A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: Living a Better Story

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is about living a better story.

Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, recently came out in paperback. I strongly recommend you get a copy, if you haven’t read it yet (or even if you have).

Reading this was a personal turning point for me — both in regards to writing and life.

Here are some thoughts on the book and why we writers must not only write compelling stories, but also live them.

Living a better story

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is about story. But it’s also about more than that.

It’s about living a better story. Here’s the basic premise:

Don and a couple of screenwriters tried turning Don’s best-selling Blue Like Jazz into a movie (which is actually happening thanks to Kickstarter and some guys I know).

In the process, Don learns that his life really isn’t that interesting.

Reflecting on his own life, Don applies the basic components of story to actually live a more interesting life.

Author A Million Miles in a Thousand Years - Don Miller
In writing A Million Miles, Don had to re-examine his life and the story he was telling.

The result is this compelling book about exotic voyages to Incan ruins, cross-country biking jaunts, fundraising campaigns for freshwater wells in Africa, and a road trip to face the father who abandoned him.

I loved the writing of A Million Miles. It was full of the wit, humor, and intelligence that befits the style that is Don Miller.

No one tells an anecdote like Miller, especially with hilarious, self-effacing remarks peppered throughout the story.

The message is simple and challenging for an writer: Live a better story.

If all you’re doing is writing stories but not living them, then you’re a fraud.

Caveat: “better” is subjective

While I like the idea of “living a better story,” I can see the heart of this book getting lost. So let’s be careful how we qualify this idea of “better.”

Working a steady job and taking care of your family may, in fact, be an excellent story. Irresponsibly floating from one flaky commitment to the next for the sake of “adventure” may not.

The truth is we all want to live a great story.

We all want to have something of which we’d be proud to tell our grandchildren. We want to be able to look back on our lives when we cross the threshold of eternity and feel good about the impact we made with our life.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years gives us the framework for how to live that better story.

The story that you’re living

I hope you’re living a great story and not merely writing one. I hope you’re bringing dreams to life and making a difference. I hope you’re proud of your tale and at the end of your life you will hear the words, “Well done…”

If not, then I hope you’re willing to change. Because there’s a lot riding on your story and how you choose to live it. Please treat it with care; you only get one.

A good start may be to read Don’s book. (Also available for a bargain on Kindle.)

What is the story that you’re living? If you could rewrite it, would you?

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links.

14 thoughts on “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: Living a Better Story

  1. Oh, this sounds so good. Going to pick it up. I may not go to exotic location but I explore them with my children through books we share. We laugh together, play together, and work together. We have plans to start backing this summer building to hiking the Appalachian Trail in eight years. There are many ways an ordinary person can live an extraordinary life.

    1. Yup, it’s all relative. To me, it’s more about being obedient to the life that you’ve been called to live than it is about doing what seems exciting or adventurous to someone else. The trick, though, is to not sell ourselves short.

  2. I love this book, and indeed most everything that issues from the man’s pen. Last fall, as the Kickstarter campaign was winding down, I did a giveaway on my blog: my autographed copy of ‘Million Miles’ would go to the four thousandth donor to the campaign. I did this because I felt I had gotten so much from Mr. Miller’s work that I needed to somehow give back. You know who the winner turned out to be? A college student who’d sacrificed to give to the campaign. How cool is that?

      1. I was about to say the fact I don’t have a job but I realized as I was ready to type this that it’s a trusting God issue. I just don’t trust that He would provide for my family if I step into what I feel called to do. And I hate that about myself.

        1. Yeah, it seems to me that Miller’s point is that great stories are marked by conflict, and we humans tend to resist that. Sounds like you’ve got the perfect setup for a great story, Jason!

  3. Pastor Seth Moorman once told a group of young adults, “We are all storytellers. The question is: are we living stories worth telling.” That seems to be the theme of Miller’s book too. It’s one that I’ve read but intend to reread.

  4. I absolutely LOVE that book!!!  I’ve read it, re-read it, and then read it again. My story would probably only look somewhat interesting from the outside at the moment, but it’s an ongoing work in progress. 😉

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