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  • [music]

  • Elizabeth Day: All of us fail in myriad ways almost

  • every single day and yet, we live in an age where it

  • is very difficult to be honest about failure, where

  • it seems as if everyone else is nailing their life.

  • Because we live an age of curated

  • perfection of social media, of Instagram

  • filters and it can feel quite lonely sometimes to be vulnerable.

  • It is paradoxically when we are our most

  • vulnerable and when we choose to be

  • open and honest about that vulnerability

  • that we become our strongest selves.

  • Because not only do we learn more about who we are, but we're

  • able to connect on a very human level with other people.

  • In October 2017, a long-term relationship came to an end.

  • It was brutal. It was out of the blue

  • and it was three weeks before my 39th birthday.

  • I face my 39th birthday was something akin to trepidation because I was

  • in no way where I have thought I would be at that stage in my life.

  • During my 30s, I had had a very busy time.

  • I had got married and then divorced.

  • I had tried and failed to have children.

  • I had two unsuccessful rounds of IVF and a miscarriage at three months.

  • When I look back at my 30s, I realized that they

  • had been a decade of some professional success.

  • I had written four novels.

  • I was lucky enough to make my living as a journalist, but they had been

  • a decade also of immense personal transition and personal sadness.

  • At the back of this relationship ending, I took myself

  • to LA, which is a very good place to go to lick your

  • wounds because it's sunny and the time difference means

  • that you don't get that many emails after 2 P.M.

  • It was while I was in LA that I find myself listening to a lot of

  • podcasts because, as anyone who has ever been heartbroken will

  • know, when you're in that state of mind, every single pop song

  • seems to have a peculiar, a specific resonance to your heartbreak.

  • One of the podcasts I was listening to was

  • Where Shall We Begin with Esther Perel.

  • She is a fantastic relationship therapist and she basically opens up

  • the door to her consulting room during the course of this podcast.

  • You get a bird's eye view of relationships

  • going wrong and then being put right.

  • At the same time as I was listening to this

  • podcast, I was having the most incredible

  • conversations with my predominantly female friends

  • about what it meant to have loved and lost

  • and what we had learned from various heartbreak,

  • and where we were professionally and what

  • this meant, and what it meant not to have

  • children when one had always thought one would.

  • I began to look very differently at my

  • failures and I began to see that each one had

  • taught me something so valuable about who

  • I was and what I wanted going forwards.

  • Actually, each time I had ended a job

  • or ended a relationship or a friendship

  • had fallen by the wayside, it had been

  • a lesson wrapped up in a mistake.

  • It had been a nudge from the universe in a slightly different direction.

  • I started to wonder how great it would be if we could open up those

  • conversations into a more public forum

  • and that was the genesis of How To Fail.

  • For the first eight guests, I really corralled a lot of

  • friends and contacts and got them to do it as a favor.

  • I asked each guest before they appeared

  • to come up with three failures.

  • Three instances in their life where they felt

  • that things haven't gone according to plan.

  • They could range from the seemingly superficial, bad dates,

  • failed driving tests, lost tennis matches to the more profound.

  • It is a great honor now to listen to those people

  • stories because the topics we've discussed

  • include living with depression, homelessness,

  • death by suicide, failed family relationships.

  • It really has been the most beautiful journey of discovery.

  • Those first eight episodes I put out into

  • the world genuinely thinking that maybe half

  • a dozen people might listen and two of

  • those people would probably be my parents.

  • I sold my wedding dress on eBay to fund the first few episodes.

  • I drew my own logo with felt-tip pens, as you

  • can probably tell if you've ever seen it.

  • Anyway, How To Fail went out there in July 2018 and within

  • three weeks, it was number three on the iTunes chart.

  • It was, ironically, the most successful thing I have ever done.

  • [laughter]

  • Elizabeth: It's been a really incredible thing, this journey,

  • because it's made me realize how much we were all thirsting to talk

  • about failure and how alone so many people feel in their failures

  • and how ashamed they feel of acknowledging them in public.

  • It's really been wonderful opening up

  • a space where people can be more honest.

  • One of the most inspiring guests I've ever had on

  • the podcast is a man called Johnny Benjamin, who

  • is not a household name, but is a phenomenal mental health campaigner.

  • When Johnny was 20, he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

  • Shortly afterwards, he found himself standing on

  • the edge of Waterloo Bridge, about to take his own life.

  • The pain had got so great that he could see no other way out.

  • It was at that moment that a stranger walked past him

  • and, noticing Johnny's distress, stopped to talk to him.

  • It was this single act of compassion

  • and connection that pulled Johnny back from the edge.

  • Six years later, Johnny launched an internet

  • campaign to try and find that stranger.

  • 319 million people responded and eventually

  • Johnny was reunited with Neil Laybourn.

  • The two of them are now best friends and they tour the country

  • talking to corporations and schools about mental health.

  • When Johnny was telling this story to me, it was extremely emotional.

  • We were both in tears and it caused a wave of listener response.

  • So many people got in touch to say that

  • Johnny's bravery and courage in speaking about

  • that had helped them feel it was worth continuing,

  • had helped them feel it was less alone.

  • Really, what I'd like to end on is that idea that

  • however bleak it feels, however much you think you have

  • failed, cling on that little bit longer because the real

  • failure might be not finding out what happens next.

  • [music]

[music]

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Lessons Learned From Failure with Elizabeth Day

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    Summer posted on 2020/09/20
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