The Benefits of Failure and the Crucial Importance of Imagination

The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Crucial Importance of Imagination: J.K. Rowling (The presentation was originally given at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association on June 5, 2008).

Lessons of life

  • (Set) achievable goals - the first step to self improvement.

  • A compromise that satisfied nobody - to balance between the ambition you had for yourself, and what those closest to you expected of you.

  • Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships.

  • Poverty itself is romanticized only by fools.

  • Personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement.

  • As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.


  • We all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.

  • The benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.

  • 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 been realized,...And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

  • 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 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.

  • You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification ever earned.

  • Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.


  • Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation.

  • In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

  • Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's places. ...One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathize.

  • Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

  • If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change.

  • We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

"What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality." - Plutarch

Related article: Never, ever give up!

#Inspiration #ThinkDifferently #CreativeStrategy

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