Why You Need A Personal Archive And How To Start One

Matt Zeigler is a Managing Director and Private Wealth Advisor with Sunpointe Investments, and he’

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  1. This post resonates with me. When me and my husband first moved into our house we very quickly repurposed the formal dining room to a “library”,defined as a room with no screens, comfy seating and one entire wall entirely dedicated to book shelves. For someone who has moved countries a few more times than most people, I tend to arrive with a lot of books. I don’t keep all books I read but those I keep mean something to me and who I am. More than once I have thought that if something were to happen to me, my book shelves are where my still young children would need to look to understand who I was. My day-job would certainly provide few answers… and while my husband loves me (and I him!) with the type of fierce loyalty that I think we should all aspire to, I think he would agree when I say that he doesn’t necessarily always understand what goes on in my head on a daily basis… We are not so much soul mates, cut from the same cloth etc. as we are genuine appreciators of each other’s very different backgrounds, personalities and ideas about the world. Of the other person’s sheer difference from ourselves. And while this works well in our marriage, I am not sure it renders any one of us very good at “explaining” the other’s “essence” to the rest of the world… So, the library is probably still my best bet for that.

    A personal archive is of course an even better idea. A place to add some color to the collections of words and ideas that would otherwise be quite inaccessible, like one of those abstract art jigsaws that you might be able to “solve” but it will not necessarily make sense - even post-assembly.

    Writing is of course the solution. Writing a journal never came naturally to me, I just can’t do it. But writing does. About…anything at all. I have experimented with many different formats, non-fiction being my natural go-to. It helps digest ideas and order my thoughts.

    But when I write with the purpose of “connecting with the world” like you write about in this note, more and more I go for fiction, to make the best possible use of the power of narrative to carry ideas. It seems the most effective use of my time, mostly short stories, or fable/fairy tales. Perhaps one day my kids can use them to better get to know me.

    A personal archive of any kind is a great concept. I think it can be the “tethering” to our world that so many of us seem to lack. Thanks Matt.


  2. This note and Em’s comments resonate with me as well. My personal library is not large, but if I highly value a book I’ll search for an original first edition, preferably first printing to add to the shelves. On a few occasions I have even spent over a $1000 USD to obtain a volume. My wonderful wife of 32 years and I are a fantastic team, strong similarities in some ways and vast differences in others, I commonly joke that when we work together we have one high-functioning brain to share between us!
    I also view my library as a legacy, something for our two sons to wonder at as they scroll through the books wondering why they hadn’t done so before the old man passed on.
    Now to the personal, searchable archive. Sounds like a lot of work, but a cool idea, hmmm……

    Maybe the ET FORUM could accomplish this! It has a good search engine (try it and see), and all posts are within the context of ideas relating to the ideas of others. There’s so much good content that going back to review/refresh can reveal fresh thoughts, the seeds for which were placed subsequent to that initial post by reading the thoughts of others.

    Kudos to Ben and Rusty for starting all this.

  3. tethering is a beautiful word for it Em. I think the realization I’ve had is we need a place that captures our feelings, emotions, and behaviors (both executed and inspired) by the content in our libraries or just the experiences of life. A practice to write it down - it can be a connection for the kids, or a more grounded way to help spouses talk (“essence” talking is essential talking!), or a place to pull from when interacting in a forum like this. Thanks so much for your response and especially the layers you added with your library’s purpose.

  4. the library can be a physical legacy, but where’s the spiritual legacy to go along with it? No doubt you’ve already made amazing impressions, and I know the feeling of “one high-functioning brain” - that’s an incredible feat, but what if you captured a little more of you to help curate it? What if it was as searchable as this forum (which is pretty nuts how good this is)?

    @RobMann and @Em_Lofgren I can only imagine what your archives would hold.

  5. Avatar for KCP KCP says:

    I joined a networking group after i ditched my 30 year career.

    That 30 year career was my life (or a big part of it).

    To join they had me do an exercise - write about every job i had, the good, bad ugly, what i loved, feared, unique situations i recalled and why…no bullet points - a short story. Each story should take a few hours to write.

    I had 13 different leadership roles in different sub-businesses, geographies - the first short story took me 4 hours. I couldn’t believe all that came back to memory, meetings, customer phone numbers, drives, deal closings from a phone on United (old days back of the plane).

    I had a library of memorable documents and pored through them,…the 13 roles took me a few weeks - it was exhausting but the best exercise i had ever completed. Huge learnings/takeways of myself.

    And i thought, why am i just learning to do this at age 50+? Why wouldn’t one do this every year - to sort of process, digest reflect on life?

    So i have my kids do it they write their story and i’m not surprised at their reflections of realizing that they didn’t realize at the time all they learned or what they experienced.

    Highly recommend this practice - at any age!

  6. Yes, that’s a different thing, and comes from regular face to face personal engagement with conversations that are remarkably open. I now view these two young men aged 29 & 31 as peers of sorts, and have told them that.
    So when you say “spiritual legacy” perhaps that requires less ambiguity and a clear definition? My definition is a deep bond and connection between them and their parents that is maintained in the present and produces permanent memories. In our case it doesn’t refer to an organized religion.

  7. Such a great read and reminder to me that a life of constant consumption and no reflection is ultimately dry, boring and stale. When I take the time to write down MY OWN thoughts about subjects, they take on a new life and help to counteract my own defensive pessimism about the world at large.

    I’ve found a couple of tools that can be quite useful in connecting personal observations: Obsidian and Roam Research. I know the point of this is not to get into the “how” of a personal archive, but for those still searching for the tool, know that there are hundreds of applications out there for use.

    Thanks for writing this Matt!

  8. What an amazing gift of process to pass down. These life-chapter reflections, it’s amazing how much they help you move forward too. Where did you or do you store these @KCP?

  9. “build your corpus now” is a friggin’ battle cry. Well said @drewmmeister. Not just to beat the senior moment shoddy search capabilities (although that helps too!), but to have a body of work. Been thinking about the legacy portion of this a lot, and seeing how many others are too, it’s inspiring.

    Never forget Walt Whitman’s first edition of Leaves of Grass had 12 poems. The “deathbed” version has 400. Same title, evolving book - that’s how you build that corpus.

  10. isn’t it wild how much looking in helps us look out? Well said @Bdm1977 - thanks for the suggestions on Obsidian and Roam too (I think everybody needs to figure out which ones work for them, but it’s really useful to know there are a ton of options for those of us who are serious about this).

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