In 2008, J.K. Rowling was invited to give a commencement address to graduating Harvard students — arguably among the most academically elite students in the world. Her message? Don't be afraid of failure, have empathy for one another, and always use your "power to imagine better."
The day we graduate — from high school or college — is a day when it feels like the world is at our feet. For those of us facing the prospect of taking on (or paying off) student loans, entering the job market, or even figuring out which career path would make us more marketable in the future, it's also a day filled with great trepidation.
During her 2008 commencement address — which became the book, Very Good Lives — J.K. Rowling invited students to look beyond their own concerns for the future and instead focus their energies on where they can do the most good, without fear of failure. Here are a few of our favorite quotes from her speech:
Let Failure Be Your Guide
"Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential," Rowling said. "I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what Iwas, 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."
Your Imagination is Your Power
Finding our road, Rowling said, doesn't require any special powers or talents: "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."
Live Your Best Life
But above all else, Rowling said, "As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters."
Watch J.K. Rowling's full Harvard commencement address below:
Discover More About J.K. Rowling
After the video of her 2008 commencement address at Harvard University went viral, J.K. Rowling decided to publish it for the world in the book, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination. It's a great gift for the graduates among us, or for anyone contemplating their next move.