The Benefits of Failure by J.K. Rowling

written by Lee Strauss | Lee Strauss, musings

August 3, 2016

This is a powerful speech given by J.K. Rowling to Harvard graduates. Definitely worth a listen.

I love how she says there is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction – so freeing! I've wrestled with failures both in my professional life and personal life, including more than a few parental mistakes. Fortunately my kids seemed to have forgiven me and have turned out to be decent human beings.

“Rock bottom became the firm foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

I also love how she's says this: If you haven't failed at anything, you've lived life so cautiously, that you've failed by default.

I'm still trying to work out how to apply “the benefits of failure” to my life. I am a decade older than Ms Rowling and can say I haven't reached my personal version of success (my definition of the word from when I was in my thirties). I'm farther along than I thought, while at the same time not nearly as far as I'd hoped.

The main point, I believe, isn't that checklist we made in our youth and hauled around like a sack of rocks year after year, not how many check marks and line items we have crossed off, but what kind of life are we truly living each day. What kinds of things really matter? To me it's peace in my relationships, a daily dose of laughter, and contentment in heart and mind.


I admit to not succeeding in this all the time. I wrestle with anxiety about each day and what the future holds as much as the next person. But life is too short to dwell there, to get stuck in the muck of strife and striving. I want Serenity, Courage and Wisdom. Don't you?


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