A lot of things have been said about J.K. Rowling. From struggling as a single mother to achieving billionaire author status, she’s cracked open the door to the wizarding world of Harry Potter and friends to millions of readers all over the globe.
In 2008, she was chosen to deliver the commencement speech at Harvard University, which soon turned into a motivational talk reaching out to millions of people. In 2015, it even became a book: Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.
While being an amazing story teller and an inspiration for an entire generation, I still think that her most important words remain the ones she spoke to us, like these ones:
“What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.”
And although it could seem difficult to succeed on a scale she did, very few can find the words to express the importance of embracing failure the way she did.
So, from her speech to you, here are 8 quotes on nailing the importance of failing in life.
On the benefits of failure
1. “Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.”
2. “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.”
3. “And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are.(…)Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.”
4. “Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”
5. “Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.”
6. “The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.”
On taking chances
7. “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.”
8. “And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives.”