(About a 3 minute read)
About four years ago, I did something I had always told myself I would not do. I began an autobiography.
It happened when my Egyptian friend, Badran, who is so like me in temperament that we might as well have had the same parents, began asking me an unusual number of insightful questions about myself. Naturally, I was flattered, but his questions did more than merely flatter me.
Now I’ve always told myself my life is kind of boring, but that the people I’ve met and come to know have been unusually interesting. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that.
But Badran’s questions were so insightful they got me looking at my life in new ways. Eventually, Badran lost interest in his project when he discovered himself in love with Lyn, who in some key ways is a solid candidate for the world’s most accomplished twenty-something.
Lyn was homeless from the ages of four to seven. Her mother, however, was a well-educated, if unstable and mentally ill, woman and she did everything she could to make certain her daughter had as good of an education as possible under the circumstances. She made sure Lyn was enrolled in whatever school was nearby, took her to museums and libraries, told her true stories from history, and facts from the sciences each night — bedtime stories and facts.
Today, Lyn is a rapidly rising engineer/manager with a master’s degree and a lucrative financial advice business on the side. She’s already sold her first business that she built from scratch, and she has a blog here connected to her second business. I recommend you check out her blog if you are searching for financial advice based on solid equity research and sound investment strategies. Lyn is simply a phenomenal expert in those fields.
She’s also one of the kindest, most intelligent, and considerate people I’ve had the luck and honor to know (In that, she’s a lot like Badran himself — although he doesn’t know it, so don’t tell him!). And — full disclaimer here — we two are distant relatives, sharing the same ancestor who came to America in the 1620s.
So Badran fell in love with Lyn and asked my advice: “I’ve no chances with her, Paul, she’s so far above me in everything. But I’m dying without her. I no longer even care for my harem of fine racing she-camels. That’s how bad your friend Badran is smitten! What do I do?”
To which I replied, “You court her you fool! Sure, you’ll crash and you’ll burn. But unless you give all to woo Lyn, you’ll never forgive yourself for not having given it a try.”
Badran took the advice and ran with it, and — to the astonishment of both of us — Lyn happily consented! The two now live on the East Coast together.
Meanwhile, I was discovering some explanations for things about my life that I’d never been able to explain before. So I kept at it, writing my autobiography. Only there was a new twist to it for me.
After Badran lost interest, I began writing so honestly about my life that I soon realized I’d never have the guts to publish it. Never. Nor even to show it to anyone else — although I have thought of passing it on to Teresums, but only after I die. She’s become something like an annoying niece to me.
Anyway, that honesty turned out to be key, because all of a sudden patterns emerged that I had not known existed, familiar facts took on new, strange, unexpected importance, and I learned things about myself and my life I could not have imagined just months before.
In fact, the experience was so enlightening and useful, that I am now prepared to advocate to anyone who has courage and honesty for it, to do the same. Write a secret autobiography so honest that you will never publish it, never show it.
“Know yourself!”, Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, this is one way you can go about knowing yourself.