If I had to point to books that changed my outlook on life and had an incredible impact on my 2013 - this one might be at the top: Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story."
If you've ever read me talking about "living a better story" or living life with fierce intention, the impetus for that inspiration is this very book. It was recommended to me by a dear friend who knows how much I love storytelling.
The premise of the book is that the author, Donald Miller, was approached by two Hollywood producers hoping to make his hit Christian bestselling book "Blue Like Jazz"into a feature film. A novelist, Miller had never been exposed to the script development and took offense when the producers said his main character in the original book needed more obstacles - that he wasn't a very good hero. Why take offense? Well, the main character in the book was based on Donald Miller himself.
Miller realized that like his main character, he wasn't living a very good story - he wasn't being the hero of his own life. Part of being a hero means doing what we all see in the movies everyday - our main character encountering the world, finding conflict, learning how to deal with it, and emerging changed (hopefully better) for the adventure and the experience.
In his non-fiction "Million Miles," Donald Miller focuses on just that idea- that if he saw his life as a narrative, where he was a hero who needed to get out in the world and live his story - he would see change in his life. And so the book is filled with inspiring and thought-provoking journeys Miller undertook motivated by this way of thinking.
And then I read it and I realized that without a doubt, I needed to live a better story. I began to see how we all write the story of our lives every day, chapter to chapter, and that every day is a choice. Life is not about avoiding the problems, but undertaking the problems and the challenges of what come our way, emerging better - stronger - more adventurous for the journey. Maybe we even end up with the handsome leading man (in my case, Gus, obviously...).
But really, I've talked a ton about this book to people of all walks of life since I read it. I find myself thinking about it now, at the end of 2013, and on a day where someone I love very dearly got some truly devastating news that will push their life in an unexpected, new direction. I think in some ways it's easy to set up dreams and chase them, but it's quite another to see a dream slip through your fingers. How do you start over? How do you write a new chapter then? Does the story end?
I want to imagine and believe that it's a story just beginning. Life is what happens while you're making other plans and I've certainly had times in my own life where things I thought I really wanted or dreamt about didn't happen and now, I thank God they didn't.
Ultimately, I think it's a sign, an event, a moment in time that wakes you up and forces you to live that better story. You can either quit or you can show life that you're here to live it, love it, and see how this was all just part of the journey.
Whether you're chasing your dream or needing to rebuild one, this book is one great example of forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and showing up for life. Having been afraid to do so and having jumped in anyway, I can tell you life is awaiting you for a pretty grand, unpredictable adventure - it's just up to you to cast yourself in the story.