Motivational Monday: J.K. Rowling’s Inspiring Rags-to-Riches Story

A generation of children (and adults) grew up with J.K. Rowling’s magical Harry Potter stories, yet few know about Rowling’s personal story, which is even more inspirational than her character’s, Harry Potter, because there was no magic involved, only hard work and perseverance.

Growing up in a modest household in southwest England, Rowling describes her childhood and teenage years as “difficult.” When Rowling was 25-years-old, her mother died after a 10-year battle with multiple sclerosis, and though Rowling had started writing Harry Potter six months prior, her mother never knew about or had the chance to read the first book.

It would take another five-and-a-half years for Rowling to complete and publish Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. After a short, failed marriage, Rowling moved to Edinburgh, Scotland with her daughter. A single mother and often unable to find work, Rowling had to rely on state benefits to support herself and her child. “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,” she described during a 2008 Harvard commencement keynote.

Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and admits to even contemplating suicide. Twelve publishers turned down Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone before Bloomsbury accepted and published the manuscript in 1997. Her seven-book Harry Potter series has now sold more than 450 million copies, taking Rowling on a journey from penniless to a billionaire.

Forever grateful, Rowling has never forgotten her past hardships. As she wrote on her website, “I have not forgotten what it feels like to worry whether you'll have enough money to pay the bills. Not to have to think about that anymore is the biggest luxury in the world.”

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