On Failure

J.K. Rowling in her commencement address at Harvard:

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.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

Having failed repeatedly, and often spectacularly at that, I can truly attest to that feeling of being surprised at the strength of ones own will and the rather ironic feeling of security in failure (security in the knowledge that things can’t possibly screw-up more than they already have). But not having tasted success, like she has, I can’t act too wise or smug about failure. I have to add though, that the pain one goes through in failure is perhaps too large a price to pay for the aforementioned fringe benefits. But I suppose when one succeeds someday, if one ever does, memory bias helpfully reduces the cost of past failures to the extent that one sees the consequences of trauma as fringe benefits. Or maybe not, maybe she is right. From within failure, I can only say, it seems like a complete waste of time. I have no clue yet how it will look from the other side.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading the piece. I have never read any of her books (not my type; my imagination doesn’t stretch in that direction) but have often found myself mildly disliking her for all the hype that surrounds her. Quite irrational, I know. To go by this speech though, she comes across as someone genuinely nice and intelligent. If she ever writes anything even slightly more palpable than the adventures of the flying witch boy (?), I’ll read. I swear.

Update: Fug the snobs!


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