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Welcome back in one of the school of greatness podcast. Very excited about our guest today. Don Miller. Good to see you, man. Very good to see you. Thanks for having me in your home. Yeah, welcome. It's nice. We're here. You're here. We're here. We're hanging out. Lucy's enjoying. Yep, the scenery. She's holding down the Ford and I'm very excited. We met through Michael Hyatt probably like, right probably like eight to ten months ago. Yeah, there was a dinner that we called that the Nashville Mafia. Yeah, and me and you were both that I was the only one not from Nashville that was invited to the dinner. That was an amazing night. It's a cool night.
Yeah, Jeremy Carr was there. Roy Vaden was there. Jeff coins. John a couple was there. Josh acts. Yeah. Yeah, and I now I think that's where I met Rory to and Roy and I are now friends. He's an amazing guy does amazing stuff and you and I are friends. So yes, Mike brought us all together was kind of brought us all together and I really didn't know much about you until that night and I was researching more and you're a three-time New York time bestseller. Your first book was called blue like jazz, right? That's right. I'm so grateful that 15 years ago and it sold like a million copies or something crazy something like that.
And yeah, it's that one hit wonder. It's like it's my fire and rain. Right. Right. Right. Yeah, it works for you. It works. You just give me one hit. So you wrote that book and then I heard from Nigel that you were going to create a movie out of it or write a movie script, but then but then they said it was a boring movie. Yeah. So my life was too boring to be turned into a movie. So we had to make things up and then you decided to write the second book, right? Well, that book is about having screenwriters come in and edit your life to make it more interesting.
So the premise of that book is what if you actually lived more interesting in the first place using techniques that storytellers have used over thousands of years to have a meaningful life and that book. I mean the stuff that happened that's the right I could write that book changed everything for me. So what what happened? I mean you well like for in a movie Lewis, you know, a character needs to be they need to have a single focus desire to accomplish a thing or the movie won't work. So if Jason Bourne wants to go they need a they need a goal.
So if Jason Bourne wants to know who he is and also marry the girl and also lose 30 pounds and also run a marathon you lose the audience. And so what I learned from that was I can't wake up every day and wonder what today is going to be about unless I'm intentionally taking a weekend off and you know exploring that kind of mental space. I've got to wake up every day and go no, this is the overall goal that we're trying to accomplish. This is where life is heading. I need a filter so that I can say, you know, I'm not going to do this because it doesn't help me accomplish this.
Which is what I want to have to back and then suddenly life becomes very interesting where before you know, a lot of us are sitting in the movie theater of our brain and like our cameras are our eyes are like cameras and we're watching the movie and we're saying this movie sucks. And I'm saying well, there are ways to fix it, you know, have have determined goals face challenges almost with a sense of anticipation rather than reluctance.
If you have a character in a movie who avoids challenges, you have no movie, right? If you have a conflict, there has to be conflict and the character has to face it because that's the only way to accomplish the goal and the only way that we actually change it's true in movies and it's true in life is by overcoming hard things. That's it, right? You can't change by being happy. You can't change by experiencing joy. Joy is what you experience after you overcome the challenge and your character is transformed. So we love joy, but joy is the byproduct of work and a lot of us want joy. We don't want to work.
And so would you say that in order to continue to experience joy, we must experience some type of discomfort and pain or do we stop at one point? We're happy for the rest of our lives. Pain and you know that there's tragic pain that we all experience. But I only mean that in of course, we don't want to keep that on ourselves. But life is embedded with challenges and goals are embedded with challenges. The harder something is to attain the more we value it. And so if we don't have to work hard to attain something, we don't actually value our lives. We don't appreciate it either. Right.
It's all it's Victor Frankl's man search for meaning logo therapy overlaid with story principles. Sure. But what I love about it is, you know, I wrote that book Bullock Jazz and it hit the New York Times and spent almost a year there and that had been my goal for a long time. And yet when I accomplished that goal, read the book or hit the New York Times both about since high school, I written down one of my goals was to be a New York Times best-selling author.
So it took about 12 more years to do that after high school and and you know, that was a real 10 years of learning to write and getting out there and hustling and when I accomplished that goal the next year was one of the most depressing. Isn't that funny? Yeah, and you would think, you know, if you would have sat me down in high school said, listen, if you hit the New York Times, you're going to get depressed. But then what I realized was it wasn't that I was depressed because at the New York Times it was depressed because I'd reached my goal. My story ended and I didn't have a new now what yeah. Yeah.
And so as soon as I went, I'm going to write a new story now with my life. It all picked right back up again. Yeah, that's interesting because every time you know, my dream was always to be an all-American athlete then professional sports and every time I achieved it. It was like I was the most miserable person to be around. Yeah, like 15 minutes later. I was like now what yeah, you know, I in this book million miles with a team of folks. I rode my bike across America. We started in LA and we ended in DC.
How long did it take about seven weeks? We took Sundays off and but took about seven weeks and I knew that a week after we got to Delaware. I was going to fly back to Portland where I lived and I knew I would get depressed because that much adrenaline and that focus every day and then waking up and have nothing to do. And so I ended up jumping into the the Obama campaign when he was trying to be Hillary in the primaries and then stayed on the campaign through the general election.
Of course, he got elected and ended up with a little job in the White House on a task force and but I the only reason I did that working with Obama then well, I mean, I was working with an extremely I had the most boring job ever. I sat and reviewed all sorts of stuff on fatherhood and healthy healthy families. Then we wrote a book for the president and he he did everything that we asked him to do. Wow. So it was a task force, which is a it's a different thing. But the point is that you know, I think some of our goals they kind of have to be like a trapeze thing when we accomplished one.
We need to have our hand reached out for the next one. So we need to already plan ahead. I think we need to plan ahead. We can't just say this is the end. Yeah, and then figure it out then we should have like this is this year's goal plus four years plus. Yeah, and then inside of that, as you know, daily daily goals to you know, small steps to reach there and this is research.
There's got to be 500 books that sure this idea but a lot of us we know it but we just we just don't live it right and how much of your work is connected to you know, the hero's journey and the cult of adventure with the I think Joseph Campbell's a genius. I mean, I think he's right on so many fronts. There's some the idea that myth was created to explain life, you know, I think is there's validity to that. But I also think there's an imprint in the DNA of myth that came from somewhere.
And so he makes me a little uncomfortable when he begins to dismiss the possibility of something that also a true myth a myth, you know, the existence of a God and these kinds of he's more or less dismisses that stuff. But you can't deny his genius and and so I think the hero's journey has and along with Robert McKee's work and Blake Snyder's work and especially Christopher Booker's work the seven basic plots have informed my understanding of story and how I use that to help people live a better life and also how to clarify brand messages. Right. We do now got it.
So you wrote that second book and then scary clothes just came out recently, correct? Yeah, came out a year ago about a year ago and it's dropping the act and finding true intimacy. And now why this book and how does a storytelling plan to scary clothes? Well, I used some storytelling principles to write the book just to sort of edit it down. And so it's an easy book to read because of that. But the story behind the book is, you know, I got married at 42 years old. So I spent 42 years single and was just not the best guy today.
Not the guy I was just a you know, there were all sorts of issues codependency and father related issues coming out of my background and these kinds of things. And so basically I would I would meet a girl we date it would get really serious and then it was time to you know, tie the knot. She wanted to get married and then I'd leave already. Yeah, I'd go to the next one and I think that's fine except when you're sort of leading them to believe that's where it's going. That's what you're doing. That's what I was doing. And so I did that a few times and one it was we broke off an engagement. She got proposed.
I proposed there was a ring on her face. You knew it wasn't I knew. Yeah, I knew and I was going through the motions because that's the right thing to do. You know, I should finally tie the knot and then it just, you know, fell apart and she got hurt and and so I had some friends very kind friends sit me down.
So, you know, you got to deal with this stuff and I went off to this place called on-site workshops got a miles ad cox runs this place here in Nashville actually about an hour outside of town and it was and I did seven days of therapy that they say is nine months of therapy in seven days and it was deep. We went really really deep. I mean stuff like they never like sit and talk like you would talk to the counselor setting and there's actually group setting your guiding horses around a pen you're writing letters from your father's perspective to you on the day you were born.
I mean, they just have a way of course opening you up and it was absolutely transformation and after that even my assistant called me before on-site after on-site before on-site Don would have done this and and didn't date for a while and then ran into a gal who was always out of my League always liked her and she smelled in me something that was healthy all of a sudden and we began to very carefully date and now we're married and so that that book is about that transformational journey that sort of inner transformation of becoming somebody who is trustworthy with another human being's heart.
And what do you think was holding you back mostly in these relationships? What was when we always putting on a front of this actor or you yeah, trying to be this interesting guy. Well, I mean that only lasts for so long right? But I think there was you know, so many identity issues what I wanted to be. I got hooked on catching a release right like you're a coefficient you catch then you release the game the game all that stuff and the part of it that I liked was being the hero and the problem is the hero is always looking for somebody to rescue who is a victim and then you rescue the victim feel great about yourself and I stuck with a victim.
So you resent the fact that you're with a victim because they're not growing or they're not breaking through. Yeah, they're being in a victim in order to lure a rescuer and it just none of it works. And so it's it, you know, there's a triangle that that you know, it's it's your hero victim resentment and I resent the person after a certain amount you resent the person and then you begin to oppress them and then you become the oppressor of the victim. Wow, and you know a lot of abuse situations end up this way. Sure.
And and so I didn't know that I was doing that and to discover that it on site and have language around it and to be able to to kind of find my way out of that and and now I mean all my relationships were so rocky and I remember when Betsy and I even a year into our marriage.
We were just kind of going when is the other shoe going to drop like when is this going to get hard and then we realized it's just not like we're like two healthy people actually work really well together and then we thought well, what if our kids hate us because there has to be drama right? Then we kind of went maybe our kids are going to like us. Maybe this is maybe just health works. Maybe therapy works and doesn't there have to be some type of conflict in every story in order to break through. Well, there's I think there's enough conflict embedded in marriage without the unhappily on health that it works out. It's a great story. Yeah.
So what was it like when I mean, how do you know you're catching a victim? Like how do we if someone single watching right now and they're like, man, this is a pattern I do but how do I even aware of it? Like what are the signs we should be looking for? Yeah, so victims have a very high external locus of control. What's that mean your locus of control is that thing in you that takes responsibility for your life. They don't have responsibility. Well, they if there's a problem, it's because of something outside of them. They don't take the responsibility. That's exactly the problem.
So people with very high internal locus of control, they find a way to even take responsibility for things that might not have even been their fault, you know, so if you're on a football team, the guy you want on the team is, you know, the guy who kicked every field goal perfectly, but they lost the game and he's got he's trying to figure out how he could have done better. Right. You know, that's the guy you want on the team. Not the guy was like, oh, those guys screwed it up. Point of failure. Yeah, that's no good.
And so victims have a high external locus of control problems or other people's fault and and to some degree the victim identity gets them what they want because they've attracted a rescuer. They don't have to take responsibility for their lives. Somebody else is going to do the work for them. There are big benefits to being a victim. Right. And then when then you can actually here's the problem with a victim, a false victim because there are real victims in the world. Obviously, but a false victim plays the victim card and what every victim needs is an oppressor.
So if you're in a relationship with somebody who self-identifies as a victim, it's a ticking time bomb on when you are going to be that oppressor, right? Because you're going to be because they're going to need somebody to play that role and they're going to find a way for that to be going to make you wrong. They're going to blame you or whatever. Even if you didn't do anything wrong. That's right. They're going to do that. And so I've got a past girlfriend where it didn't matter what I said what I did. It wasn't the right thing. Yeah, no, that's how good I tried to be. Well, it can't be because if it's the right thing, she gives up control.
Yeah, and as long as as long as you keep doing the wrong thing, she's got you literally by the nuts. Exactly. Exactly. Why do we I think in human nature do we want to rescue people? Why is that it seems like it's such a great appropriate place for rescuing people, right? There's a you know, when we think about what's going on in Somalia right now, Betsy and I were just on the Somalian border about a month ago looking over into I'm not smiling. I'm sorry, Syria and Somalia too for that matter, but we were looking over the border into Syria and the atrocities that are having there. I mean, they're legitimate victims.
Henry Cloud defines a legitimate victim is somebody who has no power. They have no power. They can't yeah, but most you know, most people are not in that situation, right? And you know, it's concerning to me in the even in the political landscape that you know, there's the sort of anti-corporation anti-wealth anti all this and they that is somebody a politician baiting a demographic of people to self-identify as victims and lash out against a an oppressor which is large corporations, but you and I know large corporations provide enormous numbers of jobs. They provide health insurance.
They provide the products that provide a student economy all that kind of stuff, but I know that I can get a vote by tempting somebody to believe that they're a victim. What's scary about that is the whole American identity is shifting from the hero identity. You know, I mean we built a pretty darn good company our ancestors have yeah, and now we're shifting our country and now we're shifting to this identity of a victim and it's a sad deal. Who is the most influential person in your life growing up got him David Gentiles didn't have a dad. David was a youth pastor at the church down the street. He took me under his wing.
He even when I was in junior high school, he invited me to a book group where we studied this this series of literature poetry and that was my introduction to literature and then he invited me to write an article for the youth group newsletter. I did so and enough people stopped and said hey, you're pretty good writers. The only time I ever been told I was good at anything my whole life. How old are you? I was probably I would have been 13 13 or 14 years old and and it's stuck and I thought man, I want to be praised more. So I don't want to be.
Yeah, so I developed I just kept working on writing and somehow in there became began to believe I was a good writer and so it wasn't that much of a challenge to sit down and put together a book and then that book got published and on up but so he was the most influential guy, you know, and he and you know when you grow up kind of in that poverty model and dad's gone and mom's working her butt off.
There's nobody around and so you do have this feeling that you're a bit of a burden on society and so David was really the guy that when I walked into his office, he was happy to see me and he began to counter that idea of you're a burden to you're actually a blessing to be around and that was the that was a formational change in my side and plus he was just a great guy blue like jazz actually dedicated to him. That's cool. Back. I am I he passed away in an accident. He was at a gym lifting and he and the bar came down away. Yeah, and he and he died and I spoke at his funeral.
Now this guy never wrote a book. He worked at a church that maybe had 50 people in it when he died, you know, and then and his I delivered his eulogy and they had to rent a baseball stadium to deliver. There were news cameras there. He had influenced so many people talk about impact. Yeah, huge impact and the reason is he just believed everybody was everybody was worth being on the planet. There's something about you. You know, if you're here, you must be important. That was his attitude about life. Like if you're here on the planet, you must be important. So why are you so important? Let me get to know you. Let me figure it out.
Isn't that amazing? It's a great yeah, really. It's intoxicating guy. He was that guy. What was the biggest lesson that you learned from them? Well, I mean, I think that was it that you know, if I'm here, I must be there must be a reason I must be there must be God must be saying something to the world with me being here. Yeah, and and maybe I can have an impact. I think, you know, it took a long time to kind of believe that but I think the people who have the biggest impact in life for the people who believe they should you know, they're supposed to and I think personally, I think that's every human being on the planet.
There's just a lot of people who don't understand that right or believe it. What was it like growing up without a father that you know, how did that make you feel or did you feel less than because your other friends had you know, two parents that were there. Yeah, I think it's kind of like having it going to the dentist and and having a toothache fixed and realizing when he fixes it that you actually had the toothache you didn't it was just a constant pain there. So definitely I don't know that I so much thought, you know, my other friends have dads.
I don't have a dad but there was a wealth disparity there that I was definitely on the other side of the tracks and all my friends financial well financial well, yeah, that I was on the wrong side of the tracks and and my friends went off to college and I didn't you know, couldn't afford to go to college. Right. So I went to this little community college on a tuba scholarship and the tuba. Yeah.
And so that was there and then it wasn't until I was 30 or so that I began working on a book called Father Fiction and wrote about growing up like that and that was where I began to process some of those wounds and that led me to actually find my father who left when I was two years old. Oh, so he's still alive. He's still up. I found him and I called him like it was it was the scariest moment. Oh my God. You didn't talk to him at all. Never talked to him for from from about two years old. Now. He did visit a couple times in junior high, but I really have no memory of much of that.
I mean, it was like a lunch or something and even then were just scared of him. Like who's this man? Wow. And so I called him. I found him through the district attorney called him and said I'm your son and I'd love to come see you. He was in Indiana and drove from Chicago speaking in Chicago and drove to Indiana knocked on his door walked in we spent about two to three hours together. He's just sat there and drink a beer and watch Fox News and and wasn't it was more nervous than I was really and was unbelievably kind apologetic.
You know, it was an amazing moment and he what was interesting is I didn't I was only doing it to sort of check it off a list a buddy of mine had done it with his dad and discovered that his dad had passed away and that made me start researching who my dad and then discovered he's alive and then you didn't want to have the regret or you want to have the what if I didn't see him ever. Yeah, I mean that was just a sense of you're going to regret this if you don't get this done. Yeah, and are you glad you did that? I did. Yeah, I go. I'm glad he actually explained why he left.
He made some excuses and then he looked me in the eye and apologize and I feel you know, I had forgiven him so long ago, but it made me feel really good to just say that I forgive you. Wow, and that was an incredible moment and I I walked into that house. I've been 32 or 34 running there. I walked in still in some ways a little boy and walked out of man and here's why because there had always been this kind of cloud over me saying you just weren't good enough for a dad to stick around.
Now that was a lot that's that's crap, right? But you just believe it and then when I met him, I just thought well, this is just a dude who was going through a confusing time. He was scared. He was being kind of run off, you know, but my mom he was he, you know, he had the best of intentions like a lot of people, you know, we just make stupid decisions and they affect other people but we didn't we weren't malicious about it. And so I walked out and just went wait, that's that that's not the God voice. This is just a dude who was just confused. Yeah, so that heavy burden, oppressive thing went away. Wow, it was really good.
It was really cool. Where do you think your life would be now if your dad was there the whole time? I you know, I do think a lot, you know, would you would you go back in time? What would you do differently and Lewis my life has been such an incredible blessing and with Betsy and the company doing so well in the writing career and the community of friends that we have, you know, Betsy and I in our first year of marriage. We had 200 overnight guests.
I heard about that and this place or in this place and we actually bought the house next door and now we bought 15 acres two miles away to build essentially a retreat center that we will never charge anybody money to go to because we just love hospitality, you know, so the problem with going back in time and changing something is what if I lost that, you know, what if so if so I would never do it if I could go back and have a dad there. I wouldn't do it. My life has just been too great.
Yeah, do you think it'd be as driven if you had a dad with like, you know, resources and information and love and affection and well, you know, I don't know. I don't know. There may be I read one study that was trying to find the difference between see corporate executives to do a great job with their company and corporate executives who kind of take it to the next level and one of the and it wasn't Jim Collins work. It was even beyond that but one of the characteristics of the the executives who do is don't have a dad, right? It's like the dad leave the poor. So a lot of them didn't have a dad dysfunctional families.
They grew up poor and they and they probably one have a little bit of chip on their shoulder and to they don't take money for granted. Yeah, you know, I mean you probably like this like unless I've got eight months worth of overhead in my business account. I'm hustling. I'm hustling. I'm like, we're not going to be able to eat tomorrow. I'll staff like what we just made our best quarter. Like no, you know, we're going to have to buy bread. I think I heard that Obama even like lost his dad early on or like his dad left at a certain age. Yeah, he was in Kenya and then he actually went and visited him in Kenya.
If I'm not mistaken, they did interact but then his dad passed away. I think there were some I'm going to butcher the statistic but something like a third or a fourth of the presidents actually like lost their fathers at some point early on or their fathers left or something happened with their fathers. It's like a big percentage of the US presidents. Yeah, and I wonder what makes us like so driven and my father got in an accident when I was 21. He's still alive, but it's essentially like it's he has amnesia and it's hard to really connect an emotional level. It's kind of like saying the same thing every time I see him.
And I remember I always had him as like my backup plan. He was always there financially my mentor. He was like my biggest fan and then all of a sudden it's like I had to change his diapers type of thing. Yeah, teach him how to write and talk and walk and just like remind him about like everything of our lives. And it's almost like wow, I don't have my dad is like give me a hundred bucks my pocket when I'm in college when I need it safety and that's gone is gone and he had like a company that he was like you can come in and work for me when you're done living your dream.
Like you've always got this to come back to. Yeah, and it was like when that happened. It just made me so focused like I have no other option. I have to learn how to become a man essentially. Yeah, and like be motivated and driven and figure things out. Yeah, and I think some ways it's a blessing. It's amazing that you have and you've done so well. I think that there's a wiring in some guys that that takes over but let's not kid ourselves. I mean the fatherless crisis most guys don't pull it out. Yeah, and and they they they end up in a lot of trouble.
And so I think it's it's you know, I mean, I think 85% of of kids in prison or people in prison came or I think it's 85% of foster kids will end up doing time at some point, you know, so that that idea or ship. Yeah, there's something modeled. It's just not being modeled. And so, you know, it's a big deal. But also there's you know, I'm with you some of these, you know, Josh ship some of these guys who just and our president Barack Obama Josh ship was in foster homes as whole 26 different foster homes. Yeah, and and they're just crushing it.
And so I think that at some point if you can overcome that I mean, you know, the things that we overcome are where we get our muscle. Yeah, so if somebody doesn't have to overcome anything, it's just hard to get muscle. Yeah, you know, we have to overcome those things, but a lot but let's not kid ourselves. Some of that weight is so heavy that it crushes guys. They don't it's like the adversity either turned into our advantage or our biggest obstacle forever, right? Where we become the victim for the rest of our lives until we're ready to break through. What's your biggest fear moving forward? You know, you've created so much in your life.
Yeah, I think I'm wrestling with questions and taking strides to not let this happen. But you know, we're driven guys and we're going to build our companies and we're going to impact the world and that's all that kind of stuff. And I do not want to get to the end of my life and realize I should have spent more time with Betsy. I should have had a closer group of friends. I should have taken some days off. I hate vacations. I hate them. I can't stand them.
I like working, you know, and so Betsy, you know, my marriage is so great because she's just a regulator on that engine and you know, we're we go to Mexico and sit on a beach and I'm just like, I have no idea why I'm here. I'm bored. You know, I'm checking my phone and all this kind of stuff and my wife is beginning to change that and I had a great epiphany the other day.
We had this trip that we had planned and getting together a group of people up in British Columbia and it fell through something happened that we couldn't go and and so Betsy and I decided well, we're either going to go to Paris and visit some friends of hers in Paris or Norway because her friend had a baby. We're going to visit them. Well, Betsy chose Norway. Well, the problem is Paris, you know, the couple that we were going to visit as an interior designer architect kind of person who could help us with the land. So I wanted to go to Paris because it helped me accomplish my goals. Talk creative.
There's nothing in Norway for me to accomplish and it was like and I'm like going to bed just gone. I can't believe I got to do this and they got to go to Norway and then I thought well, no isn't having a great marriage one of your goals. So isn't sacrificing and spending a week with your she has wonderful friends in Norway, you know, isn't this going to help you accomplish the goal of having a great marriage and as soon as I was able to turn it into a meaningful goal. I went. Yeah, so I'm learning like let's make some of those goals not about growing the business or you know, getting on the New York Times.
Let's make some of those goals actually meaningful because bottom line the last 15 years of your life. That's all you're going to be thinking about. You're not going to be thinking about I wish I had another money. I wish that another half million dollars. You're not going to yeah, you can't it's funny. I interviewed a guy Donnie Deutsch who used to have a show called the Big Idea. They sold us. Yeah, I remember advertising company for about a quarter of a billion dollars and I interviewed him and he was like in this like mega mansion in New York City by, you know, Central Park and guy has anything he wants. He knows everyone.
He's like, but he was like, you know, you can't go to the bank every day and visit your money like you need to have something meaningful to continue to do. Yeah, and you know, relationships are a big part of that, you know building quality relationships. It's like make enough money. It's the other day. What's the point? Yeah, and the guys who make so much money like Steve Jobs, I'm sure he would give his billions away to have one more year or one more week of his life and he probably wouldn't spend any of that working. He's actually with connecting with people. So at the end of the day, yes, it's important.
We live in a financial economy, you know, the economy is something we experience and we need to master. I think our finances but it's also there's other areas of life as well and use our finances to grow companies where where our teams are treated extremely well and we're helping other people make their dreams come true. Yeah, of course, of course. When did you realize that storytelling was going to be a big part of your life? Well, I mean writing a movie about yourself and working with very good editors to find out what's interesting is something everybody should do. If you get a chance, you don't pass up the opportunity.
So I studied story in order to figure out how to live a better life and then studying story to me was like discovering how to compose music, how to compel a human brain, how to captivate people's attention, how to teach moral lessons, all that happens in story and it is the most powerful tool to compel human brain. The average human spends 30% of their time daydreaming unless they're listening to a story. Stories hijack the brain. So when you're in a movie, you're captivated. They catch it. You're at the movie is actually doing the daydreaming for you. Can't wait to think about anything else.
You're plugged into the matrix and so I knew it was very powerful tool and then I actually took the elements of story and created a marketing filter, a communication filter using them, filtered my company's messages through that filter.
So we came down with very simple bite-size compelling statements about what we do, why it's important to our customer, what kind of life they could have if they engage it and we quadrupled our revenue and then my buddy said man, you got to take this framework, share it with other businesses and so I kind of put out feelers out there saying I was willing to take some plumber through it and Pantene called, Procter and Gamble called and then Ford Lincoln called and then Chick-fil-A called and then Berkshire Hathaway called and then the White House called and then and pretty soon I realized I think suddenly I'm a brand story consultant accidentally and then we killed every other aspect of what I was doing and we built this company called Story Brand.
We're about going on three years old now and it's just booming and listen, I always wanted to be a writer but helping other people. I've written seven books now. They're all kind of memoir-esque. You know, if I write an eighth memoir, I'm a narcissist clinical. It's time to stop like that human desire to be seen heard and understood. I've had too much. I've had too much other people. So the idea of sitting down with a company and help them tell their story is the most life-giving thing I think I've ever done. Yeah, so companies come to here to Nashville or occasionally I'm able to fly out and we just sit down. We look at all their marketing collateral.
We look at what they want to accomplish and we come up with it. We usually throw out about 90 for a 5% of what they're saying and we come up with very clear simple messages. Human brain is trying to do two things. It's trying to help you survive and help you survive means get food, get water, build social relationships, a tribe that can protect you reproduce all that kind of stuff is the primitive part of your brain is trying to survive. The second thing that your brain is trying to do is is trying not to burn very many calories because your brain has a regulator on it.
You know, thinking costs you calories and so your brain says look, we're trying to survive. But if this guy burns too many calories on useless information, I'm going to shut it down. Yeah, it's going to shut it down. So what that means is when you and I can communicate in a confusing way, the person that we're talked to his brain is designed to tune you out. So the reason as we record this to Donald Trump just won a primary is not because he had amazing ideas. It's because he communicated simply. He communicated on a fourth grade level and Jeb Bush communicated on an eighth grade level and Jeb Bush is out of the race.
And so we actually consulted with Jeb to try to help him simplify that message about two months before South Carolina, but it was too late. He listened to you. Well, no, he listened. He listened, but it was too late. It was too. Yeah, it was too late. Wow. And so so what companies need are short, swift sound bites repeated over and over relevant messages. It takes a human being eight times to hear something before they actually listen. So if it takes them eight times to hear it, you need to say it about 250 times. And if it's too confusing, then they're never going to hear it. Or if it's too many things intertwined.
Every time you communicate something about the school of greatness, you're handing somebody a bowling ball. And so you want to communicate the second thing. Now they got two bowling balls. You can create third thing. Now you got three bowling balls. What are they going to do when you hand them a fourth bowling ball? They're going to drop everything. They're going to look at you and try to be polite and then try to get away because their brain is having to burn too many calories to understand what's in it for them. Everybody's going. I'm trying to survive here. I'm trying to thrive.
What do you have that's going to help? And we have to communicate in these sound bites so that people can understand. What's a good example for maybe some of you worked with or just like for an entrepreneur listening that could be helpful for them to understand. You know, maybe they've got a long story. They're always trying to communicate and then you could break it down. Maybe it's just like a business coach or something. Well, most businesses we've worked with about 1500 companies take them through this process now and most businesses make the same mistake. They talk about themselves and the reality is you're not the hero of the story. Your customer is the hero of the story. You're the guide.
They're Luke Skywalker. You're Yoda. This is stuff that Nancy Duarte has been teaching for a long time. She's amazing and she teaches that from a perspective of giving speeches, but it's true in all of our communication. So that's the first thing is when I go to your website, it needs to be about the customer not about you.
So for instance, we work with a gentleman named Kyle Schultz and he has a website called Schultz photo school and he was a firefighter and but love to teach photography to parents so they can take good pictures of kids and he would say stuff on his website like I'll teach you how f-stop works and I'll teach you all this inside language and he bought our course and he went through it and he made before he bought our course made $28,000 in a launch, which is great. That's good money. And then he started saying instead of like I'll teach you to use f-stop. He said I'll teach you to take those pictures where the background is blurry.
He started communicating and not asking people fourth grade level term at a fourth grade level not asking people to burn very many calories simple. I like that depth of field like the blurry. Exactly. Anyway, he would never even use the phrase depth of field until you bought the course and then he would explain that blurry thing that I talked about. Yeah, that's exactly it. So nobody's having to work very hard to understand and he you know, he took his website probably took 75% of the words off of his website launched the day after he bought our course stayed up all night making the changes that we recommended and made $103,000 on a second one.
Michael Hyatt came through it made a quarter million dollars on five days your best year ever. I took him through the story brand framework. He simplified his message did 1. 5. I think the next launch and you know on and on we're just seeing dramatic results because if you have a great product and you got great people and you got great processes, you should have a great business. There's only one thing missing.
You're not positioned in the marketplace that the people can actually understand what you offer you think you are, but you're not and so we have to go through those websites and we use this seven-part filter to say this goes this goes this goes let's keep this very simple language and revenues go up. It's all about the story, right? It's all about story. It's all about understanding the story of your customer and playing a role inside their story making them the heroes.
They said what do they want? What's their external problem? How's that problem making them feel at the internal problem? How are you positioning yourself as the guide? What's the plan to help them to destroy the Death Star, right? How are you calling them to action? What is their life going to look like if they don't buy your product or service? What's the failure? The price? The price they're going to pay and then what's the happy ending to their story? What's their life going to look like if they do those are the seven questions that you have to answer and if you can't answer them your brand message is confusing. I guarantee it and you're losing money. You might get results still but it may not be the maximum results.
We love customers with a great product that gets great results and they're confused. They're confusing their communication. The reason we love them is we know that we can fix it. Tweak a little bit and they're going to see a hockey state. Wow. So story is really a big part of it. It's all that story. Yeah, it's all that story. Not what what's your story? What's the story of your customer and how you playing a role in that story? Most people that they think we got to get my our story out there. You don't you don't know if you if I'm sitting down you press when you get our story out there. We never started told.
Yeah, we need our story told you don't need your story told you need to you need to talk about the thing that you have that your customer wants. It's all about understanding their story. So if I get into an elevator and with you and and let's say I need some inspiration and practical tips on increasing productivity so that I can become a great athlete or what else you've got something I need in that elevator. You do and I say Lewis. What do you do and you say well, I work for a company my grandfather started the company.
You've lost me right when if you would have said Don a lot of people don't feel like a champion, but I can find the champion within them and bring it out of them and I've got some tools to do now. I'm interested. I'm asking for your business card. What's the difference difference is you didn't tell me your story. You told me my story what people are looking for you identified my problem and you painted a picture of a happy ending. Now I want your business card. What's the most powerful word someone can use when telling a story? What's the most powerful word somebody could use and tell the story? I don't know. This books that I read on story are like 800 pages.
800 pages long. I was thinking of imagine when you can kind of paint the story by saying imagine that's a beautiful word and stories are all about, you know, what ifs so I used to do this experiment when I was riding. If I got stuck, I would say well, let's come up with 25 what ifs right now. What if the guy got pulled over and he had something in his car? What if a meteor hit the earth? What if and usually one of those what ifs would go, okay, I'm going to write that one. But the cool thing is it works in life.
Yeah, you know, you're having a you having a bad day and what if I quit my job? What if I went camping this weekend? What if I asked that girl out? What if I sold the house? What if and one of those you're going to go. That's peaked my interest. Well listen, pay attention to that. Sure, because that's a story guiding you somewhere. Yeah, right. I like that a few questions left for you. If you had a half a page to page that you could write out the story of the rest of your life.
Everything that you want to create or be or do or people in your life, whatever may be you have to write it out and everything you wrote down actually came true. What would be on that page? Couple paragraphs. Well, I wouldn't want it to magically come true because that's not a good story. I'd want to say they're going to have to do the work. Yeah, well, you're going to have to work for it. You have to work really hard.
Yeah, but if you could have anything and create any story that would come to life like this like Jungle Book, is that like what's the ma is a Jumanji or Jungle Book? What's the one where they write the book and it's like happening in real life? Oh, yeah, I think that might be Jumanji one of those anyways, but if you could actually write it down, you got a whole page to write down everything that happened. Yes, there's struggle and you're going to work hard, but what would you create? Well, I've got about a 10 year run with this company story brand. We want to scale it to 25 million within a few years and 100 million by the end of 10 years.
There are two paths if we can do that. If that happens, then there are two. There's a fork in the road at the end of that journey. Gotcha and the fork in the road goes two ways. Let's say there's so if that happened, let's say yeah, whatever you want is going to happen. Well, you could have everything you want. The fork in the road is I either, you know, we've got some land up here in Tennessee. I'm going to build a big tree house on that land and I'm going to go into that tree house and I'm going to write novels for the rest of my life. My wife likes that plan.
I like that, you know, you know, homeschool the kids and write novels. That's what I'm going to do and ride around on a four-wheeler. That's that's good. That is really scary because I don't know if I have what it takes to be a good novelist. I know how it takes to be a good writer of books, but novels are different. And so that's scary.
The other route would be that I run for office and it's a completely different route, but to be able to serve, you know, to have learned to lead and learn to run a company and learn about the economy and to be inside of DC a little bit to some degree to be able to be a statesman and help a population come back from victim identity to hero identity would be a great serving, you know, a way to serve in that season of my life. And so those decisions I'll make in 10 years. I think unless we build the company, I'm probably not qualified to lead at that level.
I need to prove myself in the private sector and prove that I can build something and and do all the things you have to do to do that. So though, so at some point 10 years now, because I do believe we're going to accomplish our goals. We always do. You know, it's just work. It's it and and time I'm going to sit there. I'm going to go do I want to be hated for the rest of my life for trying to serve America or do I want to go up in here and write a novel? Exactly. And everyone hates your love. You will see. We'll see. Wow. I like it. If there is one story you could tell.
That you're only allowed to share one story that's maybe not your story, but an inspiring story from a novel or some type of story that you heard in your past. Yeah, that really leaves a good message or has a good inspiration or yeah, that's a good principle. What's that story? Well, I would hope that other people would tell more important stories, but there is a story that's just been so inspiring to me and so hopeful to me. I found in love with the Israeli Palestinian issue and the Israeli people and Palestinian people.
I don't know why I just love that region of the world and have been over many times and on one trip we met with Israeli guards or Israeli generals and members of Knesset and also members of the PLO on the Palestinian side in the West Bank and you know, there's a lot of tension there. Yeah, and I came away thinking this might be a hopeless situation.
I mean, they're you know, they just can't seem to compromise on any of this stuff and with good reasons on both sides and I read the story in the New York Times about some one of the things that we kept hearing the West Bank is we just wish we could go to the ocean because they're locked in. They're not going anywhere. We just wish we could see the ocean. It's just right there. We can't get to it. Wow, because the walls that the Israelis have built up and there were these Jewish women in Jerusalem.
I mean just just you know, like, you know, our wives, you know, your girlfriends just Jewish women who'd who'd kept hearing these about these policy women and they couldn't go to the ocean. So they drove into the West Bank these women and they started befriending Palestinians and got to know some Palestinian women and kind of dressed them up in costumes and because they were Jewish. They didn't get stopped at the checkpoints and they got them out of the West Bank and and they would literally just take him to the ocean. Wow, they'd all just go swimming for the day. They put him back in the car. They take him back home.
These women just started going in there finding women who want to go swimming and take me to the ocean and I just thought you know beneath our leaders who are doing decent job keeping us all safe. There's this heart. There's this heart and human beings that wants to break through that conflict and compromise and I just always have thought, you know, Don at the core problems really are they can be resolved. You know, if you find the people who are who are tender and willing to take action and do something so I just love that story. I think it's the only story if I could only tell one story part is go around telling them because it applies to so many things.
I like that. If you had and if I was able to grant you an unlimited amount of money right now to solve one problem in the world. Hmm. It was like here's a trillion dollars or how much it costs. Here's the money. Yeah, you only get one challenge or issue to tackle. What thing would you cure or solve in the world today? Yes, I would in the West Bank and in Gaza. I would start schools and that we're actively trying to do this. We're starting conversations to do this in the next 10 years for young Muslim girls and I would want those girls to be educated. I want them to go on to college.
It is actually very possible for young Muslim women to get a degree in the West Bank and go to Harvard or Yale or Oxford any of those schools. I think that you know, if we can solve some of the problems in the Middle East, we can solve a lot of the problems in the world and I think educating young Muslim women is a very strategic chess move in that long-term play. Yeah, and so that's what I want to focus on. That's cool. The more of them we can educate better the world's going to be. That's great. Yeah. Okay, final couple questions. I already said that but final couple questions.
What are you most grateful for in your life recently? Oh, my wife, relationships, family. You know, I lost my mom last year, you know, have some friends who've lost family members and so the older you get, you know, you hit them 44 you start getting to that age where you know, you start for the first time in your life. You realize we don't have a whole lot of time here. I got to get moving. Almost in that third quarter. Yep. And and so, you know, just those relationships the core. I can come home and I like coming home. Yeah, there's not tension in my home is, you know, it's it's it's rest.
I don't take that for granted or I try not to. Sure. You know, I get this a question. I asked at the end. It's called the three truths. I didn't prep you for this. So so for whatever comes off the top of your mind, it's cool. So let's say it is many, many years from now and it's your last day and everything is good. You've accomplished everything you want to accomplish that whole story that you just told me earlier. All that was that happened before whatever reason the hundred books that you wrote have now been erased for whatever reason. They've all been erased everything you've ever created. Gone.
And your great-great-great-grandchild comes to you with a piece of paper and a pen says will you write down three truths the three things, you know to be true about everything you learned in your life that you pass on to us. It came down to three simple lessons. What would you write down? Well, if it's a grandchild, I'm speaking to somebody. I'm trying to give him some wisdom, right? Let's say it's for the world. Now, this is your piece of your three truths that you'd give to anyone. Yeah, I would write you're probably not a victim. I would write it's hard to understand sometimes but God loves you. And then I would write.
This is a stealing this from my buddy Bob golf, but he always talks about his eight guys and his eight guys. The eight guys are going to carry his coffin. And I would write know who your eight guys are. Yeah, I've got four. I've got four. I know who four of them are and there are plenty more who would step in but I know I know for a month. Wow. So I've got about 40 more years to figure out the other four. I like that before I ask the final question. Where can where should we connect with you? Where do you hang out most online? What's the main site we should go to? Yes, storybrand.
com is everything I'm doing now story brand com. My podcast is building a story brand. That's it building a story brand. Com and you can listen to that and Amazon has all my books. All your books and where do you do hang out on social media and all where do you yeah, I'm Instagram at Don Miller is that if you really like want to see the personal side of life Instagram Instagram, that's if you want to know what my blog is about today Twitter. Yeah, cool. So Don Miller is on Instagram and Donald Miller on Twitter. Okay, cool.
We'll have it all linked up here in the show notes just after this and before I ask the final question Don, I want to acknowledge you for a moment and I want to acknowledge you for your courage. You know, you went through a childhood without a father. I know what it's like to kind of lose a father even at 22 and it's not an easy experience and for you to create the incredible work the body of work that you have an impact of millions of people you have with I'm sure the insecurities and the challenges you faced internally growing up.
I can only imagine the amount of internal pain that you are feeling a lot of the times so I want to acknowledge you for understanding that you are an incredible gift and the incredible gifts that you've been given to all of us. It's truly amazing and inspiring to connect with you and be able to be, you know, around your work. It's amazing. So I want to acknowledge you for the gift that you have. Thank you. That's very kind. I appreciate that. Of course. The final question is what's your definition of greatness? Ooh, you know, Lewis, you've done such a good job bringing that word back into our vocabulary and making it an inspiration.
I just think, you know, I mean, you know, I just think I love what you're doing and it's what you're guiding people through is Victor Frankl's logo therapy getting them off the couch giving them ambition and helping them step into a story. There's a feeling that happens when you when you watch a great movie. We all know it and when it's a great movie, everybody in the theater sits there for an extra few minutes American Sniper. Everybody sat all the way to the end of the credits and that feeling is I've tried to identify what that is is gratitude. And it's not just gratitude for the actors and for the story.
It's a good story makes you feel like life can be better than you thought that you could actually do things with these ingredients that are better than you ever dream. That's what a good story does to you. It makes you think we can we can do better than this. You know, we life can be more meaningful. I think my definition of greatness would be at your funeral. People feel that way about your story. Not that they're grateful for you, but they're grateful that you showed them life could be better than they thought. It could be more beautiful to be more meaningful. You could accomplish more your relationships could be deeper.
You could have a bigger impact, you know, let there be just this great chasm that is filled by gratitude when you leave, you know, to me that's great. And the sad thing is you won't hear it when people tell you you'll be gone, you know, but let's head there. Let's hit. I like it. All right. Thank you so much. Yeah, thank you. Yeah. Hey guys, Lewis house here and thanks so much for checking out this video and this interview. I hope you loved it. If you did make sure to leave a comment below and share this with your friends. Also, I've got a huge announcement. The summit of greatness is coming very soon.
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