Saw a rerun of Oprah’s interview with Jo Rowling,
well-known first self-made billionaire female children’s book author, made famous and known by her initial J.K. Rowling.
Looking back, she recalled that no publishers wanted to publish her book, twelve publishers turned her down. She also recalled that editors kept reminding her that children’s book won’t see big commercial success but she went on and kept writing.
Then it was the thirteenth publisher, thirteen’s the charm, took them to the single most successful children’s book franchise in history of mankind, paving its way in becoming Hollywood’s most successful movie franchise of all time, as well. The budget for the total of eight Harry Potter movies in the franchise: $1,155,000,000. The box office for all eight movies in total reached $7,642,955,524.
Seeing that Harry Potter books and movies franchise have come to a close. Rowling said it was like saying goodbye to a friend, it was hard, and one of the most heartfelt moment of one of the chapters of her life. Especially when she remembers that a young girl came up to her and said “you are my childhood.”
During the interview, Rowling shared about the appeal of magic: “We ourselves have power and we can shape our world.” She also shared more about failure and imagination, referring to her 2008 Harvard Commencement Address (video and some of the text as follows).
Copyright of JK Rowling, June 2008
Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.
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 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.
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 the price of rubies.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. 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 I ever earned.
So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.
Now you might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I personally will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense.
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 empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.
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.
You might also want to read my previous post about J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter here: http://sys-talk.com/inspiration/libera-mentem-nil-desperandum/