“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, chronicles the process of two movie producers working with author Donald Miller to turn his best-selling memoir, Blue Like Jazz, into a film. The producers keep looking for ways to make the movie more exciting, because the reality is, Don’s life is actually pretty boring and directionless. It’s missing the essential elements of a good story: Overcoming hardship and suffering, living with meaning and purpose. Miller goes on a quest to change his story. He finds his father, chases true love, and sets out for adventure– changing his life from boring reality to meaningful narrative.
The idea of our lives unfolding as a story is not a new concept. But with self-deprecating humor and deep vulnerability about his internal life, Miller strikes a completely fresh chord. His usual conversational tone is what makes this book so relatable and makes living a better story seem so doable.
One of my favorites parts of the book was when Don and a friend are having coffee. His friend is lamenting over the troubles he and his wife are having with their teenage daughter and the poor dating choices she’s made. Don casually comments to his friend that his daughter needs a better story~
“He thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence…”
The father goes on to make dramatic changes in their family story, taking them to Mexico to volunteer at an orphanage. It changes his daughter’s entire perspective on life. It gives her story the meaning it had been missing. “No girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her. She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.”
If you only read one book this year (which is like, ridiculous and I’m so unhappy with you if that’s true), I want it to be A Million Miles in A Thousand Years.
This is what I thought:
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives and I waste a lot of time waiting for “someday”. Someday is a myth that keeps you on the sidelines of your life. Someday is never going to come.
Living a better story starts now. Today. With whatever chapter I’m in. Today’s choices write tomorrow’s chapters.
is what I felt:
“A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”
I’m afraid I’m telling the people around me that Target and clothes and coffee and beer and Pinterest are important. And none of these things are bad, but they have no lasting meaning. They don’t provide purpose. I don’t want to be the Volvo guy. If a camera crew were to follow me around and document my days, they would keep asking, “When do we get to the part where you actually DO something? You already fixed your hair and curled your eyelashes. Your clothes are fine. You don’t need another purse. Your house looks cute. We’ve had all the coffee we can hold. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO DO SOMETHING? And put that damn book down. LET’S GO.”
You get the point.
“Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
This is what I’m going to do now:
“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you’re going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”
I’m going to complete Storyline, which is a module that helps people map out their lives so that their daily schedule supports their life theme and priorities. In short, it helps people live a better story– the whole point of this gig. (Yes. It’s another Donald Miller thing. I really like the way this guy does life.)
I’m going to try to live more wholeheartedly and mindfully so that more of my time is being spent on things that matter. I’m going to set some specific goals for 2015– harder things that will keep adding more direction to my life and support the theme of my story. And whenever possible, I’m going to enlist my kids in it all, so that their own lives become intentionally written chapters– building blocks for epic life stories.
If we were to read about your life on the inside of a book jacket, what would it say? What’s your story about? If you’re not sure, then odds are, no one else knows either…