After Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, it is the speech that JK Rowling gave at Harvard recently that impressed me a lot. My key take-aways were: importance/benefits of failure, imagination and hope. The gist of what she spoke is well represented in the word-cloud below –
Some immensely powerful statements made by her –
“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.” [as the saying goes – that which does not kills makes you stronger]
“…And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
“…failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.” [failure just rips apart all the clutter… and then all you see is what really matters]
“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.”
Some other good ones…
“There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.”
“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 read long time back, and now I believe, that when you really look for answers, they just come to you.. I read this speech early this month and liked it.. and that was it. Yesterday, I was just browsing the reader on my iphone and hit this speech again – and there it was.. in my face.. hitting right on at things that were bothering me for a while.. well, not exactly answering my questions, but offering a perspective with which to re-look at things.. 🙂
PS: I made the above ‘word-cloud’ using this cool tool Wordle.
…and go make what ever meaning you want of it… and interpret it the way you want.
One good example of this is what’s happening with what Michelle Obama said about she being proud of America for the first time in her life…. Now, this can be really sensationalized (the way it is being done), over-looking the spirit in which she said. You hear the entire speech and remember the occasion… and any cool-headed person would construe that though her choice of word was incorrect (instead of “proud”, the word should’ve been “prouder”), the intent of what she wanted to convey was innocuous.
Anyways, this post is not about Michelle Obama’s defense. Her example was to put across the point. I have often seen one of the big causes of misunderstanding is when we try to derive meaning by merely looking at what is being said or done and taking that at face value, and overlooking the context in which it happens, the spirit in which it’s done… and most often, ignoring the complete picture leads us to a totally different meaning… and at times, it complicates things (further).
To make an objective assessment, I guess it it not only good but also imperative to keep in mind the context and the spirit behind the action – it is not an easy task to do it always, as many times the literal face value of the spoken word / act is so strong that you totally miss out thinking about the context… however, once some time has lapsed and you can think a bit more clearly on the subject, it helps to consider the context.