Bringing the Magic to Life: What Harry Potter Taught Me About Success

By: Katie

In previous posts, I wrote about what Harry Potter taught me about myself and about others. For my last post in this series, I’m going to write about what Harry Potter taught me about success.

Success isn’t simple.
I’m a firm believer that success in one area of your life isn’t worth it if it comes at the cost of another.  It’s easy to develop tunnel vision when it comes to striving to achieve your goals, but it’s important to remember that achieving your goals alone won’t necessarily mean success. Voldemort had power, intimidation, and at face value was very successful in achieving his goal of being in extreme power. However, he was alone. He didn’t have friends, and the only people who stuck close to him did so more out of fear or obsession than anything positive. Voldemort was so committed to becoming all-powerful that he focused on only that, leading a lonely life because of it. Sacrificing meaningful relationships, happiness, health, or your sanity to maintain your 4.0 just isn’t worth it.

HP Success

You’ll fail along the way.
If anyone exemplifies this idea, it is the Harry Potter characters. How many times did the “good guys” try to get rid of Voldemort? How many times did Voldemort try to get rid of them? Countless, practically. However, both sides continued to fight for what mattered to them. One side fought for cruelty while the other fought for peace, but still, they didn’t let failure after failure stop them, and their string of failures eventually led to a final success (well, for one side, anyway).  Failure is an unavoidable byproduct of working toward something important or doing something you care about. Whether it be to defeat an evil lord or get a job you love, you’re not going to get the “happy ending” you want without some unhappy circumstances beforehand.

Sometimes you need to break the rules.
Sometimes authority just needs to be challenged. Sometimes the status quo should be thrown out. And sometimes, the way to succeed is to forget the rules and follow your own. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione broke into Bellatrix’s vault at Gringotts to search for a horcrux, Harry used the imperius curse on a goblin so they could get inside. The imperius curse is one of the unforgivable curses, so named because it is considered so awful that its use is an unforgivable offense and will land you a lifelong prison sentence. However, they may not have gotten to the vault without its use. While this act wasn’t necessarily ethical or moral, arguably, Harry had no choice. Sometimes you can’t get where you want to be from inside the confines of what’s expected, what’s always been done, or what is deemed correct. While I don’t condone breaking laws that exist to protect others, there are times when established systems might not allow for the success you seek. When that happens, consider developing your own system instead.

We have about 1 million words detailing the experience of the Harry Potter characters (I got that number from Yahoo Answers, so it must be right). In those words, we find countless lessons that can guide our decisions, actions, and feelings toward others, ourselves, and success. The situations in your life may not involve defeating a dark lord or manipulating the world with magic, but the story of Harry Potter can still provide with wisdom you can apply to your own muggle life.

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Bringing the Magic to Life: What Harry Potter Taught Me About Myself

By: Katie

In a previous post, I talked about the lessons I learned about others from reading and watching Harry Potter. Now, I will look at the wisdom of Harry Potter through what it taught me about myself.

Living in a cupboard isn’t fun.

I mean this literally, but figuratively as well. It’s easy to feel confined by the walls you or others have built around you, but those walls shouldn’t become your prison. It’s easy to hide parts of you or not acknowledge them to others out of fear of rejection, embarrassment, or regret, but no one deserves to live cramped and uncomfortable inside a cupboard with a ceiling that sprinkles dust on them when people walk overhead.  Hiding yourself seems like the easier option at first, but it’s likely going to hurt you as time goes on. Whatever it is you’re hiding, whether it be that you turn into a werewolf at the full moon or something a little less extreme, that thing doesn’t define you, so don’t let it dictate how you live.

HP Quote

Don’t be afraid of your darker parts.

Fun fact: J.K. Rowling created dementors as a metaphor for depression. For her, these haunting figures represented a very real darkness she had experienced in her life. Everyone has experienced darkness, whether that darkness has passed or it follows them around, sucking all the joy out of their world. For many of us, the instinct to ignore or hide from such parts is natural. However, these parts of us are just as important to who we are as the parts we love. Whether it be something you aren’t proud of, a secret you’re holding, or something difficult that has happened to you, these things can build up in precarious piles around the edges of your life until they inevitably fall down on you. Instead of waiting for them to collapse, embrace the darker parts of you and your life. Confronting the cobwebby corners of your mind forces you to acknowledge difficult things, yes, but through the process, you learn that those things have helped make you who you are. Take a note from Rowling and banish your darkness with a patronus charm. Or, you know, a more muggle-like coping mechanism. Whatever works.

Don’t sacrifice your values.

If you’ve ever been in a position which required you to forego your values to meet expectations or requirements, you know it isn’t easy. And if you’re like me, it’s painful. It’s easier to cave in and follow expectations, no doubt, but there are times when obedience isn’t the answer. Consider our favorite magical trio. Harry, Ron, and Hermione chose to begin Dumbledore’s Army to fight against the restrictive and ineffective teaching policies of Hogwarts during the Umbridge days (shudder). If you’ve seen the movies or read the books (and if you haven’t, stop reading this now and go do that), you know this endeavor wasn’t without challenges or consequences. However, the students’ magical training helped keep them alive. While the related situations in your life probably aren’t of life or death importance (and if they are, I would advise you to stop reading this now as well and seek help instead), this same idea applies. It may be easier in the moment to do something you don’t believe in, but the regret that may come later just isn’t worth it.

The challenges, failures, and successes of the Harry Potter characters may be more magical than the ones we face (unfortunately), but they still can provide us with lessons we can apply to our own muggle lives. In my next and last post in this series, I will talk about the lessons the wizarding world taught me about success.

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Bringing the Magic to Life: What Harry Potter Taught Me About Others

By: Katie

I’ve always loved Harry Potter. As a kid, I loved the magic of it, and longed to be a part of that world. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate different parts of the story my younger self couldn’t. Harry Potter is a story about witches and wizards and the cool spells they cast and evil villains they defeat, sure, but it’s much deeper than that. Harry Potter and the magical world he lives in can provide us with valuable lessons about others, ourselves, and our lives.

HP Magic 1

To start, I’ll outline a few of the most important lessons Harry Potter taught me about others.

No one is simple.

First impressions are important, and their effects are enduring. Your gut instinct can be a useful tool in discerning “good and bad,” or “right and wrong.” We know these are true, but it’s also true that the impressions and ideas we have of people can be false, or at least oversimplified. Draco Malfoy, when taken at face value, was a cruel bully working for the dark side. This impression, while admittedly not inaccurate, doesn’t reflect the fact that Draco was raised in a family that not only encouraged, but basically forced a cruel and aggressive treatment of others. In order to be “good,” Draco would have had to oppose his family and everything he’d been taught, not to mention He Who Must Not Be Named. Maybe Draco would have been the hero of the story if raised in a different environment, but that’s not the life he was given. While circumstance isn’t enough to justify cruelty, Draco’s story is a perfect example of why we can’t rely on a person’s outward appearance or interaction with others to determine their true character.

People may surprise you.

In the same way that we can’t always rely on our impressions or on a person’s behavior to determine their “goodness,” we can’t always rely on our past experience with them to predict what we will see of them in the future. Kreacher, the house elf that was bound to serve the Black family, didn’t attempt to hide his hatred for Mudbloods (and Hermione, by extension), Harry, and anyone who associated with either, and did whatever was in his power to resist helping them. He was a character who was easy to hate and appeared to be one with no redeeming qualities. However, Kreacher eventually changed his tune, and showed up to fight against Voldemort and the Death Eaters at the Battle of Hogwarts. Based on Kreacher’s past, no one would expect him to fight against the side he had been loyal to throughout his life. Kreacher’s character development shows that if we allow for the opportunity for people to surprise us, they just might end up fighting evil with us (or, you know, a difficult class…same thing).

You need others.

Harry was always a brave and courageous person, willing to fight the battles of the wizarding world all on his own. Bravery, courage, and independence are certainly positive traits to possess, but there comes a time when the desire to do it on your own needs to be suspended and you need to turn to your support system to help you out. Harry couldn’t have accomplished what he did without the support of others, particularly his partners in crime, Ron and Hermione. They never left his side, stuck up for him when others challenged or questioned him, and helped him fight any dementors or death eaters or obnoxious classmates who crossed his path. It is essential to build and maintain a quality support system – a group of people who complement who you are, are stronger where you are weaker, and who are able and willing to do whatever they can to help you succeed.

With the world of Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling created a set of rich, complex characters whose stories can provide a guideline of how best to interact with and understand those around us, whether they be friends, enemies, or strangers. In future posts, I will look at more bits of wisdom Harry Potter taught me.

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