Sometimes we go on journeys of choice—retreats, therapeutic excavations; sometimes you just get slammed, and you’re on a journey you weren’t looking for. I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna; loss and shock are brutal and nothing really helps right at that moment. It’s after the dust settles that you realize you’ve been through a journey that can leave you a deeper person. And I believe that happens not just for individuals, but for businesses and communities.”
“This is not about being in denial; it’s an acceptance of shock and pain while keeping an ear open for alchemy, for transformation. We have to be both careful and tough with ourselves. What new story is congealing in our hearts? Will it lead us to have barnacles and baggage or be a doorway to go forward, go deeper? Those choices we make internally ripple out and make our community and world. At its core, the choice is about love or fear, and the offshoots that flow from that.”
Right now, he’s working with his 14-year-old (“Mother Earth has grounded us,” she has said) on a series of free short videos teaching people about Zoom meetings and other work-from-home skills. “And I’m marveling at how powerful we are when we come together,” he says. “I really believe that one day we’ll realize we can make this world be what we want it to be. It’s a long way off, but we’re seeing how the basic mechanism can work. This is bad now, yeah, but coal turns to diamonds.”