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COLUMN - "Don't Ask Brian: An incredibly useful project"

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

By Brian Mickelson - Feb. 5, 2020

Just by reading this article, you may be signing up for a little project. Quit now and go read something else if you don’t think you’ll have what it takes to follow through, or you just pulled your hamstring, or recently subscribed to Disney Plus and haven’t finished all of the episodes of The Mandalorian.

In fact, if you have any other relatively weak excuse--really--go read another article and come back when you’re ready for some real fun (management would not want me to send you to another site so if you’re going to quit this one at least find another article on - you won’t be sorry).

Still here? Ok, you’re ready to at least hear about The Project. Before I describe The Project, I’ll describe what it was like for me to work on The Project.

I loved it. I loved working on it. I worked on it almost every week for years and multiple days a week at some points. I thought about this project when I wasn’t doing it and sometimes I’d come home early from other activities just to be able to work on the project. Eventually my kids thought a lot about this project and pushed me to continue working on it.

When I finally completed The Project I tried to think of ways to extend the project so that I could put more time and effort into The Project. It really was that kind of project. I really, honestly, absolutely loved this project. I’ve really used the word “project” a lot in this article...

So, here’s The Project: I typed up the answers to 300+ questions about my childhood, printed it into a book, and had a dozen copies shipped to me. Are you convinced you should’ve quit reading this article a couple paragraphs ago? Well, stick with me for a bit longer and let me see if I can convince you.

Brian Mickelson - Courtesy Photo

I started this project in March 2011 and ended it in August 2017. The book, “Dad, Share Your Life with Me” by Kathleen Lashier got me started since the hard part is thinking up the questions. Lashier lists 365 questions; some I used, some I altered, some I skipped, and I added a few of my own.

When all was said and done, I had answered exactly 324 questions about my life up to age 18 or so. Some answers were just a sentence, or a date, and other answers were paragraphs long that took up multiple pages, and took a little extra research so that the details were accurate (a.k.a. I had to call my mom a few times).

For instance, in the book you’ll find: details about my parents and siblings, the bubble gum heist at the local Alpha-Beta, Richard M. Nixon, forts in the backyard and the subsequent bombing of said forts (and the tears of my little brothers after said bombings), holding hands with a girl while ice-skating, my dad driving off with my thumb stuck in the door of our Volkswagon, every girl I had a crush on, having my pants and underwear pulled down in front of my laughing friends during my senior year (don’t picture it), our school principal Mr. Sheldon’s “Board of Education” (spoiler: it was a paddle), and 314 other fun facts about me as a kid.

I would type up a few questions from the book in a Google Drive document, and then take a week or so to answer all of them. Once they were all answered, I’d type up the next group of five or six questions, and that was how I got through all of the questions.

Most of us don’t think we have quality memories until we are asked some pretty specific questions and have time to think, recall, and even look up some of the details. I would sit at the laptop and laugh out loud recalling some of the really dumb decisions I made as a kid.

I left out anything I didn’t want my kids to know about and anything that could get me into legal trouble (not all crimes are covered by statutes of limitations so I was purposely vague in some parts of the history), as well as anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings.

My kids expressed a real desire to read the finished product so I had it printed and bound and had the copies sent to me. Now my kids all have copies (and newfound leverage when I try to establish family rules), as do my parents (coming clean about a few things was a relief).

The Project - Courtesy Photo

Want to try it but don’t want to try it 365 times? Here’s a list of a few questions you could start with. Don’t want to create a whole book? Just print it and staple it together or add a digital copy to Ancestry or FamilySearch for future generations. Not great at typing? Grab an audio recorder and get talking.

Not interested in writing down or recording your memories? This isn't for you. As much fun as I had working on this and as often as this project got me smiling and laughing or even a little teary-eyed, this autobiography is really for my kids and grandkids. And, I suppose, maybe the police.


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