Why an autobiography can teach you about yourself
What makes a great autobiography? Is it the narrator’s “voice”, the fact that the writing is more personal or the engaging style? What’s your favourite type of book to read? If you’ve answered that question with “I don’t read books” you get no marks, and we’ll have words later. Hang your head in shame and think about the direction you want your life to take.
For anyone else, though, it’s a bit of a trick question, as there’s something great to be found in all genres of writing. Literary fiction can get us in touch with the eternal archetypes and truths that underpin the basic psychology of the human experience. History books can teach us about the social and political developments of different corners of the world. Books on personal finance can help to keep us in the black, as an alternative to taking loans from online services, and so on.
But for all that, there’s a real argument to be made that autobiographies are one of the most important types of book for you to be reading, as they can actually teach you a lot about yourself – including your hidden dreams and desires. Sceptical? Well, keep reading, and you may just be convinced.
Autobiographies give you a blueprint to follow
When reading autobiographies from successful or hyper-productive people — particularly if they worked in fields or preoccupied themselves with areas of life which we specialise in — we don’t just get a set of interesting stories or anecdotes to reflect on and enjoy. We actually get blueprints for success.
While the specific requirements of different jobs and industries can, and do, change over time, it’s also the case that some of the personality traits and patterns of behaviour that helped establish success in the past will be the same that help us to be successful in the present.
Reading about the lives of the super-successful gives us a rare opportunity to mine for those gems and nuggets of wisdom that helped them get to the top in the first place.
Autobiographical works make you realise the true depth of your potential
A pattern in many of the most interesting and exciting autobiographies, is a humble beginning, followed by grit, resolve, self-belief, and incredible life experiences. Many of history’s most renowned people — whether successful figures in business, celebrities, sports heroes, or great explorers — overcame apparently monumental odds, dealt with failure after failure with a stiff upper lip, and managed to rise to dizzying heights.
In life, it can sometimes be tempting to adopt a victim mentality and look for excuses as to why we can’t achieve the things we’d most like to. Reading autobiographies can help us to realise the true depth of our potential.
An autobiography can give you an idea of what ‘not’ to do
While autobiographies can help us to identify things that we should do, they can also help us to identify those things that we should not do.
In some instances, such as when reading about the lives of criminals, it’ll be easy to identify behaviours that caused negative consequences. Even when reading about the lives of successful, law-abiding people, however, we’ll frequently see glimpses of moments when egotism got the upper hand and caused a crisis.
Learn from other people’s mistakes, so you don’t have to make them on your own.