How to Fail

Two friends of mine recommended this book to me. They told me it’s a fresh perspective on the whole idea of what failure means, and how we can use our failures to grow out of our comfort zone. We need to learn to convert our failures into strengths for that is what is life is all about, I was told.

It was with that excitement that I got this book and dove right into it. 2 hours later, I felt like I was sitting on the fence with this book.

The biggest issue for me with this book is the fact that it’s written by a woman, and so her issues and her failures are very women-centric issues. I could not really relate to her issues for most part, and so I had to tell myself over and over to understand her failures from a human perspective. Keeping this perspective helped me understand her issues at hand.

I read the praises inside the cover of the book, and most of them are from women. I usually don’t have problems with female writers- in fact, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, has been a major highlight for me!- but with How to Fail, I felt very strongly that the intended audience are women.

Having said that, it’s not a total loss of a reading experience.

Each chapter deals with a facet of her life, where she endured failure. What she went through, how she understood her failure, what she made of it, and how she came out of it with several a-ha moments. The writer is actually brutally honest with her life’s moments, such as a failed marriage, enduring divorce, not being to have children, workplace issues and so on. To be able to see the writer bare her soul with such honesty made for an interesting reading at at times.

She also introduces her guests who she had interviewed for her podcasts, and the guests share their experience of failures and how they have worked their way around it.

These are the areas of her life that she talks about. I glanced over several chapters- Relationships, Gwyneth Paltrow, Babies, and Families as they strictly dealt with very female-centric issues. Other chapters were interesting to read such as Work, Anger and Success.

The parts where she talks about navigating the world as a divorced woman was an interesting part to read as she talked about her fears and apprehensions about being alone and lonely. She did date men, but nothing worked out per se, and so she realised eventually that she had to fall in love with herself first in order to receive love from those around her (friends, family, boyfriends etc).

So the book reads like a memoir at times, a guidebook at other times, along with several case studies and part confessional, which is in many ways allows for the book to be engaging and refreshing and breaks the monotony of what could have been another generic book on failures.

The key lesson for me from this book has been to accept that life will thrown roadblocks at me, and that I WILL fail from time to time, but that it’s also important that I learn from my failures, and convert that into my strength. Nothing in life goes how I plan– there will be hurdles, there will be moments when I stumble, but like that Japanese saying goes, fall down seven times, stand up eighth.

All of us have our own unique individual experiences at life. There is no right or wrong way- we will all find our own ways to navigate through life, and find our own ways to strive and thrive. The important thing is to be aware of how I react to a moment of failure- the right attitude is where all the difference is made!

“This is a book for anyone who has ever failed. Which means it’s a book for everyone .I don’t have all the answers (and it’s entirely possible I have none of them) but if you turn the final page having in some small way recognised yourself and felt less alone, then that makes me happy. That means this book about failure is not, in itself, a failure.” – Elizabeth Day (page 341)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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