How I learned when authoring my own story, that it’s important to know yourself before you change yourself.
Writing your memoir is like getting a guided tour of your life by the Ghost of Christmas Past with a human behavior expert (or in some cases a ghostwriter) tagging along for good measure. As each chapter of your book reveals its secrets, you get the instant replay, the moral of the story, and as a bonus, a lesson you can use today – all in one.
Writing your own life story is a process of constant inner discovery. One of the discoveries I made surprised me, especially as a person who helps others author their stories for a living. As it turns out, I’ve had a pattern of allowing others to co-author my life. At various times, I’ve (quite unfairly) asked the people around me – “Who am I? Who should I be? Where should I go next?” (As if they could possibly know!) I help up a mirror to my identity and invited others to stand in that mirror alongside me, tell me what they saw, and as my co-authors, suggest what I should do about it.
As a result of the memoir writing process, I have seen this pattern in many chapters of my life, from early childhood to as recently as a couple of years ago as a business owner.
In college, driving to a party, following behind a friend in her car, I turned left into oncoming traffic because I assumed she must know what she was doing (and clearly she’d be watching out for us both). Crash. During my Hollywood years in my twenties I turned the desire to make friends into a naive trusting of everything those friends did. Burn. In business, I turned elevating “experts” into an art form, assuming that even the least qualified of them must know more than I did. Ouch.
What I found was that I had taken the popular notions, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and “be coachable” to a place not of learning and growing, but to one of personal weakness and powerlessness. I believe everyone must naturally know more than me – about everything.
One of the perks of writing a memoir, however, is that you get a “take two” on patterns like this. When you spot these patterns, you can shift them and then, hopefully you’ll share your takeaways with others so they can do the same in their own lives.
If you can relate to any of this, on any level, here’s a question for you to consider: What if you invested the time spent seeking validation and direction from others, into getting to know yourself and all your capabilities? What if you could answer the questions that you’ve been constantly asking other people – yourself?
I’m not telling you to turn your back on all potential knowledge, coaching, and learning outside of yourself. What I’m suggesting is more of a perspective shift – an embracing of the notion that you might possibly know more than you think you do. You might already have everything you need to be the sole author of your life story, without checking in with others at every chapter.
Once you believe this, then you’ll be able to take an honest look for any actual gaps in knowledge and skills that need to be filled. But if, like me, you’ve been believing that others always know more than you do, that gap will never be filled.
Live your story like you own it. Then write it down for others to learn from.
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