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.”

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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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A message to Life!

You might be dissatisfied with your life. Not enough money, unfulfilling job, meandering relationship. Perhaps you spend too much time online arguing about politics with strangers. Sometimes we all feel like something is missing… and perhaps all we need is a little perspective.

A message to Life!

The message to Life this young woman wrote shakes me to my core! It has resonated with me ever since I read it and I want to pay tribute to Holly by sharing it with you.

Holly Butcher recently passed away from cancer at the tender age of 27.

The letter she posted on Facebook before she died is a beautiful ode to life and a message of incredible accuracy!

  
Here are three passages that resonate particularly with the message I carry and share in the “I Quit Complaining Challenge!”

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Click here to read the full message Holly posted on her Facebook page

If her letter to Life moves you and inspires you, I would be happy to read YOUR message in the comment section below.

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!

GET INSPIRED AND TAKE ACTION!

I am thrilled to be speaking soon at this inspiring 4-day FREE online event, created for professional mothers to refocus on their inner-self and strengths, the Mindset Shift Summit!

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Reserve your ticket for my intervention, February 2nd. “I QUIT COMPLAINING and embrace life: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!”

You can also join TODAY my online support group to Quit Complaining in 2018!

When we learn to quit complaining, we learn to stop resisting our “not always very sexy lives”, we learn to transform our tendency to feel like victims. Instead, we take full responsibility for our lives and create space for new opportunities!

Find out all about my best tips to take back control of YOUR life, RESERVE YOUR TICKET HERE

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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!

 

In 2018, I Quit Complaining!

Are you sick and tired of resisting your “not always very sexy” life?

In 2018 are you curious to discover what will become possible for YOU if you choose that you won’t be a victim of anyone or anything?

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On January 1st, 2018, together we will start a 21 days challenge to QUIT COMPLAINING. Each day, I will share with you an insight or a practical tip to succeed on my Facebook page. Click here to join my free support group now.

Here are a few and easy rules to follow:
1. Start by wearing a bracelet (something you like and comfortable) on the wrist of your choice.
2. If you find yourself complaining, simply change the bracelet to the other wrist and start over.
3. The goal is to complete 21 consecutive days without complaining.

Don’t get discouraged and remain confident because I can promise you, that in the end, you’ll discover a new life filled with greater power, intense serenity and profound gratitude. You will have turned the ordinary into the {extra}ordinary!

Why 21 days?
According to scientists, it takes 21 days to release old habits and create new ones.

Why wear a bracelet?
The bracelet allows us to remember our commitment to a complaint free life. Each time we switch side, we become more aware of our bad habits and we can choose to create more fulfilling strategies to create the life we truly want.

I wish you an eye-opening challenge and I thank you for embarking on this journey with me!

Love and Respect,
Christine Lewicki

©2017

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!

7 tips for a complaint free holiday season!

How do you feel at this time of the year?

Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the New Year… there is often a feeling of stress that sets in.

7 tips for a complaint free holiday season!

 

Celebrating the holidays is very important to me and sometimes, I go into overdrive! So, in order to fully enjoy the precious moments of this time of the year, I adopted a new “mantra”:

“Focus on what is really important”

You may say, “That’s fine, but how do you actually do it”?

Here are seven personal tips that I would like to share with you:

  • If I’m invited to several parties on the same day, I decide to choose one (I know, that’s hard!!!) and courteously decline the others. This way I can be fully available to the people around me and spend quality time with them without feeling stressed thinking I have to be somewhere else soon.
  • If my children are prone to coming up with a three-page gift list, I discourage this by taking away the advertising catalogs and limit access to television ads that encourage over-consumption and create needs or cravings that are not real. It’s impressive to see how different my children’s desires are when they are not influenced by marketing messages. I invite them to tell me the 3 or 4 things that would make them happiest.
  • When I buy gifts, as much as possible, I choose to support the merchants and artisans of my neighborhood.
    I make it a point to not only offer material gifts but also experiences! A sewing class, a horse riding lesson, a family outing, or simply a face-to-face meeting for a hot chocolate in the neighborhood’s coffee shop. That also makes for fewer gifts to wrap up and less waste!
  • Similarly, instead of giving ourselves expensive gifts, my husband and I have decided to save for a weekend, a retreat, a trip, and fund our “Quarterly Getaway”. We choose an experience that will enrich our relationship. This kind of gift brings us so much more than any object could, as sophisticated as it might be!
  • This season for me is a special time to experience the pleasures of receiving and giving. With this in mind, each year we bring toys and clothes that my children no longer use, to a charity; this ritual has become a way of creating space before filling it, and also to be aware of all the things we can accumulate which we do not really need! We share our clothes or toys with families in need, as well as taking the time to buy a new gift or to help serve holiday meals to those without resources.
  • For the preparation of the festive meals, I ask each guest to come with a choice of starter or dessert. Everyone contributes to the meal and this reinforces the sharing and caring of the moment. I can then take pleasure in the preparation of the main course and in welcoming my guests (decorations, candles, drinks …) without feeling stressed. It also helps reduce anxiety about cost and allows me to provide a meal with better quality ingredients for my guests.
  • Finally, first and foremost, I take time for ME! I make it a point of honor not to miss my dance or yoga class and to continue my practice of meditation.

And you? What are your “anti-stress tips” during the holidays?

I would be delighted to read them in the comment section of this blog!

©2017

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!

Learning to use the right words… or the key to serenity!

Learning to use the right word...

How many times at work we find ourselves saying “Why me?”, “It’s always the same”, “This is killing me”, “They’re all incompetent”, “People don’t care”!

We generalize, we omit, we exaggerate, amplify… and we do not find the right words. We accuse transportation (traffic jams or waiting time in public transports) for our delay, whereas – let’s be honest – we left home late or left it so “tight” that all the traffic lights would have needed to be green in order to arrive on time!

We end up believing what we say and distort our reality! We convince ourselves that we are victims of life.

Of course, we do it unconsciously and out of habit – because we adopt an accepted mode of functioning in our society. We tell ourselves it is not very important. Yet, by using words that are not accurate, we end up slowly killing our own integrity (and the same applies every time we do not respect our commitments to ourselves or others).
This impediment to our integrity (though so trivial!) affects us much more than we think. It blurs our perception of events and, little by little, takes us away from our center.

An infinite source of serenity arises from the simple act of applying ourselves to being impeccable in our communication. Saying things just as they are, removing our little lies, describing problems without exaggerating…

I firmly believe that when we navigate the ups and downs of our daily lives with integrity – in our words, and in our actions – only then can we connect with our inner power and cultivate a genuine, rich and delightful relationship with the people around us.

Try and you’ll see!

To further explore this subject, I invite you to read the famous book, the four agreements: a practical guide to personal freedom (a Toltec Wisdom book).

©2017

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!

 

My book now published in German… and many more languages!

Celebration!

I invite you to watch the video and discover how many languages my book “j’arrête de râler” (I quit complaining) is now available in!

Do you speak German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, French Canadian, Korean, Chinese…?

I encourage you to read the book to learn how to become the entrepreneur and not the victim of your life!

And… it will be available in English soon!

If  English is your language, and you realize that complaining is a habit that robs you of enjoying and seeing the full potential of living… you don’t need to wait for the book’s upcoming release, you can join the 21 Day Challenge to Quit  Complaining and Bitching at any time, it is free!

©2017

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

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!