September 18, 2012 | 25 comments. | Comment on this post

As humans, we just can’t help ourselves. We must be involved in a story. Ultimately, we give our daily lives over to two things:

  1. Basic survival
  2. Stories

Basic survival primarily includes sleep, personal hygiene, eating, housekeeping/maintenance child rearing and work.

Story by definition has a plot, plan and series of events (narrative) leading towards a tangible purpose or goal. Donald Miller in his book ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’ defines a good story as having “A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”

*Note: before anyone gets their panties in a wad, ‘raising children’ and ‘work’ can be a story…IF. If the work transcends a mere paycheck and the child rearing transcends feeding, housing, clothing, public-schooling and booting out the dooring.

Looking at our culture, this is how most folks seem to be exposing themselves to story:

  1. Gossip – discussing other people’s stories
  2. News – observing other people’s stories
  3. TV & Movies – viewing other people’s stories, though the majority is other people acting out stories. Or we could say…’pretending’
  4. Books, Magazines and Newspaper – reading other people’s stories and make-believe stories
  5. Sports – watching athletes play out a story. No offense, but when Payton Manning refers to “My team…” and a fan references the same team as “My team…” it’s a far different reality of participation, wouldn’t you agree?
  6. Social Media – commenting on other’s stories (thanks to Michelle Knoll for pointing this out in the comments below)

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things listed above. But they are all…Storyeuristic.

This new terminology of course comes from voyeurism. Which means, generally speaking, watching instead of participating; yes?

Regarding voyeurism, I assume you, like me, would rather have the real thing. But what about storyeurism? Seeking to derive gratification and fulfillment from the stories of others, real and pretend.

More and more of the culture is giving themselves over to basic survival…spending the majority of their time merely performing routine functions and putting in their time, looking ahead to the evenings or weekends or even lunch breaks where they can voyeuristically participate in stories.

Remember this TV clip from Wild World of Sports that includes the classic “The thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat.”

We crave both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We were bred for it, created for it. And we ALL…seek out and engage in it. Assess yourself and chances are you engage in it daily. Possibly for hours. But how much is as a spectator to others experiencing victory and defeat, and how much as an actual participant yourself?

If the majority of your engagement is as a spectator, are you OK with that? Though it’s the cultural norm, does it seem best and healthiest? Is it working for you? Is your story inspiring others to worthy pursuits?

Want the secret recipe for writing a great story? Want the easy, can’t miss pill that will make it happen without you having to figure it out? Here it is:

Commit yourself to a worthy cause at such a great degree that for all sakes and purposes…you are seemingly incapable of achieving the goal or fulfilling the task. The story…will write itself. More on that in the next blog.

Where do you find yourself today? Participating in stories, or spectating?

Photo by: Kokhanchikov
  • Jack Lynady

    I thought u could never top the “amorous” post but alas I was wrong. Now, u have expanded my tawdry literacy once again with “voyeurism”. I think I am starting to understand why u have 7 children. LOL.

    • Kevin Miller

      ‘Tawdry literacy’. I never set out to be in that category, but if the shoe fits…

  • Michelle

    In your list of things that people use to expose themselves to story, you forgot Facebook.
    Facebook: the new daytime TV drama. Without the TV.
    I find myself both spectating and participating, moving toward more participating. God is opening up doors and connections that I never had even thought of, three years ago. Life is busy. But… exciting!

    • Kevin Miller

      Good point Michelle…social media. Thanks. I’m adding that!

      • Michelle

        Anytime. :)

  • Christopher Paine

    Interesting you should post this, Kevin – I just finished ‘In A Pit, With A Lion, On a Snowy Day’, and started ‘A Million Miles in A Thousand Years’ and noticed the same comment Miller made about wanting to live a better story.

    I think I first became aware of this in myself last year (before joining FAA, but thinking about it), when I was taking a beginner ballroom dancing class, and someone at work asked me if I watched ‘Dancing With the Stars’, and I said “no, at this point in my life, I want to actually be doing the dancing (hiking, running, dating, etc.), not just watching it.

    My involvement in FAA has helped me continue along this same trajectory of involvement, and meaning, more than anything else I’ve taken part in.

    So glad to be a part

    • Kevin Miller

      Thanks for this Christopher. My Dad hit me with this perspective when I was in my late teens. I’d really gotten in to watching…something. Might have been pro tennis. Or music, not sure. But my Dad one day quipped, “So…are you just going to be a spectator, or go out and actually do it yourself too?” Pissed me off at the moment, but I didn’t forget. Today I keep my ‘spectating’ to about 1% of my life.

  • Jack Lynady

    Not sure how this may fit but “story” by definition is in the past tense. It seems like the best stories of my life occurred when I was living in the moment. They were not something I orchestrated but events that simply unfolded. Maybe we “try” to much to cultivate a good story when we should be pursuing Life. The story will be what it will be. Love the post bro. 😉

    • Kevin Miller

      Interesting point Jack. I hear you. That last point I put in the blog, about just finding a cause you care about and going after a big goal and the story will write itself…was somewhat to that point. Teri and I make a point to set big goals out there, then the events are merely the journey to get there. Thanks brother.

  • Jared Angaza

    We live in an extremely voyeuristic society. Reality TV and social networks monopolize so much of people’s time because most people find it easier and more comfortable to live vicariously through the lives of others. They sacrifice their opportunities to create their own story for the ease of watching someone else’s. Consequently, they miss out on purpose and the possibility of experiencing anything extraordinary.

    I believe the biggest reason people don’t go out and live their own extraordinary story is because they are controlled by fear and their need for comfort and security. This is what creates spectators.

    Good stuff brother.

    • Kevin Miller

      Thanks Jared. And thanks for inspiring others to be participants, not spectators. Maybe we should start a new popcorn line that’s only for consumption by those writing their own story… Maybe I’ll do that myself, take popcorn on my next adventure.

  • Wendy Sutter-Staas

    I am consistently observing people who live vicariously through their children, through their friends, movies, etc. . .some are completely content with going to the ‘status quo’ — to get to the fridays and party all weekend. However, for the first time in my life — I actually feel like I am living a great story. . .I just attended my 3rd birth as a Doula. . . and it was an AMAZING experience (the other births were too, but this was different) — it was fully unmedicated, her primary o.b. was out of town and a TRUE BLESSING. . . her labor was 5 hours long — when I joined her at the hospital, the baby was born 1.5 hours later. NOW THAT IS HOW TO HAVE A BABY! Her husband was truly grateful of my presence because I could be with his wife supporting her — while he watch his son be born (that was a surprise birth. .. SO COOL!!) — He was able to participate and be part of so much more than if it was just him and his wife. . . It was WONDERFUL!!! Being the Natural Birth Evangelist is bring my so much joy!!! I feel so blessed :) I am helping people create great stories!!

    • Kevin Miller

      So great to read this Wendy. Your story is writing itself now that you’ve found a cause and a purpose. Love to hear your passion sister!

  • Mark Burch

    I think folks for the most part have decided to watch life and not participate. Some of this seems cultural now as we try to “one size fits all” through school and such. Another I’m seeing is people not having hope. They believe the deck is stacked against them, and they blame others for it, and want someone/something to fix it for them.

    Without getting too political, I’ve seen folks scream about Mitt Romney’s inartful comments about the 47% who would never vote for him. I see comments about lack of opportunity, education, money, etc. come up in the lame excuses as to why folks are content to let government provide and tell them how to live.

    The truth is, the majority today doesn’t want to deal with the pain, fear, and risk required to succeed. They’re content to let others do that for them. As I explained to one of these folks, if you’re not willing to take the risk, and change your life, you’ll get what you’ve got.

    I think folks are controlled by fear, and their pain isn’t great enough to change.

    • Kevin Miller

      I believe you are right Mark. They are controlled by fear, as Jared mentioned too, but if they had a big enough hope…enough faith, they’d get over the fear. Which may just point to the reality that instead of speaking against the fear, we need to shine more light on the hope. Good counsel for me as I write these blogs…

  • Celia Triplett

    Funny fact: Your Free Agent Underground show today was interrupted by commercials for Borderlands 2: a video game where you play one of several characters through a, yes you guessed it, story!

    On top of video games (and their addictive qualities of letting you live out a story that isn’t your own) is role playing games. I have no problem with either in healthy doses, just as you were saying in your show today, but I thought I’d add to your list.

    • Kevin Miller

      Oh wow…how interesting. Video games…that should be added to the list above. Another place that people place their story engagement. Thanks for participating Celia!

  • Curtis

    This post may haunt me for a while. I am a big reader, and have been since a very young age. I can very quickly, easily, and often get sucked into a book, Internet research, or wholesome movie and allow it to stir my imagination and intellect, with little to show for the experience.

    My struggle is, that, in finding excitement vicariously, we can experience others stories without having to face personal risk or cost. I am not a risk taker by nature, nor do I have the resources (money) to personally engage in activities (such as traveling) that I find appealing. For those of us who have known only low-income lifestyles, we do not have the liberty to pursue stories that we feel would provide purpose and interest. It is easy to feel stuck, and so find pleasure in losing ourselves in reading about the adventures of others.

    I read self-help books and, again, find interest in thinking about what could be done IF ONLY I had the time and resources to accomplish great things. I can use my imagination to pretend that I could be a success, but struggle with bringing the principles I learn into the real world. It is easier to live inside my own head.

    This blog post has kicked me all around neighborhood. Maybe it has been a kick in the right direction.

    Thanks, Kevin!

    • Kevin Miller

      Thank you Curtis. Thanks for sharing deeply and posting this publicly here. Your perseverance is inspiring brother. I think God is capable of either guiding you to increasing your finances, or…pursue purpose regardless. And some of this Curtis, you ARE doing. You are helping kids now where your heart is drawn. You can to a Free Agent Academy event when you felt you couldn’t afford it, and you’re paying the monthly fee. Keep doing the work. Don’t ‘grow weary in well doing’ as you seek God’s best for you. And keep seeking counsel. I believe in you.

      • Curtis

        So, Kevin, I need to know, what is the opposite of a “storyeur?” I’d love to know what steps you think we need to take to move from finding pleasure in the experiences and successes of others to creating real-live adventures for ourselves.

        By the way, you have no idea how out-of-the-box going to your event and participating in Free Agent Academy is for me. The experience has definitely been a positive one.

        • Kevin Miller

          Curtis – thanks so much for the encouragement on FAA. First, I’d complete the BaseCamp groups. I know we brought these in after you joined, but they are foundational. And as part of the Core Values group, I’m about to give a new assignment that I think will be key for you. It’s a different way of setting out goals and convictions to you can start ‘knocking’ and taking steps toward them.

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  • Arlene

    I love this post. I’ve been thinking the same thing as I set my DVD…I’m going to writ myself a reminder note and put it beside my other one that says Get Busy Living. Thanks Kevin!

    • Kevin Miller

      That is excellent Arlene! Love it. I’m gettin’ busy living today too!

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