“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – J K Rowling
J K Rowling’s “rags-to-riches” story is well known.
In the space of just five or six years, she went from rock bottom to becoming one of the world’s most famous (and wealthiest) authors, after famously being rejected by numerous publishers.
In 2008, she gave a commencement speech at Harvard University, saying, “Rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
So what did she mean by this? Well, when you’ve sunk about as low as it’s possible to go, the only way is up – if you choose to keep believing in yourself and believing in your potential to succeed. She told students, “At your age, what I feared most was failure. Ultimately, we all need to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. A mere 7 years after my graduation, I’d failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless … By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”
Of course, J K is not suggesting for one moment that rock bottom is a fun place to be. She describes this period of her life as a “dark time” in which she suffered from depression and even contemplated suicide. However, she also says, “Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way,” and one of those things was that she had a strong will.
“You control your own life. Your own will is extremely powerful.” – J K Rowling
Despite her “failures” in life, J K knew that she wanted to be a writer and she chose to keep believing in herself as a writer – and she kept going. She was struggling to make ends meet, but she kept writing wherever and whenever she could. Her “Harry Potter” books went on to sell over 500 million copies, so she was right to keep believing, but it’s her belief that her lack of success in other areas of life gave her the opportunity to remain focused on the one thing that really mattered – writing.
The will to keep going despite failure and the will to keep writing despite hardship and setbacks gave her the positive mental attitude she needed to keep pushing through rejection. She says, “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 really know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity.”
What we can learn from J K Rowling’s story is that being a success does not mean never failing. In an interview, she once said, “I don’t think we talk about failure enough. It would’ve really helped to have someone who had had a measure of success come say to me, ‘You will fail. That’s inevitable. It’s what you do with it.'” How you deal with failure, rejection, and setbacks is ultimately your choice, but remember, it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach, Mentor and Key Note Speaker.
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