The Benefits of Failure

“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 been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

J.K Rowling’s commencement speech, from Harvard in 2008, was titled, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and The Importance of Imagination.” My friend, David, forwarded this to me upon learning that I’d wrapped up 80% of my contracts to focus on writing and publishing an offbeat business guide about workplace culture. While I wouldn’t say this is the only work that matters to me, I do want to direct my energy into getting it right and getting it finished.

Is it scary to walk away from bread and butter work? Yes, yes it is.

Is it a risk, as a small business owner, to trust that work will come without me incessantly marketing and promoting my services? Feels like one.

Is it possible that the book will fail, that it won’t get picked up or published or sold? Yes, very possible.

Is it freeing and exciting and essential to do it anyway? Yes. A resounding yes.

I don’t have this all figured out. (Beware of anybody that claims otherwise.) I do, however, know what it feels like to live small compared to what it feels like to live big, and I choose the latter. Nobody wants to fail. Nobody seeks it out. Logically, we know it’s possible, and many times probable, but grit and courage and resilience are character traits we admire in others – why not put ourselves to the test?

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