Conflict of InterestOctober 25, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, I read the terrific new book by one of our very own Thomas Nelson authors, Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (it really is a great read … in fact, it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for the last three weeks now – so I’m hardly alone in that sentiment … but, I digress ). A few days later, Miller spoke to us in our quarterly company-wide meeting in Nashville. And, in reading and hearing his voice over the course of that week, one question/theme continued to present itself to me.
And, I’ll get to the question momentarily. But, let me explain the book to you, first. That way, you’ll understand how I came to the question to begin with. Don wrote a best-selling memoir several years ago on his spiritual journey (Blue Like Jazz – another terrific book that you absolutely must read if you haven’t already). A few years later, a couple of hotshot movie producers called, wanting to adapt it for the big screen. Don said yes and they began writing … only to figure out that the real Don’s life wasn’t a great enough story. Not enough action. Not enough conflict (at least not that people could see … most of Don’s conflict played out between his ears). The real Don wasn’t a hero. So, they began to edit Don’s life.
Now, this struck him at his core. And upon reflection, he decided, more or less, that if there was to be a sequel some day – if someone were to tell the story of the rest of his life – he better get busy making it one worth telling. He had an opportunity, from that point forward, to edit his life … to write his own story. And, you’ve just gotta read about some of the things he did (and is still doing). It’s really remarkable. He’s finally living a story worth telling.
But, you know what it took (and, this is where my question comes in)? It took understanding the components of a great story. What makes one (oddly enough, while we all know one when we see one, writing one ourselves ain’t so easy). And, Don realized he didn’t know. So, he went to Robert McKee’s world-famous story seminar to find out exactly what they were.
Among the many things he learned there – and maybe the most important? That conflict is crucial.
That, to be a hero, the story’s protagonist must face it. Take it on. Beat it down.
How many great movies have we ever seen, after all, in which the main character didn’t have something to overcome?
We love it when an underdog character triumphs in the face of
overwhelming odds. When the street fighter from Philly takes down the champ. When Bedford Falls rallies around the Savings & Loan. When the small-town school in Indiana wins the state championship.
Awesome stories. Some of our all-time favorites. And, we’d love for them to be ours … to be the heroes in those types of tales, wouldn’t we?
Absolutely. But, again … there’s that one thing all of the great stories have in common that we want nothing to do with.
And, until we’re willing to stare them down, ours will be tales – like Don’s – that need a re-write.
So … (boy, can I take a long time to get to a question, or what?) … that begs the following questions …
Why do we love conflict in the movies … but not in our lives?
Why don’t we understand that, if we want our lives to be stories worth telling, they’ll require our overcoming great conflict?
They’ll require risk?
A cause that we believe in and will fight for?