JK Rowling The Fringe Benefits Essay

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We too often see failure as the end of the road, but Rowling encourages u to see it as a place to begin anew. Failure is a reality will all have to face and, somehow, overcome. "It is impossible to live without failing," Rowling reassures us, "unless you live so cautiously that you may as well not have lived at all -- in which case, you fail by default." Failure can teach lessons that no other experience can. It is a gift that is "painfully won," but worth it. Rowling again invokes Harry Potter imagery when she tells her audience that, had she a time-turner, and could go back in time, she would tell her graduating self that "life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement." So many of us get caught in the trap of comparing our life to our list of expectations. Rowling is telling us to do the opposite, that our diplomas and our resumes are not the substance...

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This may seem ironic in a commencement speech, but the point is clearly made. A diploma is something to celebrate and achievements should certainly be marked, but failures will still come, and we should always look for the lessons we can learn from such setbacks.
Rowling concludes her speech by focusing on the importance of imagination -- the ability to envision what is not -- not merely for writing books, but for imagining yourself in the shoes of others so that you may feel empathy and compassion, and put your achievements to good use. "What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality," Rowling says, quoting Plutarch. Our accomplishments aren't merely for ourselves, then, they have a larger purpose. Grades matter, diplomas matter, but, as Rowling concludes, "As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters."

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