Failure can have benefits according to JK Rowling.
Lately I’ve been watching a lot of TED talks because they are so inspiring. You’ll see that I’ve posted a talk by Alain de Botton on his take on failure and success. Well today I bumped into a commencement speech given by JK Rowling in 2008 to the graduating Harvard students. The theme of her speech was The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and Importance of Imagination.
If you’ve been living anywhere but under a rock, you will know that JK Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter books. And if you’ve heard anything about her, you’ll know that her wild success came after her life had fallen completely apart. She went through a divorce, became a single parent, and became as poor as you can get without being homeless. I’m personally drawn to her story because I’ve also been going through a divorce and yes, some poverty. I wonder what her formula was for such success after a huge failure because hey, I’d like to be as successful as her too! Who wouldn’t? So now I’ve done the divorce and poor part, when do I get to do the “huge success” part? Here’s a snippet of what she says:
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
So sometimes you see, failing, miserably failing even, can be a blessing. It can set you free like it did JK Rowling. And feeling free, feeling like you have nothing to lose, is a basis for great success. So, if you’re feeling bad at having failed at something, even something as big as your life, and you feel like you’ve lost everything, watch this and hopefully you will have hope that you too can turn this around to and make it amount something great.
Watch JK Rowlings commencement speech on Harvard Magazine: