How JK Rowling harnessed a growth mindset to achieve global success

As one of the most celebrated children’s authors of all time, JK Rowling is a recognised and beloved writer around the world.

But her success was far from an overnight affair. Rowling had to overcome much hardship and many setbacks before reaching global stardom, and is a prime example of a success story with a growth mindset.

Inspired and motivated

Inspired and motivated

From humble beginnings to global success

Joanne “JK” Rowling may have shot to fame for her mastery of the written word and imagination, but this was not always seen by her educators.

A childhood English teacher, Steve Eddy, recalled Rowling as being “not exceptional”. Her dreams of furthering her education at Oxford were then crushed, as the prestigious institution did not accept her. Instead of giving up, Rowling enrolled at Exeter University, after which she would begin her career as a researcher.

However, Rowling began to encounter a string of difficulties following graduation. Her mother passed away following a battle with MS, without ever knowing of her daughter’s intentions to write Harry Potter. Rowling moved to Portugal and taught English, married, and had a daughter. However, the marriage failed, and Rowling moved back to the UK almost penniless, with just three chapters of Harry Potter in her bag. During this period, she described herself as “the biggest failure she knew.”

Rather than give up, she chose to harness this failure into something positive. Of this period, she’s said, “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.”

How to talk to motivate students with her story 

One key to student motivation is to show them tangible examples of people that have gone from failure to success, and discuss the setbacks they encountered along the way.

Poverty, unemployment, relocation, a failed marriage and a child to support all at once are challenges by anyone’s standards. Rowling made a choice to direct her energy into writing rather than give up. Consider using this example in your teaching methods; for example, if a student is struggling with reading or writing, ask them what would have happened if JK Rowling had given up? You can also reinforce the importance of continuing education, practicing, and learning new things, by reminding your student that Rowling’s teacher saw her as “not exceptional.”

With hard work, commitment and self-belief, Rowling has revealed herself to be just the opposite.