JK Rowling story, She learned not to be intimidated by her own failures, Not to be defined by those failures, How to stand on the firm rock of her growing self-confidence


From Wells Law, On the Way to the Courthouse

by Mike Wells

“The Fall and Rise of Life’s Greatest Failure

She was the child of parents who barely got out of high school.  She had a brief but stormy marriage and other of life’s abrupt left turns that left her at poverty’s door, despite some early success.  She lived on welfare with a young daughter for a number of years.

She knew personally the ravages and humiliation of being among the working poor.  By most any measure, at least as the world sometimes miscalculates these things, she was an utter failure.  But by her own measure, too.  She knew despair on a first name basis, and she contemplated an early end to her life, as her life’s promise had seemingly been hijacked by the dark side.

Her comfort came from her hope “perched with feathers in her soul,” as the poet would describe it, which came from this: The seed an idea, as it came to her from her vivid imagination on a long train ride into the city. She reduced this notion to writing as a potential book over a number of years, meted out largely in small snatches of time while her young daughter took her afternoon naps.

She tried to get her book published, but from the beginning the story was called “fanciful” and “far-fetched.”  It was turned down by all the many, many publishing houses to which it was submitted.  Every one of them.  Many years after she began writing this story, a publishing house took a nibble on it, but with the cautionary advice to her that “she should not quit her day job.”

The book was a hit from the beginning, and in a few short years the seed of the fanciful idea catapulted this young woman, who knew failure, poverty, despair and doubt only too well, to the top of the literary world.  Her books are published all over the world, and she is the single most successful writer in history.

The face and the name of the fanciful notion conceived on that long-ago train ride is Harry Potter.  The face and the name of his creator is J K Rowling, who by any true measure is the greatest achieving past failure of all time by a wide country mile.

In 2008, Ms. Rowling was invited to give the Harvard University commencement address. What do you suppose she told the graduates of perhaps the premier university in the world? She talked to them about a topic that likely has rarely been touched on at the commencement exercises at any elite university, or any educational institution: failure.

Why would she speak to these gifted and hard-driving graduates about failure? Likely because they knew virtually nothing about failure. And they certainly did not see it coming on any of their horizons.  Despite the fact that any person who ever experiences the full of life will tell you it is one of life’s inevitable events.

J K Rowling had a truly original idea, and a compelling story that would touch the hearts of people of all ages and all places.  But the narrative of her life story is not unique, except for the scale of her success.  What is unique is the solid frame of understanding this gifted writer of stories gives to this inevitable event.

J K Rowling told the Harvard audience she learned not to be intimidated by her own failures, not to be defined by those failures, and how to stand on the firm rock of her growing self-confidence when she had been buffeted by those failures. Every life worth living, after all, will involve a little back street brawl in it to toughen your spirit. And no text book, even at Harvard University, gives any of life’s direction on digging down deep when you face hard challenges.”

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