Every fan of Harry Potter knows exactly which of the four Hogwarts Houses s/he belongs in. If you’re not sure, there are several quizzes online that will give you the answer with Pottermore being the most accurate given its closeness to the source material. However in order to be successful it may actually be best for us to embody all four Houses instead of choosing only one.
The four founders of Hogwarts felt it their duty to teach magical youth to use their powers to make a positive impact on the world around them. Each of them had specific qualities they looked for in their students. Godric Gryffindor chose the brave and the strong. Salazar Slytherin chose those of pure Wizarding blood and prized ambition. Rowena Ravenclaw favored cleverness and a thirst for knowledge. Helga Hufflepuff felt that Hogwarts should have a culture of inclusion and decided that she would teach any young witch or wizard with the desire to learn. Knowing they wouldn’t live forever, the four founders bewitched the Sorting Hat and imparted to it the qualities they looked for in students and the ability to read the mind of anyone wearing it so that it could choose the right House for each Hogwarts student.
The qualities that each House embodies are great to have; however though it pains me to say this, Hogwarts and the wizarding world are fictional constructs. I know, I’m heartbroken, too. In fact I cling desperately to the hope that my letter never came because Voldemort took over the Ministry of Magic and wiped the records of all Muggle-born witches and wizards and one day my records will be recovered. However, since it looks like the owl won’t be arriving for me anytime soon and yes, I just looked out the window to be sure, let’s talk about why the one-House mentality wouldn’t necessarily work in the real or if you prefer Muggle world.
Throughout our lives we’re told to be well-rounded, never stop learning, and never limit ourselves. Research has shown that the average person switches careers, not jobs entire careers, once every five years. You may end up with your dream job after college or graduate school and it’s great for a while, but then over time you start to burn out and that dream job becomes just a necessary evil in your life. Once the thrill is gone, you’ll need a change and you can absolutely re-invent yourself in any way you choose, if and only if you’ve made the effort to be well-rounded. I’m not saying that the qualities of each individual House aren’t good to have, but I am saying people who are successful tend to embody bits of all four.
The bravery and strength of a Gryffindor are necessary when you have to stand up for what you feel is right or when you need to power through even though you’re mentally, emotionally, or physically exhausted, but they’re not appropriate for every situation. In business and in life, discretion is often the better part of valor and there’s much to be said for knowing when and how to choose your battles. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. It’s often best to follow First Lady Michelle Obama’s advice and go high when they go low.
The pure blood and ambition of a Slytherin are good to have but they’re not everything. Being proud of your heritage is great, but your heritage is where you came from. What about where you’re going? You might have the right name, but if you have the wrong mentality you could end up going nowhere fast. Ambition will get you far in business and in life, but too much of a good thing can be bad. Too much ambition can make people think of you as arrogant and make them not want to work with or do business with you. Two words: Donald Trump. Sometimes in order to lead, you have to follow. He never learned that lesson and that’s why he’s run several once successful businesses into the ground.
The cleverness and thirst for knowledge of a Ravenclaw are good things, but can lead others to think of you as a know-it-all and no one likes a know-it-all. Having a thirst for knowledge can be positive, but there are still some things in this world that just aren’t meant to be known or understood. If we knew and understood everything, the world would lose its wonder. While having knowledge is important, it’s also of equal importance to know when and when not to act on that knowledge. If you don’t believe me, Google the Manhattan Project or go re-watch Jurassic World.
Hufflepuffs are inclusive and while that’s noble, it’s not always a great strategy for success. After all, Tom Riddle was included during his time at Hogwarts and he still became Voldemort. We should be inclusive, but with the knowledge that there are people out there with malicious intent or who may otherwise prove themselves unworthy of being included. When that happens, don’t hesitate to manage them out. You may not want to, but it’s for your own good. Robin Williams once said that it’s better to be alone than it is to be surrounded by people who make you feel all alone.
Embracing the qualities of all four Hogwarts Houses can make for a successful life. There will be times when you need to be as brave and strong as a Gryffindor, as proud and ambitious as a Slytherin, as clever and knowledge-driven as a Ravenclaw, and as inclusive and noble as a Hufflepuff. Remember Dumbledore’s words, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see if my owl has arrived yet.