About Donald Miller – Author, Building a StoryBrand – elizabeth miltenberger

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Donald Miller is succinctly described by Wikipedia as an American author, public speaker and business owner. He is the CEO of Story Brand, a company that helps businesses clarify their messages and shows them how to use stories to promote their products or services.


At first glance, you might be of the view that the brand story of Donald Miller is a little vanilla. In researching for this piece there were no scandalous stories about him, no murky videos or audio either to be found anywhere. Putting Donald Miller into parenthesis along with the word scam didn’t reveal anything either. He sounds a little too good to be true.


But there is an inside story to the guy who is currently challenging business owners to review their thinking in the way they market their businesses. And the movement is gaining momentum.







Jesus. The Lord.


Donald Miller Founder of Business Made Simple has a deep relationship with God. He talks with God daily, telling him his views and seeking his guidance. In Donald Miller’s words, he believes our identity comes from outside NOT inside. It is the direction of God that influences a person’s identity. After scoring a two-book publishing deal with a book publisher Miller recited “God wants me to write”


From his book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, Donald Miller reflects on the day he’ll meet God.


“I don’t wonder anymore what I’ll tell God when I go to heaven when we sit in the chairs under the tree, outside the city……..I’ll tell these things to God,

and he’ll laugh, I think and he’ll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were his favourite.


We’ll sit and remember my story together, and then he’ll stand and put his arms around me and say, “well done,” and that he liked my story”




Around the time he was sixteen, the Texas teenager attended a church camp during the summer break. The Pastor asked the group to write down their goals on a sheet of paper. These goals would then be shared with a member of the group, their name being pulled from a hat by the Pastor. Donald Miller wrote:


a) Move to Oregon


b) Become a bestselling author


c) Achieve a certain financial goal


d) Marry after he was 35 years +


In some way, this defined his life. He moved to Portland at age 21 and part-owned Coffee House Books. In 2003 he became a New York Times Bestselling author with Blue Like Jazz and thus hit his financial goal.


At the age of 42, he married Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Miltenberger. All his goals had come true.




Miller’s love of words is evident in the fact he’s written several books. Here are two that give us more insight into the Donald Miller story.


bluelikejazzDonaldMiller StoryBrand Guide | StoryBrand Websites

Blue Like Jazz – New York Times Bestseller


Wikipedia advises that this is the second book by Donald Miller. This semi-autobiographical work, subtitled “Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality” is a collection of essays and personal reflections chronicling the author’s growing understanding of the nature of God and Jesus, and the need and responsibility for an authentic personal response to that understanding.


Much of the work centres on Miller’s experiences with friends and fellow students while auditing courses at Reed College, a liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. The book deals with inward spiritual dealings as Don, his friends Penny, Laura and others struggle with finding meaning in life and the ultimate battle with God ending with choosing him or choosing one’s self.



a million miles in a thousand years Donald Miller StoryBrand Guide | StoryBrand Websites

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years


Subtitled “What I Learned While Editing My Life”, is the sixth book by Donald Miller. After writing a successful book, author Donald Miller’s life stalled. Instead of enjoying the fruits of his labour, Miller had slipped into a dark point in his life. He had no desire to participate in the daily responsibility of life and found himself questioning what his purpose was.


While in this slump he was approached by two movie producers wanting to turn his book into a movie. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years centres on the realisations that Miller came to while editing his successful memoir Blue Like Jazz into a screenplay for a movie, directed by Steve Taylor.


In writing the screenplay and editing the book events into proper, and interesting, movie dialogue, Miller learns a little more about the elements of the story and through those things learns more about the story that he is living as well as the story he wants to be living.


He challenges himself by putting himself in situations that require more effort and sacrifice than he would typically feel comfortable exerting. Miller goes from sleeping all day to riding his bike across America, from living in romantic daydreams to fearful encounters with love, from wasting his money to founding a non-profit with a passionate cause.


Guided by a host of outlandish but very real characters, Miller shows us how to get a second chance at life the first time around. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a rare celebration of the beauty of life – Wikipedia


Miller’s faith and deep introspective view of himself and life are very evident in these books and others he’s written


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These are probably best described from quotes from his books.


“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed.


He’s a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if the story is derived from real life, if the story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another. ” – A Million Miles in a Thousand Years



“Sometimes when I watch my dog, I think about how good life can be if we only lose ourselves in our stories. Lucy doesn’t read self-help books about how to be a dog; she just IS a dog. All she wants to do is chase ducks and sticks and do other things that make both her and me happy.


It makes me wonder if that was the intention for man, to chase sticks and ducks, to name animals, to create families, and to keep looking back at God to feed off his pleasure at our pleasure.” – A Million Miles in a Thousand Years



“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.” – A Million Miles in a Thousand Years 


Miller’s passion for God and his interest in life is very evident throughout his very own life. He’s taken these passions and interests and looked to serve the wider community. In 2009, Donald Miller served on the Presidential Advisory Council on Fatherhood and Healthy Families.


Again in 2015, Miller helped The Federation for Children create the Failing Our Kids campaign that lobbied state governments for school voucher programs. Miller not only thinks but takes action.




The colours and textures of any human life are the fabric that is woven from all our human experiences. Donald Miller has led a thoughtful life where he’s looked at his fears, questioned his vulnerability and desired to express his love for the betterment of others.


So it’s no surprise that a man who is the lover of words and a recognised bestseller would pen another iconic book in 2017 called Building A StoryBrand in which Donald Miller helps businesses clarify their marketing and messaging. Taking the essential elements of what makes storytellers so captivating, Miller has infused this into a marketing framework that allows companies to capture and engage better with their customers.


Thus StoryBrand has been formed.



Donald Miller: passionate, reflective, thought leader, community-focused and loving.


If you want to understand his marketing framework better so as to improve your company’s brand messaging and marketing effectiveness, chat with a Story Brand Guide, or grab a copy of the book, Building a StoryBrand.

James Hannan

StoryBrand Certified Guide | Business Made Simple Coach | Social Media Wizard

Results and Co – Part of the Rise Group

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