Living a Better Story

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Earlier this month, I picked up a book that had been sitting on my shelf for the last 6 months or so. It was Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. It’s about a time when some film makers came to Don to ask if they could turn his memoir into a film. He then began the process of thinking about the kind of story that he was currently living and started to explore what it would look like to live a better story.

I read it in a few days. It was a really compelling, easy and captivating read. He bases the book around the idea that a good story is about “a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it”. During this process, Miller realised that his life was lacking direction, he was a character that wasn’t sure what he wanted. And he also struggled not to run away when faced with conflict, his character was not willing to overcome conflict. It documents different subplots in his story – relationship with his father, his quest to get healthier and find a wife and it also talks about the subplot that he is playing in God’s story.

What I love about it is that he doesn’t just talk about the epic, venturesome, larger-than-life stories. He talks about the role that the everyday; the tough, monotonous routines that don’t feel significant or like you’re making any progress and the role that these play in creating a great story.

“I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger. They take it out on their spouses, and they go looking for an easier story.”

Ironically, at the same time, Ben bought me Don’s book “Storyline” which is an accompanying workbook for people to help assess the story that they’re creating. I didn’t realise that they were linked at the time, but as soon as I get a free moment, I’ll go through the storyline process for myself too.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes and one liners from the book, but you should really read it. I think you’d enjoy it.

“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”

Human beings care about characters who suffer and overcome obstacles”

“Extreme experiences aren’t enough – there is more to life”

“We have to get up off the couch and turn the television off, we have to blow up the inner-tubes and head to the river.  We have to write the poem and deliver it in person.  We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill.  We have to put on our suits, we have to dance at weddings.”

 “If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation.”

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