I found a gold mine of a website – the Academy of Achievement – which has fantastic interviews with a host of incredible people, from Rosa Parks to Benazir Bhutto, Olivia de Havilland to Richard Leakey.
Here’s a 1996 interview with Elie Wiesel:
I read a lot. I teach my students, not creative writing, but creative reading and it is still from my childhood. You take a text, you explore it, you enter it with all your heart and all your mind. And then you find clues that were left for you, really foredestined to be received by you from centuries ago. Generation after generation there were people who left clues, and you are there to collect them and, at one point, you understand something that you hadn’t understood before. That is a reward, and as a teacher I do the same thing. When I realize there is a student there, in the corner, who understands, there is a flicker in the eye. That is the greatest reward that a teacher can receive.
And at the same site, an old interview with Johnny Cash:
So, I learn from my mistakes. It’s a very painful way to learn, but without pain, the old saying is, there’s no gain. I found that to be true in my life. You miss a lot of opportunities by making mistakes, but that’s part of it: is knowing that you’re not shut out forever, and that there’s a goal there that you still can reach…You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. If you analyze it as you’re moving forward, you’ll never fall in the same trap twice, which I can’t say that I haven’t been guilty of doing. But my advice is, if they’re going to break your legs once when you go in that place, stay out of there.