A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – How I learned to live a better story, by Donald Miller

Why this book: Recommended to me by Ross MacKenzie, who I met at a conference.  It appeared to be a different sort of book, possibly with some unusual and interesting insights.  So I took a chance. It was worth it.

My Impressions:  This book is about ‘story.’  I could tell right away that this would be a different book, and at least entertaining. Miller has a kind of a ‘Forrest Gump’ self-deprecating innocence and wisdom.  It begins with a couple of Hollywood types who come to his house  to work with him to write a screen play of his life, meant to capitalize on a popular and somewhat autobiographical book Miller had previously written. Miller struggles to accept the idea of a movie of his life, since he believes his life to be pretty boring and unremarkable.  Indeed, so do the screenwriters who are working with him.  Predictably,  the screenwriters insist on changing his life’s story to make it more exciting and interesting, so that the movie will sell, and they’ll all make money.   It’s all pretty amusing, but this gives the author the opening to explore what he really wants to write about – the idea of our lives as a story.  

Throughout the booke, Miller explores the metaphor of viewing our lives as if we were screenwriters creating a story, and makes the point that in the choices we make in living our lives, we are creating the story of our lives.   He challenges us to understand our story, the thread that holds it together, the plot, the meaning – and possibly to inspire us to live a better story.  

The author is very clever in how he makes his points and repeatedly returns to the metaphor of our life as story. The book is full of great quotes, and I choose to share some of them with you rather than summarize the book. It’s also good for me to review these quotes – they can be very instructive.  Some of my favorites: 

  “A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story.”

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

“The idea that a character is what he does makes as much sense in life as it does in the movies.”

“The stories we tell ourselves are very different from the stories we tell the world.”

“My entire life has been to make myself more comfortable, to insulate myself from the interruption of my daydreams.”

 “A general rule in creating stories is that characters don’t want to change. They must be forced to change.”

“Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort <characters> won’t enter into a story.”

 “… fear is not only a guide to keep us safe; it is also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.”

“…great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear.”

  “The whole point of the story is the character arc.  You didn’t think joy could change a person did you?  Joy is what we feel when the conflict is over.  But it’s conflict that changes the person.”

“… the reasons our lives seem so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes in which we, as well as the people around us, have no clear idea of what we want.”

“The stuff I spent money on indicated the stories I was living.”

“A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling the people around us what we think is important.”

“…when something hard happens to you, you have one of two choices in how to deal with it. You can either get bitter, or better. I chose to get better. It’s made all the difference.”

“I realized how much our lives are spent trying to avoid conflict.  Half the commercials on television are trying to sell us something that will make our lives easier.  Part of me wonders whether our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life.”

“…every conflict, no matter how hard, comes back to bless the protagonist, if he will face his fate with courage.”

“Viktor Frankl whispered in my ear all the time. He said to me that I was a tree in a story about a forest, and it was arrogant of me to believe any differently. And he told me the story of the forest is better than the story of the tree.”

 “A good movie has memorable scenes, and so does a good life.”

“Great stories give life to greater stories.”

As I was reading this book, I recalled that when I met Mike Richardson and we sat down to dinner to get to know each other, his opening question was, “So Bob, what’s your story?”  An interesting and telling question.  This was a provocative and very worthwhile book.

About schoultz

CEO of Fifth Factor Leadership - Speaker, consultant, coach. Formerly Director, Master of Science in Global Leadership at University of San Diego; prior to that, 30 years in the Navy as a Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) officer.
This entry was posted in Reading, story. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s