Failosophy: A handbook for when things go wrong by Elizabeth Day

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Failosophy: A handbook for when things go wrong by Elizabeth Day

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Embrace failure: yes really! It could be the way to a more content you. An easy, inspiring read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: October 2020
Publisher: Fourth Estate
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0008420383

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What do Malcolm Gladwell, Alain de Botton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Lemn Sissay, Nigel Slater, Emeli Sandé, Meera Syal, Dame Kelly Holmes and Andrew Scott have in common? They've all failed and - more importantly - they've been willing to appear on Elizabeth Day's podcast to discuss their failures and how life worked out for them afterwards. You'll find the results of these discussions in Failosophy

It struck me that in the current climate, what we really need is a handbook for when things go wrong. When the world is going to hell in a handcart we need to know how to cope - and the perfect book dropped into my lap. Failosophy teaches us to embrace failure, to learn from it and then to move on: learning how we fail actually means learning how to succeed better. Forget the way that we've been brainwashed into thinking that we will succeed if only we are clever enough or thin enough or tanned enough or famous enough or charitable enough or sociable enough or, in some way good enough. Embrace being yourself.

Forget too, the idea that happiness can be a constant state. It's the exception, a transient state. Aim instead for contentment, a steadier, more stable state. Learn from your past and apply the lessons to your future.

Elizabeth Day has reduced what she has learned from failures into seven concise lessons: she expects that there will be more as time goes on. The first is that failure is inevitable: you cannot avoid it in exactly the same way that you cannot avoid oxygen or shoelaces or teabags. The second lesson is that you are not your worst thoughts: don't confuse who you are with what you do: I took the most away from this lesson, having been brought up to believe that I was defined by my (numerous and ever-expanding) failures.

Almost everyone feels that they've failed at their twenties. It's the decade when we spread our wings, take risks and fail, when we experience breakups. John Crace, Guardian columnist lost most of his twenties to heroin addiction: the trick is to learn from what happens which leads us on to our next lesson. Failure is data acquisition. Provided that we consider what has happened, we can learn from our failures and do things differently in future.

We should see failure not as something that defines us, but as a missing piece of knowledge that helps us come closer to completing the jigsaw of who we truly are. Finally, you need to accept that there is no such thing as a future you. You can plan for where you hope to be but you'll need to accept that life will, almost inevitably, work out differently and that being open about our vulnerabilities is the source of true strength.

It's a quick and light read - I finished it in one sitting with lots of pages noted to go back and think about more carefully. For most people, it will be an entirely new approach to life but is the old way serving us any better?

I'd like to thank the publishers for making a review copy available to Bookbag.

We think you might also appreciate The Gift of Failure: How to step back and let your child succeed by Jessica Lahey and Say Yes to New Opportunities! by Ruth Pearson.

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Buy Failosophy: A handbook for when things go wrong by Elizabeth Day at Amazon You could get a free audio download of Failosophy: A handbook for when things go wrong by Elizabeth Day with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Failosophy: A handbook for when things go wrong by Elizabeth Day at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Failosophy: A handbook for when things go wrong by Elizabeth Day at Amazon.com.

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