BagerBach

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

by Donald Miller

Amazon

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Rating: 7 / 10

Thoughts

It was a great story. It's easy to get lost in. There were many great lessons in there, too.


🔑 3 Sentence Summary

  1. Donald Miller was to have a movie done about his life.
  2. In the process of (re)writing the story of his life, he realized the importance of stories.
  3. He improved his life because of this.

🧠 Thoughts

It was a great story. It's easy to get lost in. There were many great lessons in there, too.

🤝 Would I recommend it? Why?

I would. At times, it was kind of beautiful. He'd pull you in with some obstacle that had to be overcome, and at the end, you'd have learned some meaningful lesson.

🌀 Actions Taken / Changes

  • I realized the importance of stories. I also learned a lot about stories in general. How our life is just one big story with substories.

💡 Top 3-5 Ideas, Concepts, or Quotes

Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are 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.

Josh told me something I’ll never forget. He said, “Don, when something hard happens to you, you have 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.”

When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possessions to complete you, you’d be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions.

🔦📒 Highlights & Notes

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

I’ve wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don’t want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.

This book is a story. So we have to be careful not to miss the lessons for the story.

The main character in a story has to be likeable. He has to have some want. Then something that opposes him, which he will face. Then he'll get what he wanted. But to make people care about the story, they have to care about the main character first. So in the beginning of a story, we should see the character do good.

But stories are only partly told by writers. They are also told by the characters themselves. Any writer will tell you characters do what they want.

“You’re right,” he finally said. “You aren’t living a good story.”
“That’s what I was saying.”
“I see,” he said.
“What do I do about that?”
“You’re a writer. You know what to do.”
“No, I don’t.”
Jordan looked at me with his furrowed brow again. “You put something on the page,” he said. “Your life is a blank page. You write on it.”

A general rule in creating stories is that characters don’t want to change. They must be forced to change. Nobody wakes up and starts chasing a bad guy or dismantling a bomb unless something forces them to do so. The bad guys just robbed your house and are running off with your last roll of toilet paper, or the bomb is strapped to your favorite cat. It’s that sort of thing that gets a character moving.
The rule exists in story because it’s a true thing about people. Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better.

Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are 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.

PERHAPS ONE OF the reasons I’ve avoided having a clear ambition is that second you stand up and point toward a horizon, you realize how much there is to lose. It’s always been this way.

He got louder. “Writing a story isn’t about making your peaceful fantasies come true. The whole point of the story is the character arc. You didn’t think joy could change a person, did you? Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it’s conflict that changes a person.”
His voice was like thunder now. “You put your characters through hell. You put them through hell. That’s the only way we change.”

Josh told me something I’ll never forget. He said, “Don, when something hard happens to you, you have 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.”

(Josh Shipp)

After visiting Kaj, I realized how much of our lives are spent trying to avoid conflict. Half the commercials on television are selling us something that will make life easier. Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life.

But in that place, I remembered about story, about how every conflict, no matter how hard, comes back to bless the protagonist if he will face his fate with courage. There is no conflict man can endure that will not produce a blessing. And I smiled. I’m not saying I was happy, but for some reason I smiled. It hurts now, but I’ll love this memory, I thought to myself. And I do.

He said to me I was a tree in a story about a forest, and that 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.

If you think about it, an enormous amount of damage is created by the myth of utopia. There is an intrinsic feeling in nearly every person that your life could be perfect if you only had such-and-such a car or such-and-such a spouse or such-and-such a job. We believe we will be made whole by our accomplishments, our possessions, or our social status. It’s written in the fabric of our DNA that life used to be beautiful and now it isn’t, and if only this and if only that, it would be beautiful again.

When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are. And when you stop expecting material possessions to complete you, you’d be surprised at how much pleasure you get in material possessions.

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