How To Fail With Elizabeth Day
S4, Ep7 How to Fail: Nesrine Malik

S4, Ep7 How to Fail: Nesrine Malik

May 15, 2019

This week on the podcast, I'm delighted to welcome the brilliant Nesrine Malik, a British-Sudanese writer and newspaper columnist who has recently been longlisted for the prestigious Orwell Prize and whose forthcoming book, We Need New Stories, is a riveting assault on our tired old ideologies. (She's also really funny, by the way.)

Nesrine joins me to talk about the not-so-terrible-yet-somehow-devastating shame of not getting the A-grade she was predicted in her GCSE English (a failure so personal, she has never told anyone about it), why she's never grown out of 'mommy and daddy issues' and why she finds it difficult to put down roots anywhere. Along the way, we talk about the shock of sudden death, going to school against the backdrop of a military coup and when it's obvious someone has cooked Ottolenghi.

I adore this woman and I know that after 45 minutes in her intelligent, inquiring company, you will too.

 

We Need New Stories by Nesrine Malik is available to pre-order here

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, recorded by Chris Sharp and sponsored by 4th Estate Books

The Sunday Times Top 5 bestselling book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day, is out now and is available here.

  

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Nesrine Malik @nesrinemalik

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

 

 

 

S4, Ep6 How to Fail: Andy McNab

S4, Ep6 How to Fail: Andy McNab

May 8, 2019

You could say that my guest this week became famous because of failure. Andy McNab led the Bravo Two Zero SAS mission during the first Gulf War but his team was compromised soon after they were dropped into Iraq in 1991. This was the most horrific kind of failure. It resulted in the deaths of three of the squad, a cat-and-mouse chase across the desert and McNab's eventual capture. He withstood six weeks of torture and imprisonment, later turning his harrowing experiences into the bestselling book, Bravo Two Zero. He was also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his courage behind enemy lines. In 2017, he was awarded a CBE.

But this SAS hero did not have the most auspicious start in life: abandoned as a baby in a carrier bag on the steps of a London hospital, he was brought up by adoptive parents on a Peckham council estate and dropped out of school as a teenager, barely able to read or write. He fell into a life of petty crime. After an arrest for burglary at the age of 16 he decided to turn his life around, and joined the British Army.

Andy joins me to talk about the failure of that Bravo Two Zero mission, about what the SAS taught him about how to fail, about how someone who struggled with literacy managed to make a career as a bestselling author, about why he's been married so many times (four, since you ask) and about how he's now found lasting happiness with his wife Jenny (partly to do with a laminated strip in his wallet...listen to find out more). Oh, and he tells me he's a certified psychopath, but not - apparently - one of the bad ones. So that's a podcast first.

 

Andy McNab's books are available to buy here

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, recorded by Chris Sharp and sponsored by 4th Estate Books

The Sunday Times Top 5 bestselling book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day, is out now and is available here.

 

 

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Andy McNab @the_real_mcnab

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S4, Ep5 How to Fail: Charly Cox

S4, Ep5 How to Fail: Charly Cox

May 1, 2019

I have my FIRST POET on the podcast this week - and my, what a poet. Charly Cox is not only a beautiful soul but a beautiful chronicler of what it is to be human. Her first collection, She Must Be Mad, became the bestselling poetry debut of 2018 and Cox was named by Elle magazine as one of their 20 ‘power players’ of the year.

Although still only 23, she's accumulated an astonishing store of wisdom and I was so, so happy to have her on the podcast because what Charly has to say is deeply important for anyone struggling with how to value themselves for who and what they are rather than how they aspire to be perceived. She's been dubbed an Instagram poet for the millennial generation, but I think her work has relevance for all ages.

We spoke about anxiety, depression and her diagnosis with PTSD and Bipolar II disorder. We also discussed dropping out of school and failing to find lasting romantic love (and her fear that she is ultimately unloveable. AS IF, CHARLY). And we chat about a career failure that left her on a hotel bathroom floor in the grip of a panic attack at which point she remembers thinking: 'I will never work again. I can't believe it's taken this long for everyone to finally see I'm an imposter. I can't do this.' 

One of my favourite things about Charly is that she made me realise that the personal can be universal - that by being open about our vulnerabilities, the things we feel most shame about, we not only diminish the shame, but we connect with others who experience exactly the same emotions. And that, my friends, is what creates SOLIDARITY as a force for meaningful change.

 

Charly Cox's bestselling She Must Be Mad is available to buy here

Her brilliant new collection, Validate Me, is out in October and available to pre-order here 

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, recorded by Chris Sharp and sponsored by 4th Estate Books

The Sunday Times Top 5 bestselling book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day, is out now and is available here.

*IMPORTANT NEWS KLAXON* 

I’m doing a live How To Fail With Elizabeth Day event on 5th May at The Bridge Theatre in London with ZAWE ASHTON (who is amazing). There are still some tickets available here. This is NOT being recorded, so the only way to be part of it is to be there or...erm...be square?

  

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Charly Cox @charlycox1

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

 

 

 

 

 

S4, Ep4 How to Fail: Mo Gawdat

S4, Ep4 How to Fail: Mo Gawdat

April 24, 2019

Just occasionally in life, you meet someone who changes your way of thinking about the world. The shift might be subtle or it might be seismic, but afterwards, you are never quite the same again.

This is what happened to me when my path crossed with that of Mo Gawdat who spoke to me about what it is to live a contented life in a way that had an immediate and practical impact on my outlook. Gawdat is the former chief business officer at Google X (Google's so-called 'moonshot factory' responsible for off-the-wall ideas such as self-driving cars and a balloon-powered internet) but for a long time in his life, despite having professional, personal and material success, he realised he wasn't happy. So he set about solving this problem by applying his scientific research skills to the issue: how can one individual be happy?

After 12 years, he developed an algorithm for happiness, eventually arriving at an equation which states simply that happiness is greater than, or equal to, your perception of the events in your life minus your expectation of how life should be. He even wrote a book about it, Solve For Happy, which became an international bestseller.

Gawdat joins me to talk about how that algorithm was put to the ultimate test when his beloved 21-year-old son Ali died in tragic circumstances. We talk about how to survive depression and grief; how happiness is like fitness; how to cope with break-ups; why social media is driving us further apart and what to do about it; why life is like a computer game; the illusion of time and why we should always, always be polite to Siri.

This episode is slightly longer than normal just because I didn't want to cut any of it. I hope you take as much from Mo's words as I have.

 

Solve For Happy: Engineer Your Path To Joy by Mo Gawdat is available to order here.

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, recorded by Chris Sharp and sponsored by 4th Estate Books

The Sunday Times Top 5 bestselling book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day, is out nowand is available to pre-order here.

*IMPORTANT NEWS KLAXON* 

I’m doing a live How To Fail With Elizabeth Day event on 5th May at The Bridge Theatre in London with ZAWE ASHTON (who is amazing). There are still some tickets available here. 

  

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

 

 

 

S4, Ep3 How to Fail: Tracey Thorn

S4, Ep3 How to Fail: Tracey Thorn

April 17, 2019

My guest this week is the fantastic Tracey Thorn, who I basically grew up listening to. She was one-half of Everything But The Girl, guest vocalist on Massive Attack's phenomenal Protection album and lately has launched her own solo career alongside writing three critically acclaimed memoirs, the latest of which, Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia has won rave plaudits from Julie Burchill, David Nicholls and Dolly Alderton, to name but a few.

Tracey joins me to talk about failing to get into the university of her choice (but meeting her husband as a consequence so...y'know...swings and roundabouts), being an utterly terrible driver, as well as living with stage fright and bouts of serious anxiety that have shaped much of her life. Our chat also takes in the jostle between career and motherhood (three kids, including twins), the difficulty of understanding our own parents, the experience of ageing as a woman and why she'd never, ever consider growing her hair long.

I'm so grateful to Tracey for being so warm and generous and to Teatulia in Covent Garden for lending us their beautiful tea-shop for the recording. Teatulia sells a wonderful range of teas, some of which you can buy online here, and also makes absurdly good tea-based cocktails. Do pay them a visit if you're ever in the area.

 

Tracey's Sunday Times Top 10 bestselling memoir, Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia, is out now published by Canongate and is available to order here

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, recorded by Chris Sharp and sponsored by 4th Estate Books

The Sunday Times Top 5 bestselling book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day, is out nowand is available to pre-order here.

*IMPORTANT NEWS KLAXON* 

I’m doing a live How To Fail With Elizabeth Day event on 5th May at The Bridge Theatre in London with ZAWE ASHTON (who is amazing). There are still some tickets available here. 

  

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Tracey Thorn @tracey_thorn

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

S4, Ep2 How to Fail: John Crace

S4, Ep2 How to Fail: John Crace

April 10, 2019

My guest this week is John Crace, one of our foremost journalists and critics. Probably best known for his role at the Guardian as parliamentary sketch-writer (it was he who famously coined the term ‘Maybot’ to describe our besieged Prime Minister’s rather…um…mechanical response to crisis) and as the author of the brilliant Digested Read column, which takes the book of the moment and distils it into a hysterically funny parody.

John joins me to talk about being a heroin addict for 10 years. He describes the chaos and constant sense of failure that plagued him throughout his period of addiction with such candour and bravery that it moved me to tears halfway through the interview. There’s a school of thought that says interviewers shouldn’t show emotion, but I’m not sure this is always right.

John spoke about heroin, about how he failed to have ‘any sort of career until my mid-30s’, about living his life on the verge of a panic attack and sometimes struggling to get out of bed in the mornings, about his tricky relationship with his father and about how he finally managed to speak to his children about his past. And, for light relief, John also discusses supporting a football team ‘whose most notable achievement has been disappointment’ (it’s Spurs, by the way).

This is one of the most extraordinary interviews I’ve ever had the privilege of doing. Thank you, John, for your beautiful vulnerability. Listen and feel less alone.

 

You can read the article I mention John writing for the Guardian about heroin addiction here

 

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Chris Sharp and sponsored by 4th Estate Books

The book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day, is out nowand is available to pre-order here.

*IMPORTANT NEWS KLAXON* 

I’m doing a live How To Fail With Elizabeth Day event on 5th May at The Bridge Theatre in London with ZAWE ASHTON (who is amazing). There are still some tickets available here. 

  

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

John Crace @johnjcrace

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

 

 

 

S4, Ep1 How to Fail: Vicky McClure

S4, Ep1 How to Fail: Vicky McClure

April 3, 2019

We’re baaaaaack! And to celebrate our fourth season, please welcome the one, the only, VICKY MCCLURE.

You’re in for a treat with this one. Vicky is not only one of my favourite actresses but also one of my favourite people, as genuine as she is talented, and a total delight to interview. She’s probably most famous for her role as police officer Kate Fleming in Line of Duty, which kicked off again in spectacular style on Sunday night (did you watch the first episode? Could you follow what was going on with the UCO in the OCG who needed to get out ASAP? And what about that twist, eh?). Before that, McClure was Lol in Shane Meadows’s film and Channel 4 spin-off series, This Is England, a sinister maternity leave cover in The Replacement, a campaigning parent in Mother’s Day and a tabloid reporter in Broadchurch. Oh, and she’s won a Bafta, obvs.

McClure joins me to talk about failed auditions, failing to work hard enough at school, failed relationships, failure to be spontaneous and why she’s never going to be someone who posts her gym workouts (mainly because not going to the gym is one of her failures). Along the way, we discuss the pain of losing out on jobs (how dare you, Peaky Blinders) and how she fell in love with her fiance over the phone.

 

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Chris Sharp and sponsored by 4th Estate Books

 

*IMPORTANT NEWS KLAXON*

The book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day, is published TOMORROW and is available to pre-order here.

 

I’m doing a live How To Fail With Elizabeth Day event on 5th May at The Bridge Theatre in London with a very special guest (to be announced). There are still some tickets available here. 

  

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Vicky McClure @vicky.mcclure

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

 

 

 

S3, Ep9 How to Fail: Haemin Sunim

S3, Ep9 How to Fail: Haemin Sunim

February 27, 2019

Sniff. Sob. Wail and gnashing of teeth. Yes, it’s the SEASON THREE FINALE already - how did that happen? For our final episode in this series, I had the great privilege of talking to Haemin Sunim, one of the most influential Zen Buddhist teachers in the world.

He is a Korean ‘super-monk’ - so-called because he has over one million followers on Twitter and because his books have become instant global bestsellers. His latest, Love For Imperfect Things, is a guide to self-acceptance in which Haemin beautifully explores the idea that it is only by exercising compassion for our own vulnerabilities that we can pursue truly meaningful relationships with others. I read it in that fallow period between Christmas and New Year and it was a wonderful way to set my intentions for 2019. So much of what Haemin says chimes with the themes of this podcast, especially the concept that failure is a lesson, not a wholesale definition of self. ‘Life teaches us through errors,’ he writes. ‘When we accept the lesson from our mistake with humility and gratitude, we grow that much more.’

It was such an honour to meet Haemin, and to ask him more about his philosophy of failure. We discuss his self-perceived failure to be a good son, a failure of patience, romantic failures, break-ups and how resistance to a situation can often expend more energy than acceptance. He also manages to make me feel better about my repeated failures to meditate regularly. Apparently, just by observing my irritation at not being able to meditate, I AM ALREADY MEDITATING.

I really love this episode and I hope you will too.

We'll be back in April, but if you’re missing us terribly, don’t forget you can pre-order the book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day here.

It would be amazing if you felt able to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. This helps things like chart position and is good for attracting sponsors, which means I’ll be able to afford to carry on doing it!

Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Your messages, your likes, your Tweets, your emails and your love continue to mean the absolute world to me.

I’ll see you in April.

 

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Chris Sharp and sponsored by 4th Estate Books

  

Love For Imperfect Things by Haemin Sunim is published by Penguin Random House 

  

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Haemin Sunim @haeminsunim

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

 

 

 

S3 BONUS EPISODE How to Fail: Kristen Roupenian

S3 BONUS EPISODE How to Fail: Kristen Roupenian

February 22, 2019

Ahead of next week's season finale, I offer you, my wonderful listeners, a whole new BONUS EPISODE.

I know, I'm too good to you, I really am.

No, but honestly, thank you so much for your continued support - for all those lovely messages, ratings and reviews. I appreciate it so, so much. Here, by way of a thank you is the amazing Kristen Roupenian, author of the viral short story sensation Cat Person, and an all-round brilliant woman who has such interesting things to say about failure.

This episode was recorded earlier this month in front of a live audience at Foyle's Bookshop in London as part of Kristen's UK tour to promote her newly published collection of short stories, You Know You Want This which has ALREADY been optioned for adaptation by HBO.

In this episode, we talk about how Kristen dealt with her unexpected and overnight fame and what it's like to be confronted by the forceful opinions of strangers when all you've done is written a short story. We also talk about her failed attempt to re-home a dog (leading to lots of profound realisations), a serious relationship break-up and how she lost her way in her 20s, as well as why it's pointless to live your life in anticipation of 'a future you' that might never exist. 

 

You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian is published by Jonathan Cape. You can order it here

 

The book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day is available to pre-order here.

 

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Kristen Roupenian @kroupenian

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks

 

 

 

 

 

S3, Ep8 How to Fail: Pandora Sykes

S3, Ep8 How to Fail: Pandora Sykes

February 20, 2019

This week I get to interview one of my favourite fellow podcasters: Pandora Sykes is a journalist,  co-host of The High Low and all-round woman of impeccable taste (I mean, she must be to have agreed to come on How To Fail, right?) 

Sykes is also a contributing editor at Man Repeller and Elle magazine and writes regularly for other publications. Her High Low co-host, Dolly Alderton, is a former How To Fail guest and - fun fact - Dolly's episode is the most downloaded OF ALL TIME.

I'm so happy Pandora agreed to come on the podcast and to talk eloquently and insightfully about not fitting in with friends at school, being fired from an internship in her 20s and 'failing to harness/ contain my brain after having a baby' even though, on the surface, her life seemed to be picture-perfect. Her words will carry so much resonance for so many of us and I loved doing this interview (partly because I got to nose around Pandora's beautiful house and to meet her mother who was as terrific as you'd expect and makes a mean sausage plait).

If you haven't listened to The High Low, hello who are you and what are you doing and please download it right now. It's a brilliant weekly take on high and low-brow news and culture.

 

You can order Pandora's essay, The Authentic Lie, via the crowd-funded publisher The Pound Project. (Full disclosure: I wrote the foreword).

 

The book of the podcast, How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day is available to pre-order here.

 

Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

Pandora Sykes @pinsykes

The High Low @thehighlowshow

Chris Sharp @chrissharpaudio

4th Estate Books @4thEstateBooks