JK Rowling On Failure

24 06 2008

NPR has JK Rowling’s commencement speech online. I’ve read it twice. I’m going to put a lengthy excerpt of it here as it’s really a good speech on learning from failure.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

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 already been realized, 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.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Read the whole thing. Been feeling like a failure recently so this spoke to me. Sorry about being a downer but it’s true.

Things usually look up and as I am an optimist, I choose to believe that.

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3 responses

24 06 2008
scoutabout

And this is why I love J.K. Rowling…oh, and her little books too.:)

24 06 2008
heartbreaktown

Wow – I think I’m gonna cry. I guess this hits a little closer to home than I would have thought. I’m saving this.

9 07 2008
Anne

JK is the best!! She’s awesome and I don’t believe people say she’s not a good writer! SHE’S THE BEST EVER!!
She wrote the most popular story for kids of all time!! I just found a list and she is now the 2nd richest woman in the world for doing this!! Check it out at http://www.weshow.com/top10/en/

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