Saturday, February 20, 2010

Video of the Week: JK Rowling on the fringe benefits of failure

At her Harvard University commencement speech, "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling offers some powerful, heartening advice to dreamers and overachievers, including one hard-won lesson that she deems "worth more than any qualification I ever earned."


A single mother who battled poverty and depression as she struggled to launch her writing career, Joanne "JK" Rowling was to become perhaps the most famous contemporary fiction writer in the world, with her Harry Potter series of children's books -- a chronicle of the adventures of an adolescent wizard of the same name. The fourth volume of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was the fastest-selling book in history.

Since completing the series, Rowling has put her fortune toward philanthropic projects dealing with poverty, multiple sclerosis and other issues through her own Volant Charitable Trust.

"I'd give a lot to know how many teenagers (and preteens) texted this message in the days following the last book's release: DON'T CALL ME TODAY I'M READING."
Stephen King

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement
from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Excerpt from commencement talk:: 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.

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.

Full text of her commencement speech is here.


A Daring Adventure said...

That was a wonderful video.

I loved how incredibly funny she was at the beginning of it... her message about failure... and her Amnesty International stories. Those were - so very sobering.

LOVED "...people who have been kind enough not to sue me when I took their names as Death Eaters"!

diplopundit said...

ADA - it's a wonderful speech; and I'm glad she has a sense of humor. She's sued again for plagiarism, lost count if this was #3 or #99. She's a billion dollar enterprise and a walking target for a lawsuit. I have added the link to the full transcript of her speech.