Why I Love Reading Biographies

All books have wisdom, but biographies are case studies in resilience and believing in yourself

I should read a lot more biographies. I’m never disappointed when I do, and I always extract so much wisdom from them.

I’ve been thinking about why that is.

I think it’s because good biographies of interesting people tend to highlight both insights and failures. They let us benefit from where others did something well or badly.

Biographies let us learn from other people’s mistakes.

It’s almost like biographies extend our own lives. In terms of experience.

Of course all reading does that to some extent. But biographies are magnified versions of that. We’re literally watching someone grind and struggle and fail and get knocked down. And then get back up. And then try some more. And (usually) get some measure of success. Which is why there’s a book about them.

The biography superpower

To me the best insight I get from biographies is seeing the main character get crushed. That sounds bad, but it’s not. A biography is a zoomed-out timeline, where we can move left or right along it and learn the lessons.

So when I see someone got crushed as a kid. Or in college. Or at their first or fifth job. It teaches me resilience. Because then later in the book/timeline/story you find out they kept pushing. Or maybe they eventually got lucky.

Doesn’t matter.

Biographies remind us that all great people experienced that feeling of suck you’re feeling right now, or that you’ve felt before. And often times much worse. And they pushed through it.

What didn’t happen in any of these books is that the main character gave up. And after they gave up, success came to them and got them out of bed. That never happens. Or almost never.

What happens is the person keeps grinding. They keep being them. They keep failing. Falling down. Being called a failure. Being shit on. Being thought less of. And they eventually win.

That’s what I get from biographies. They’re like real-world pep-talks. They’re case studies in Stoicism. They’re case studies in resilience. They’re case studies in believing in yourself.

Read more biographies.

P.S.: Also, I just finished the Elon one. It wasn’t all that positive towards Elon, and don’t believe people who tell you it was if they haven’t read it. I thought it was quite balanced, and there was a lot of negative in there.