This life story question is almost a game: tell us something about you that most people don’t know. It’s been done in interviews with a celebrities (Vogue’s 73 Questions) or as conversation starters at a wedding. It’s a fun way to start dinner table conversation. Quick Answers, nothing in depth.
Yet, when you’d like to start recording life stories – either written or audio – sometimes people get stuck when talking about themselves. They roadblock the opportunity in documenting their legacy, thinking they haven’t accomplished much of importance or what they have to say doesn’t matter. It’s much easier to talk about other beloved family members. Other times it can be easier to talk about crisis, because it’s such an emotional topic.
You, however, are a big part of your family history and your story matters.
A writing tactic I like to try with families is to list 25 things about yourself that most people don’t know. These can be major or minor items. You can focus on your career, personal issues, tastes, medical or fitness milestones, habits, desires, goals, or anything, really.
I tried this once, listing 50 statements about myself for my (gulp) birthday. When it was finished, I let the list sit for awhile before I expanded the list to write my ethical will. This is a written statement where you share values, beliefs, and life lessons with the next generation. It’s a love letter that’s meant to be read.
Ethical wills are not the same as a last will and testament and I purposely wrote an addendum at the end of my ethical will that if anything I wrote contradicts my last will and testament that my legal document stands. (I say this because I’m a firm believer that legal documents should be reviewed annually.)
After surviving COVID-19 earlier this year, I decided to update my ethical will and create a small book with some of my favorite landscape photography to store with my legal documents. I may even do an audio recording of myself reading it. They’ll be shared with my children when the youngest is an adult.
Over the years I’ve been a passionate proponent of ethical wills, because they can be used in many ways, but, most importantly, they say I love you. That’s what your family wants to hear.
In writing a list of things about yourself that most people do not know you’re likely to evolve into beliefs, values and lessons. Start with 15 to 25 bullet points and then expand the list. Now you’ve got an outline.
Talk about some things that most people don’t fully know about you. Enjoy getting to know yourself more fully.