The importance of failure

Via Boing Boing I came across J.K. Rowling’s Commencement Address at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. Her address was entitled The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination (online with video here).

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 already 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.

We focus much too often on success, believing that it will teach us something we study success. Unfortunately we are too quick to ignore failure, despite the fact that failure would probably teach us more. Even on a personal level failure teaches us more than success. We learn more from unpleasantness.

Photo: band – failure is not an option by Leo Reynolds (CC by-nc-sa)

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