“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.”—J.K. Rowling, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” Harvard Commencement Address (2008)
I flunked out of Dawson College when I was in my late teens. I keep that pathetic transcript in my desk at work. Whenever a student comes into my office in tears, quite sure that their life is over because they’ve just been kicked out of John Abbott College, I take that transcript out of my desk and show it to them. It calms them, I think. Truth be told, flunking out of Dawson College wasn’t my first experience with academic failure. I failed Grade 8 at Rosemount High School (but was advanced, regardless, via “social promotion”), and I failed and repeated Grade 10 at Argyle Academy. What’s more, I was kicked out of numerous schools, and, in general, did terribly wherever I went. The reasons for my lack of academic success were rather prosaic, so I won’t bore you with them. What’s far more interesting is the fringe benefits of all of this failure. What I learned from all of these failures was, quite simply, how to fail. I learned how to detach my ego from the success or failure of my various endeavors. This, as it turns out, is a surprisingly useful skill. Lifelong valedictorians learn this skill far too late in life. And, as a consequence, they’re often crushed by their first real experience with failure.
–John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)
p.s. I really can’t recommend Rowling’s speech enough: