Home > NewsRelease > Jessica Lahey on Parenting, Desirable Difficulties, The Gift of Failure, Self-Efficacy, and The Addiction Inoculation (#553)
Jessica Lahey on Parenting, Desirable Difficulties, The Gift of Failure, Self-Efficacy, and The Addiction Inoculation (#553)
Tim Ferriss - Productivity, Digital Lifestyles and Entrepreneurship Tim Ferriss - Productivity, Digital Lifestyles and Entrepreneurship
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco, CA
Thursday, December 9, 2021

Artist's rendering of Jessica Lahey
Illustration via 99designs

Did you make someone feel seen or heard today?

— Jessica Lahey

Jessica Lahey (@jesslahey) is the author of the New York Times bestselling book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed and The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. Over twenty years, Jessica has taught every grade from sixth to twelfth in both public and private schools and spent five years teaching in a drug and alcohol rehab for adolescents in Vermont. She currently serves as a recovery coach at Sana at Stowe, a medical detox and recovery center in Stowe, Vermont, where 100 percent of her salary goes to a scholarship fund for young adults.

Jessica writes about education, parenting, and child welfare for The Washington Post, New York Times, and The Atlantic, is a book critic for Air Mail, and wrote the educational curriculum for Amazon Kids’ award-winning The Stinky and Dirty Show. She co-hosts the #AmWriting podcast with bestselling authors K.J. Dell’Antonia and Sarina Bowen from her house in Vermont, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a lot of dogs.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by Wealthfront automated investingAthletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement, and BlockFi crypto platform. More on all three below.

#553: Jessica Lahey on Parenting, Desirable Difficulties, The Gift of Failure, Self-Efficacy, and The Addiction Inoculation

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could only use one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and five free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.

This episode is brought to you by WealthfrontWealthfront pioneered the automated investing movement, sometimes referred to as ‘robo-advising,’ and they currently oversee $20 billion of assets for their clients. It takes about three minutes to sign up, and then Wealthfront will build you a globally diversified portfolio of ETFs based on your risk appetite and manage it for you at an incredibly low cost. 

Smart investing should not feel like a rollercoaster ride. Let the professionals do the work for you. Go to Wealthfront.com/Tim and open a Wealthfront account today, and you’ll get your first $5,000 managed for free, for lifeWealthfront will automate your investments for the long term. Get started today at Wealthfront.com/Tim.

This episode is brought to you by BlockFi! BlockFi is building a bridge between cryptocurrencies and traditional financial and wealth-management products. I became excited enough about this company that I ended up becoming an investor.

Their BlockFi Rewards Visa® Signature Credit Card provides an easy way to earn more Bitcoin because you can earn 3.5% in Bitcoin back on all purchases in your first 3 months and 1.5% forever after, with no annual fee. BlockFi also lets you easily buy or sell cryptocurrencies. For a limited time, you can earn a crypto bonus of $15–$250 in value when you open a new account. Get started today at BlockFi.com/Tim and use code TIM at sign up.

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear another episode with a writer Jessica and I both admire? Listen to my conversation with award-winning author Mary Karr, in which we discuss curiosity and presence as a solution to fear, the role spirituality plays in maintaining her sobriety as a former atheist, coping with and expressing the aftermath of trauma, what she wished she’d known about therapy when she was younger, and much more.

#479: Mary Karr — The Master of Memoir on Creative Process and Finding Gifts in the Suffering
  • Connect with Jessica Lahey:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Why is Jessica fond of Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer’s intention to make his life his argument? [05:21]
  • As someone who’s educated children from grades sixth to 12th, what does Jessica consider the most difficult cohort of students, and what would she change about the structure of when and how this group is commonly instructed? [07:50]
  • What do I like about this particular grade — to the point I once considered specializing in teaching it? [13:29]
  • What was “taking a nap” code for in Jessica’s extended family? [14:54]
  • Why is June 7th, 2013 an important date for Jessica? [17:10]
  • Why it’s important to understand the roots of an addiction if we want to gain control over it. [20:20]
  • Jessica acknowledges the practical application of psychedelics — provided the recipient has a fully-formed adult brain. [23:15]
  • Did Jessica’s commitment to writing a book influence how seriously she took the conversation with her father that changed her life? What most helped her adapt to the changes she knew she had to make in the aftermath? What has she found unhelpful? [24:37]
  • What was the catalyst for The Atlantic article that evolved into The Gift of Failure? What are the book’s main theses? [30:39]
  • Confidence vs. competence when trying to foster a child’s self-esteem. [36:43]
  • How did writing The Gift of Failure affect Jessica’s parenting style? [42:07]
  • Why instilling hope in a child is so crucial to their lifelong well-being. [46:05]
  • What books and activities keep Jessica aligned along the path of hope and optimism? [49:34]
  • What did Jessica find surprising in her research about preventing substance use and abuse in kids? [52:49]
  • What does it look like to be a recovery coach at Sana? What is the format? [55:34]
  • Why did Jessica decide to write Addiction Inoculation? [1:00:16]
  • If “Just say no” is an ineffective script, what are some better ways for parents to guide their children toward making better decisions when they’re exposed to drugs and alcohol? [1:01:18]
  • Advice for parents who get the dreaded phone call that their child has been caught up in non-ideal behavior. [1:06:19]
  • A favorite failure. [1:10:29]
  • Examples of what made Jessica’s “not-to-do” checklist when she was writing her second book, and how she audits her own work for clarity. [1:15:21]
  • Writers whose work Jessica finds deserving of extra attention. [1:21:20]
  • Best investments of time, money, or energy. [1:29:13]
  • What would Jessica’s billboard say (provided she were allowed to post one in her home state)? [1:33:57]
  • Visible quotations and objects on hand that serve to inspire Jessica on a daily basis. [1:35:27]
  • Parting thoughts on the challenges of releasing a book during a pandemic, having (rather than avoiding) difficult conversations, why Jessica thinks I’d be a fantastic ninth-grade teacher, and Jessica’s dream. [1:41:25]


“I decided I would make my life my argument.”
— Albert Schweitzer

“Rigidity is the bane of my existence.”
— Jessica Lahey

“Recovery looks different for different people.”
— Jessica Lahey

“Did you make someone feel seen or heard today?”
— Jessica Lahey

“There is nothing worse than taking a kid who is just figuring the world out and then telling them, at every turn, that their perceptions are inaccurate.”
— Jessica Lahey

“Resourcefulness only comes from having tried something and screwed it up and tried it again and all that, and had support throughout that process with someone who actually believes in your ability to be resourceful.”
— Jessica Lahey

A lot of what I write about is, ‘We’re not doing this right. Oh, look, I’m not doing this right. How can I do better and learn from it?’ which is super fun and a little humiliating.”
— Jessica Lahey

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform.


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 700 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Tim Ferriss
Title: Author, Princeton University Guest Lecturer
Group: Random House/Crown Publishing
Dateline: San Francisco, CA United States
Jump To Tim Ferriss - Productivity, Digital Lifestyles and Entrepreneurship Jump To Tim Ferriss - Productivity, Digital Lifestyles and Entrepreneurship
Contact Click to Contact
Other experts on these topics