There are many stories of True Believers who have created their own success masterpiece. But we don’t always hear their backstory — what it took to get to the success and what they learnt along the way. Their lessons can give valuable insights and inspire us on our own journey.
J.K. Rowling is the billionaire woman behind the Harry Potter empire. She is the first self-made billionaire author in history, having sold more than 400 million books in 69 languages across 200 countries. With the popularity of her seven book Harry Potter series she is known to have done more for literacy than any other author on the planet. The Harry Potter movie blockbusters are the highest grossing movies in history, bringing in $5.3 billion. Her massive success is an inspiring story of a woman with a vision who made her dream a reality.
Born in Yate, England in 1965, J.K. Rowling started out with a modest life. Her mother died when she was 25, sending her into depression. She moved to Portugal, married and had a daughter. Later she separated and moved to Scotland, spiralling further into depression and trying to survive on welfare. Diagnosed with clinical depression, which became very acute from 25–28 years of age, she describes this time as dark, with an absence of feeling and an absence of hope. In her words she was “as poor as you can be in Britain without being homeless”.
In the beginning J.K. Rowling describes herself as a woman with not much belief in herself at all, and yet she had this one vision — one unwavering belief that she held strong. She knew that she could tell a story as she had a passion for writing, and without any proof or evidence she kept the hope alive that she would become a writer.
From the age of five all she ever wanted to be was a writer. She wrote compulsively all through her teens and into her twenties. One day at the age of 25 she was on a train and a vision of what her first book should be came to her “… a boy doesn’t know he’s a wizard and he goes to wizard school”. All of a sudden her head was flooding with the details of the story. She said she doesn’t remember ever feeling so excited before. This personal quality of feeling it in advance and using her imagination went on to become the gift of imagination she gave to many readers. She says that having no imagination is not healthy. She believes that we ourselves have power and that we can shape our world.
Belief — vision without proof
Although J.K. Rowling struggled as a single mum she had a vision. She wrote the first Harry Potter book long hand while her young daughter slept. In the first book, she wrote about Harry, saying that one day every child would know his name. Of course that belief was without any evidence of the success that was to come. So she had a strong vision without proof, knowing there would be challenges to face.
But even with such a strong vision, the naysayers appeared and she had to manage the self-doubt. Twelve publishers rejected her first manuscript until finally the thirteenth publisher agreed to print it. At that time even her agent said, “You will never make money writing children’s books.”
A new reality
Even with her strong imagination, belief and commitment, new-found success was unexpected to her. She stated about her own success, “… it over shot the mark so ridiculously. I was so unprepared for it.”
Regarding her extreme wealth she will often make a comment that although there is an abundance of money, money still doesn’t solve all problems. She said that the single biggest thing that money gave her was that coming from being extremely poor you would “… never take for granted that you no longer need to worry”. She says that what money has done for her has given her freedom — taking away the limits she had in her life.
At her Harvard Commencement speech she also shared her views on failure:
“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. 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. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.”
She believes that we talk about success all the time but rarely talk about our failure. She said, “… rock bottom was not fun but it was liberating.”
It’s your ability to use failure that often leads to the greatest success. J.K. Rowling had a vision and she used her superpowers to get her to her new reality. She made her work her passion, embraced and learnt from her failures and expired the old stuff.
For a True Believer like J.K. Rowling, the key is to let go of the pain and expire the old stuff, to accept and learn from the failures and to build the best possible success masterpiece.
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