The Gift of Brag

I recently completed work on a client’s life story. We spoke for some eight hours, over many weeks, discussing nearly every aspect of his 86 years. Jerry was an incredibly interesting fellow with a wonderfully successful career. He rose to the highest rungs of a Fortune 500 company and secured global accolades, financial wealth, and lifelong friends.

After the first draft of our book was complete, my client asked one of those lifelong friends for her review.

Her critique surprised him: “You were too modest.”

Jerry, I should add, is not a modest man. He’s not timid or soft-spoken or reserved. Quite the opposite in fact. But, like most of us, he has a hard time bragging.

Our solution to the modesty problem was for me to interview another dozen-plus people in Jerry’s life – friends, colleagues, family. People who would speak honestly about my client without concern of appearing boastful. And very quickly our book changed. Accomplishments that Jerry had mentioned in passing were highlighted again and again in superlative words. Yes, Jerry had acknowledged his success in business to me. But I had no idea how immense his success was. He had transformed industries, transformed lives. Jerry had kept those details to himself.

None of us wants to appear arrogant and Jerry was no exception. But his ultimate goal in writing the book was to share the truth of his journey. And it was only with the addition of other voices, perspectives, and stories that Jerry’s book became wholly authentic.

When you write your memoirs, be sure to tell the truth. Not a watered-down truth or a polite truth, but the full “hey Ma, look at me!” truth. Ask your life story professional to interview those close to you. Or if you’re writing your own autobiography, ask yourself this: What would my friends/family/colleagues say about me? Attribute the most complimentary comments to them if that feels more comfortable.

Yes, there’s a time to be modest, but this isn’t it. You owe your readers, and yourself, the full story. If just this once, brag. Please let me know if you’d like my help in doing so.