The world is an unpredictable place. There’s no such thing as a straight line to the realisation of your dreams.
An endless list of factors come in to play, many of them out of your control. Knowing that you’ve only got one shot is one thing, but realising that once you begin giving it your best shot, things will almost certainly not go exactly as planned, is another.
The life of Joanne Rowling, or as you probably know her – JK Rowling, is a fantastic example of the highs, lows and unpredictable nature of a You've Got One Shot inspiring story. From her story, we can learn lessons of not only what to do, but what not to do in the pursuit of purpose.
It was 1990 and like any other day. Rowling was traveling by train from Manchester to London, just as she’d done countless times before when a single sentence popped into her head:
Boy, doesn’t know he’s a wizard, sent to wizard school.
By the time she arrived home at her apartment in Clapham Junction, she had figured out a loose plotline that would carry through multiple novels. She was filled with excitement and despite the fact that she was struggling to make ends meet, she began writing down ideas on scraps of paper. Those scraps of paper would eventually form the basis of the most successful children’s book of all time.
But we’re not there yet. Unfortunately, later that year, Rowling’s dear mother passed away unexpectedly. One of Rowling’s deepest regrets is that she played her cards to close to her chest and didn’t inform her mother of the book she had been writing all year. The tragedy hit so hard that Rowling stopped writing and moved to Portugal to teach English.
NOTE: This reveals an important point on One Shot. It doesn’t only apply to the pursuit of your dreams and the valuing of time, but to the preciousness of your relationships. Giving it your best shot also applies to cherishing the connections around you. Never leave anything unsaid.
After marrying, having a daughter and divorcing, Rowling moved to Scotland in 1993 with nothing but three loose chapters of Harry Potter. She was an unemployed single mother suffering from bouts of deep depression. The only thing she could think to do was pull out those dusty chapters and keep writing.
By 1995, Rowling had finished what would become Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Now, you’d think that one of the most successful books of all time would have been snapped up by the first publisher that read it, right? Wrong. Rowling faced rejection after rejection after rejection. She fought the impulse to throw in the towel with the belief that she had written something others would enjoy – and was rewarded for that persistence.
The manuscript was accepted by the 13th publisher on her list. Since the first novel in the Harry Potter series hit the shelves in 1997, she has written the most successful book series of all time, sold over 500 million books, earned the top spot on the best-seller list for every book released and snagged an Order of the British Empire.
At 54, she is now the richest author on earth and the only one to have reached billionaire status. Not bad for a struggling, unemployed single mother suffering from depression.
Cherish the doing over the getting
JK Rowling is a hugely successful, highly influential individual and the only difference between her and many of us is that she made a decision. She chose to stay true to herself and operate from that authentic place, no matter the challenge. She could have let her mother’s passing; her divorce and her financial difficulties drag her down. She could have taken 12 rejections from 12 publishers as a sign that her dreams were delusions. But she didn’t.
Instead, she listened to her gut. She knew what she wanted, what she believed in, and she kept it at her core. No matter what the world threw at her, no matter how much she drifted, she’d always return to that core, to that inner truth.
My final point is that nobody else on this earth knows what’s right for you, more than you. You hold the key to passion and purpose, to happiness and success. It might be dormant, but it’s sitting inside your right now. When what you do aligns with who you truly are, then external validation is no longer as important. You’re unstoppable, no matter how many stoppages you face along the way.
A strong, unwavering sense of self that values the journey over the destination, that respects the doing over the getting – is a beautiful thing. It’s the kind of thing that can change and has changed the world.
Let it change yours.