J.K. Rowling , The Fringe Benefits of Failure, (The Best Speech Ever!)
June 5, 2008 Harvard Commencement Speech
This is the best speech I have watched since I began my collection of orators and great speeches. Jk Rowling delivered a speech of substance, integrating light hearted humor, meaning and an appeal to the audience. It is the best combination of substance, comedy, arrangement and delivery. She spoke about poverty and how ultimately, beneficial it was to her success, despite the personal degradation she faced as a struggling writer. To quote,
“Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticized only by fools.” J.K. Rowling , The Fringe Benefits of Failure.
She recollected her thoughts about failure, 7 years after her own graduation day which by then she was jobless and a single parent after a short lived marriage. She described her discovery of freedom as the ‘inessentials’ and pretenses were stripped away. She had no choice but to commit herself to her talent striving only to develop the work that was important to her.
Was failure a necessary step? JK Rowling herself said “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.”
She overcame her biggest fear realizing that since there was nothing left but her big idea, that she “was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive…” She began to build from that raw reality “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
It is an impressive story, not exactly to glorify rags to riches, but that many things can become blocks to becoming one’s true potential; not to be confused with fairy tales of fame and success, but an authentic talent and sincere knowledge of one’s deepest motivations and desires. Basically, once you have decided to commit to a life goal, there is a ‘get real’ process that will exorcize the demonic fairies of wishful thinking. The experience does not have to include poverty, but is an intense elimination process of romantic ideals, a purge of spiritual beliefs and emotions and a cultivation of personal authenticity. Here lies the rigors of the path to success. It is the best speech in my book.