Autobiographies are powerful, inspirational stories.
People who get around to writing their autobiography have a message to share and that message is usually interesting and insightful. They are truly inspirational books, and because the language comes straight from the individual, autobiographies are much more powerful books than most other books, even what I consider good books.
Autobiographies can shape your mind and make you more flexible.
There is truth in autobiographies and it is so much easier to tune in with the thoughts and feelings of the author through their autobiography. The language used opens the mind to understanding why the author took specific actions and achieved their successes. So scroll down and grab some inspiration direct from the pen (or keyboard) of someone who lived it.
Get into the head of the dead*.
One of the most powerful ways to achieve success is by modeling successful people. It has been shown that there are mirror neurons which are neurons which mirror someone else’s experience in your own brain even at a distance. This is a key reason why we learn so well from watching someone doing something and why we feel funny when we see a spider crawling up someone else’s arm. Through direct language, you are better able to model success and avoid pitfalls. This is really making the teacher appear by taking positive (but enjoyable) action.
What is an Autobiography?
Biography Definition: A biography is a book about someone’s life story written by a 3rd party author.
Auto-biography Definition and Meaning: An autobiography is a book about someone’s life story written by the person themselves. IE. The person who was there, lived it, felt the pain and the joy, did the hard yards and experienced the successes.
Biography Vs Autobiography – There is no contest.
Reading Biographies are for those interested in light entertainment or history. There is nothing wrong with reading a biography, but it is much harder to gain a new perspective on life through the filters of a biographer. Biographers are often just looking to write a good book, and that’s what you get. That said, biographies are fine if you are either
- Really bored and have nothing else to read
- Want to study the biographer themselves (eg serial biographers) and their writing style
- Really passionate about a particular time in history and are looking to build deep knowledge.
Autobiographies however let you think, feel, act and experience as the author through their first-hand narration of their own powerful life story. They contain more meaning – Autobiographies contain thoughts, emotions, actions and experiences which is a ladder to success. I believe that as you read an autobiography, you get closer to the authorand the way they think, so it gives you flexibility of thought. Flexibility is a cornerstone of solving problems, and solving problems is a key to personal fulfillment.
Leave the biography on the shelf, autobiographies are the way to go.
How to Find the Best Autobiography for Yourself.
I’m pretty ruthless. I really only read inspirational autobiographies from people who have achieved something great in their lives in areas that I am interested in. Before I pick it up, I ask myself …
What inspires me about this person?
The best way to find a good autobiography is to head over to the Amazon, search for “autobiography” then refine either on rating or a subject you are interested in. It’s easier on Amazon, because you can see the author right on the search page. If you search on the internet, there are lot of people who confuse auto-biography with biography, so you end up wasting a time only to end up in the wrong head!
Click to Amazon and start your search: Amazon Memoirs (Hint: Add a keyword like ‘autobiography’, ‘music’, ‘success’ etc.)
If in doubt when choosing, choose the more famous autobiography or the one with the best rating. People become popular or famous for a reason.
How to Read an Autobiography
The key is to read an autobiography with an open mind. Don’t let your own perceptions of the person block you from seeing why they were successful in what they did. EG. You might think that someone was naturally tallented, but they may have had massive perseverance like Michael Jordan (see below) that allowed them to break through . Allow yourself to see the hidden clues in their thoughts, decisions and language. They are a teacher with experience who has demonstrated success.
A bit of fun: Since you are clearly a person of insight and value to the world, think of how you might write your own autobiography when it is the right time. Each has their own writing style, and taking note may just come in handy one day.
My Favorite Autobiographies
Mahatma Gandhi Autobiography
I’m inspired by Gandhi’s determination and his ability to think in terms of what is critical for individuals right now and at the same time, for countries over decades. I bought this when I visited his house in Mumbai (now a museum), so it has special meaning for me.
David Attenborough Autobiography
David Attenborough is inspiring for adults and children alike with his deep knowledge and interest in all living things as well as his ability to shift his thoughts to understand life and what drives life and life forms through the process of evolution. David Attenborough Life on Air is an easy and pleasurable read, and he has several other memoir style books to go on with after.
Listen to Malcolm X’s speeches and you know if this is for you. Integrity like no other.
James Herriot Autobiographical stories
What Inspires me about James Herriot is his modesty, compassion and humor. Oh to have the skill to relate tales that make people laugh and cry.
Donald Rumsfeld Autobiography
Donald Rumsfeld initially inspired me with how quick he is on his feet, but reading his book, you realize that there is a huge amount of experience and planning which goes into making him what he is. P.S. The first few years of The West Wing also shows this often un-seen side of political dedication.
Abraham Lincoln Autobiography
It is Abraham Lincoln’s Speeches and Letters that I admire most, but although his autobiography is short, you still get a feeling for the man and the thought that he put into the issues of the time. This is also online for free here.
Mark Twain Autobiography
I admire Mark Twain’s pace in his writing, as well as his wit. His auto-biography starts:
“I speak from the grave rather than with my living tongue for a good reason: I can speak thence freely”
Actually it’s a little into the book, but that’s really getting into the head of the dead. Many of his works feel semi-autobiographical in nature and many can be also be found online here because they are out of copyright. I did find a couple of issues when I checked it out his Burlesque Autobiography which I hadn’t heard of before, but good, free reading anyway.
Michael Jordan Autobiography
For the Love of the Game : My Story
Michael Jordan is inspiring because of his perseverance. Most people practice enough to be good, a few people practice enough to be among the best, but Michael Jordan perseveres until he can not fail to be the best.
Andrew Carnegie Autobiography
Andrew Carnegie was hugely successful in business and at the same time had a deep interest in human purpose and success principals. He worked with Napoleon Hill to produce the masterpiece in success planning- Think and Grow Rich. Anyone interested in Personal Development won’t go wrong reading his autobiography.
Paramhansa Yogananda Autobiography
Autobiography of a Yogi (Reprint of the Philosophical library 1946 First Edition)
I read this when I started researching this article double checking that my approach for finding a good autobiography. This is a super popular autobiography and I can see why. From the start, Paramhansa Yogananda drew me into a world view different from my own and challenged me to think differently about what is really important right now and what is possible vs my imagined future. As with all autobiographies, best read with an open mind.
Where to from here…
Your teachers may appear through insights you have while reading, or they may appear because you become inspired and speak inspiringly with other people who then become your teachers.
* Apologies to the great autobiographers who are not dead. This is just poetic licence. If you have written your autobiography, consider writing your last chapter on your death bed with awesome clarity and perspective.