‘Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it…The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew…Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one… I had no idea 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 already been realised, and I was still alive… And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
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…
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 to me than any qualification I ever earned’.
Extract from a speech by JK Rowling – The Fringe Benefits of Failure.