Reflecting on Don Miller's Million Miles Book Tour in NYC

Last night Tim Nye and I headed into the city to catch Don Miller on his A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life book tour.  It was quite an evening.  Heading into the city during rush-hour, I  skillfully weaved in and out of the traffic, dodging cabbies, flying across bridges, darting through tunnels, I made record time to the address I put into the GPS.  Unfortunately I ended up on the wrong borough (Don’t ask, it was the stupid GPS.)  But as fate would have it, Don Miller waited for us as we arrived during the intermission between him and Susan Isaacs (we heard she was very funny).

While I have always been a bit unsettled by “Christian celebrity”, I find Don to not have let his success get the best of him.  It did bother me that there was a charge for the book tour but I’m guessing that’s a publisher trying to recoup costs.  And in fairness, him and his team are traveling for 3 months.  All in all, I do like the concept of the book tour.  While I’m probably less inclined to pay money to hear most authors, I guess Don is among those I would.  In any case, I do appreciate these moments as they often help me appreciate the book more. It was a great night.  I’m glad I went.  I even bought the book again and asked Don to write a note to my wife who was too pregnant to attend.  In fact, she’s too pregnant to travel, sit, sleep, eat, breath but baby boy is coming Monday. It’s foreordained. Btw, my few moments with Don was very warm.

Here are the notes I took. I offer them with two bits of encouragement

1. Pick up the book.  He’s a gifted writer with sharp insights regarding life.  With gifted story-telling, humor, and short chapters, Don may be the only reason for you to ever consider going into a Christian bookstore.  If that sort of thing frightens you, his books are sold at every Barnes & Noble, Borders and of course,  This was his first book in three years.  Though he is under contract, he told the story of how he told his publisher that he needed to change his life in order to write a better story.  Initially they weren’t happy with him then but I’m sure they are now.

2. If he comes to your city, you should check him out.  Click here for the rest of his tour schedule.


What makes a good story is what’s good in life.  What makes a story meaningful is what’s meaningful in life.

He attended a Robert McKee seminar on story.  It’s like a bootcamp for novelists, screen-writers, anyone trying to learn what makes a good story.

Story has to have a narrative context to make sense. There is no stoppage to tell the moral of the story (like how we do on Sundays).

One of the key features of a good story is that it contains a character that wants something that has to overcome conflict to get it.

It takes a special charcater to do it.

He/she “must save a cat”.  meaning must do something worthy for us to like him.
Example: The most recent Rocky movie.  There is nothing that is going to move an audience if he simply wins the fight.  In fact, we may perceive a movie about that has selfish.  But we care about the outcome of the movie because we like the character, Rocky.  We have journey with him through the conflict of losing Adrian, helping others like a single mom and her troubled son.  We’ve witnessed him adopt a dog, an ugly dog and eventually he has won us over. (Miller said all of this as a point of reference, as opposed to Citizen Kane.  Most people have either seen Rocky or know the basic plot line.)

A character is only what they do.
Not what they want to do, who they they think they are.  You can’t see a character’s dreams and ambitions, you only get to see what they are doing (what’s told to you) in the story. It’s based on actions.

In a story you have to show it.  Like when Rocky drives the single mother home.  The scene has an element of sexual tension and as he walks her up to her door, he leans over …. and changes out the light bulb that had gone out.  This does not advance the plot nor helps him win the fight but makes for a better character and which leads to a more beautiful story.

The character has to want something.  Has to desire something.

We are programmed into thinking that there is not supposed to be conflict in life.
We are often told conflict isn’t supposed to exist.  It’s the result of the fall but this is not true.
Consider Genesis 2, there is conflict.
The conflict is that God says that Adam was lonely.
He is feeling emotions he does not want to feel.
And God creates Eve.

Where do we get this message that there is not supposed to be conflict in life?
Often Jesus becomes a product that is going to complete our lives and get rid of all conflict.
Don does this funny bit about a Christian infomercial with Paul and another with Peter.  Repeating it in a blog post will not do it justice.  The medium is the message you know ;-)

We long for climax.

But the climax is not Jesus.
Climax is not Conversion as advertised.  It’s not encountering Jesus.
The Act III Climax is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb
We are in the middle of Act II.

When you are scared of something, you will encounter beauty.
Don tells the story of meeting his dad for the first time. In fact it was a bit awkward because he had just written a book about growing up without a dad. It was a moving story of pain and forgiveness.

He told another about bike-riding across the country (for Blood: Water Mission) and being at the Holocaust Museum in Washington.
There he is inspired by Victor Frankl.  Having been captured in a concentration camp and witnessed the death of his family, he encourages his fellow suicidal prisoners to continue living for the sake of meaning.  “If you could desire to starve yourself or to be beaten to death, instead of taking your own life, then you would tell the world for generations the account of the evil that we have suffered.”

Freud says that we live for the sake of pleasure.
But it’s those like Frankl who are right – It’s meaning we need.
We turn to pleasure when we cannot find meaning.  We turn to pleasure to numb ourselves.

The challenge in life is to tell better stories with our lives.

Find better better desires, no one can stop you from creating life.

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