I’ve written a fair bit about failure on this site, including about what I had to say about it in the keynote I gave in March. A big part of my depression was about how I looked at failure. When I saw Elizabeth Day’s book “How to Fail” at the bookstore I read the back cover, looked up some reviews, and it seemed that this was a must read for me.
I’m about 80% of the way through the book and I already know that I’m going to feel a bit of a loss when I get to the end. It’s thoughtful and hilarious. In fact, I laughed out loud on the bus when I was reading the chapter “How to Fail at Being Gwyneth Paltrow”. There are other parts of the book where I’ve lived similar experiences of failure as she’s describing and I have an odd combination of emotions – sadness and unease, while at the same time comforted by hearing that somebody else went through something so similar and it wasn’t a reflection of them being deficient in anything other self-compassion.
I’ve been enjoying the book so much that I started listening to her podcast, “How to Fail With Elizabeth Day”, which has been around about a year longer than the book. I like the name of the podcast. It’s like, “hey you’re going to fail, but Elizabeth Day and all of her guests are too” or “you’re failing, but Elizabeth Day is with you, so it’s good”. In all honesty, I’d never heard of her before I saw the book, but even though I don’t know her, I likely will never meet her, and I have no idea what she’s really like, I can’t help but read the book and listen to her podcast without thinking, “Dear God, where have you been all my life.”
And when I say this (and if she’s reading this she’s probably currently blocking me from any and all of her social media) I mean the “where has what you’ve written in this book and the lessons your guests on the podcasts share been all my life” because things would have looked differently to me a long time ago if I’d A) learned these lessons without the pain (except it’s hard to really learn those lessons without going through it) and B) known that other people experienced these things and not only made it through, but in many cases, thrived.
Day writes, and her guests speak with honesty, and somehow they all seem to have that British humour of which I’m so fond. Read the book. Get it from the library if you want, but if you’re like me, buy a copy so you can write in the margins. And subscribe to her podcast. It’s free.
And yes, I know that I’ve basically written a book review with 20% of the book still to read. I didn’t start out to do that when I sat down to write this post, but now that I have, so be it. Maybe Day will have written something that complete pisses me off in the final chapter or something, in which case I’ll write an addendum to this. It will be a very small failure on my part so I won’t worry about it.