I recently read a book by Donald Miller called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It got me thinking. To paraphrase his preface, imagine going to a movie about a guy who goes to college and gets good grades so that he can get a good job. He graduates, gets the job, but wishes he had a better car. So he works longer hours, moves up the ladder, and finally, at the end of the movie, he is able to get the car he wanted. He drives off in his car into the sunset.
Would you watch this movie? How long do you think it would hold your attention?
Miller proffers this supposition: if it would make a snooze-fest of a movie, it makes a snooze-fest of a life.
Miller actually found himself in a position few of us ever will. Movie producers did approach him, wanting to make a movie of his life, based on some things he’d written in a previous book. However, at every turn, the producers wanted to change the actual facts of Miller’s life. They wanted him to have worked a more interesting job. To have had more love interests and tension. To have done more noteworthy things with his time, and had more interesting interactions with unusual people and such.
At first, Miller interjected, reminding them that this wasn’t “the way it really was.” But they continually told him that it wasn’t important what actually happened, but rather that it “made for an interesting movie, one that people would want to watch.”
Despite being an established writer and public speaker, Miller realized that, as a matter of fact, his life was extremely uneventful and mundane. He did the same basic things every day, staying predictable and safe. It was then that he decided to intentionally take steps in order to live a different version of his life. And with that decision, he began to accomplish more than he ever thought he could. From hiking the treacherous road to Machu Picchu, to biking coast to coast to raise money for charity, he turned his life into something that he and others might actually want to watch. Something filled with drama and mystery, romance and adventure.
Of course there are real movies that do draw an audience, but not for reasons we’d want our lives to be known. I’m not certain that farcical teen dramas, a la Mean Girls, are the goal to which we should aspire. And Bonnie and Clyde, while exciting in its own way, doesn’t seem quite the thing either.
While reading Miller’s book, I asked myself if anyone would want to watch the movie of my own life. And, do you know what? I actually think they would. It would have pain, for sure. But also triumph. The characters would be fascinating. No one would be able to guess what would happen in the next scene. Even I couldn’t. I like that.
How would the movie of your own life look if it aired today?
Are the dialogs riveting, or repetitive and stale?
Would the action be suspenseful, or cloyingly predictable?
Would the plot hold anyone’s attention, or would they walk out, demanding a refund?
If your life-in-movie-form wouldn’t be quite award winning, remember that you always have the next choice. The choice to thicken the plot. The choice to add new and interesting characters to the cast. The choice to rewrite the script, day by day.
Here’s to Take 2.