JK Rowling discusses the “fringe benefits of failure”

February 10, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More

In June 2008, J.K. Rowling gave this delightful and insightful commencement speech recognizing the upside of failure.

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

How is failure essential? Rowling told the audience that it “strips away the unessential” and sets us free to see what really matters. Rock bottom can become “a solid foundation.” In fact, she urged that it is “impossible to live without failing at something.”

Rowling’s 20-minute talk is filled with nuggets of wisdom, and illustrated with stories about people with the courage to freely think and act, as well as those who dared to value empathy more than “rubies.”


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Category: Community, Good and Evil, Inspirational, Meaning of Life

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erika Price says:

    A well-honed point on Rowling's part, considering the audience. The majority of these Harvard kids probably do need to learn a little bit about accepting failure.

    Failure is a fascinating topic when considering the psychology of creativity. It often seems that most successful creative-types have brushed with either failure or suffering of an extreme type. Whether failure and adversity strengthen and develop the creative mind, or whether is simply separates the wheat from the chaff is a continuing mystery in the psychological study of creativity.

    I like to think that failure and adversity really do help a potential creative person hone their talents. Much of success, especially innovative success, seems to come from an ability to filter and process one's ideas effectively. As Rowling says, failure is an excellent way to learn to 'strip' out the unnecessary, redundant or nonworking parts of one's ideas and life.

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