In Failosophy, Elizabeth brings together all the lessons she has learned from conversations with people on her podcast, How to Fail.
Failure connects us all; it’s what makes us human. Success however happens when you learn from your failures and turn them around. It is our resilience and mindset that will determine whether we continue to fail or whether we succeed and learn from the past.
“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth…” (Page 13)
We often spend so much of our time dwelling on our mistakes that we forget to learn from them. This causes a vicious cycle of failure, and we end up doing the same things over and over again.
Instead, we need to learn to embrace these failures and start to think of them as an opportunity to develop.
Elizabeth Day, in Failosophy, highlights her seven failure principles and suggests that we look at failure as something that simply hasn’t gone according to plan rather than a huge issue that will impact our lives forever.
We need to stop beating ourselves up about these failures. Just because we have grown up with the films of Hollywood where lives are perfect and everyone lives happily ever after that doesn’t reflect real life for anyone.
“You don’t have to be the best, just try your best.” (Page 19)
What are Elizabeth’s principles for dealing with failures?
#1 Failure just is
We need to acknowledge that failure is a fact. We are never going to go through life without it so we need to learn to embrace it.
Everyone fails, it’s a fact. Instead of seeing it negatively, we need instead to embrace it to assist change. We also need to stop worrying about what others think. What others term as a failure is not necessarily a failure to you and therefore it should remain a personal thing; we shouldn’t taint our thoughts by other people’s perceptions.
Often feelings are attached to failure which makes everything seem far worse than it actually is.
“The minute you let go of the fear of failure, you score more.”
(Eniola Aluko, former England women’s footballer) (Page 25)
We are going to fail; it’s whether we can grow from it that is the real issue.
#2 You are not your worst thoughts
We are taught from an early age that external success helps to mask our failures to others. The only problem is that it is not our success that we dwell on but our failures which add to our internal chatter, and then all we can reflect on is how unsuccessful we are.
Our internal chatter is often our own worst enemy. We need to stop beating ourselves up when we don’t accomplish something.
“Gradually, I learned that intellectual box-ticking is often an
external response to an internal lack.” (Page 33)
Elizabeth uses the example of Mo Gawdat, a former chief business officer at Google X, who regardless of all of his external wealth was unhappy. When he realised money and material goods weren’t making him happy, he spent years analysing it and devising a solution for happiness which basically highlights that ‘if you expect nothing, you can’t be disappointed. Whereas if you expect too much, you’ll always feel dissatisfied’ (you can find out more in Solve For Happy).
We, therefore, need to learn to be more positive with ourselves. We need to train our brains to take a negative thought and replace it with a positive one. Gawdat lost his son at 21 during a routine surgery but instead of dwelling on the fact that his beloved son died and churning up all the sadness and grief that comes with that thought, he instead likes to say that his son lived and then he is blessed with the memories of his short life.
If one man can change his thoughts from negative to positive when faced with the trauma of losing a child, then so can we.
#3 Almost everyone feels they’ve failed at their twenties
When we are younger we all have ideas of greatest; we all want to be something wonderful and have ideas of grandeur. The problem is, we don’t always achieve what we want and therefore end up feeling unaccomplished. Once again, we then start comparing ourselves to others and perceive that they are far more triumphant.
With the invention of social media and especially Instagram it is easy to believe, by looking at the curated images of other people’s lives, that we are a complete failure. It is a social platform that allows people to devise the appearance of perfection, whether their true life reflects what they post or not.
When people tell you that ‘getting older is a wonderful liberation’ it seems they are extremely perceptive. Wisdom it appears does come with age when we know ourselves better and don’t second guess our thoughts and actions quite so much. As you get older you have more self-awareness and experience to draw from which helps to build up resilience to failure.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. On the outside, others seem so put-together and successful which leads to a downward spiral of self-doubt and thoughts of inability to succeed. Just remember, what you see isn’t always what is actually going on.
#4 Break ups are not a tragedy
We need to stop looking at a relationship ending as a failure. Often, when you look back, you will realise it was for the best, even if, at the time it was painful. Instead, we should start to be thankful for the passing relationships we have ha, whether platonic or sexual.
#5 Failure is data acquisition
We need to stop feeling that failure negatively defines us as people.
Rather than looking at failure as something that stops us, we need to flip it around and start seeing the knowledge we have acquired from this particular episode as a necessary piece of information that will help us succeed next time.
Elizabeth uses the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle, explaining that each new failure is a piece of the puzzle that we need to collect in order to complete the overall picture which will lead to success.
#6 There is no such thing as a future you
Sometimes we put a plan into place, try our hardest to achieve it, ultimately fail, and then feel completely dejected by it. On top of this, the chances are after that after reflecting on the plan, we never truly wanted to achieve those goals in the first place.
Stop thinking about the future you and start concentrating on the current you instead.
#7 Being open about our vulnerabilities is the source of true strength
You will often find that when you share your fears and vulnerable side, other people feel less alone. Therefore failure becomes a connection rather than isolating you further.
Basically, failure should never define you as a person.
My Thoughts on Failosophy by Elizabeth Day
When I picked this title up, I had listened to maybe one of Elizabeth Day’s podcast episodes and read none of her other books, which has clearly been a mistake!
Having read so many motivational books in the past that discuss the concept of failure I was doubtful that this book would be any different. However, it’s the first book about the topic that has actually made me think about the topic differently. It is the first book that I have actually sat down afterward and written down the things I feel I have failed at which in turn has caused me to think about how the 7 principles can help me learn from these chapters in my life.
Failosophy is a book that certain cause’s action, which is what I believe was the desired outcome.
Perhaps this book succeeds where others fail because it doesn’t contain jargon, making it difficult to understand. It is concise, to the point, and most importantly, relatable. This has not been written with a business CEO in mind. It has been written in such a way so that anyone can connect with the failosophy concept.
This is a book that you can dip in and out of as and when you feel you need a little push in the right direction. The thought of trying to retrain our brain to think that each failure should be treated as a positive is not a simple one, and we cannot simply flick a switch and change our thought process. Therefore to have a tool that we can revisit from time to time is not only a nice-to-have but a necessity if we are going to succeed in changing the way we think.
It is a book that has already caused me to take action, making me reflect on whether previous events in my life that I treat as a failure have in fact influenced my present life, and already I can see that I am beginning to look at situations differently.
People often say, never to underestimate the power of the written word, and Failosophy is a book that falls into this category. It may be short comparably to other self-help books but do not underestimate it!
I challenge anyone who reads this not to take action to try and change their own mindset.
Have you read Failosophy or any of Elizabeth Day’s other books? Would you recommend them to others?
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