I’m Glad I’m Not the Same Guy Who Wrote Blue Like Jazz

Donald Miller

We don’t get a lot of trolls around my office. We help people live a better story, which doesn’t create much internet drama. But we do get some pushback. The main focus of the pushback sounds like this:

“Don has changed. I miss the old Don.”

We normally get this pushback when we promote our conference or my brand-strategy company. I get it. Whenever you try to sell something, people consider you suspect. It makes sense. There really are people who are only in it for the money. I’m glad my little company isn’t like that, but I fault nobody for making us prove it.

Apart from that, though, I’m so grateful I’m not the same guy who wrote Blue Like Jazz. Certainly I still love the book and am grateful for it, but it’s been ten years now and I’ve changed.

If I haven’t changed, something is drastically wrong.

People are designed to grow and if they don’t it’s because something’s wrong.

There are forces in the world that do not want you to grow, change or get stronger. A variety of motives cause this resistance, but regardless, it must be fought.

Photo Credit: Margot Lied

Photo Credit: Margot Lied

God designed you to grow from a baby to a child to a teenager to an adult and even after you’re an adult you’re designed to continue learning about God, about love, about each other and about yourself. Not a day goes by when we aren’t given the opportunity to become a better person. Why in the world would anybody want to stay the same?

When I wrote Blue Like Jazz I was dirt poor and weighed 387 pounds. I was terrible at relationships, codependent and confused.

I was also isolated.

I hid from the world watching television and eating ice cream. The only thing I had going for me was that I was open to new ideas and I was willing to be honest. And that was the beginning of a beautiful, transformational journey.

These days when somebody says they miss the old Don, I get it. I understand. He was a super nice guy. But he really wanted to please people because he believed if he took a stand people would leave him. As much as I love the old Don, I don’t miss him.

I like being 150 pounds lighter. I like being in a healthy and beautiful marriage. I like the fact that since Betsy and I got married 8 months ago we’ve had over 80 people stay the night at our house and more than 500 over for dinner.

I’m no longer isolated. And I love the team we’ve built at Storyline and StoryBrand. This team is like family to me.

I also love the fact that I don’t live in reaction.

I show up to my office every day and do my work because showing up and doing my work with consistency greatly improves my chances of being able to pay my mortgage. I used to look for other people to take care of me but I’m stronger now. I can make opportunities happen.

I also love that I get to bring good things into the world that change people’s lives and I don’t mind telling people about those things. I don’t ever want to be a salesman, but I also don’t want to forfeit the public square to snake-oil salesmen. I honestly think more good creators should sell more of their stuff as a way of helping the good team take more ground.

I’m 42 years old now.

And life has indeed changed.

I don’t care as much about what people think of me and I care more about connecting with them. I have specific goals I want to hit unlike the old days when all I wanted to do was listen to music, eat simple carbs and disengage from the world.

But none of that is what this post is about. This post is about being okay succeeding and evolving and becoming healthy and strong. Why do we so oppose these noble ambitions? Why do we consider them suspect? What is it about the people around us getting stronger that strikes fear into our hearts?

I believe it’s okay for all of us to get better.

I believe a depressed person is better off if they seek help and move through their pain, if at all possible. I believe that an unhealthy person is better off becoming healthy and that an isolated person is better off in supportive relationships.

I believe people without access to clean water would be better off if they had a well near them. I believe those who are not given opportunities for employment or education would be better off if we created paths of opportunities for them.

I believe some ways to live are better than others and I believe we should all head toward those more healthy ways to live, not only as a way of bettering ourselves but as a way of bettering the world.

Do I love the old Don?

Of course I do. He was not a loser. He suspected life could be better and I thank God for that suspicion. And so he changed. I love him but I don’t miss him. I’m better now and I’m not going back.

Ten years from now, may we all look back and love who we were while hardly recognizing them.

Onward.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.

  • Sammy

    onward for me too.

  • Holly Loftin

    Your transformation gives me hope. I’m feeling my way around in the dark on some things, just now. Thanks for saying it’s okay for all of us to get better. Sometimes, we just need to give ourselves permission.

  • Paige DePratter

    Beautiful post. I “get” this. At only 23 years old my life is drastically different than it was 4 years ago… (4 years ago I was in college doing whatever I wanted with friends… now I have FIVE children and I’m a pastor’s wife!) I get bogged down thinking about ideas I used to have that weren’t healthy and worried that I’m still some kind of awful person because I used to think/behave that way. This was really encouraging (and not the first time I’ve read something of yours that made me think… “this could change my outlook, and my LIFE, forever!”) Thank you for your honesty and self-awareness!

  • Chris Guillebeau

    Nice work, Don. Change is constant! Or at least it should be.

  • Tom

    Have spent the last 10 years working with people who don’t want to change, and are angry at those that do. Literally leaving right now to sign my separation agreement and enter “temporary retirement”. God has blessed me with this opportunity and I am excited about the future…including, going to Storyline in Chicago!

  • Jim Crotty

    Change is good, necessary and opens the doors to the greater blessings.

  • Justin Dernison

    I was given your book Blue Like Jazz a good two years before I read it from my brother-in-law who had read it and said that the Don in the book reminded him of me. Aspects of that are true I’m sure for most of us who resonate with this work. While I was never 387 pounds (and very surprised to hear you were) I was timid, scared, not who I am today. I like you am thankful for this. The choices I made ten years ago are not necessarily the choices I would make today. Do I love who I was? Yes! That person helped me become who I am today. Ten years from now I hope the same is true. – Thank you for all you do Don. Your vulnerable honesty gives hope to many.

  • So good.

  • John Yarbrough

    I like the new Don too. The old Don was good to know and learn about but this healthier side is much better and growing…dare I say fun. What I meant to say, is John not Don is better. I can only speak for myself. Better moving water than a stagnant pond.

  • Great post Don. Thank you.

  • Patrick Olp

    I’m so thankful that you shared this, Don. Your book had an enormous impact on me 10 years ago and continues to influence me, but I have also changed, and I think for the better as well. Here’s to another 10 years of making mistakes, making progress, and creating better stories. Cheers.

  • I like doing things so the good team can take more ground as well. Good stuff here!

  • Valerie J Lanham

    creative types NEED to grow, and God’s children Will transform. As one who thought I was the female version of your Blue Like Jazz – am glad to see this and start following the story and hopefully share mine too.

  • Vicky Cox

    A reminder we all need! I’m sharing this with all my Celebrate Recovery friends. We all want to get better and are working on progress, not perfection.

  • Emily R

    Great post.

  • Great reminder. I turned 42 yesterday. I am definitely not the same person I was 10 years ago. I don’t regret who I was then but I feel like I’ve learned so much since then and I’ve enjoyed the journey of getting where I am now. I love how you said this “The only thing I had going for me was that I was open to new ideas and I was willing to be honest. And that was the beginning of a beautiful, transformational journey.” Very true. Openness and a willingness to take an honest look at where you are and what things need changing really is key.

  • CH2

    Don –
    I follow this blog because of the encouraging message you offer regularly; I didn’t even know you were the author of Blue Like Jazz. When I read that you’re now 42, I sat here and cried. Because I’m 32. And I’m dirt poor, struggling to build an amazing, worthwhile business while raising two kids. My ambition is larger than my skill set, but I try to forge ahead, juggling which bills to pay and finding the the best deals on peanut butter. Here’s to the next ten years!

    • Zack Kendall

      This is Awesome.

    • Gabrielle

      You go girl. You will achieve so much, I can feel it. Forge ahead girlfriend. Youz gotz a lotta living to do (and God will shower you with love, protection, grace and blessings…and if that’s not enough a tall order, He promises to make that path straight, just see how sneaky and tricky He can be) Much love, I’m pulling for you stranger!

  • I was 19 or so when I read Blue Like Jazz and I’m in my late 20s now. I’m glad you’ve changed because I probably wouldn’t find you inspirational anymore. I have also changed. (Though if I were 19 again and picked up Blue Like Jazz for the first time, I’d probably look at the new you skeptically. I think the grumbling you’re hearing is a side effect of both authors who write about their journeys and the open forum of the internet.)

    • Great point, Jaimie. I often think to myself that the 21 year old me would call the 31 year old me a sellout. Such is the way of perspective, I suppose.

  • Daniel

    Thank you Don. I’ve been a big fan of yours for a while and honestly, I was just talking last night about how I missed the old Don. He wasn’t always sending emails and was writing posts everyday on his blog. I even the old Don that was less commercial and might write off this whole Storyline movement as “self help” and put it down. But you’re right. I think it was a little selfish to want the old Don back without thinking about how much stronger you’ve gotten as a person. Thanks for the reminder. Onward!

  • Thanks for giving us freedom to write where we’re at without the fear of evolving from this person.

  • Samantha Nail

    Onward, indeed. :)

  • Emily Roth

    Thank you, Don. I remember being confused when other students wrote in my yearbooks, “You’re great! Never change!” Self-defeating advice, isn’t it?Looking at the comments here, you’re speaking for a lot of us. Thank you for affirming that it is possible to love ourselves while also pushing to better ourselves.

  • tta

    Hmmm…from past and newer posts / tweets I have read from Don Miller…I feel the “new Don” seems more “of the world” than before….I hope I am wrong.

  • Matt

    Don –
    I read Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance in 2000 and in my memory, I finished BLJ in one sitting. Although I don’t know you personally, I have loved your writing. And I DO miss the “old Don.”
    I’m happy for your personal growth and the happiness you’ve found. No one that has connected with your writing should feel otherwise. What I miss is that you’re no longer a unique voice within evangelicalism. I guess for people like me (30s & in church ministry) that’s disappointing. There are so few evangelicals who actually can write, who have a literary and creative capacity, who seem to love art for art’s sake. There are passages in BLJ or A Million Miles In A Thousand Years or even Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance that are stunningly beautiful. Now it seems like you are less likely to make that kind of art, and less likely to be rooted in the church. So while I’m happy for you I wouldn’t be surprised if that is what some people are expressing when they say they miss the “old Don.”

    • Desiree Boey

      this is what i feel too!

  • Bill

    I like the Blue like jazz Don that didn’t believe every word in the bible was true but they sucked you in Dam that Rick McKinley at Imago Dei and now you are right wing Bible thumping preacher I like old beer drinking human rights activist thinking Don

  • Sean

    Love this. Insightful. Inspirational. Wisdom.
    Thank you Don

  • I’m glad, too. Don, if you weren’t changing, you wouldn’t be living a story. At least not a good one, anyway. I’ve enjoyed watching the progression.

  • Steve G

    Don,
    Earlier this week I had prepared a tweet saying “I think I like the Donald Miller who told amazing stories better than the Donald Miller “The Brand”…and before I posted it I felt bad because I don’t know you personally.
    My wife & I dove in the deep end and attended SL San Diego ’14, purchased the book, downloaded the planner, watched the coaching videos…that wasn’t your fault, it was us wanting to belong to something :(
    Thanks for writing this post because it only confirmed that Donald Miller is a guy just like the rest of us and that as much marketing as SL does, it really isn’t like other groups who are just selling a product.

  • Dan Erickson

    Interesting. I didn’t know you struggled that much during those days.

  • Seeker

    Don, I love you. I love that you’ve changed. I love that you’re changing. I love that you’re married and happy. :) I love that you are helping us explore our lives and live them well. I love that you have brought together amazing speakers.

    As someone who admittedly doesn’t know you personally, it seems like you are heading in a generally good direction; codependency is painful and I and others who struggle with it will surely find your new book meaningful.

    If you’re interested in a “constructive” opinion about what I miss about the old Don and maybe could even be incorporated with the new/ future Don, here it is: the thing that makes me feel sad sometimes is that it seems like sometimes the “new” Don takes the answer that has worked for him and truly believes it will work for everyone else too. It’s probably natural for us as humans to do that, but I feel it’s particularly difficult for some of us who love you because it’s sort of the opposite attitude you had in the past, when it seemed like you were searching. Now it seems more like you’ve found and you want to tell everyone what you found.

    This appears to be prevalent with Christian leaders – John Eldridge, for example, seems to have taken the attitude that if everyone applied his discoveries about masculinity we’d all have meaning and joy. But in my opinion and experience, different treasure awaits different people, and God is bigger than a one-size-fits-all approach, even if that approach is wonderful, and meta like yours is.

    I want to follow you, and I’ve tried what has worked for you with moderate success. Looking for meaning, fantastic. Using the story principles you’ve adopted, pretty great. But other things, like (as one example) your productivity schedule sheet not so much. That wouldn’t be a big deal, except that it seems like you have an expectation that your method, including giving me pre-digested Frankl, should work for me, like when you say on the productivity schedule introduction that “I believe it will work for you, too.” And sometimes it just doesn’t, and I feel pressure that it should, and that seems weird after reading your past works.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that you are doing a lot of good – probably more than before (and likely less than you will in the future :) ) – and I also feel sad sometimes because I’m still searching for my own answers and peace, and sometimes I feel a bit left behind when it sounds like I hear you saying this should really work for me, or solve all my problems, and it doesn’t, even if it did work for you and solve your problems. Your ideas continue to be helpful to me, but I don’t think that your journey is my journey. It’s hard when it feels like rather than being a part of the conversation, you’re the guy with the concrete Answer, when it feels like you are starting to have rules instead of general principles.

    You have made such a big difference in my life; thank you for being you.

    With love always,

    Seeker

    • Colette

      excellent and well said….

    • Desiree

      YES

  • This is gorgeous.

  • Jesus

    And then Jesus came upon his disciples and said, “Brethren, what’s this I heareth about me being a human sacrifice for your sins?

    May I asketh, who in the goddamn hell came up with that Neanderthal bullshit!!???

    Blood sacrifice!!!?? Are you all fucking insane!!!!!!!!????????

    Brethren, I’d sooner lick Judas’ ass crack than be willing to submit to your Cro-Magnon horse shit about blood sacrifices!!!!

    Human sacrifice!!!!!!!???? Do you even hear what you’re fucking saying!!!!!????”

    And the disciple who Jesus loved the most responded, “Well fuck man!!! Maybe we can get Billy Ray to die for our sins.

    Anybody got Billy Ray’s phone number!!?”

    —–Jesus Christ, as told to Kirk Cameron—So you know it’s true.

  • Leo Grigg

    Don, this post makes me even more excited for your new book!

  • Janice Blakeley

    Hi Don-

    I confess, I have been one of those people you speak of, lamenting the loss of the Don who wrote Blue Like Jazz. I hope you take that, not as an attack on your later work, but as a testament to how much that book meant to me. There were times in my Christian walk where you and that book were the only things that I could find to be thankful for. At the risk of sounding dramatic- I re-read some excerpts of it today and cried thinking about how much it meant to me.

    To add another voice to the discussion- one thing that’s been a little hard to digest with Storyline is the adoption of formula. You wrote the book Searching for God Knows What entirely rejecting the notion of a formulaic religion. Storyline does seem formulaic at times. Formulas are inherently off-putting to me, but that doesn’t make them inherently bad or wrong. Sometimes formulas work. They are ways of breaking down the complex and the abstract into tangible, achievable steps. That’s a good thing. We just can’t put too much faith in the steps themselves. Otherwise, as Desiree noted earlier, we will get disappointed when your steps don’t result in your outcome.

    Nonetheless, as one of my favorite authors (probably my most favorite), you feel like an old friend, and I, my friend, am very happy for you.

    Janice

  • Hi Donald, I was visiting my son in San Diego when he called me over to view your favorite weekly videos. I think you are one of his Heros. I don’t mean to brag, but he’s a stud- And I love that he has amazing taste.(although he thinks I’m one of his heros too) He had earlier sent me Blue Like Jazz, Bob’s, Love Does and said we should all do Story Line. (Which I did and sent a copy to my 4 kiddos). My youngest daughter skyped me from England said I should download A Million Miles on my smarter than me phone. Wow. I am ready to live a better story! Thank you for sharing yours! I am so inspired (and am inspiring my sweet hubby )to make mine more remarkable. I thought I’d sign us all up for San Diego, but you were all full. Let me know if 6 bale out.

  • Melanie

    Just finished “Blue Like Jazz”, sent to me in California from daughter in Australia. Love, love , love that book.
    Glad to see here that your brilliance has led to success and even the study of success. Love that too!!!

  • OzzyLovesBabyShampoo

    Someone gave me this book about 10 years ago and I never read it. I guess we’re the same age and I know that the person who gave it to me thought it was highly relevant to what I was telling her. I wonder if I read it now if I’ll think, like you, that it’s what I used to be like but am glad I’ve changed. I know I have changed and it sounds like I’ve changed in similar ways. So I’ll probably read your book now, 10 years later. Sorry you won’t make any money off the sale since it was a gift, but I hear Amazon is screwing over authors so much these days, anyway, it probably wouldn’t make much difference…

  • Janet Albers

    Well said, Donald. I remember you back when. :)

  • Sooooo good and important. Your journey has been such an encouragement to me. It’s been a pleasure to follow your life through your books and conference; you have no idea how much they have spurred me on in my own risks and growth. THANK YOU.