People love success stories. So it is not surprising that various motivational guides to success and celebrity memoirs have always been in demand. What’s surprising, however, is that one of the most popular podcasts in the UK is called How to Fail. It has a 4.8-star rating and more than 25 million downloads.
Since 2018, the podcast’s creator, English journalist Elizabeth Day, has interviewed over 130 people about their failures and the life lessons learnt from those failures. Guests have included Graham Norton, Jamie Dornan, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Andrew Scott, Lily Allen, and Gloria Steinem. They have opened up on a variety of topics — from minor things like failures to learn to swim, get good marks at school, or meet deadlines, to such huge sensitive themes as eating disorders, addiction, and loss of a child.
Some people say that the podcast’s success in the UK can be explained by the British mentality. There’s a common notion that Brits don’t like to brag about their achievements. Such behaviour is usually frowned upon. The very cornerstone of British humour is self-deprecation.
Another explanation is that stories about overcoming challenges are as inspiring and uplifting, if not more, as stories about fast and easy paths to success. Elizabeth Day says that her podcast “celebrates the things that haven’t gone right”. In an age obsessed with the “perfect life” image on social media, a podcast that normalizes and helps us embrace our failures is a breath of fresh air.