Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rowling on the fringe benefits of failure

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”

- Seneca

J. K. Rowling recently delivered the commencement address at Harvard University to a group of new graduates. Even if you are not a Harry Potter fan, it may well be worth twenty minutes of your time.

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. [...] I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was. [...] I was set free because my greatest fear had been realised. [...] Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. [...] 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 have failed by default.”

Rowling's reflections upon her failures are funny and insightful. She tries to avoid the trivialisation and triumphalism of much self-help discourse in which failures are turned into success-in-disguise. She is willing to learn from her mistakes, but doesn't feel the need to treat them as anything but mistakes.
H/T Lis.