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You Are the Greatest Story Ever Told

A good scene

I have great news.

You are the star of the greatest film imaginable. It is an unprecedented epic saga, it is filmed in one continuous shot, from the first-person perspective. The sets are rich with detail, the lighting always underlines the mood perfectly, the cinematography always magnificent yet unpretentious.

The supporting cast is top notch, too. There are no histrionics, no miscast actors, no flubbed lines. They all deliver the dialogue impeccably, each line timed and inflected perfectly for its respective scene. The protagonists’ friends and lovers will make you laugh out loud, swoon with desire, and feel a sense of belonging and respect. The villains make you feel afraid, furious, depressed, and alienated.

Often the people in the story will look right at the camera, and reveal the stunning depth and density of their character to you.  Why are they even in this story, and why in this particular chapter? What role are they here to play: the advisor, the fool, the expert, the disciple, the love interest, the diplomat, the instigator, the enemy, the martyr?

Why were they cast at all? Will they give our protagonist some much-needed perspective, or will they only create dilemmas to be overcome? If they do create trouble for the hero, what will she need to learn about herself or about humanity in order to get past it?  Some of the characters are only on screen just to flesh out the backdrop of civilization that makes all human stories so compelling and absurd. Whatever the reason, they are there and they have a purpose.

Even the extras are incredible. Watch them closely; they’re all overflowing with character. The nervous clerk at the deli; the sighing, sullen bus driver; the gentle-eyed jazz musician; the fat, furious man who explodes at the waitress; the sheepish, bespectacled intern who is incapable of eye contact; the clean-cut deacon who always smells like coffee; the flamboyant ex-broadcaster who’s running for mayor, the camo-wearing neighbor with the knife collection and clammy hands — all of them speak volumes about the setting our hero lives in. They tell you what it means to live here: the culture, the prevailing dogma, the taste and feel of this town. They reveal what is easy and difficult about being a person; they demonstrate exactly what our hero wants — and doesn’t want — to be.

The masterful plot, oh how it twists! You thought you could foresee the current scene from the last one, but you were wrong. Nothing happens quite like you expect it to.  There are no formulaic plot devices here, this story is too good for that.  Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, a new and exciting character enters the picture who will change it forever.

Over the course of the story, sweeping arcs emerge, sometimes over years. A twelve-year tenure as a schoolteacher. A life-changing trip to the far east. A failed marriage. A successful business venture. A stint in prison. A wild and crazy period. A long depression or sickness. A crippling addiction. Children. Golden years. Fame. Poverty. Wars and elections. Births and deaths.

And the moral behind this story, perhaps you are beginning to get a hint of it. Universal truths are emerging. Perhaps some of them resemble the lessons you’ve seen in other stories, reminiscent of worn clichés and ancient wisdom, while others are truly original, igniting an epiphany in you that no person prior has ever reached.

When the protagonist finds herself in trouble, how will she react, and what habits will form from it? Will this story become a gutting tragedy, an absurdist comedy, a heartwarming fairy tale?

Perhaps she can learn from her mistakes, and blossom into a wiser and deeper character, or maybe — true to Shakespearean tradition — an unexamined fatal flaw will guarantee her eventual downfall. What she does and where she ends up depends on the strength of her character, and the chance encounters she has with the story’s ceaseless parade of wild and vivid characters. Enjoy them as they arrive — and depart.

Above all, two things are certain.

One, it was meant to be this way. If she misses the bus, it’s because it allows for something to happen that couldn’t have otherwise. If someone lets her down, it’s so she can grow in order to handle an upcoming scene. This tale is too deep and powerful for any of it to be truly senseless.

And two, no matter where the story has come to rest currently, it isn’t over. Everything that has happened has combined to bring us precisely here, and ‘here’ will give way to another here in no time.

Whether the current scene is peaceful or frantic, dire or triumphant, it’s building to something. Even if you don’t like this particular part, there is a reason for it, and it will give birth to a new set, new characters, and a new plotline before you know it.

So let it unfold as it will. Don’t overlook the details, and know that there is something grand behind them.

Always most interesting is how our lead character responds. How much chutzpah will she bring to the table here? Is this a scene where she turns over a new leaf, or disappoints herself again?

Do not underestimate how profound your story is. Countless lives, even entire bloodlines and empires, will hinge on what our hero chooses to do, right now and always.

You are the greatest story ever told. Don’t ever convince yourself that your life is anything less than that.

What scene is happening now? What has had to happen to put our hero right here in this scene, with all its intricate details and subtleties? Where could the writers be going with this one? What as-yet-unknown essential character is poised to enter the frame?  What difficult and pivotal decision will send our hero on a new path nobody could have guessed, and does she have the courage to make it?

Watch and find out.


Photo by Rebecca Pollard

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Jay Schryer May 11, 2009 at 6:48 am

Wow. I mean, just…wow. This is really, really inspiring.

I think everyone, from time to time, thinks that their life is a movie, or maybe an episode of Punk’d, or candid camera, or something like that. Sometimes, things happen which make us think that there’s a hidden audience, celebrating or gasping at our every move.

But then you took that feeling, and extrapolated it, and turned it on it’s head, and showed us that life really IS a movie, and not only are we the protagonist, but we’re the audience, too. By watching ourselves up on screen, we can learn, grow, and discover truths about ourselves and the world around us.

This is a very empowering way to look at life. Thank you, David. This has truly been an inspiration.

Jay Schryer’s last blog post..30 Day Challenge: Mindful Meditation

Miami criminal defense attorney December 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Great stuff! im going to bookmark this to show my wife later

Lisis May 11, 2009 at 8:19 am

I love it! This part in particular:

“What difficult and pivotal decision will send our hero on a new path nobody could have guessed, and does she have the courage to make it?”

As you know, I made a difficult and pivotal decision about my blog recently and have yet to see how the plot will unfold. Either way, don’t tell me the ending, ’cause I love surprises!


Lisis’s last blog post..Adventure: Find YOUR Path, Come What May

Frances May 11, 2009 at 8:19 am

“Whether the current scene is peaceful or frantic, dire or triumphant, it’s building to something. Even if you don’t like this particular part, there is a reason for it, and it will give birth to a new set, new characters, and a new plotline before you know it.”

This has been my philosophy on life for long time. I firmly believe that everything has a purpose and every experience we have changes who we are in some small way, giving us what we need to continue moving forward through our lives.

Fantastic post!

Frances’s last blog post..Taking Your Own Advice

Laurie | Express Yourself to Success May 11, 2009 at 8:40 am

This is such an insightful and fun post – what a pleasure to read! While there are lots of good quotes, I like how you summed it up at the end, “You are the greatest story ever told; don’t ever convince yourself that your life is anything less than that.” Really inspiring. Thanks, David. :)

Laurie | Express Yourself to Success’s last blog post..You’re Amazing

Evelyn Lim May 11, 2009 at 8:50 am

Hmmm….how interesting! I’ve just published an article with a theme that is somewhat similar but from a different angle.

I’ve also just finished reading Journey of Souls. It appears that prior to physical incarnation, our souls may have pre-arranged with some other souls to play various characters in our life, so that we can learn some life lessons. Yes, it would also appear that making certain choices can create a different scenerio, which gets played out in a parallel dimension.

Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..What Do You See if You Are Standing Next to God?

Nitya February 8, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Oh dear! What utter nonsense Evelyn Lim.

Positively Present May 11, 2009 at 8:54 am

Such an amazing post!! I was totally inspired by it and now I’m thinking about my life completely differently. I’ve heard of this concept before, but the way you wrote it was so amazing. I am impressed!!!

Positively Present’s last blog post..the power of adversity: a book review

Chania Girl May 11, 2009 at 9:11 am

Hi, David. I’m new to your blog but not to you: you’ve been popping up on all the sites I visit most often. :) Wanted to say I enjoyed reading this. Your analogy with film is very similar to my own personal analogy with literature and the stories we tell — either way, we are the protagonist in the tale that is our life, and it is a rich and fabulous tale. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post.

Chania Girl’s last blog post..Happiness 101

Nadia - Happy Lotus May 11, 2009 at 9:49 am

Hi David,

I have often felt that each one of us is in our own movie. We each have reasons for how we got to this moment. Each story is important and each story carries a lesson. That is one reason why I love to talk to people.

Life is full of so many options and we lose sight of that at times because so many people want life to be a set formula. All we have at any moment is the moment and it is up to us how to choose what to do with that moment. :)

Nadia – Happy Lotus’s last blog post..Happily Ever After?

David May 11, 2009 at 11:16 am

@ Jay:

But then you took that feeling, and extrapolated it, and turned it on it’s head, and showed us that life really IS a movie, and not only are we the protagonist, but we’re the audience, too.

This here is the most important part, I think. Real freedom, to me, comes when I’m watching myself live my life, rather than operating from a place of thinking about it. When I can sustain that “audience mode,” I find everything is beautiful, and I do what I need to do, almost automatically.

@ Lisis — No worries, I don’t know the ending. Nobody can ruin it for you like someone ruined Thelma & Louise for me all those years ago :)

@ Frances — Yeah, I have no evidence for it, but it really seems to me like there is a deliberate narrative behind our lives. Either way, I think it’s beneficial to look at it that way.

@ Laurie — Thanks Laurie, glad you enjoyed it.

@ Evelyn — Thanks Evelyn, I’ll take a look at your article.

@ Dani — I’m pleased you found such meaning in it. This perspective had definitely changed things for me, particularly when I find myself in trouble. Most of the time I’m no longer thinking “This should not be happening,” I’m just thinking, “Ok, now where to go from here…”

@ Chania Girl — Hey, welcome to Raptitude. It feels good to be the hero, doesn’t it?

@ Nadia — I think I am most grounded when I am maintaining the awareness that life is only lived from an inescapable first-person perspective. Every action is taken from here alone, not from some imaginary big picture. It really simplifies things when I’m not forgetting that.

Tim May 11, 2009 at 1:24 pm


Great post again! It reminds me of some lyrics that have always stuck with me from one of my favorite bands of the 80’s, the Fixx. In the song “Privilege,” they sing….”Draw attention to yourself, is your life a living hell? Change your act, re-write the script the way you planned it.” I guess that was the first time I ever heard about life being compared to a movie or tv show. Thanks for reminding us that things in our lives don’t just happen…they happen for a good reason.

Tim’s last blog post..Stop and Smell the Roses (or Tulips)

Ian | Quantum Learning May 12, 2009 at 6:08 am

Awe inspiring.

And what really blows my mind is that each of us are perfect supporting actors and extras in the stories of everyone else. With 6 billion parallel greatest stories – that’s a beautiful and perfect network of interconnections.

Just great!

Ian | Quantum Learning’s last blog post..How are you?

David May 12, 2009 at 6:14 am

@ Tim — Heh, I remember the Fixx. I’m going to go find that song on Blip.fm

@ Ian — All Oscar-worthy!

Josh Hanagarne May 12, 2009 at 7:31 am

In child development psychology, authorities have suggested a stage called the “imaginary audience.” It’s when preteens or teenagers start talking really loud so everyone can hear what they’re talking about. This is also why they can be moody or touchy or overly defensive – they’re figuring out how to get respect, and they can’t be shown up, even in front of the imaginary audience.

I’ve never been convinced that this stage ever ends. As long as I’m the star of my own show, I will hold out hope that I might be shown walking through the Supermarket on ET or Access Hollywood:)

Josh Hanagarne’s last blog post..10 Essential Strength Books: Part 4 – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching May 12, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for this post. When I think about seeing my life as a movie, I get flashes of the perspective I think a lot of spiritual teachers have suggested — that in my true nature I’m just a watcher of everything that occurs, as opposed to a particular form such as the body typing on the keyboard right now. This is said to be the road out of suffering — it’s an interesting perspective to explore.

David May 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm

@ Josh — Hehe… an “imaginary audience” sounds like the perfect explanation for teenage behavior. I guess it’s really just the emergence of an adult ego, the point where status and esteem tend to take over a person’s thoughts about themselves.

The Truman Show really sent me for a loop when I saw it.

@ Chris — Ah, you’ve nailed it Chris. That elusive natural state of calmly watching yourself live, think and do seems to be, in my experience, the God-state philosophers have been talking about all these centuries. If you’ve experienced that state with awareness of it, it actually feels holy and perfect, and leaves no doubt in my mind where all of these religious superlatives came from. I did not want to get explicit about it in this post — I’ll have much more to say about it in later posts — but that is the underlying message here.

Dawn May 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm

“It does not yet appear what we shall be”

Dawn’s last blog post..State of Mind

Evita May 12, 2009 at 6:21 pm

I completely agree! This is so beautifully written!

I love it to because it allows us to feel proud of and about ourselves. Because society instills in us this facade of “don’t be cocky or full of yourself or you have to be humble always, etc.” I think that makes a lot of people not give themselves enough credit.

I always say, wake up in the morning, stand in front of the mirror and say “I love you” and mean it! We all are indeed the greatest stars in our own stories – thank you!

David May 12, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Hey Evita, Welcome to Raptitude. It sure is a source of pride and romance in our lives to know that even the ugly bits are at least as meaningful equally unnerving parts in the greatest films. Thanks for the comment, hope to hear more from you.

Jared May 13, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Nice article, thanks.

Letting all the experiences in my life take me to where I’m supposed to be is an amazing thing. As a victim for many years I was simply a spectator of my own life-movie. Watching it unfold tragically from the outside. Ironically, the difference is that “then” I did think the world revolved around me and that I was the star of the show. Not realizing that everyone else was also the star of their own show and had tuned out of J.A.R.E.D.TV along time ago.

Even though my past had some tragedies, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I would not do anything differently. I had to do a million things wrong to get to exactly where I’m at today.

Jared’s last blog post..What Is Love to You?

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching May 13, 2009 at 2:33 pm

You may have been inspired by this quote already, but Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj had a vivid way of putting this: “I am like a cinema screen — clear and empty — the pictures pass over it and disappear, leaving it as clear and empty as before. In no way is the screen affected by the pictures, nor are the pictures affected by the screen. The screen intercepts and reflects the pictures, it does not shape them.”

David May 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm

@ Chris — No I hadn’t read that before. Right on, that exactly where I was coming from. I loved that, thanks Chris.

@ Jared —

Even though my past had some tragedies, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I would not do anything differently. I had to do a million things wrong to get to exactly where I’m at today.

That’s a very enlightened point of view. Where we are now is the sum of everything that has happened so far, not just the ‘good’ stuff. All my mistakes and disasters were necessary for me to be where I am. I like DAVID TV now :)

Ryan September 21, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Wow… I had stumbled upon your blog the other day and could not stop reading…I just couldn’t believe how much of what has been said resonates with me. After settling down a bit, I realized it’s because you’re doing what I’ve always wanted to do. Learn. Understand. Accept. Evolve and share insights with the rest of the world. I’m still struggling to do that. I have a blog that has yet to compose its first word. I have so much I want to share but for some reason they don’t make its way to the screen… Your blog serves as an inspiration because it exists and for the little clues throughout that may give me the answers to why I haven’t started my blog…among other things :)

David September 26, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Existence is my favorite quality in a blog :)

I remember when I started, I got all the technical bits out of the way with great enthusiasm, and then I had nothing to do but sit down and write… but nothing came out! You just have to get some words down.

Simon June 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Beautifully written David. And what an interesting perspective to view life in this way.

Aihall June 4, 2011 at 4:09 am

Wow, I love it. This is so true! Thanks for sharing it.

Carolyn February 29, 2012 at 12:09 am

I love your blog! I’ve been reading it every day for a while now. You should really be recognized for your talents! : )

Donnie Wayne Todd June 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm

This Is one of my favorites. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Cowbird yet. Its a great story telling site. From your writing, you probably would like a lot of the writing on there. There aren’t any ads there, either.


Gondoles August 11, 2012 at 12:33 am

this would be a very boring story. It would go like “our protagonist once again sits at a computer and reads blogs”

Neal August 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

“The difference between a happy ending and a sad one is in when we stop telling the story”

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