Failure Imperfectionist Books Quotes

J.K. Rowling on the Importance of Failure and Imagination

J.K. Rowling‘s powerful 2008 commencement address at Harvard University is beautifully illustrated by Joel Holland and published in Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.

Reflecting on her own experiences and failures, J.K. Rowling addresses the lessons that she wish she had learned at 21. How do we develop the courage to fail? How can we harness the power of our imaginations? How to we become more open to the opportunities that life has to offer? And how do we live a good life? Below, our favorite lessons for imperfectionists:

  • Stop pretending to be who you aren’t, and start pretending to be who you are. If you stand completely in your arena, incredible things will start to happen. 

"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." -J.K. Rowling (Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination)

“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.” -J.K. Rowling

 

  • If you don’t fail, you fail by default:

"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." -J.K. Rowling (Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination)

“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.” -J.K. Rowling

 

Very Good Lives Excerpts

Excerpt from Very Good Lives

 

  • Career achievements and new toys do not equal happiness. 

"Personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement." -J.K. Rowling (Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination)

“Personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement.” -J.K. Rowling

 

  • We already carry the imagination we need to change the world:

"We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already." -J.K. Rowling (Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination)

“We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.” -J.K. Rowling

 

  • By embracing failure and harnessing the power of our imagination, we all have the power to live very good lives:

Very Good Lives Excerpts

Excerpt from Very Good Lives

 

You can read the full text of J.K. Rowling’s speech, purchase a copy of Very Good Lives, or listen to it live. Sales of Very Good Lives will benefit Lumos, J.K. Rowling’s non-profit organization, and Harvard financial aid.

Want some examples of people who embrace failure? Check out #failogue. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination and creativity. Consider Imperfecting something that you really love.

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  • Tracy March 24, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Love this! There is so much power in releasing the idea of perfection.

    • Saeah Lee March 27, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      Tracy,
      Yes, there is! Once you start to let the perfection go, many beautiful things start to happen.
      Are you a recovering perfectionist?

  • Dan Beland April 9, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Here’s a failure analogy that came to me while I was doing yard work this morning: “Success is like the first, slow, uphill portion of a roller coaster. The majority of your experience is the quiet fear of whatever might come next. Failure is the white-knuckle terror and exhilaration of the first big drop and the rest of the ride. It’s very intense but very few people ever die (or get mangled) on a roller coaster (or from failure). Most folks are ready to give it another go-around shortly after regaining their balance.”