Christian Long

J.K. Rowling: The Fringe Benefits of Failure

In TED Talks on May 20, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Reflection by RACHEL L.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

J.K. Rowling:  The Fringe Benefits of Failure

Note:  Go to the link above to see the video.

Failure is the last thing you would think a successful woman like JK Rowling would be talking about. But she has seen more than her fair share of failure in her lifetime. After college her short marriage ended and she was an unemployed, single mother. She says she was about “as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless”. Failure brought the necessity for change and taught Rowling about herself and what she could handle. Once you have nothing there is a great need to change and as Rowling puts it “rock bottom became the foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Her next topic is the importance of the imagination. This topic seems to fit Rowling, seeing as she has had a great use for her imagination as the author of the Harry Potter series. But it is obvious that imagination has a greater role in her life and she wants to encourage others to seek their own imaginations. Her compelling story of her work at Amnesty International shows the good and the importance of the human imagination. The empathy shown by those at Amnesty helps to change the world just because they try to imagine what it is like for some people just to live on a day to day basis. The cruelty in the world can be stopped with compassion which derives from imagination.

There are also those who choose not to use their imagination. These people, while not bad people, can never do good because they cannot show compassion. In order to show compassion you have to have some sort of understanding of the pain and suffering of others. Those who neglect their imagination are doing nothing to stop the evil in the world. They are, in fact, worse than everyone else. They live in their own world and neglect the existence of suffering. They are the ones allowing the presence of evil.

JK Rowling then mentions a quote by Plutarch: “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality”. She then expands and states that simply by being we change the world around us. Our privilege and burden is to impact others, at home and far away. We cannot deny our effect on others no matter how hard we try to suppress it. Role models are not chosen they are born.

As she closes, Rowling talks about the real meaning of life as said by Seneca: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.” If we can learn to benefit from failure and use our imaginations we too can lead good lives.


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