This post will be an opinion piece and a reflection of my experiences reading biographies.
Biographies, especially well written ones by authors who try to be as objective as humanly possible such as Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow or Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts gives you insights into the lives of these icons. Most important they show you that these icons no matter how awesome their accomplishments or powerful they become, they are still human. They show you that these icons had to persevere. Finally they help empower you and give you direction.
My favorite biography so far is Napoleon: A Life, Napoleon had been an idol of mine since world history class in high school. I’ve always admired his strategic skills and charisma and I envied his meteoric rise to power. At the time however, I didn’t image that Napoleon was a human being – rather I thought that his abilities and achieves were natural or luck.
It wasn’t until I read his biography that I realized how man he was. He suffered from many insecurities throughout his life stemming from the fact that he grew up an impoverished nobleman. His lack of a prestigious name meant that he was never first in line for promotions. As a young man, he was lost (like most youngsters out of college) and didn’t even have a straight career path, in fact he was considering leaving the military for a career as a novelist.
The biography, showed me that Napoleon persevered. He never allowed his lack of money or prestige get the best of him. He worked hard at his job, worked hard on improving himself and went looking for opportunities when opportunities were not knocking on his door.
The biography, showed me that Napoleons skills and charm were not natural. If I hadn’t read Napoleon: A Life, I would have never known that Napoleon was a voracious reader who would spend his food budget on books. The man would rather skip a meal then skip and opportunity to self improve. This fact was very empowering – it showed me that these skills and abilities that I so admired can be learned as long as I was willing to put in the time and effort.
So in closing, I believe that biographies help change you life because they show you that high achievement is in fact possible. By making these icons human, their inhuman feats suddenly become human, and thus very empowering.
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Image was taking from Wikimedia Commons: Here