Posts Tagged ‘failure’

Inspiring Advice About Failure and Imagination from J.K. Rowling

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Written for In Care of Relationships by Terri Crosby

It’s a little after 6:30  am and I’m looking out at a magical mystical view that could be a scene from Harry Potter or the Mists of Avalon.  It happens often here.  I especially like the watercolor pink that’s barely there.  Such morning beauty!

Recently, I got a surprise gift in the mail from my daughter, MacKenzie.  She sent me a teensy-tiny book called “Very Good Lives” by J.K. Rowling.  You can read it in a few minutes — with it’s small size, big type, double spacing, full page illustrations, and lavish spacing. 

It’s J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement address.  It’s worth reading.

J.K. Rowling is, of course, the author of the Harry Potter series of seven books, which have sold over 450 million copies, were translated into 78 languages, and became eight blockbuster films.  She is also the founder and president of the children’s charity “Lumos” which works to end the institutionalization of children globally.

In “Very Good Lives” she says, “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.  So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale.  An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless.  The fears that 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.”

She goes on to say that she would never claim that failure is fun, and that that part of her life was a dark one, but standing in the middle of failure, you have no idea there could possibly, be what others would call, a fairy tale outcome.

J.K. Rowling refers to failure as a “stripping away of the inessential.”  When she was at the bottom of the barrel, she stopped pretending to be anything other than what she was and began to direct all her energy into the only thing she cared about, which was writing Harry Potter.  Had she succeeded in anything else, she may never have had the determination to succeed in the one area in which she truly belonged.

Basically, she had three things:  a daughter whom she adored, an old typewriter and a big idea. 

So, according to J.K. “rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

“Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations.  Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way.  I discovered that I had a strong will and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.”


She describes how she came to appreciate the value of imagination in a broader sense — that humans can “envision that which is not” which allows us to understand and relate to an experience of another person, in which we have never actually shared.  One of her day jobs while writing Harry Potter was working in the African Research department of Amnesty International headquarters in London.  The short story is that she was exposed to information which changed her life.

We can imagine, relate to others, expand our knowing — or we can simply refuse to know.  We can not imagine.  We can sit still in our world and live as if our world is the only world.  

One is not better than the other.  It’s a personal choice.

She says, “I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way [without imagination], except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do.  Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors.  I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters.  They are often more afraid.”

And further: “We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already; we have the power to imagine better.”

And when we imagine better, and focus on the positive aspects of things, magic often appears…


For more info: my three minute video blog Failure, Empowerment and Taking Responsibility





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The Single Biggest Cause of Relationship Failure

Pink Rhotodendron 1 Feeling satisfied and happy in an intimate relationship is not about trying harder. It’s not about being smarter or knowing more. It’s not about learning the right thing to say or do.

It is about letting go. It is about controlling less. It is about undoing.

To be successful — happily growing and changing, self-expressive, loving to yourself and others — unlearn what you learned growing up that doesn’t work and was never “you” in the first place. This can be a tall order, because it’s the old fish in water problem.  You know — a fish doesn’t know that he’s in water because it’s just there all the time. What doesn’t work may not seem so obvious to us ’cause we think that it’s just the way things are.  But I’m sure you’ve noticed that what’s “just the way it is” for you isn’t necessarily true for the person next to you.  Each human has a unique set of lenses through which he or she sees and experiences the world. And by the way, you developed those lenses thanks to the generous folks who raised you, who were doing their very best, yes they were!   But since then, you’ve sailed away from home, and it’s up to you to consciously take the helm.  You’re the explorer now, spyglass raised as you look out over the horizon, totally in charge of your adventures.

Relationships fail because we’re hanging on for dear life to what we’re not. 

Start by letting go of the ropes, the oars, the chandeliers.  

No jumping, climbing, paddling, or swinging necessary.

Begin by being more simple.  In an interaction with your partner, stand still enough to see what you really want to express.   Say what you mean.  Don’t embellish and don’t cloak.  Let your words and your feelings stand.  You are legitimate.  You’re beautiful.  You have bloomed.  So be the bloom.  Gradually, as you stand still in the simplicity, you’ll express more of who you are, and not as much of what you were taught. Be quiet enough and simple enough to notice your truth and speak it.  Let it radiate from you.  People will get it.  And most importantly, you’ll get it. (By the way, it is not unusual for a client who is 20 something — or 34, or 54 or 64 to not know who they came here to be.  It’s OK.  You’re not alone.  In fact, you’re in good company.)

Finding YourselfFlowersTinyyellow and white

So how do you find yourself?  Your true preferences?  How do you find what you love and are passionate about?  What makes life worth it? The bottom line is: Don’t try so hard.   Flowers don’t try.  They grow and bloom, offering their beauty as an integral part of the garden landscape. Don’t try so hard to fit in.  What would happen if you didn’t?  What would you say yes to?  What would you say no to? If you weren’t trying so hard to get attention or recognition, get ahead or make something of yourself (like that’s necessary), create a legacy (for heaven’s sake), or seek approval or be liked, what would you do naturally?  Would you work as hard, or would you let yourself enjoy life more?


When communicating your needs and wants, what if you didn’t explain, defend or justify?  What if you left strategy and manipulation at the doorstep?  It never works in the long run, anyway.  For proof, watch any romantic comedy.  When the lying, avoiding and pretending stop, things get resolved and the movie is over. bee balm 1 trimmedDon’t try to reduce what you want or distract people while you slip something important into the conversation, say, drop a little bomb. No need to stand on one leg or do cartwheels, making it more difficult for others to notice what you’re really saying. Don’t couch your words. Stand still in your knowing and speak directly. Trust that you can be heard.  Have faith in your listeners.  Let them feel their feelings and experience their responses to what you say.  You needn’t rescue them from what they are feeling and thinking.  They will find a way on their own. You don’t have to be perfect to get started being your truth, living your truth, or speaking your truth.  Give yourself room to learn as you go.  If something doesn’t work say, “I did my best. What can I learn from this?” It’s OK to fall down and get up.  It’s OK to be blind and then see the light. (You know they write some really lovely songs about these things…) It’s all good. Macnew trimmedLet go of the fear of being visible, naked, and oh-so-obvious while learning. Do you feel embarrassed or apologetic when things don’t work? If we don’t know our lines, or try something that turns out to be a crash-and-burn, we sometimes shrink in shame or embarrassment… (especially subtly, privately, in our minds) …or go hide under a rock until we recover. Others may not have thought a second thing about it, or even noticed but we judged ourselves enough to hide or shut down. Be easier on yourself.  Despite what your 6th grade teacher may have expected, it’s OK not to know the answer to her question.  It’s her question — who says it’s your question, an important question in your life or that it warrants your valuable attention? And the jelly on top?  The frosting on the cake?  It’s even OK not to know in front of others. It’s also perfectly fine to change your mind.  We make way too much of the idea of reputation, or being consistent, or looking good and having everything all wrapped up in a pretty bow 24-7. Good grief.  That’s way too much pressure.  It’s unnatural.  Go ahead.  Get muddy.  Go off road.  Take a new route and see what happens.  It will be worth it — you will make sure of that! It’s high time to get over ourselves enough to try what we really want to try. Do your best to pay less attention to what other people apparently think about you.  I say this often (to remember it for myself!) but it cannot be said often enough.  If your partner finds out who you really are, will s/he stay?  I don’t know. But if your partner leaves, if your job disappears, even if the unthinkable happens — it is always, always, always (eventually) a good thing.  It’s the Universe helping you.  This I know for sure.

Know thyself.

And as Polonius said to his son Laertes in Hamlet,

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”

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Intimacy Is Everywhere

Hello Everyone,

Today, intimacy.

Love to you all,

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Friday Love: Bam! Gate Breaking, Anyone?

Good Friday, Everyone!

Today, I’m sharing a story about how I accidentally accomplished something on my bucket list. I ran through an exit gate while looking the other way. The hood of my car is scratched up, and one windshield wiper is a mess, but let’s have a good laugh about how we never expect what “getting what we want” includes!

Let me know if you relate…

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Enough with the Name-Calling

It seems to be a growing fad these days to call someone a narcissist, or declare they are toxic.
Political name-calling is similar—we assign politicians and voters to categories, and brush them off as if they are unintelligent, inferior, or even worthless.
By labeling others, we miss their humanity. We gloss over their struggle, their best effort at dealing with life. We dismiss them.
We do to them what we believe they are doing to others.
Look past a label, and in the soft light of day, there stands a person like you or like me, coping as best they can. At the end of the day, no friend, parent, or lover making conscious choices intends to be mean, or to ignore, or to embellish. There is always more to the story.
If we label others, then for sure we label ourselves. We trap ourselves into believing we are less than. Or not enough. Or we don’t give ourselves the time and forgiveness to work through our “stuff.” Maybe, if we stopped accusing others of narcissism, we could forgive ourselves for those moments when we were narrow-minded, inconsiderate, or afraid.
When it comes to labels, nobody wins.
So, my dear people, I suggest we peer a little deeper into ourselves to investigate a need to separate ourselves from others by tacking them with a label filled with disdain or scorn.
It is my wish that you view this video and take it to heart.
Much love,

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Terri Crosby

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