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The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success Kindle Edition

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Length: 319 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Up Side of Down

“Clever, surprising, fast-paced, and enlightening . . . It’s okay to fail, and . . . acknowledging failure, McArdle writes in her engrossing book, is a necessary first step in learning from it.”

“A vivid example of how leaning in to low confidence—and the real and imagined failures it can bring about—can turn you around. . . . McArdle weaves together corporate case studies of triumphs and flops, core findings of behavioral economics, and her own bad luck in losing a succession of jobs during the Great Recession. . . . To get where you want to go, McArdle sagely notes, you must first give yourself ‘permission to suck.’ Seeing how this epiphany earns her a freer, failure-embracing growth mindset  is like watching a flower unfold.”

“McArdle combines a shrewd knowledge of economics and practical experience with a writing style that every so often segues into comedy monologue. . . . Americans fail a lot, she argues. . . . But good judgment comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgment—from failures. The key question is how you respond, whether you learn from failure and rebound.”
—The Washington Examiner

“With great wit and self-effacing prose, McArdle relates the rocky road that defined her professional life and the nearly impossible task of finding a stable job. . . . These so-called failures would later yield important lessons and eventually lead to bigger and better things—including this very thought-provoking book on why it’s important to fail. . . . The Up Side of Down reminds us that, although it’s a tough pill to swallow, failure is a necessary evil in reaping the rewards of success.”
—New York Journal of Books

The Up Side of Down reveals a forgotten secret to success: failure. This gracefully written, carefully researched book offers a timely and critical message. In a world that’s obsessed with perfection, Megan McArdle shows that our accomplishments depend on whether we can make mistakes and learn from them.”
—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take

“This is a vibrant book on a vital subject. It’s full of unexpected insights and is a pleasure to read.”
—Tim Harford, author of Adapt and The Undercover Economist

“Megan McArdle has written the seminal book about renewal and American greatness: The Up Side of Down will teach you to embrace failure and use it to reinvent yourself and your organization.”
—Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist and The Great Stagnation, co-creator of the economics blog Marginal Revolution

About the Author

MEGAN MCARDLE is a columnist at Bloomberg View and appears regularly on MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR. She has been a correspondent for the Atlantic and the Economist and started one of the first business and economics blogs, Asymmetric Information. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1164 KB
  • Print Length: 319 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 11, 2014)
  • Publication Date: February 11, 2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,387 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Megan McArdle is a Washington, DC based writer and a columnist for Bloomberg View, where she covers economics, business, public policy, and the occasional kitchen gadget. Prior to working for Bloomberg, she was employed at The Economist, The Atlantic, and Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and was a Bernard Schwarz fellow at the New America Foundation. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Time, Philanthropy, and Reason, among other places. Ms. McArdle has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. She lives in Northeast DC with her husband and dog.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Judy Nichols on February 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I have to say I started this book expecting a touchy-feely, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" tome full of inspirational stories and ten point lists of Things You Can Do To Turn Your Life Around.

Instead, the book turned out to be a thoughtful, well researched discussion of failure, from medical mistakes to personal job loss to the economic crash of 2008.

As it turns out there is a lot of useful information in this book. It's presented in such a way that you understand why you handled your own mistakes and failures the way you did, as well as offering advice that could help you change the way you handle things in the future.

There are times where I disagreed with McCardle's reasoning (cutting off employment benefits for example). She is a Libertarian blogger, so she does show her bias. But she makes her case without resorting to vitriol or disrespect.

I volunteer with an organization that helps unemployed people find jobs and I plan on donating my copy of "The Upside of Down" as a reference book.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David Merkel on February 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Failure. We've all experienced it. Can we benefit from it? The answer is maybe, depending on the costs of failure.

If the costs of failure are high, e.g., repaying debts for the rest of life, people will avoid taking risks. As a result, society will stagnate, because few take risks.

But if the costs of failure are low, people will take more chances, start more businesses, try experiments that might prove something bold. That is one great thing about America; the penalties for failure are low. Some have said we are the land of unlimited second chances. After resigning from the presidency, Richard Nixon became an influential voice on foreign policy.

Megan McArdle uses her own life and many other societal problems to illustrate how a proper use of failure can benefit individuals and society as a whole. Failure is how we learn. As some have said, "The wise learn from the failures of others, normal people learn from their own failures, but the stupid don't learn."

I enjoyed this book a great deal, but I want to point out a few of the chapters that particularly struck me.

In Chapter 8, she described the various ways that ideologues described the causes of the financial crisis. The Left and the Right chose their own monologues to explain the economic failure that occurred. The truth was far more banal, as average people bought into a housing mania, with financial institutions more than willing to facilitate it, levered as they were. When the bull market ended, many people found themselves with too much debt relative to the value of their houses.

Chapter 9 was the one from which I learned the most, as it described a probation method used in Hawaii, that I would describe as the judicial equivalent of spanking.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Joe Flood on February 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Up Side of Down argues that we all must learn to fail a little better, a little faster and to, most importantly, learn from the experience. There is no growth without failure, whether we’re talking economies or individuals.

McCardle bolsters her case with examples from business, medicine, physchology and economics. Discussing everything from the learning styles of children to the Solyndra debacle, she offers a kaleidoscope-look at the varieties of American failure.

And she makes a really important point on failure – we’re a nation founded by people who couldn’t hack it in the Old World. It wasn’t comfortable lords who built this country but starving peasants willing to risk a sea voyage for the opportunity to start anew. These failures created the greatest nation on earth.

One of the best chapters in the book discusses the plague of long-term unemployment, a problem once unique to Europe that has become an American scourge. McCardle writes with great compassion about people who have been unemployed for longer than a year, and the cruelties of the job market that keep them that way. She likens unemployment to a dark room that you’ve stumbled into. The people who get out are the ones who keep moving, pursuing multiple opportunities in hopes that one of them will pay off.

This is not a gooey self-help book. Instead, it's a master class on the benefits of failure, exploring research and case studies to make the argument that failure is a great teacher and an inevitable step on the road to success.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Earl on March 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
"Multiple iterations almost always beats single-minded focus around a single idea." We don't have to get it right the first time, or even a majority of times. Instead, it is in getting things wrong that we learn to ultimately get them right. Megan McArdle writes a fun, engaging, and convincing book that tells us success is often learned through failure.

While most of us pay lip service to the value in making mistakes, few of us truly live this out functionally in our lives. We are not talking in this book about minor lapses in judgment; we are talking about full-blown failure -- a collapsed company or a bankrupt individual. If we really believed failure was actually beneficial to us, we would have started that business, begun writing that blog, asked out that attractive girl/guy, or flailed in front of the entire company for the big presentation.

Her style reminded me of Gladwell - her writing is readable, and loaded with relevant, interesting stories. It's a non-fiction book that reads like fiction. McArdle's book could benefit anyone, regardless of vocation or political beliefs. While she is a libertarian blogger, McArdle was willing to point out the good and the bad of both conservatives and liberals. In other words, she does not come off as a "bunker mentality" libertarian (I myself am a libertarian, so I make that comment from inside the camp).

There are ten chapters in the book, and every one of them was interesting to me. I will comment briefly on the three chapters I found most beneficial.
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