20 Things I Learned At The Storyline Conference


“What will the world miss if you do not tell your story?”

This weekend 1,000 storytellers gathered in Nashville for the Storyline Conference to ask this profound question together. Hosted by Donald Miller and inspired by the logotherapy process of Victor Frankl, the Storyline Conference was a fire hydrant bursting forth knowledge and inspiration for dreamers wanting to live a more meaningful story.

Going into the conference I was confused and frustrated as to where my life was headed. After hearing from so many incredible speakers and beginning to go through the process of editing my life, I am finally finding clarity as to my purpose in this world.

I’d pay everything I have to send you to the Storyline Conference. Do yourself a favor and sign up for the next one. If you can’t make it to San Diego or Nashville next year, here’s a sampling of what I learned about sharing your story with the world:

1) Comparison is the thief of joy. The conference started out with a blogger’s breakfast hosted by Don and Ally and Darrell Vesterfelt. Along with lots of practical tips for the practice of blogging, my biggest takeaway from the breakfast was to avoid the trap of comparison when creating art. As artists we must fall in love with the practice rather than the results.

2) God wants to do something together with you. He doesn’t just want to lay out a plan for your life. He wants to roll out a sheet of butcher paper, hand you a box of crayons, and draw something together with you in this world. (Donald Miller)

3) What if God created you because the world needs to feel the impact of your story? You have a unique story to share with the world. There are others who need to hear it. (Donald Miller)

4) Humans learn more from mercy than from judgment. The Rev. Becca Stevens spoke on the power of a transformed story. Rev. Stevens runs a company called Thistle Farms which empowers women rescued from trafficking, prostitution, and addiction by giving them jobs instead of judgment.

5) There is still slavery in this world. This may not be news to you. And while I was not oblivious to the existence of modern day slavery, the Storyline Conference opened my eyes to just how devastating the problem is. Speakers like John Richmond, Becca Stevens, and Bob Goff all shared stories from the horrifying world of slavery and human trafficking. Because of their work, progress is being made to bring down and transform the bad guys. But it will take the body of Christ rising up together in mass numbers to truly bring this problem to an end.

6) God wants to rescue us from the ruler. You don’t have to measure yourself with the same ruler the world does. Instead, we should measure up what God can do. Instead of measuring our strength, measure God’s strength. Instead of measuring your Twitter followers, measure God’s followers. (John Richmond)

7) God is always changing the story on us. Think about it: He brings us from lost to found. Blindness to sight. Death to life. We have a God who redeems and transforms our pain. (Shauna Niequist)

8) Our flesh has been damaged by the words we have written on them. We tattoo lies across our arms about how ugly, stupid, and worthless we are. God wants to paint over those words with His love. He reminds us through the word that we are His masterpieces. (Shauna Niequist)

9) A story makes sense when the character knows what they want. Characters must have clear ambitions to have meaningful stories. Instead of wanting just good stuff, we should want more of God’s stuff. (Donald Miller)

10) When you’re not getting as many green lights as you want, you can keep circling the field or you can land the plane. Bob Goff, the most interesting man in the world, shared a story of trying to land a small plane with malfunctioning landing gear. Instead of having all three green lights appear on his dashboard, only two lit up. Bob had to make a decision. He could not wait for all the green lights. He had to land the plane. We can’t always wait for all the green lights to make a move in life either. Sometimes we have to accept the landing will be bumpy but go for it anyway.

11) Give yourself permission to fail in an epic fashion. Bob gives himself permission at least two times a year to fail incredibly – as long as he’s failing doing something worthwhile. Do the same for yourself. (Bob Goff)

12) You are not a victim. You are a mountain climber. Bob talked about a child he rescued from witch doctors in Uganda. The child was mutilated as part of a human sacrifice but somehow survived. Bob helped find the child a doctor who could repair him and reattach his missing parts (you must hear the story in full sometime). But Bob hasn’t stopped there. He doesn’t want the child to think of himself as a victim the rest of his life. So Bob is giving the child new experiences and victories. Together they are going out this week to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

13) When we play the victim card, life becomes about us. But life is not about us. You can be used more and more by dying to yourself and letting your story be redeemed. (Joshua Dubois, spiritual advisor to President Obama)

14) God intends to put you through suffering. He has no problem putting you through pain. The negative turns in your story are the seeds which will some day grow into the fruit that will feed others. (Donald Miller)

15) A rejection is just the opinion and preference of one person. Jia Jiang has become a sort of expert on rejection. He has been practicing  Rejection Therapy – attempting to get rejected with incredible requests everyday. Turns out rejection is not as easy as you might think. Jia was able to drive a police car, fly a plane, play soccer in a stranger’s backyard, get free doughnuts, and so much more in his quest. Jia teaches us if there is something we want, we must not be afraid to ask.

16) The harder you go, the more you will get rejected. C.S. Lewis was rejected 800 times before he got his first book published. Can you imagine if he quit at 799? What if the great dreamers and thinkers were afraid to ask the questions? We must overcome the fear of rejection. (Jia Jiang)

17) In 5 years we will become a conglomerate of the people we hang out with. Pay attention to who you are becoming and who you are letting into your life. (Donald Miller)

18) Great characters take action. You cannot just think it. You cannot just dream it. You have to do something about it. Selflessness is displayed only through action. (Donald Miller)

19) You will encounter fear. You will encounter distraction. You will encounter rejection. Remember – Resistance Creates Lift. The struggle is our friend. It pushes us higher. It changes our character. It gives us beauty. (Donald MIller)

20) Great stories, like great lives, have clarity. Our narrative should be simple and clear as we stand beside God in His great story. If we want a great story, our purpose is clear – Save Many Lives. (Donald Miller)

DId you attend the Storyline Conference? What did you take away? What is the story you are telling the world?


11 thoughts on “20 Things I Learned At The Storyline Conference

    • Thanks Tim – you did an incredible job putting the conference together. I’m grateful to you for how you have given yourself over to this amazing service.

  1. Yes I was there too. You have summarized it so well! Love it. I came away from the weekend with a renewed sense of purpose. We are on this earth to help people and to love people. I’m in the process of trying to figure out how I can do that more…and to be more intentional at it. Mere talk helps no one. Thanks,

    • Thanks Eileen. I agree – we have to stop talking and start moving. I love what Bob Goff said about not being polite to Jesus anymore! I hope you continue to seek God and find joy as you find your purpose.

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