Great stories are made of great characters. So are great lives.
“The same characteristics of a great story can be applied to create a great life. No one gets up from their movie theater seat thinking ‘wow, what a great movie’ after watching a guy work his entire life to save up enough money for a BMW and then, at the end of the movie, he gets the BMW. Everyone would think ‘That’s it?’ and mentally check out.
There is no conflict. There is no redemption. There is nothing in that story that makes you a) want to be a part of it or b) inspires you into action. It is a boring movie.
So why do we create stories with our lives that are the just like the guy and the BMW?” — Donald Miller (paraphrased).
In 2014, I attended the Storyline Conference hosted by best-selling author Donald Miller. The three-day event was billed as a workshop to “help you plan a meaningful life.” Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years quite literally changed my life. It was during the reading of that book that I was finally pushed over the edge to set a course and run full speed ahead with Compete Every Day.
The three-day conference’s curriculum helps you evaluate your story (aka, your life), how it is being told, what the true theme is, and how to redeem any negative turns in the story for a higher purpose. In other words, what is your life telling others about who you are, what you stand for, and what you truly believe.
And if it’s not in line with what you want it to tell others, how do you correct the path you’re on.
Quite simply it was one of the best conferences I’ve attended.
What Great Characters Have in Common
The above picture is something I snapped out of our conference workbook. Great characters — in reference to a great story — fit these descriptions. But how many of us can say that about our lives?
What can we look at and say:
- I will accomplish that.
- I don’t care what obstacles I have to overcome – I will overcome them.
- I want others to come with me in this story.
Scratching your head?
So were many people throughout the conference. But that introspective is what made this event a powerful one.
The following key takeaways are what I learned, and what continue to impact my life. By asking myself each of these questions – and applying the truth at their core – you can compete to make 2018 the best chapter of your life’s story yet.
How to Pen a Better Story in 2018
1. Ask yourself – is my life one that others want to watch if it was a movie?
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching” – Gerard Way
If your life was a Hollywood movie (or a 2-3 sentence synopsis on Netflix), would it be compelling enough that they’d want to click “play?”
It’s scary when you realize your day-to-day actions are compounding, reinforcing the story of your life to the world. Are you avoiding people, clocking in at 8am, out at 5pm, and then heading home to watch episodes of The Bachelor night after night after night?
Or are you competing for something more? Are you carving out time each day to work on a goal, to change our life’s path, or to impact another?
Today is the perfect opportunity to start writing a new chapter if your life isn’t one that others look to and would want to watch.
Setbacks to SetUP a Comeback
2. Understand that every negative turn, every failure, every poor decision, and every bad break has the potential to be redeemed for something greater.
Life doesn’t end at the mistake.
Too often, people fail in a pursuit, become discouragement, and just quit. The fear of failing again paralyzes them. They refuse to get back up and compete. In reality, they refuse to live.
And the one small negative turn suddenly grows in power until it consumes them and becomes the theme of their story.
This is never how it’s supposed to be.
Setbacks ARE the setups for life’s greatest comebacks.
Time and time again, what seems like our biggest failure ends up being the best thing to fuel us skyward. Negatives are made to be redeemed – but they can’t be if you quit during the defeat.
Your Story Impacts Others
3. Go for it.
John Richmond was quoted with “Not going for it is inherently selfish.”
Choosing to live in fear, choosing to never take that leap is selfish in nature.
“You are depriving a world of something great by choosing not to share your story with them.” He went on to recount the story of hyaline membrane disease, the sickness that strikes newborn babies and killed thousands, including former president John F. Kennedy’s son, Patrick.
Dr. Mary Ellen Avery discovered a way to save infants, but due to her being a woman in a male dominated field in the mid-1950′s, her words and treatment were continually ignored. Yet, Dr. Avery continued to fight and tell her story, determined to save these children’s lives. Finally, one doctor took a chance and tried Dr. Avery’s proposed treatment. It worked. And since then, infants have been saved time and time again.
In fact, John Richmond went on to say that because of Dr. Mary Ellen Avery’s fight and determination, his own son was saved just a few years ago when he was born with the lung disease.
Your story – and decisions to act or live in fear – impacts others far beyond your knowledge.
Courage over comfort.
4. “Comfort never makes for a great story.” — Jon Acuff.
How true. Sailors are never made sitting on the shore, and we will never experience success, adventure, or life, playing it safe.
Courage makes for a great story. Comfort? It’s forgotten in every story. Just imagine if your movie’s favorite character stayed within their comfort zone and chose safety instead of risk or danger. They wouldn’t be your favorite character, instead relegated to an “also-ran” in the overall storyline and quickly forgotten as soon as the credits roll.
But the character who risks their life or heart, daring to step out into conflict? They inspire us to compete for our lives as soon as we leave the theater. Their actions give us power to follow a similar path in our life, wanting to emulate the courage displayed on-screen.
To make a great story — to create a great life — one must learn to be uncomfortable.
Each day we add another page to our story.
For some of us, the story continues to describe an individual who competes — one who sees their goals, their relationships, their dreams — and relentlessly lives in pursuit of them. For others, it mirrors the boring pursuit of the BMW, who at the end, gets the BMW.
But one day, both stories end.
The Competitor and the BMW owner will write a final chapter. And years from now, others will look back at the two stories. One will be filled with life, adventure, and a multitude of other people brought into the story. The other will be filled with an empty pursuit.
Which story — better yet, which life — will you Compete for today?
Your life. Your legacy. Your story. Write a great one.