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The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success Hardcover – Large Print, February 11, 2014


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The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success + The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery
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Product Details

  • Series: For readers of Drive, Outliers, and Daring Greatly, a counterintuitive, paradigm-shifting new take on what makes people and companies succeed
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067002614X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026142
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for The Up Side of Down

“Clever, surprising, fast-paced, and enlightening . . . It’s okay to fail, and as Americans we understand this liberating fact better than, say, Europeans or Asians. . . . Acknowledging failure, McArdle writes in her engrossing book, is a necessary first step in learning from it.”
—Forbes

“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.”
—Elle

“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

“A thought-provoking study of failure—our greatest fear and greatest motivator. McArdle’s lively prose underscores an entertaining roster of tales of risk-taking. . . . Her advice is important not only for individuals, but for wider economic growth; society has to reward experimentation, risk-taking, and working outside our comfort zones. This funny, cheerful look at helping teams overcome failure and find room to experiment will be a boon to business readers.”
—Publishers Weekly

“An illuminating look at the psychology behind rebounding from defeat. . . . McArdle has found a humble, intelligent way of infusing positivity and opportunity into personal losses. . . . Her message is a significant one with both personal and economic impact: There can be no vast success without initial failures, and it’s important to foster a culture of risk-takers who embrace experimentation in working outside of their comfort zones. . . . Sage counsel on how to learn from failure with humor and grace.”
—Kirkus Reviews

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 and the “Dear Economist” column at the Financial Times

“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

“This is both a surprising and an immensely comforting book. Drawing on academic research, reporting, and not least the failures in her own life, Megan McArdle convincingly demonstrates that avoiding failure isn’t what matters, but how we cope with failure. Sparkling with wit and insight in every chapter, The Up Side of Down has something for anyone who has ever failed, or lived in fear of failure—in other words, all of us.”
—Greg Ip, author of The Little Book of Economics

“It’s time for defeat, not just victory, to have a thousand fathers. In this wise, thought-provoking, and personal book, Megan McArdle makes the powerful case that we have as much or more to learn from our failures as we do from successes. With relevant case studies from Detroit to Hollywood, she seamlessly weaves together strategic and tactical insights into how to make big decisions right—and learn from the many bad decisions we inevitably make along the way. Essential reading for executives, entrepreneurs, and students of life.”
—Parag Khanna, author of How to Run the World and Director of the Hybrid Reality Institute

About the Author

Megan McArdle is a special correspondent for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. A graduate of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, she has been a finance and economics correspondent for The Economist and a business columnist and blogger for The Atlantic. She lives with her husband, Peter, in Washington, D.C.

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

She's good smart.
Michael Lee
All in all, the author makes her case very indirectly through slow and meandering (very meandering) chapters, her points more implied than stated.
Kevin Currie-Knight
I just finished reading "Mass Flourishing" by Edmund Phelps and this book seems to me in the same vein albeit much more informally written.
MT57

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 102 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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30 of 31 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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40 of 43 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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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By mungowitz on February 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. McArdle has a wry, sometime cynical sense of humor. Her own story of how she did NOT get married is insightful, once you get past the fact that it can't have been much fun at the time. Same with Megan's mom's appendix. Interesting now. Then, ick. What makes this book so terrific, though, is the way the author actually does connect with her central theme of learning from failure. Her fiance didn't fight because he didn't really want to get married. Her mom's appendicitis felt better because her appendix had burst. A wonderful, warm book. I alternated between laughing out loud and writing down a list of "things to do from now on" while I read it.
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