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20 Life Lessons I Learned from Harry Potter

20 Life Lessons I Learned from Harry Potter

For Millennials like myself, Harry Potter wasn’t just a book series; it was everything. When Harry Potter enrolled as a first year student at Hogwarts, many of us were starting school for the first time too. The end of the book/movie series even finished around our high school or college graduation. We grew up with Harry Potter, and his story developed with ours.

So it comes as no surprise that there are several life lessons the majority of our generation learned from the series along the way. After all, Harry Potter wasn’t exactly the “chosen one” when it came to being a model student. Here are 20 life lessons we learned from Harry Potter over the course of the series and our adolescent lives.

1. We can’t change our past, but we can change our future

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    Despite the inconsistencies that Hermione’s time turner created for the novel’s plot (because why save only Buckbeak when they could save Lily and James Potter too, am I right?), the above still rings true. Our past shapes us as people, but it doesn’t have to shape the course of our lives. While it can be said that all the series’ characters are prime examples of this, the most obvious of all is Harry, who lost his parents as a baby and as a result had to live with his retched uncle, aunt, and cousin afterward. And yet, this all changed his life for the better by him choosing to attend Hogwarts. The rest is magical history.

    2. Sometimes we have to face our fears to get what we want

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      As much as we’d all like to stay in the comfort of our bubble, sometimes life requires us to pop it for our own good. In Ron’s case, “following the spiders” meant finding the answer to rescuing Hermione from her stunned state in the second novel, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. In Harry’s case, learning to use his patronus meant protecting himself and others from the soul-sucking power of the Dementor’s kiss. In our case…well, we just have to get through an average day to make it to bed by the end.

      3. Money can’t buy happiness

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        You know what people say – money isn’t everything. And it’s not, but it’s hard when you’re a young kid unlocking a vault full of galleons to not think it is. And let’s be real, seeing Harry practically rolling in money like Scrooge McDuck probably sparked the inner gold-digger in all of us. That is, of course, until we realized the Mirror of Erised didn’t show him a landmine of coins, but rather the reason for his inherited wealth – his deceased parents. Still, think that trolley full of pumpkin pasties were a fair trade for a family? Yeah, didn’t think so.

        4. We are never truly alone

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        A-Guide-to-Weird-and-Rare-Harry-Potter-Patronuses

          All of us are subject to the feeling of loneliness, but are we ever truly alone? While seemingly on his own most of the time, Harry Potter always had the support of his friends and guardians, showing us that there’s no such thing as ever being truly alone. The best example of this in the series for me was when Harry wasn’t receiving any letters from his friends all summer, feeling neglected and rejected by them, only to find out Dobby had been hiding them from him the entire time. The next scene that followed, with Ron and the Weasley twins rescuing him in their flying car, was just the cherry on top of the surrounded-by-support sundae.

          5. Friends will get you out of trouble, but best friends will get in trouble with you

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            Sure, a friend will help you out of a predicament (like Lupin did when Snape caught Harry with the Marauder’s Map), but a true best friend will be right there in the thick of it. Any time Harry found himself in a troubling situation, Ron and Hermione faced it with him. I mean, think about it. Can you imagine facing a whomping willow, three-headed dog, and life-size lethal chess set without your best friends? My guess is no.

            6. Sometimes we have to face our own battles alone

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              As much as it helped to have his friends through every obstacle, Harry always ended up confronting his challenger alone and for good reason. We can’t rely on our friends or family to somehow save us from our own problems every time. We have to learn to fight our own battles at some point, whether it’s dealing with the petty jealousy of a friend when you’re unknowingly entered in a contest, or defeating a massive basilisk in the demented water park of your school’s basement. No one said it’d be easy, but Harry Potter proved it’d be worth it.

              7. Animals are sometimes (and often) better company

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                I don’t think any of us needed the Harry Potter series to learn this life truth, but somehow seeing Harry happily flying over the Hogwart’s lake with Buckbeak and stroking Hedwig’s head after a hard day made this lesson 10 times more relatable.

                8. Confidence is not the same thing as bravery

                Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart

                  While Gryffindor was known for producing the bravest of the Hogwart’s bunch, Ravenclaw was known for producing an imitation hero, and his name was Professor Lockhart. More than anyone in the novels, Gildroy Lockhart proved to us that bravery comes from within and cannot be confused with its egotistical cousin, confidence. And look where all that “bravery” got him – a faulty memory, a worthless book deal, and the boot from Hogwarts.

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                  9. You should never let anyone get the best of you

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                    We may not have realized it as children, but Malfoy’s slandering of Muggles, especially Hermione, was an evident example of the prominence of racially-charged bullying. Hermione’s “non-magical blood” made her an enemy in the eyes of the “pure-blood” Slytherins (tell me that’s not a reference to racism). However, Hermione showed us how we shouldn’t be defined by what we are, but rather who we are. And she certainly succeeded in doing so when she punched Malfoy in the third novel. You go, Hermione.

                    10. There’s always some mysterious force working in our favor (or to our disadvantage)

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                      This kind of goes along the same lines as the “you’re never alone” lesson, but speaks to the surprise element of our sly support system. While Harry didn’t know it throughout the course of the series, Snape was always on the side of Dumbledore in protecting Harry from Voldemort, despite Harry’s continuous distrust in him. On the flip side, Harry trusted Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth novel and ended up in a graveyard with the reinvented Voldemort to be nearly killed. So if you think about it, the Harry Potter series destroyed our trust in everyone.

                      11. You should never go anywhere alone without telling or bringing someone

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                        This life lesson was beaten into our brains when we were kids, but still applies to us adults. If we learned anything from Hermione discovering a psychotic troll in the girl’s bathroom while alone, it’s that we should always tell someone where we’re going or bring a buddy with us. Girls, this is a warning – never let your friends go to the bathroom in a bar alone. You never know what other kind of troll is going to be lurking nearby.

                        12. There’s more to others than meet the eye

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                          Often times we unintentionally judge others based on their appearance, but sometimes our assessments aren’t accurate. A great example of this in the Harry Potter series was the character of Sirius Black. For the majority of the third novel, all of us, including Harry, thought he was some crazy, traitorous murderer with a bone to pick with the Potter boy. Then J.K. Rowling did a 180 and turned him into the caring, cool godfather trying to avenge Harry’s parents. Talk about a plot twist.

                          13. Adolescent dances are terrible

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                            Do I need to say more? After watching Ron pine after Hermione, Hermione cry over Ron, and Harry sit alone like every uninterested young boy after his date angrily left him to go dance, I think we could all say the movie scene brought back a lot of bad memories. Those dances should just be banned all together, right Umbridge?

                            14. Being invisible isn’t as great as we think it’d be

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                              As great as the superpower may seem for every introvert and grumpy cat-like person, invisibility isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, it’s pretty awesome that Harry gets to move around unnoticed and avoid unwanted attention, but the costs sometimes come more than the rewards. Take for instance when Harry’s roaming around Hogsmeade in his invisibility cloak. He’s all happy, licking a lollipop, and then all of a sudden – boom. He overhears the rumor that Sirius betrayed his his parents. In the next moment, Harry’s crying in the snow and shouting, “He was their friend!” Yeah, I think I’d rather have the gift of cooking delicious Harry Potter meals instead.

                              15. Ultimate power must be used with caution

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                                If there’s anything we’ve learned from Harry Potter, it’s that power is a great and terrible thing. When it’s used for good, power has the ability to change the world for the better. When it’s used for evil though, power has the ability to destroy it. Aside from Voldemort, the best example the novels give us of the detrimental nature of ultimate power is the creation of the elder wand. Wizards have to kill its master to own it, friends kill each other to own it…it’s just all around a machine of destruction. However, I will say the elder wand would make a fantastic travel companion. Accio best vacation ever? I think so.

                                16. With age comes wisdom

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                                  Of all the quotes I’ve accumulated in Word documents, notebooks, and Pinterest over the years, the majority of them come from the Harry Potter series – and most of those were spoken by none other than Dumbledore himself. Whenever Harry found himself in a tough situation, we could always rely on Dumbledore to give brilliant advice or offer a wise suggestion. After all, the man had lived for over a century. It’s not too far-fetched to say he’d learned a couple things or two in his lifetime.

                                  17. With age comes attractiveness (or unattractiveness)

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                                    I’m not the first to say it, but I think I speak for us all when I say Neville pleasantly surprised everyone by the end of the movie series. Talk about a transformation! It just goes to show us that attractiveness can develop over time, and the same goes for unattractiveness. Not to name names, but a certain Gryffindor cutie didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped he would.

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                                    18. The power of love is stronger than the power of hatred

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                                      The phrase “kill them with kindness” applies here. We can’t possibly win over everyone, but Harry Potter showed us that we can triumph in our relationships with loved ones. Even with Voldemort’s constant death threats, Harry Potter always had a support system of family and friends to help him along the way. And in the end, that made all the difference.

                                      19. Sometimes our enemies turn out to be our friends in disguise

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                                        Have you ever known someone you couldn’t stand, only to find out they were actually a pretty decent, bearable person? The question’s rhetorical, but it’s true – our original assumptions of others are often not as spot on as we think. In Harry Potter’s life, this seemed to be especially relevant. From Snape to Sirius, to even Dobby, Harry was proven wrong time and time again by his initial judgments. Then again, when you’ve got an entire band of evil misfits against you, it’s safe to say you’d be a little weary of people too.

                                        20. Magic exists, even for us Muggles

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                                          It’s cheesy, I know, but there’s a certain magic we all experience at some point or another in our lives. While it might not be in the form of witchcraft, the magic we come across can be found in the people, places, and things around us. There’s magic in travelling, writing, reading, music, friendship, love, you name it; and it’s often found where it’s sought.

                                          So for those of us who began and ended our childhood with Harry Potter, fear not. The magic lives on, just in a different way.

                                          Featured photo credit: Never enough time to read…/Kayleigh Nelson via flic.kr

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                                          Last Updated on January 15, 2019

                                          How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

                                          How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

                                          Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

                                          In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

                                          Step right up, don’t be shy!

                                          Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

                                          The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

                                          Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

                                          Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
                                          So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

                                          A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

                                          Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

                                          Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

                                          When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

                                          Culturally Conditioned

                                          We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

                                          I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

                                          The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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                                          Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

                                          Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

                                          Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

                                          1. Broadens Your Network

                                          After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

                                          2. Improves Your Communication Skills

                                          I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

                                          Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

                                          3. Continually Learning

                                          So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

                                          Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

                                          4. Increases Self Confidence

                                          Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

                                          Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

                                          So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

                                          How to Talk to Strangers

                                          Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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                                          1. Say Hello

                                          Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

                                          Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

                                          Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

                                          2. Ask About Them

                                          Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

                                          You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

                                          As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

                                          3. Just Do It

                                          One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

                                          When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

                                          Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

                                          4. Don’t Take It Personal

                                          One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

                                          When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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                                          5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

                                          I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

                                          One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

                                          6. Detach

                                          A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

                                          Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

                                          7. Share Your Stories

                                          Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

                                          To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

                                          So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

                                          8. Give a Compliment

                                          Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

                                          When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

                                          9. Relax Your Body Language

                                          If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

                                          When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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                                          If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

                                          10. Practice, Practice, Practice

                                          Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

                                          Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

                                          After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

                                          The Bottom Line

                                          As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

                                          There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

                                          Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

                                          Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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                                          Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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