Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling


This book is really J.K. Rowling’s commencement speech she gave at Harvard University. But, man, is it powerful. It’s another quick read with only 70 pages.
In the speech she talks focuses on two main topics: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. And of course, she throws the occasional Harry Potter reference in the speech.
The illustrations and the calligraphy in this book are so beautiful, I want to blow them up and put them on my wall.
Just like last week’s book, because this is such a short book and I don’t want to give the message away, I’m not including that many quotes. I’m also not including that many quotes, because if I could, I would quote the whole book to you.
Looking back and reviewing this book, I wish I had read it a week later, at a time when I failed and could have really used this book. It’s nice to revisit and realize that everything is going to be okay.
Favorite Quotes: 
  • “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.”
  • “I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, 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.”
  • “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default. 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.”
  • “You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I’ve ever earned.”
  • “Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation; in its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”
  • “Every day, I saw more evidence of the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard, and read.”
  • “And many prefer not to exercise their imagination at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.”
  • “What is more, those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it through our own apathy.”
  • “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.”

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