Monthly Archives: January 2013

Want to Make Today Memorable?

If you are like me, you’ve been thinking about the Storyline process and asking if you are telling a good story with your life.  You’ve probably been looking for a way to tell a better story with the big picture.  Simply asking “Is this telling a good story?” makes the decision making process easier on the big questions in life.


“Should I date this person?

“Should I take this job offer?”

“Should I use my free time to volunteer for a cause that touches me?”


The answer is simple, if it tells a good story, then we should do it.


It struck me this morning that we can apply the same methodology to the mundane things we do everyday. “Is this telling a good story?”  If so, let’s do it.


“Should I display an act of kindness to a complete stranger for no reason whatsoever?”

“Should I buy lunch for a friend that I know is struggling with something?”

“Should I get so blitzed tonight that I spend the next two days hungover and unproductive?” (Sadly, I’ve told this story many times)

“Should I use my day off to sit on the couch watching reruns and trying to set the world record for Cheetos consumption?”


I’m reminded of a memory that started Christmas morning when I was 5 years old.  It was on that Christmas morning that mom and dad gave my brother a toy guitar.  For it was on that guitar that my dad composed his early-morning wake up songs for the kids.   Now, dad never actually learned any chords on the guitar, which was fine because when he sang he never actually hit any notes.  While the songs were musically horrible, they were terribly effective at getting us out of bed.  I can still hear the haunting melody of “Wake up all you sleepyheads” (somehow composed in the key of “T”) in my head to this day. My dad turned an event as dull and ordinary as waking up and turned it into a memory that still lives (and/or haunts me) over 30 years later.

Donald Miller says in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “The saddest thing about life is you don’t remember half of it.  You don’t even remember half of half of it.  Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth.”

How can you make today memorable?

I Don’t Have Any Bloody Use For It

I guess I couldn’t wait until Monday to get going with my thoughts:

In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller wrote about attending a seminar on screenwriting by Robert McKee, who is an authority on storytelling. McKee is the one I quoted in class saying, “You have to put your characters through hell.”  McKee’s seminar was used in the movie “Adaptation” with Nicolas Cage.

The following link is a scene from the movie based on his seminar.  This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  Think about how this relates to what we’ve been talking about in class.  Pardon the language in the clip.  There is proficient use of the f-word throughout, just like there is if you sit next to me at an SMU football game.

Miller says in Storyline , “We should not feel guilty or ashamed of having desires.”  From the beginning, God created us to have desires.  Adam was lonely, so God created Eve.  Maybe we don’t pursue things because we feel guilty for having desires.  Miller continues, “We shouldn’t feel guilty about desiring shelter, transportation, food, sex, love, community or even clothes.  These are all positive desires.  There are also evil desires, and many desires that are good, out of an appropriate context, become evil.  In other words, following God is a lot like becoming mature and being able to discern right from wrong, pure from corrupt.” 

If you want to tell a good story with your life, you have to start by having desires.  As McKee says, “You cannot have a protagonist without desire.  It doesn’t make any sense.”

A few years ago, I had a burning desire to be a part of a community.  Now I have Impact and all you guys.  Positive turn.


Who is the Audience for your Story?

Someone mentioned in class that we need to be careful about what other people think of our story.  It made me realize that one question we haven’t asked is “Who is the audience for my story?”  As much as we want the approval of our friends and family, I’m wondering if I’m really trying to tell my story for them or for me.  I am working with God to tell my story.  It seems to me that those are the only two opinions that really matter.  Maybe being a “people pleaser” is one of the things that is hijacking our story.

Donald Miller says in Module 2 of Storyline, “God created us with a need for food and water, but He doesn’t become food and water.  He created us with a need for community, but He doesn’t become multiple people and invite us to go bowling. God created us with desires He fulfills through means He provides.  Or, better said, all our needs are not met in Christ, though they may be met by Christ.”

We all need community and other players in our story.  I guess the hard part is drawing other people into your story without letting their needs and desires write the plot for you.  If someone knows an easy way to do that, please let me know.


This reminded me of a poem I heard a long time ago that states the point much better than I just did:


The Man in the Glass


When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day,

Just go to a mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that man has to say.


For it isn’t your father or mother or wife,

Who judgment upon you must pass;

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one starring back from the glass.


He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest.

For he’s with you clear up to the end,

And you’ve passed the most dangerous, difficult test

If the man in the glass is your friend.


You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,

And think you’re a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.


You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years.

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be the heartaches and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.


Dale Wimbrow (c) 1934

Your Ambitions Must Be Clear

If you listened to Paul’s sermon on Sunday, it seems like he is right in step with what we are covering with Storyline.  He left us with three questions to ask ourselves:

  1. Where to begin?
  2. What is your biggest obstacle?
  3. What are you willing to do about it?

These are three important questions to ask yourself in order to write your subplot.  I think before we ask these questions we have to hammer down something we (I mean “I”) glanced over in class – Your ambitions must be clear.  Donald Miller says, “If you’ve ever watched a movie in which you weren’t sure what the protagonist wanted, you were likely bored out of your mind.  Clarity is critical.”

Think about every great movie you’ve ever seen.  Was there ever a point when you didn’t know what the protagonist wanted?

  • William Wallace wanted freedom
  • Rick wanted to get Ilsa back
  • Dorothy wanted to get back home
  • Luke wanted to become a Jedi and defeat the Empire
  • Bill and Ted wanted to save the future
  • Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott wanted to find their car

Are your ambitions that clear?

Looking at the three questions, you can’t decide where to begin unless you know where you are going.  It reminds me of the passage from Alice in Wonderland when Alice asked the Cheshire Cat which road she should take.  He asked her where she wanted to go.  She said she didn’t know.  He replied “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

When deciding where to go, maybe you are waiting on God’s will.  If you are waiting for a burning bush or to become a pregnant virgin, odds are that isn’t going to happen.  There are examples in the Bible when God speaks directly to people, but I think God speaks to us in more subtle ways.  Paul said in his sermon that something is bubbling up inside you, that’s probably the will of the Lord.

What is bubbling up inside you?  Pray about it, and let’s talk about it on Sunday.

Storyline Thoughts

A much longer message today since I’m off work for two weeks.  Sorry, this is what happens when you are off work, all your friends work during the day and you are already caught up on How I Met Your Mother and Downton Abbey.
I’ve been thinking a lot about part of the discussion we had on Sunday, specifically the part about our careers.  There’s a belief that probably started with our generation that we are owed a job that is glamorous and makes each of us famous.  Maybe it’s because our society is obsessed with celebrity or maybe because our generation has it easy and hasn’t had to endure the hardships of previous generations (The Great Depression, World War II, etc.).  I thought about the Victor Frankl quote from the workbook, “Stop asking what you expect from life, ask what life expects from you.”  When I read statements like that, it makes me think that maybe we are getting it wrong.  We all have specific talents and gifts that we can use to tell a great story no matter what we do from 8-5 everyday.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 17-20, 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
There you go, “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”  We don’t all have to be movie stars and rock stars to create significant subplots within God’s story.  Obviously, God did not create me to be the lead guitarist in a rock band or Wimbledon champion (still trying to get over both of those), but my contribution to God’s story isn’t any less important.  Conversely, Eddie Van Halen probably can’t help people invest for retirement and Roger Federer can’t create a bitchin’ playlist for a dance party.
I’m not suggesting that each of us stay in our current jobs.  If you dread waking up and going to work everyday, ask yourself if your job needs to change or if your perspective and attitude needs to change.  If it is your job, then by all means do everything you can to find a job that you enjoy.
Here are a couple of videos that came to mind during our discussion.  The first is a speech by Mike Rowe, Ford spokesman and host of Dirty Jobs, at the TED conference a few years ago.  It’s 20 minutes long, but it’s one of the best speeches I’ve seen in a long time.  He talks about how we are getting it wrong with our view of work.  It’s very entertaining and thought provoking.
The next is a trailer about Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.  These guys wake up at 4 am everyday and spend all day dealing with smelly fish, and they don’t make a ton of money doing it.  Pretty crappy job by society’s definition.  But they make each day as fun as they can, and this little fish market has become an inspiration to many corporations about how to change culture and engage employees.  Think about it, they work in a fish market and became world famous simply because of their attitude.
I hope this helps you find your subplot.

Monday Motivation

Here is a post that I mentioned in class yesterday.  It’s from the blog of James Altucher.  I think The Daily Practice can be useful when going through the Storyline process.  Not all of these aspects will resonate with this group (like waking up between 4-5 am everyday), but I found some of these really helpful.  When thinking about having my story highjacked, I remember his quote about emotional practice,
” If someone is a drag on me, I cut them out. If someone lifts me up, I bring them closer. Nobody is sacred here. When the plane is going down, put the oxygen mask on your face first. Family, friends, people I love – I always try to be there for them and help. But I don’t get close to anyone bringing me down. This rule can’t be broken. Energy leaks out of you if someone is draining you.”
It’s not necessarily an enjoyable process to evaluate your relationships and determine who lifts you up and who drags you down, but I can personally attest to the fact that cutting out negative people (even some you thought were good friends) increases your energy and happiness.  If you want to keep moving forward, sometimes you gotta thin the herd.