What does J.K. Rowling have in common with Tim Ferriss?
“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… And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” — J.K. Rowling
Rowling writes that in Very Good Lives, the book version of her Harvard commencement address.
She doesn’t praise failure, but she adds her voice to a large list of people who say that failure might be okay. One of those voices is also Tim Ferriss.
Ferriss, in his own way, addresses failure, saying, “we have a nebulous fear of failure.” Too often, Ferriss says, we romanticizes it or vilify it or give a monster-under-the-bed treatment. Failure is none of those things.
Failure is just a thing that happens. Instead we should view it like shoulder pain or a full stomach. Okay, eating an entire bag of pork rinds was a bad idea, lets not do that again. That’s a cousin of failure.
Failure doesn’t kill, it doesn’t maim, it doesn’t destroy. It’s a scratch in the spectrum of life. And lots of people have been dinged.
Scott Adams “failed at almost everything.” James Altucher failed at 17 out of 20 business. Rowling and Ferriss both had their books rejected.
The big thing is to not be afraid. Failure can clarify and edify. It can strip away so you can build up.
I write about failure and other big ideas like this at The Waiter’s Pad, a blog inspired by the podcast episodes from James Altucher and others.