After watching the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince trailer (and still getting goosebumps every time), I still can’t fathom that ONE WOMAN was the genius, the imagination, the sole creator of this incredible series. I tried explaining the basic plotline of the series to a co-worker today at NBC in L.A. and I could scarcely contain my giddy excitement. Throwing out terms like “muggle” and “boy wizard” swept me up into J.K. Rowling’s fantasy world again and overwhelmed by the sheer imagination that woman has to have been able to not only create, but incorporate, an entirely fictional (?) world that simultaneously lives among us.
Then I was watching YouTube videos and stumbled upon her commencement speech at Harvard in 2008. Though I wasn’t physically listening to her delivery (quite the opposite, sitting in front of my 15″ laptop screen), I was completely consumed by the valuable advice she was freely giving.
In sum, she highlighted two pieces of advice to impart upon the Harvard grads, which apply
to Stanford students just as much.
1. Don’t be afraid of failure, in fact, it’s absolutely necessary to live a complete life. I really took this one to heart and reflected on all my accomplishments. I don’t think them any less valuable because I didn’t fail… or else obviously they wouldn’t have been my accomplishments. But it made me evaluate the decisions I make in the future. I’ve always hated failure, not because I felt like my parents were breathing down my neck, pressuring me to achieve impossible goals, but because I’ve always been a goal-oriented person, and I’ve grown accustomed to succeeding once I set my mind to something. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, quite the opposite actually. I’ve become so complacent and doing things because I’m 80% sure I’ll succeed. In her speech, Rowling encouraged us all to take those risks in which failure is greatest. How else will be ever achieve something “great”? By constantly succeeding, we’re living a mediocre life because nothing we’ve achieved must have been that difficult. With great accomplishments come great risks.
2. Always exercise your imagination. Not because we’re all expected to become great fiction writers, but because of what the imagination allows you to do. Putting aside the sheer fun of having an active imagination, there lies a great capacity for empathy if you have a great imagination. By being able to conjure foreign situations, you can more easily place yourselves in someone else’s shoes. I had never equated imagination with empathy, but it makes perfect sense. This piece of advice I took to heart and will strive to be more empathetic, which I hope will stem from a continually expanding imagination.
So now I have even more reason to love J.K. Rowling. She created the most wonderful, magical “children’s” series of our generation, and gives pretty damn good advice.