No one would dispute that the Harry Potter books were kind of a big deal. The seven books in the original series have sold more than 500 million copies globally, and it remains the best-selling book series in publishing history. But in this fast-paced culture in which we live, it could be argued that Harry Potter just isn’t relevant anymore. The last book, The Deathly Hallows, came out in 2007, more than a decade ago. The last movie came out in 2011. A lot has happened since then, not just in literature and film but in the world in general. Why should anybody pay attention to the adventures of a young wizard with a lightning bolt scar? It’s yesterday’s news, the byproduct of another era. Who cares anymore, right?
Wrong. In many ways, the Harry Potter books are more important than ever. Within those pages are life lessons as vital and useful today, maybe even more so, then they were when author J.K. Rowling first sat down to write them. As we approach Rowling’s birthday—she turns 53 this month—let’s take a moment and look at 35 ways that Harry Potter can help you make sense of your life in 2018. And for more amazing news from this magical series, See J.K. Rowling’s Magical Gift for a Young Potterhead in the Himalayas.
J.K. Rowling is still the ultimate rags to riches story.
She came up with the Harry Potter story on a train while on her way to a low-paying job. She finished the first book while enduring poverty, a divorce, and the death of her mother. And now she’s one of the richest people in the entire world. Forget buying lottery tickets, she’s the inspirational story we should all be emulating. And if you need some help stuffing your own bank account, start with the 20 Lucrative Side Hustle Ideas for Putting Your Savings on Steroids.
Hermione Granger is a feminist icon for the ages.
She’s the smartest of Harry Potter’s friends, and often the most level-headed. She was a cooler and tougher a teenager than most people manage to be as adults. If you ever need a reminder of what a true feminist looks like, you could do worse than Hermione.
Sometimes the fool can turn out to be the hero.
In the beginning of the series, it was easy to write off Fred Weasley and his twin brother George as nothing more than jokesters. They were comic relief, the sort of harmless but inconsequential goofballs that were easy to love but couldn’t be counted on to save the day. But in the end, Fred died heroically fighting against the Death Eaters. It’s a nice lesson in never judging a book by its cover.
Don’t spend too much time looking in the mirror (or a screen). You may miss out on life.
The Mirror of Erised shows Harry and his friends the idealized version of their desires. But it’s not the real world, and they learn to look away. We should follow their cue. Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Or in Dumbledore’s words, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” If you need helping living in the moment, learn the 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.
Always read the book.
A book has the answers, whether it’s the dictionary, the bible, or Hogwarts: A History. You can find your answer in a book.
The people who seem the most different from you can end up mattering to you the most.
Professor Lupin was a werewolf, Hermione Granger a “mudblood,” and Hagrid a half giant. Without them, Harry wouldn’t have made it past book one.
Your flaws can be your strengths.
Harry had a tendency to be impetuous, and in some cases it resulted in disaster. But his so-called “flaws” also led him to make unimaginable acts of kindness and bravery.
The things that seem boring today could save a life tomorrow.
When you’re a young and restless kid, paying attention in class can be almost impossible, especially when the teacher is a creepy dude who may be in cahoots with the dark side. But luckily Harry remembered an important lesson learned during Potions class—taught by his nemesis, Professor Snape—and was able to save Ron’s life by shoving a bezoar, an antidote for poison, down his friend’s throat.
Anger leads to hate; hate leads to the dark side.
Wait, is that Star Wars or Harry Potter’s struggle? Either way, it still rings true.
You can only pretend to be someone else for so long.
Then, the Polyjuice potion wears off.
A bully might just be scared of what they don’t bother to understand.
They blindly believe in whatever lies are being fed to them. From Draco Malfoy’s gang of two to the bullying of Snape by Harry’s dad to the Death Eaters, none of them bothered to understand why they hated, only that they should.
Dumbledore is the mentor/grandpa/Oprah figure we always wanted.
His wise words make sense not just in the Triwizard tournament, but in deciding on a career path and choosing a house to buy. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” he once said. You don’t need to be a teenage wizard to get goosebumps from life advice like that. And for more sage wisdom, read the 40 Best Books about Getting Older.
Your soulmate might just be the person who’s been standing next to you the whole time.
Ginny and Harry, Ron and Hermione, Neville and Luna. We could go on and on.
Help is available for all who ask for it.
The wisest man still has something to learn. If you don’t know, ask for help. It could be how to rewire a house, or a call for a Phoenix to bring you a magical sword that will kill a giant serpent. Or even possibly a plumbing issue, say dunking a magical egg underwater to finally understand. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you (and everyone) stronger.
The simplest gifts are the best.
It really is the best feeling when you give someone the perfect gift. And most of the time it’s the unassuming ones that mean the most. Perhaps there’s someone you know who’d love a pair of new socks or even just a single old stinky one. It could change their life. If you need to get someone in your life a simple gift, look no further than the 20 Best Ways to Give Your Dad the Gift of Time or the 20 Personalized Gifts That Will Blow Your Mom’s Mind.
Don’t ever take the car without asking.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, if you “borrow” your dad’s Flying (or grounded) Ford Anglia and crash it into a tree, you will get a Howler from your mother.
Family is what you make of it.
At the end of his life, Sirius Black counted as his family a werewolf, a gaggle of children, a house elf that hated him, and a Hippogriff. And he was the most content family man there ever was.
Sometimes kissing the wrong person can be disastrous.
It could be a road to ruin or your very life. Before kissing anybody new, ask yourself, “Is this person a Dementor who’s going to suck out all of my happiness and maybe even my soul?” Some romances are just not worth it.
Never trust a rat.
Someone who doesn’t keep your secrets isn’t worth letting into your life (or into your hollowed-out Whomping Willow).
Your memories are always worth preserving.
Harry Potter had the luxury of a Pensieve, an object that “siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure.” But we muggles have to do it by hand. Take the time to write down your memories, or tell them to a friend or family member. Everyone can learn from someone else’s experiences.
Grammar and proper pronunciation counts.
If you can’t say the spell correctly, it will never work. As Hermione reminded Harry, “It’s Wing-GAR-dium Levi-O-sa. Make the ‘gar’ nice and long.” If wizard kids can figure out these complicated spells, surely your Facebook friends can remember the difference between “your” and “you’re.” For more amazing grammar advice, learn the right way to spell The 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words in America.
If you treat the animals and plants with respect and care, they’ll take care of you.
The world is a symbiotic place. Bow to the Hippogriff and they will help you soar.
Always keep chocolate around.
You never know when you’re going to need it. As Harry found out, chocolate is the only antidote for a horrifying encounter with a Dementor. Hey, not like we needed another reason to love chocolate, but we’ll take it!
The wand chooses the wizard.
Or, don’t put a round peg in a square hole. You were meant to do something in the world. It’ll choose you, not the other way around.
There’s always going to be the teacher who hates you.
Just do your detention, keep your mouth shut, and wait for the year to be over when you’ll inevitably get a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Your words matter.
Use them for good not for ill. As Madam Pomfrey once observed, words and thoughts can “leave deeper scars than almost anything else.”
Imperfect actions and imperfect thoughts are perfectly perfect.
No one is perfect all the time, but it’s what you do in the moments that define you. What can you fix? What can you do better the next time you lash out at your friends in the middle of a quest to save the world?
Trust that you’ll be strong enough when the time comes.
Neville Longbottom begins the series as the most shy and clumsy kid at Hogwarts, hardly the one anyone would look to as a hero in the making. But that shy kid came out of his shell, and saved Harry and his friends by destroying the seventh and final Horcrux. Inside every kid lacking confidence and athletic ability is a hero waiting to be born.
Sometimes you’ve got to run full speed into a brick wall to see what’s on the other side.
Do it with reckless abandon and you may be rewarded with a magical journey. You also might smash your head into solid brick, but you won’t know until you take the leap of faith.
Tell someone how you feel. It matters.
No character better expressed the complexity of being human than Severus Snape. He was kind of a jerk who had a love-hate relationship with Mr. Harry Potter. He has no problem demonstrating how Harry annoyed him, but he played his cards close to the chest when it came to his admiration and, ultimately, protectiveness towards Harry. He died before Harry was able to thank him for saving his life (on multiple occasions), and Snape never got the chance to tell Harry how much he really cared. Don’t be like Snape!
Just because someone isn’t talkative and outwardly warm doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to say.
Professor Minerva McGonagall’s still waters run deep. Her stern exterior masked an intense loyalty and boundless love. Next time you meet somebody who seems emotionally closed off and overly strict, don’t be too quick to rush to judgment. With some people you need to look deeper.
There’s always a way to defeat a dragon.
And no two muggles or wizards are going to do it the same. Trust that you can do it in your own way.
Harry Potter technology is coming closer to a reality every day.
Have you seen The Tile, a Bluetooth tracker that helps you find your phone or keys? It’s pretty much the Remembrall, the glass sphere that turns red when you’ve forgotten something. (But let’s be honest, the tech we really want is the Firebolt.)
There’s magic in the ordinary if you look for it.
In the end, it came down to a stone, a stick, friends, family, and a cape. Nothing out of the ordinary but when combined they saved (and destroyed) two different worlds. Be careful what you value; the simplest things can be more powerful.
We still want to know what happens.
The story never ends in our minds because we’re all a part of Harry Potter’s history and his future. It’s the reader, the re-reader, the viewer, the theater attendee, the illustrator, the fanfiction writer, and librarian that all still turn every once in a while to Hogwarts, just to see what’s happening and maybe get a little advice on how solve something in our muggle world. And for more amazing, unforgettable—albeit (possibly) nonfictional—stories, check out the The Biggest Folk Hero in Every State.
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