The Movie Of Your Life: “Two Thumbs Up” or “Two Thumbs Down”?

This article is from our Strategic Investor Insiders  Circle print newsletter June Edition. Trevor writes the column “The Movie Of Your Life” to help entrepreneurs not only grow a great company but live a better, more fulfilled, and passion filled life. We wanted to repost this article here because we wanted to share the message with everyone out there. If you’re interested in getting 2 issues of The Strategic Investor Insiders Circle to try out for less than $20… head over here for more info

Recently I was posed this question… “If a movie were to be made about your life, would it be worth watching? Would it be an engaging and interesting story or would you want to stab yourself in the neck with a straw because it was so boring?”

So, before I tell you my answer and what transformations I’ve made as a result… I ask you the same question.

If a movie were to be made about your life… would it be something other people would want to watch? Is it interesting and engaging?

Now, before you beat yourself up… you don’t have to have Stephen Segal explosions or crazy exploits out of The Hangover to have an interesting and engaging life story.

In this article I’ll break down what I learned about “how to live a better story” from a book I recently read from a fellow Oregonian that really made things click for me in a very simple way.

My Revelation

I’ve heard that before. “Live a life that could fill a book that someone would want to read”. It really gets you thinking eh? Questions like… “Am I living a full and interesting life?”… “Am I wasting my time doing what I’m currently doing?”… “What is my true passion and why am I here?”… are all questions that have came to my mind after hearing that.

But, it never really came together for me until recently when I read a book called “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: How I learned to live a better story” by Donald Miller (he lives in my home state of Oregon too which is cool). Buy it on Amazon today.

As humans we’re all naturally drawn toward stories.

If someone says… “I have a story for you…”… you can’t help but perk up and listen. Or if you’re watching American Idol and see the story behind the contestants, it makes you connect with them better, like them more, and be compelled to root for your favorite person because of what they’ve overcome in life, what they stand for, anything that you can relate to.

We’re creatures who love story.

We know what is a really good story (one that makes you feel emotion because of the outcome)… and we know what makes bad stories (one that really have no meaning and seem to ramble on).

But, when it comes to LIVING GOOD STORIES… we all have a more difficult time. Why?

I didn’t realize it until I read this book… but now I think that most of us don’t live good stories because we don’t know the framework of what makes a good story to start out with.

A Character Who Wants Something And Overcomes Conflict To Get It

A great quote in this book is, “If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living these stories and expect our lives to feel meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.”

Read that more than once if you need to. There’s some powerful stuff in there.

So, here are a two important parts of the framework of writing (and living) a great story (the others you’ll find in the book):

A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it:  Too many of us live lives trying to avoid conflict and have nothing big in life that we’re really trying to go after. But conflict is good. Lets look at two great movies as examples.

Pursuit of Happiness With Will Smith: What would this moview (which was based on a true story) be like if he didn’t endure homelessness with his son, sleeping on a public bathroom floor, being put down and counted out at his job interviews? It would have been just a normal boring story. And, from the very beginning you know exactly what Will Smith’s character wants: To land a job at a high paying financial firm so his son will never have to live on the streets again and his ex-wife will respect him finally. Very clear.

Rocky: What if Rocky came from a good background, worked out a little bit, and just stepped in the ring and won every match (or lost every match?) The movie series would have died after the first one… but it didn’t. In every Rocky movie he is always going after something big (and you know what it is very clearly) and has to go through some shit to get there.

So, can you and people around you watching you LIVE YOUR STORY tell very clearly what you want and are going after? Are you pushing your own story hard enough that you have to go through a bit of conflict and hard work to get there?

An inciting Incident: This was a cool breakthrough for me. We all go through periods where we know something needs to change but we just don’t know why it’s not changing. But in story, the way big shifts happen is with an “inciting incident”… both good and bad. We need something to take place that is consequential enough to change our direction… because it won’t change by itself. Sometimes we can see an opportunity for an inciting incident and push it ourselves… sometimes they happen to us. Another example in movies.

Wizard of Oz : Not a great example, but Dorothy’s story changes drastically when the tornado sweeps up her home and takes her from Kansas to Oz. She’s then thrust into a story that is interesting,  engaging, and something that has lived on through the generations.

MoneyBall: New baseball movie with Brad Pitt, based on a true story, where Brad’s character nearly changes the way baseball teams are run forever by using data to determine which players would help a team win rather than normal stats and gut. It took a big decision on his characters part to realize the opportunity was there for him to make a radical shift and either fail miserably or change history. His decision to hire the math wiz kid changed the story and made it worth retelling in a movie.

Every day we’re all faced with opportunities to urge on our own inciting incidents. Yes, some will come whether we want them or not (like Dave Ramsey the financial guru, he went bankrupt when he was 30, was in the pits, and in one instance when he realized things had to change… he made the decision to create his own story and change the way he was managing his money).

Live That Better Story

If you feel you’re in a rut in life or if you just plain want to live a better story so your grandchildren will hear stories about their “grandma Susan” or “grandpa Jim” and the interesting things you did in your life… think of 2 things:

1. Am I extremely clear on what I’m going for in life? Am I working hard enough and open to embracing conflict on the way there? (achieving something that was tough to get is a heck of a lot sweeter than something that was easy).

2. Are there opportunities to create my own inciting incidents in my life?  i.e. – what needs to change? What drastic action/shift/decision can I make to incite that change?

Go buy the book. You’ll thank me later.

Now, go out and live a better story. It’s amazing how it changes and really simplifies things when everyday you ask yourself… “Is what I’m going to do today helping me live a better story?”. If you answer no too many days in a row… you need to make a big change in your life if you want to truly leave a legacy people will enjoy retelling long after you leave this earth.

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