Thursday, December 6, 2012

Excerpt from "The Hard Way: A Book About Courageous Failure"

What follows is a brief excerpt of the book "The Hard Way: A Book About Courageous Failure," by Tuuti Piippo and Miika Peltola (original title: "Kantapään kautta"), which includes 15 in-depth interviews of Finnish top entrepreneurs, artists and leaders and their failure stories. It was translated from the original Finnish by Tuuti Piippo. We thank Tuuti and Miika for sharing this excerpt and look forward to the entire book being available in English soon!

There is no failure

Joanne was 21 and restless.

She wanted to write novels for a living, but her mother and father would not agree with the idea. They feared that the girl’s overflowing imagination would never pay for a house or a pension, no matter how amusing it might be.

The family settled for compromise. After graduating, Joanne would study languages instead of literature. She went to college and changed her major to Classics without telling her family.

Joanne was not afraid of being poor, like her parents who came from a background of poverty. She was afraid of failure. At the university, success meant excelling in exams. Joanne would rather sit in a cafe writing stories than attend lectures, but somehow managed to get through the exams.

Seven years after her graduation, Joanne’s marriage had just broken to pieces. Her mother had died unexpectedly. She was an unemployed single parent, depressed, with just enough money to stay off the street.

She was the worst failure she knew – her biggest fears, as well as those of her parents, had become a reality. Joanne felt like she was in a pitch black tunnel, but could not see the famous light at the end.

Her utter failure stripped down everything but the essential. Joanne finally stopped pretending and confessed to herself that she was a writer. So, she used all her energy to write out an idea she’d gotten.

She was still alive. It was a good start.

If Joanne had managed to hold one of her temporary jobs, succeeded even a little, she might not have found the determination to carry out her calling. The failure taught and revealed more willpower and self-discipline than any passed exam ever had. She took the insight and empowerment as a sign that she should keep trying.

Joanne wrote on her old typewriter in coffee shops. Every time her daughter fell asleep in her stroller, she would start typing like mad. When she had finished her first manuscript, she tucked the first three chapters in an envelope and sent them to an agent.

The envelope came back quickly with a reply: No, thanks.

On the second try, she found an agency that would start offering the manuscript to publishers. They declined one after another.

After one year and twelve rejections, Bloomsbury got interested. They offered Joanne a £1500 advance for the book. She accepted the offer, jumping and screaming from joy. The publisher made a first edition of one thousand copies.

The book was called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" [in the US, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"]. Joanne is now better known as J. K. Rowling.

copyright Tuuti Piippo and Miika Peltola. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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