Just as we are keepers of memories, we are keepers of lessons learned. That’s not to say that others can simply read about our experiences and avoid their own lessons. But we do learn from one another’s stories, especially stories that are very similar to our own. As you write about the times that you were “schooled,” your loved ones will be able to relate to you, whether they are relating to you because they recognize part of their own lives in your memories or because they are learning something new about you.
Writing about lessons learned will often give your loved ones more than insight into how you became the person you are. It might just give them a good laugh. It can even be entertaining to frame everyday bloopers from a lesson learned perspective.
Lesson learned reports
If you come from the business world, you might be familiar with a “Lesson Learned Report.” These reports tend to start with “lessons” gleaned to simple operationally defined problems, concluding with advantages of the lesson learned or outcomes that will be avoided.
Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life outlines some techniques for applying a lesson leearned report. Not to give too much away, but you can see a similar technique in “Scientific Method to his Madness?“)
If you’d like to present your lesson learned in a comedic light, it’s good to leave a surprise for the reader at the end. Tell of the day the kids made a huge mess and you cleaned up only to find that meanwhile your little one was covering himself with stickers and making himself a chocolate milkshake without the milk, ice-cream or shake. (Example: “Romantic Doggie Bag“)
Let your readers fill in the details
Sometimes very succinct summaries of comedic lessons learned can also work very well, such as “John quickly learned that mom freaks out when he uses the square stickers with the US flag on them to decorate his bicycle.” Your readers won’t need all the facts to get the humor of “The silver lining of accidentally leaving your sun-roof partially open is that the cup-holders function nicely as rain-gauges. (You can even make a list of these to include in your holiday letter)
Serious Life Lessons
If the lesson you learned is not at all funny or you’d prefer to present it in a more serious light, simply write from the heart. Share what you’ve learned and why it matters. Your loved ones will appreciate your openness and honesty. (Example: Rachel Thompson’s Letter to My 20-Year-Old Self”)