Like many people, I first discovered Donald Miller through the book Blue Like Jazz. He had written several books before that one ‘hit it big’, but for some reason, that one got our attention.

I enjoyed the book a lot — not nearly as much as some of my friends — but I love Don’s writing style. He has a tone that would fit perfectly if he were your good friend and sitting across from you at a coffee shop telling you the stories he writes about. Where some books engage me in a way that is a mental workout, Don’s books engage me in a way that is a mental stress-reliever. I can read his writing before bed and it actually helps my mind slow down and try and take myself out of my shoes and put on his for a few minutes.

So, I’ve been excited to get my hands on his newest work, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life.

I won’t endeavor to write a significant review of the book — partly because I don’t have the time, and partly because several hundred other people have already done so (so why add to the noise?). I recommend Chris Brogan’s video review. Or, you can go here and read the first chapter online for free.

I will say that I think it’s a really neat concept, and it has given me another angle from which to view my experience of life. The book probably won’t change your life, but it will entertain you, engage you, and might even nudge you to dream a little better. I guess, in a way, all books change our life to a certain extent.

Anyways, the point of this post is to offer the snippet below from page 123. Every input we allow into our lives shapes our perspective and, consequently, our ambitions:

Before I started writing for a living, I had a job as a marketing guy at a start-up company that sold textbooks to the education market. In learning about my job, I had to read all kinds of other books about how to sell people stuff they didn’t need. As near as I could tell from reading those books, marking is a three-step process. The first step is to convince people they are miserable. The second step is to convince people they will be happy if they buy your product, and the third step is to include a half-naked woman in your pitch…

The thing I never realized while I was studying marketing was the process of advertising products is, in many ways, a manipulation of the elements of story. It’s like I was telling you about an inciting incident disrupting the stability of a character’s life, throwing him orher into a story. Advertising does exactly this. We watch a commercial advertising a new Volvo, and suddenly we feel our life isn’t as content as it once was. Our life doesn’t have the new Volvo in it. And the commercial convinces us we will only be content if we have a car with forty-seven airbags. And so we begin our story of buying a Volvo, only to repeat the story with a new weed eater and then a new home stereo. And this can go on for a lifetime. When the credits roll, we wonder what we did with our lives, and what was the meaning.

The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vaccuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life.
The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vaccuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life.
What do you think? Is he right?
What noise are you allowing to shape your story?
(No, seriously, I’m asking. Leave a comment and make this a dialog!)