25 years ago, a friend told me that I should read the autobiographies of famous people to understand how they found their way to achieving great success.
I did not understand this advice. I didn’t appreciate the difference between autobiographies and cheap magazines that followed the life of the “rich and famous.”
I was wrong.
After I read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, I understood this advice. I have to admit that it was with quite a considerable delay until I discovered why it was so exciting to read books about people who had written their life stories on their own.
Autobiographers share what they learned from their journeys and life experiences, with the hope that it will inspire and help their readers. There’s probably some ego involved in the writing process, and when you read an autobiography, you may need to deal with that, with a gentle smile on your face: yes, sometimes what we do could be ego-driven.
Reading a story makes it easy to identify yourself in similar situations.
These are some of the things I wished I had discovered earlier:
how Benjamin Franklin designed a system to create good habits (based on a calendar where you mark your success which helps you reflect on what needs more focus or improvement),
how he discovered the ideal size of a group for a meaningful conversation (the answer is a maximum of 12 people), and
how he refused patents for one of his inventions because it was for “the good of the people.”
More importantly, what I learned from reading his autobiography was that he worked on himself first, and this work on himself had an impact on the world.