These days we see many travel influencers and travel blogs and you might have come across a saying - “don’t run after materialistic objects, run after experience”. Do you know what a company like Starbucks sells? “It sells an experience”. There is no alternative to experiences. If you are traveling, or if you are having coffee at Starbucks, you are getting first-hand experience.
But, if you lack firsthand experience, the next best thing is to learn from the experiences of others, and that comes through reading autobiographies.
Autobiographies are like a window into the soul. Autobiographies offer readers a unique glimpse into the life and experiences of the author. From the highs to the lows, the successes to the struggles, people whose lives have been transformed—for better or worse—these books provide a first-hand account of a person's life, thoughts, and emotions. This is the closest you can get to the person (obviously if you are not a part of their family/friends).
As Richard Branson says, “I read everything, but generally more fact than fiction — especially autobiographies and biographies. I’ve read ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ by Nelson Mandela at least twice on holiday. Every time, I’m totally awed by his vision, strength, and forgiveness.”
1. My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future by Indra Nooyi
In the book My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future, Indra Nooyi discusses the events that molded her life, from her childhood and early education in 1960s India to her study at Yale School of Management. It provides a personal view of Nooyi's career, her rise as a corporate consultant & strategist, her time at PepsiCo, and the aftermath and the sacrifices she had to make throughout her career.
My Life in Full also offers insights into Nooyi's leadership style and her approach to business. She talks about the challenges she faced as a woman and a person of color in the corporate world and shares her strategies for overcoming those obstacles.
It's an inspiring book written from the heart with a lot of honesty. The author properly addresses the two most crucial issues that autobiographies readers want answers to: where did the protagonist begin and how did she rise to the top? And the book also offers valuable lessons for anyone looking to succeed in both their personal and professional lives.
2. Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Long Walk to Freedom is an autobiography written by Nelson Mandela, a renowned anti-apartheid activist, and a national icon of South Africa. In this book, Mandela recounts his life story, beginning with his early childhood in the rural areas of South Africa, his struggles against the apartheid system that segregated and oppressed the black population, and the battle for black liberation in South Africa.
Mandela shares his experiences of 27 years of prison life and the challenges he faced upon his release, including negotiating the end of apartheid and becoming the first black president of South Africa. The book provides a detailed account of Mandela's life, his values, and his contributions to the struggle against apartheid, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the fight for freedom and justice.
“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”
3. Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
Unlike many celebrity autobiographies, Agassi's autobiography impacts the reader on a different level. You get to know him on a very personal level and you discover that he, like most of us, is a complicated individual.
His rise to success did not come without a cost. Agassi's father forced him to start playing tennis at a young age. He demanded that Andre hit over 2,500 balls every day and a million balls each year. Agassi grew to hate the sport, but he continued to play until he was in his mid-thirties, when he no longer required the money.
His life is a contradiction. He despises tennis, as he expresses frequently throughout the book, but his identity is inextricably linked to the game. Agassi's vulnerability was both refreshing and empowering to me.
“Life will throw everything but the kitchen sinks in your path, and then it will throw the kitchen sink. It's your job to avoid obstacles. If you let them stop you or distract you, you're not doing your job, and failing to do your job will cause regrets that paralyze you more than a bad back.”
4. Becoming by Michelle Obama
Becoming is Michelle Obama's memoir as former First Lady of the United States. The book dives deeply into her upbringing, how it influenced her future life, and how Michelle discovered her voice. The book is divided into three sections (Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More), and it takes us through her youth in Chicago, her connection with Barack, and their time in the White House.
The autobiography also gives the readers an inside look into the White House and what it's like to conduct a high-impact public health campaign while being a mother. Michelle Obama described writing the book as a "deeply personal experience" because it covered a wide range of her experiences.
5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This autobiography, one of the most famous books on the Holocaust, is a collection of writings from Anne Frank's diary, which she wrote during the two years she was in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
Frank reveals sensitive details about her family, crushes on guys, religion, and the tragic impacts of the war in her daily letters. In light of her sad death at the age of 15 in a Nazi concentration camp, what makes this book so amazing is Anne's ability to remain hopeful about the goodness of humanity despite the agony her family faced. The Diary of a Young Girl, which was almost never published, is now considered a must-read for both students and adults.
Autobiographies hold the key to success / “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” _Maya Angelou
Reading autobiographies allows you to see things from a different perspective. The knowledge and skills gained through reading autobiographies can save you years of hard work. They can teach you that to get to the top you will have to fail first.
Phil Knight author of ‘Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike’ once said that life is all about growth. You either grow or die. Books will teach you a lot that will actually help you to grow faster. So pick your next book carefully. And, while you read, try to take notes on experiences, lessons, habits, routines, and smart decision-making processes that you can implement in your own life. Always remember to get out there and live your life boldly. Implement the lessons that work for you and keep practicing what promotes your personal growth or professional success.