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New York Times best-selling author T.A. Barron ’74 encourages students to ‘live their life as a story’ in lecture

Zoya Gauhar / The Daily Princetonian
Zoya Gauhar / The Daily Princetonian

The New York Times best-selling author and University alumnus T.A. Barron ’74 delivered a lecture on Tuesday, April 23, centering his talk on how students can learn to live a meaningful life. 

Barron is the author of over 30 best-selling books, including the acclaimed “Merlin” saga. He graduated from Princeton University in 1974, winning the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, and went onto to study at Oxford as a Rhode scholar.

In a conversation with The Daily Princetonian, Barron stated he hoped the lecture would deliver his “sincere, heartfelt wish that they [students] can realize that they can see their life as a story — a story in which they are the author, and to tell it with passion and courage.”

Barron began the lecture by encouraging students, especially seniors finishing their final semester at the University, to take a walk down Prospect Gardens and touch the bark of the Dawn Redwood tree. He asked that they imagine it growing in Tibet, its place of origin. This served as an opening to his lecture, centered around nature, and telling stories.

Barron went on to say that while he is always impressed at the University’s endless slew of opportunities, he also is amazed by the lack of pressure to voyage out and ask deep, meaningful questions about life. 

The writer discussed his journey from graduating from the University to becoming a best-selling author. It began with his first attempt at having a book published after a summer of traveling in Oxford, which resulted in 32 rejection letters. He then decided to attend law school, and eventually became President and Chief Operating Officer at a private equities firm in New York. 

He didn’t stop writing — he instead wrote whatever came to his mind for around two hours every morning. Barron recalled that it was at this point in time that he realized that his current job was not driving him in life, explaining that “it was just using a slice of my brain, and none of my heart.”

He moved back home to Colorado and officially began his career as a writer. 

Using the backdrop of his own story, Barron encouraged students to make their lives meaningful by asking themselves two questions: what are they passionate about, and what can they provide that the world needs?

“Every bit of it boils down to an invitation to see your life as a story, and to see yourself as the author, and to know that you have a worthy story to tell,” Barron said. 

He then opened the floor to questions from the audience. 

Associate Director of Career Advising at the Office of Career Services Pam Cohen said that lectures, such as the one delivered by Barron, “are a great opportunity for students to see the connection between alums and campus, and showcase their different experiences.”

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The lecture, titled “See Your Life as a Story … and Make it a Great One,” was held in Whig Hall at 6 p.m. The event was hosted by Princeton Career Services. All attendees received a signed copy of Barron’s book, “The Wisdom of Merlin: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life.”