What we Achieve Inwardly will Change Outer Reality

[watch on YouTube 20:59]

As quoted by JK Rowling in her 2008 Harvard Commencement Speech — a writing gift to those of us who write to inspire, and a delivery masterpiece to those of us who deliver keynote addresses.

This video is on the permanent watch and listen over lunch playlist of my iPad. You can find the transcript of the entire text here. I prefer to have the two combined as a beacon and reference during the most complex projects. 

The themes Rowlings refers to in her speech are:

  • the benefits of failure — 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
  • the importance of imagination — we do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better

I shared some reflections on the benefits of overcoming failure.

I have had a similar experience with the stripping away of the inessential and the need to stop pretending to yourself to be anything other than what I was. This to me is how you execute on follow your passion, finish the work that matters to you.

You do emerge from failure stronger, and those who have failed recognize that strength in you. I've had the privilege of working with many who have — both as managers/leaders and as clients/leaders. Adversity is the path to confidence in your own abilities, and in the nature of your relationships.

Fun quotes from the speech:

The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation!

There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction;

On empathy:

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.

"As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters." [Seneca]


And so it is with organizations: what we achieve on the inside, will change how we operate in trade. Our ability to make better promises in business is predicted upon keeping the promises we make.



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