Podcast are a fantastic way to become immersed in story, journalism, science info, well-being, comedy or career advice. The array of topics and viewpoints seems endless and the low cost and ease of distribution of podcasts mean that a huge diversity of voices and topics can be shared throughout the world.
Last week I asked for your recommendations for podcasts. I have been listening furiously and am addicted to some absolute crackers. My favourite (so far) is ‘Behind the Bastards’, a podcast that takes a look behind the scenes and histories of the world most infamous and evil people. It is hilarious, insightful and disturbing in equal measure, and well worth your time to listen.
However, I want to talk about a different podcast recommended by Deborah Frances White from ‘The Guilty Feminist’ – ‘How to Fail’ with Elizabeth Day. In each episode Day interviews a famous person (actor, author) to look at the way failure has impacted their lives and careers, to ultimately understand how failure is an integral and inevitable part of success. It is a fantastic podcast and Elizabeth Day is an exceptional host.
What interested me about this podcast, flagged by Deborah Frances White, is the different way Day’s guest’s talk about, consider and ascribe failure to themselves. From the episodes I’ve listened to so far, there is a clear distinction between how the male and female guests respond to, and speak about, their failures. It seems that the way failure is internalised, or even recognised, is vastly different for men and women.
The female guests talk openly about the emotional cost of their failure – be it creatively, personally or within their careers. There is a spirit of sharing and learning in their approach to the times in their lives that they consider to have failed.
Conversely, the male guests appear to struggle to name any time in their lives in which they considered themselves to have failed. They appear to brush off the suggestion of failure despite clear examples which in some cases could be considered career-ending failures. Still, the concept seems foreign to them.
I can’t decide which of the two approaches is best.
The first, while at times overly self-deprecating, is about sharing the experiences, feelings and education gained through failure and perhaps enriching the understanding of those who are listening. The way the female guests spoke, laughed and were unable to take themselves too seriously felt comfortable, friendly and appropriate, because that is what women are supposed to do (also they were just delightful people).
The second stance doesn’t help anybody. I didn’t learn resilience or get a feeling that I could rise from failure by the male guests, yet, it was hard not to be jealous of their confidence. Was their success a result of their exceptional level of self-belief and disregard for other people’s concepts of failure? While I was appalled at times by some of the behaviour and comments made by the male guests on the ‘How to Fail’ podcast, I couldn’t help but feel a tingle of envy at their ability to simple be.
Would we all be better off if we were a little more arrogant, a little less eager to please and willing to see failure as a foreign concept wholly disconnected from ourselves? Check out this podcast – it’s a fascinating exploration of the human response to stress, failure and self-awareness.
How do you reflect upon your failures? Do you think of them as failures or as steps to something better?
Let me know.