Failure is a powerful teacher!

Even-though JK Rowling spoke those words almost 10 years ago at Harvard’s commencement, I want to share them with you today because they touch me deeply and I think you might appreciate them as much as I did.

I love how she talks about failure. We tend to see failure as the end of everything, but she invites us to see it as a foundation to rebuild our lives. She explains how profound failure may help us discover who we are, what our strengths are. In her case, she had to hit rock bottom to be able to find out how determined she was to succeed in the one arena she believed she truly belonged. Instead of feeling like the victim of our own failures, she invites us to see them as a powerful teacher. She even invites us to see the freedom that lives inside failure (since we have nothing to lose anymore). Her words made me wonder: what if we realized that failure could give us access to the most profound inner security? Would we continue to live our lives in fear? What would become possible for me? for you? for us?

Her speech also addresses the profound ability of every human being to experience empathy for others, and how this empathy combined with our imagination is a key to creating a better world. She says: “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.”

The power of failure (1)

How true! What if we stopped thinking that only a miracle could solve the biggest challenges we face as a society? What if we understood that we are the miracle workers that the world is waiting for? That we need to take responsibility for our lives? That we can’t blame our parents anymore! Life is complex and difficult and yet, it is when we raise our consciousness from a state of victimhood that we can access the power that resides within us! It is this shift in attitude that completely changed my life and that I am compelled to share with my books, seminars and the I QUIT COMPLAINING challenge!

Below is the complete transcript of her speech:

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates,

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

A win-win situation!

Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world’s best-educated Harry Potter convention.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility, or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock.
Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said.
This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the “gay wizard” joke, I’ve still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock.
Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.

Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that have expired between that day and this one.

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called “real life”, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

These might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

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 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 impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension.

They had hoped that I would take a vocational degree… I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied no one and I went up to study Modern Languages. My parents had hardly rounded their car around the corner at the end of the road that I ditched German and 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 subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. 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. What more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves,  I have since been poor and I agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience.
Poverty entails fear, stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself! But poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

At your age, in spite of a 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.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very 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 from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.

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. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had 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 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 resolution. I had no idea 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 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 arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already 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 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 inevitable. 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.

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 discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from 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 adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time-Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of 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 humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books… This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office, I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without a trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterward, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilizes thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

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

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathize.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathize may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. 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 am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I’ve used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

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

I wish you all very good lives.

Thank you very much.

Want to use this article in your newsletter, blog, or on your website? You can, as long as you include the following blurb:

Christine Lewicki is a Bestselling Author, Speaker & Coach. She is committed to helping people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE “I quit complaining” starter kit on her blog  www.iquitcomplaining.com and visit her Facebook page for inspirational articles and quotes to reveal the best version of yourself each day!

 

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Wishes out of the ordinary!

2018 is here, and for this year, I want to send you:

Wishes out of the ordinary!

I don’t want to wish you Courage, I want you to feel your intuition and have the audacity to believe that what it tells you is of great value. May it guide you and open the doors of your destiny.

I don’t want to wish you Health, I want to wish you pleasure and an orgasmic relationship with your life. So much so that if you were to die tomorrow, you will know that you have lived!

I don’t want to simply wish you Love,  I want to wish you intimate conversations filled with emotion and truth, conversations that bring you closer to each other. Powerful moments during which you feel that everything is happening NOW, moments that make you realize how open, vulnerable and powerful your heart is.

I don’t want to merely wish you Joy, I want to wish you challenges and discomfort because I know that it is on the other side of this discomfort that you will find your fulfillment and self-realization.
I wish you an uncomfortable but vibrant, unstable but powerful, uncertain but aligned 2018!!

This year is in YOUR hands. I look forward to discovering what you intend to do with it.

I would be honored to read your wishes and projects in the comments section below.

Love and Respect,
Christine Lewicki

©2018

Want to use this article in your newsletter, blog, or on your website? You can, as long as you include the following blurb:

“Christine Lewicki is a Bestselling Author, Speaker & Coach. She is committed to helping people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE “I quit complaining” starter kit on her blog www.iquitcomplaining.com and visit her Facebook page for inspirational articles and quotes to reveal the best version of yourself each day!

Embracing the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

When we learn to quit complaining we learn to embrace life and that includes the good the bad and the ugly! We learn to stop resisting things that are “Happening to us”, we learn to transform our tendency to feel like victims and instead, we take full responsibility for our lives.

Writer Andrew Solomon has spent his career telling stories of the hardships of others. In this moving, heartfelt and at times downright funny Ted talk, he turns inward, bringing us into a childhood of adversity, while also spinning tales of the courageous people he’s met in the years since.  Solomon gives a powerful call to action here, a call to stop resisting our lives and to forge meaning from our biggest struggles.

What if instead of “finding” life meanings we actually “forged” life meanings because of (or thanks to) the hardships that are inherent to each one of our journey?

What if instead of complaining about what happens to us, we turned our struggles into inspiring lessons?

If you realize that complaining is a habit that robs you of enjoying and seeing the full potentials of living… why not use this month of September to establish a new powerful way of functioning, by joining the 21 Day Challenge to Quit  Complaining and Bitching at any time, it is free!

Becoming entrepreneurs, and not victims, or our lives is not always easy but it makes us feel fully ALIVE!

©2017

Want to you use this article in your newsletter, blog, or on your website? You can, as long as you include the following blurb:

“Christine Lewicki is a Bestselling Author, Speaker & Coach. She is committed to helping people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE “I quit complaining” starter kit on her blog www.iquitcomplaining.com and visit her Facebook page for inspirational articles and quotes to reveal the best version of yourself each day!

 

Disconnecting during the summer months!

The holidays are the ideal time to get out of the perpetual emergency, the one that leads to spending our life at the rhythm of the constraints of our environment. This is the time to create a space for one (or more) activity that really makes us feel good… be it doing yoga, practicing meditation or going to the beach one hour every day.

Disconnecting during the summer months

If we are working and would like to spend time in nature, we can organize ourselves to spend a few hours a week, or a fortnight, in a place that will help us to recharge our batteries.

Let’s take advantage of the slower rhythm of this time of the year to dream about what we really want. For this, a tool that helps me is to draw a mental map. It helps me to visualize the place I give in my daily life to my work and my other activities and to become clear about what I want to add or change to it.

To be fulfilled in our professional and personal lives… let’s use the summer time to reflect on what we are grateful for and on what changes we want to implement into our daily life!

And if you realize that complaining is a habit that robs you of enjoying and seeing the full potentials of living… why not use this special time of the year to establish a new powerful way of functioning, by joining the 21 Day Challenge to Quit  Complaining and Bitching at any time, it is free!

How did you plan to unplug this summer?

©2017

Want to you use this article in your newsletter, blog, or on your website? You can, as long as you include the following blurb:

“Christine Lewicki is a Bestselling Author, Speaker & Coach. She is committed to helping people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE “I quit complaining” starter kit on her blog www.iquitcomplaining.com and visit her Facebook page for inspirational articles and quotes to reveal the best version of yourself each day!

4 powerful summer tips for entrepreneurs!

Summer is here, the kids have put away their backpacks, the BBQ grill is ready and the Rosé is on ice! We are looking forward to a calmer rhythm and beautiful summer evenings with family and friends. Summer is a joy!

4 powerful summer tips for entrepreneurs! (8)

And yet, even though I really want to slow down and enjoy this season, I don’t want to have to pay for it in September. We spend so much energy working on our business growth and development all year, it would be a shame to entirely lose that momentum in the summer and have to double up our efforts in the fall to relaunch it.

What if summer became an ally to our success? What if summer was not only a source of rest and relaxation, but also a source of renewed power?

Here are my 4 tips to put summer at the service of your projects:

  • Dare to create the space for your creativity.  During the summer we have the luxury of more time, even if we can’t take a vacation, the days are longer and our body rythm slows down. We can ease up on our to do lists and our emails and finally enjoy exploring our creativity. Do you dream of writing? We are entering a season particularly well suited  to advance on a book project or to take care of a blog.  Step by step, have the gentle discipline to put your great ideas on paper.
  •  Create your vision for the upcoming months.  As we are taking some distance from the daily spiral of activities, summer is a perfect time to reevaluate our vision for the fall. You can use techniques like Mind-mapping and answer the following questions:
  1. What 3 projects are closest to my heart in the next 6 months?
  2. What means do I have to devote to these projects? (time, competencies, money …)
  3. How much quality time do I want to put at the heart of my life to take care of myself? ( yoga, singing, dancing, nature walks, meditation…)
  4. Do I feel like enrolling in a seminar or training? (which one and how much does it cost…)
  5. How can I contribute more value to others? (my colleagues, teams, clients…)
  6. What are the 3 things that I want to implement in September to create the biggest impact in my life?
  • Reconnect with the wisdom of your body and your soul.  With the weight of stress and responsibility, we tend to surrender control of our lives to our brain. Our brain manages problems, finds solutions… we spend a great deal of our year reasoning, thinking, analyzing and coming up with solutions. Our brain is the boss and our future depends on its ability to analyze situations and make the right decisions. This summer, I’d like to invite you to quiet your brain and use another form of intelligence, the intelligence of your body and soul. What if your heart was seeking to tell you something? Are you ready to hear and listen? To do so, you need to disconnect from your brain a bit, create space and reconnect with your intuitive self. Danse, mediate, move, explore the possibilities of your body. Remove the blockages which prevent brilliance to emerge and dare to see the invisible, to hear the inaudible.
  • Celebrate. Summer is also the time to celebrate. To celebrate what we have accomplished over the year and take the time to rejoice in the beautiful things that life has brought us and which may have gone unnoticed. Take the time to SAY thank you to significant others in your life, your spouse, family, friends, colleagues… life in general! We have such an innate ability to express our complaints and dissatisfaction, focusing on what others have done poorly or not done for us… let’s make an effort to whine ourselves from all negativity and let’s have the guts to strengthen our celebration muscle! 

And if you want to use this special time of the year to establish a new powerful way of functioning in your life, you can join the 21 Day Challenge to Quit  Complaining and Bitching at any time, it is free!

©2017

Want to you use this article in your newsletter, blog, or on your website? You can, as long as you include the following blurb:

“Christine Lewicki is a Bestselling Author, Speaker & Coach. She is committed to helping people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE “I quit complaining” starter kit on her blog www.iquitcomplaining.com and visit her Facebook page for inspirational articles and quotes to reveal the best version of yourself each day!

 

Accepting what is!

Thank you Rosette Poletti for this beautiful and inspiring text, in complete harmony with the philosophy of I quit complaining!

To accept what is is to be lucid, to wake up, to become conscious, and to consider reality as it is. It is to disengage ourselves from our mental programming, our erroneous beliefs, our blinders.

Accepting what is!

Accepting what is is seeking how to deal with a situation, how to improve it and make it positive whenever possible. It is ceasing to ask, “Why? Why me? “. On the contrary, it is trying to find out ” what for? – To do what? ”

To accept what is, is sometimes to have no choice but to mourn what was, what could have been, what should have been, to live as fully as possible the reality of The moment and try to give it meaning.

To accept what is is to choose to renounce revolt, guilt, resentment, hatred and indifference. In other words, it means living upright, in all our human dignity.

Accepting what is, is the indispensable prelude to all personal growth, all search for a solution, all inner peace.

I would be honored to read what “accepting what is” means to you and how you apply it to your daily life. You can leave your comments on this page below!

Source : Rosette Poletti and Barbara Dobbs, Accepter ce qui est, 2005

Want to you use this article in your newsletter, blog, or on your website? You can, as long as you include the following blurb:

“Christine Lewicki is a Bestselling Author, Speaker & Coach. She is committed to help people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE “I quit complaining” starter kit on her blog www.iquitcomplaining.com and visit her Facebook page for inspirational articles and quotes to reveal the best version of yourself each day!

When I complain, I give my power away!

When I compainI give my power away, blog post (1)

When I complain I give my power away! To understand clearly what this means, I would like to invite you to read  an article I wrote,  “I am not a victim”, that explains clearly this dynamic.

To  be very honest with you doing the 21 days challenge to quit complaining literally changed my life… It allowed me to stop resisting what was ” happening to me” and instead be in the flow of my own life. I am now present to each day, present to my family and I get to enjoy all of it. And when something happens that I want to change, then I can concentrate my energy on the solution instead of being a victim of the situation.

I invite you to join the growing movement of people who choose to stop being victims of their lives and to become actors of change. Join the  I Quit Complaining challenge at anytime.

I would be honored if you shared your experiences, challenges – successes, on this blog and I will answer any questions you might have.

©2017

Want to you use this article in your newsletter, blog, or on your website? You can, as long as you include the following blurb:

“Christine Lewicki is a Bestselling Author, Speaker & Coach. She is committed to help people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE “I quit complaining” starter kit on her blog www.iquitcomplaining.com and visit her Facebook page for inspirational articles and quotes to reveal the best version of yourself each day!