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本文节选自J·K·罗琳在哈佛大学2008年毕业典礼上发表的演讲《失败的额外收益与想象力的重要性》（The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination）。
Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself and what those closest of…to me expected of me.
I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do—ever—was [to] write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from 1)impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal 2)quirk that never pay a 3)mortgage or secure a 4)pension.
I know the irony strikes with the force of a cartoon 5)anvil now, but…so they hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English literature. A 6)compromise was reached that 7)in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study modern languages. Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and 8)scuttled off down the classics corridor.
I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all the subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek 9)mythology when it came to securing the keys to an 10)executive bathroom.
Now I would like to make it clear—in 11)parenthesis—that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an 12)expiry date on blaming your parents for 13)steering you in the wrong direction. The moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticize my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite…agree with them that it is not an 14)ennobling experience. Poverty 15)entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand 16)petty 17)humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is 18)romanticized only by fools.
What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.
At your age, in spite of a 19)distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.
Now I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known heartbreak…hardship or heartache. Talent and intelligence never yet 20)inoculated anyone against the 21)caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of 22)unruffled 23)privilege and 24)contentment.
However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very 25)well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far removed from the average person’s idea of success. So high have you already flown!
1)Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of 2)criteria if you let it. So I think it['s] fair to say that by any 3)conventional measure, a 4)mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an 5)epic scale. An 6)exceptionally short-lived marriage had 7)imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.
Now I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has…since represented as a kind of fairy tale 8)resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the 9)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. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one 10)arena where I believed I truly belonged. I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, 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 11)rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is 12)inevitable. It is possible to live without failing at something, unless you live so 13)cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail 14)by default.
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. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more disciplined than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of 15)rubies.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from 16)setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by 17)adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any 18)qualification I ever earned.
So given a Time-Turner注, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of 19)acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the 20)humility to know that will enable you to survive its 21)vicissitudes.