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Learning from Biographies

by Ron Kurtus (updated 19 January 2022)

Although reading about the lives of famous people can be interesting and entertaining, a major purpose to study biographies is to learn from their lives. Perhaps, you can apply their experiences to your own. You may also be inspired to do strive for greatness yourself.

When you study the lives of great people, you can learn much more than a listing of facts of what they have done. You can get an idea of what motivated the person to succeed, what talents and skills were used, as well as what mistakes were made.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Study life achievements

When you look at the whole life of a famous or influential person, you can see how he or she developed into someone great. You can see the successes and failures and examine the summary of achievements.

Looking at what the person did at different ages, you can examine your own life and consider what you have done or can do. It is also interesting to see how the person grows and develops, and how the person handles later success and fame. These are lessons to learn and apply to your own life.

Look at personality traits

Certainly, many great people were born with special talents. Some were also raised in talented, wealthy or influential families that helped them develop their talents.

But also many of them developed skills and methods to study that helped them succeed. Also, they had personality traits that were both inborn and learned.

You can't do anything about what you were given at birth, such as certain abilities, tendencies and traits, but you can develop work habits and enthusiasm that will make the best of the abilities you have.

Biographies of famous people can also be interesting, because they often show the traits and characteristics necessary for greatness. Most successful people were obviously very smart as well as interested in their fields. The methods they used can be inspiring and applied by all of us. Some of the stories are also fascinating.

Consider outside influences

In the history of achievement, it is often interesting to see how the thought process was influenced by outside forces, such as politics, religion, economics, and war. Great people often were called to action by some major crisis. Others came forward to satisfy some great need or to solve a major problem.

The very good Public Broadcasting System (PBS) series, called Connections, shows how various forces influenced science and inventions. The same author has been publishing his Connections articles in Scientific American.


It is interesting and worthwhile to study the biographies of great people and even not-so-great people. The stories can give you insight on what characteristics, traits and environment influenced these people to make their discoveries or achievements. Biographies can show methods to use to achieve greatness, and can inspire you to do better.

Learn from the achievements of others

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Learning from Biographies

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