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Monday, September 3, 2012

Biographies: From Steve Jobs to My Grandmother

In a class I took about biography writing I heard my talented teacher Jim Ruland explain that the bottom line in writing any biographical or autobiographical material was that it had to pass the "Who cares?!" test of the reader.

I was impressed, and started to apply this "test" to my own little and big life questions, with me being my own audience. This made decisions often easier for me. It also got me to thinking that biographies are happening all the time. It is kind of a "starting with the end in mind" approach.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with people and the decisions they made in their lives or what they make of things that happened to them, when stripped of the decision. Of course, one can learn a lot from reading the biographies of famous people. After all, they got famous for a reason. But I find the life stories of family members just as rich and inspiring. Plus, they left a little bit of them through me on this world. That fact makes their story somewhat more relatable to me, maybe also a little more interesting.

The thing about fascination is that it usually tells us something about ourselves. The relation to our own being, our own personality makes things fascinating for us. In that respect we are quite self-centered. Otherwise, how could we decide one thing from another, with many many things out there? It would be overwhelming and all the same, bland, boring and too much. Fascination brings us closer to our own talents and meaning of life.

So, what kind of people do you find fascinating? Is there a theme? Later we can ask where this theme shows up in our own life, and how we could incorporate more of it. It is a wonderful distilling process, and it works like a charm. Sometimes it takes the assistance of a life coach in order to find the theme and to go towards it. It always makes life more fulfilling and enriched, it always leaves me in awe.

Sometimes, reading biographies is simply entertaining, relaxing, interesting; without any noticeable connection to ourselves. That is fine as well. Usually, a true life theme shows up more than once, in various forms. Reading one interesting biography does not bear any significance for our own life, yet. It is when we find the same topic in movies, stories, etc., and it still fascinates, moves, highly interests us that we can assume a relevance for our own life path.

It is wonderful when we figure a new piece to our own truth out. It seems to show up when we are ready to tackle it, to learn about it (and us with it) and play with it. I find biographies to be one of the most direct ways to get to know yet unknown corners of our own personality and psyche.