That was the first step that took Miller’s struggling company to a major branding firm. “A friend of mine kind of pulled me aside and said, ‘Don, you’ve got 350 people coming to your conference and you’ve sold millions of books. Why are there so few people coming to your conference?’” Miller recalls. “I thought, This is my fault. I’m really great at communicating things in 300 pages, but I’m not very good at summarizing things.”
So Miller took his company through his seven-step story-writing process. “I filtered our communication through that process, and we went from 350 people to selling out a theater of 970. Then we went from 970 to 1,700, from 1,700 to 1,800. All of these were sellouts. In 2016 we hope to go to 7,100.”
Creators who find success, says Miller, have to balance sentimentality and creativity with selling and strategy. “The publishing company that is publishing your book is in business. And what that means is they have hundreds of employees that they have to pay, and when your book is late, doesn’t deliver or doesn’t sell, these wonderful people get laid off.”
He applies this combination to both his books and his business. “When you’re thinking about business, you’re waking up every day saying, Where am I losing money? Where am I making money? What do I need to focus on? When you wake up writing a book, you think, What needs to be in this chapter? What’s the point of this chapter? How can I get rid of the clutter in this chapter so people don’t get confused?”
3. Fight insecurities with results.
Anyone building a small business or a passion project, according to Miller, “knows the frustration of having to get up every day and push that cart up the hill.” But it’s up to you, he continues. “The thing just is not going to happen without your drive and your passion, and keeping that up is the hardest part. Keeping something new and fresh and original and beautiful and meaningful on the table at all times is the pressure.” He quickly follows this up, assuring me that he truly loves what he does, saying “Again, there’s such an upside to this that it’s hard to even call that a downside.”
His love for his work—telling his stories while helping others tell their stories—probably explains why he’s become so successful. “The best part, and I think it’s what every writer wants, is that I get to be heard…. It’s a twofold blessing. One, I got to be heard. Two, as I got older and matured, I got to give other people a voice so they could be heard. That’s the daily thing I get to wake up and feel super-satisfied about.”