Facing Failure

Thanks to Kelly McMichael for pointing me to a video of the speech given by J.K. Rowling at the 2008 Harvard University Commencement. It is entitled “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.” There are three main points in the speech: one that focuses on failure versus success, another on having the power to imagine better for the oppressed in our world, and the last on the value of true friends. The speech is some twenty minutes long but well worth your time.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement

If you choose not to take the time, then at least take with you this comment:

“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.”

From the perspective of rejection and failure in the world of writing and publishing it is something to cling to when you realize the journey J.K. Rowling has taken.


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

16 thoughts on “Facing Failure

  1. Careann, I love that quote! Choosing to engage life fully invites failure and those failures are windows of opportunity for learning and growing. I want to hear the whole interview and hopefully will later. Thank You.

    1. I’ve read her bio and various media “rags to riches” stories about her. Despite the outrageous amount of money she’s now apparently worth, she still seems to be a pretty down-to-earth person. She certainly expresses herself well.

    1. I suspect getting published will always be a challenge regardless of one’s personal status, but it’s nice to hear occasional Cinderella stories like hers. It reinforces everything we’re told about the need for perseverance, doesn’t it?

    1. It sure jumped out at me! Another I liked was when she mentioned how her parents wanted success for her and their version differed from hers. She said, ““I would like to make it clear that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction. The moment you are old enough to take the wheel responsibility lies with you.”

      I think we all wish there was some magical formula for success, someone else we could depend on to guarantee it, but striving for it really is up to us.

    1. She must be, although I don’t really know anything about her except what she said she did in the Amnesty Int’l office during her early 20’s. She obviously has a lot of determination in whatever she tackles, and that has served her well.

  2. I watched her speech a while back, and have the rock-bottom-becomes-strong-foundation quote included in my “fave quotes” file on my desktop. It really was a very good speech…. Maybe I’ll listen again. 😉

    1. I have a few quotes printed and tucked into one of my writing binders. I think I should add this to the collection for those moments when rejections get to me. I also like your idea of a file on the desktop for handy reference .

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