Practical, empathic and relatable, Failosophy for Teens by Elizabeth Day takes its lead from Albert Einstein’s assertion that failure is, in fact, success in progress. Hard enough to accept as an adult, for teenagers grappling with the challenges of life in our 21st century Insta-perfect world, learning to be at peace with failure is a big ask. Day’s toolkit includes practical exercises and advice ranging from zen philosophy to the scientific. ‘Failure just is,’ and this empowering guide aims to both defuse and soothe.
Adult readers may be familiar with Day’s popular How to Fail podcasts, where she invites well-known guests to discuss their failures in life, and to reflect on what they’ve learned in the process. In this specially adapted teen version of her Failosophy handbook, she reveals that she was well into adulthood before she felt equipped to weather her own setbacks. By distilling whole lifetimes of shared experience, Day provides teenagers with the head start she never had.
The book is predicated on seven key principles, ranging from ‘Everyone feels like they’ve failed,’ to ‘Being honest makes you stronger,’ and each principle is accompanied by a soul-searching exercise and guest contribution. For me, the best of these are stories that on the surface, seem to lie some distance apart philosophically.
Zen Buddhist monk, Haemin Sunim, is compelling with his assertion that we must accept failure gracefully, learn to silence the outside world and become more in tune with the inner one. His discussion with Day on the value of meditation is persuasive.
Conversely, Mo Gawdat, former chief business officer of Google X, takes a scientific approach with a personal equation.
‘My actual life minus what my life should be = Happiness levels.’
Our thoughts are a biological product of our brains, our brains are an organ that we have the ability to control, and Mo can show us how.
An invaluable guide for young failosophers, notable for its candour and kindness.
Failosophy for Teens by Elizabeth Day is published by Red Shed, 144 pages.