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J.K. Rowling: why failure is essential to success

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(Read caption) J.K. Rowling appeared at New York's Empire State Building during a lighting ceremony to mark the launch of her non-profit children's organization Lumos.

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JK Rowling is known worldwide for her literary success.

But the "Harry Potter" author wants fans to understand the importance of failure.

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That's the basis of a new book by Rowling that hits shelves April 14, "Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination," in which she describes her failures and why they were important to her ultimate success.

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Called the "closest thing to a self-help manual" she has written, "Very Good Lives" is based on the famous commencement speech Rowling delivered at Harvard University in 2008, which went on to earn more than 1 million views on YouTube. In the 70-page book, Rowling describes her rise from being a single mother on welfare to a multi-millionaire author whose books have sold 450 million worldwide and launched the most-successful film franchise in history.

Before she hit success with "Harry Potter," Rowling endured a dark period: an “exceptionally short-lived marriage,” unemployment, single motherhood, and poverty. I was “as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless," Rowling writes.

“That period of my life is 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,” she writes.

That dark period, however, helped her realize an important truth in life: that failure is essential to success. It is a concept she's promoted before.

“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," she once said.

Speaking about the book on NBC's Today Show, Rowling said she wished people talked more about her failures – and those of other famous people.

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"I don't think we talk about failure enough," she said. "It would've really helped to have someone who had had a measure of success come say to me, 'You will fail. That's inevitable. It's what you do with it.'"

Enduring failure, she said, is a mark of one of the traits she values above others: courage. "I'm normally proudest of myself after I've done something that frightens me because I, you know, believe in courage, and I think that it's the virtue that ensures all the others, as Winston Churchill said."

Proceeds from the sale of "Very Good Lives" will benefit Lumos, an international children’s non-profit Rowling founded to end institutionalization of children around the world.

“Lumos is a spell I created in Harry Potter that brings light into a desperately dark and frightening place,” Rowling said. “At Lumos this is just what we do: we reveal the hidden children locked away behind closed doors in institutions and forgotten by the world.”