How To Fail With Elizabeth Day

S8, Ep3 How to Fail: Matthew Syed

June 17, 2020

Matthew Syed is an acclaimed author, newspaper columnist and broadcaster. He is also, in many ways, is the father of failure. I mean that as a compliment, obviously. Through his seminal, bestselling books - Bounce, Black Box Thinking and his latest, Rebel Ideas - he has shown again and again that failure can actually be the richest seam of data acquisition. 

His interest in making mistakes in order to evolve started, incongruously, with table tennis. He was the British number one in 1995 but later choked in spectacular fashion at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The experience triggered a fascination with what it means to fall apart under pressure and why it happens.

Syed joins me to talk about all this, as well as leaving school at 15, his childhood experiences of racism, the horror of cold-calling when he ran a marketing agency, the 'terrible' early newspaper columns he wrote, the necessity for diversity of thinking, fatherhood and why we don't need to be scared of airplane turbulence (thank goodness, quite frankly, because I'm terrified of it). It was a joy meeting Matthew, and I also liked his exceptionally polite way of saying 'thank you' when I ask a question.


I've written a new book! Failosophy: A Handbook For When Things Go Wrong is out in October. It's a practical, inspirational and reassuring guide to the seven principles of failure I've developed since doing this podcast. Packed full of contributions from loads of former guests, as well as listener stories, it is also beautifully illustrated by Paul Blow and I would love it if you wanted to pre-order a signed copy here.


Matthew Syed's lates book, Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking is available to order here.


How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you! To contact us, email

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Matthew Syed @matthewsyed

How To Fail @howtofailpod 








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