- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 24, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143126369
- ISBN-13: 978-0143126362
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 100 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #678,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success Paperback – February 24, 2015
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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.
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To sum up as best I can the premise here, it is that we are becoming a risk-averse society, and that has profound consequences for our future. Helicopter parenting, the absolute fear of failing to get into the best schools, the aversion to bad grades, all lead to an inability to take chances in adult life. The author correctly points out that innovation is only achieved through taking risks.
Part of the problem is that the author sometimes seems confused about the difference between "calculated risk" and "failure." Sometimes a "failure" is foreseen, or rather, built into the plan - this might work, it might not, I'll take the chance, OK, it didn't work, next idea... That to me is not a "failure." It's a calculated risk - it's something that one undertakes KNOWING that it has a good chance of not working, but that you're going to learn from the attempt regardless of whether it works or not. "Failure" is when you think you are doing everything right, and it goes tragically wrong. Distinguishing between calculated risk and "making a huge mistake" would be helpful in the book.
I think the author's bottom line is that being willing to fail, and being able to get back up and move on from failure, is the key to long-term success, innovation, entrepreneurship, and so on. That's all true but not a blindingly new insight. The author also shows many ways in which Europe stifles innovation and entrepreneurship by reducing "risks" -- how good plans fail, in other words -- while elements like America's ability to easily declare bankruptcy actually improves the economy in the long term.
I enjoyed reading the book. I just didn't get a huge sense of having learned anything significant, or getting a "call to action" that might help me either learn more from my own failures or improve the state of the world at large.
The book is marketed as an integrated discussion of how failure can be the foundation to success (hence the title), but actually most of the chapters seem to be rewritten versions of previously published articles and are sometimes only tangentially related to the main theme. This didn't bother me because I hadn't read (or had forgotten!) most of the original articles. But a reader expecting the book to be all new material might be disappointed.
There are few more typos than I'd liked to have seen, and in a couple of places the updating was skipped -- notably when a reference is made to the Bush Administration that seems to imply that he is still in office. But these are nitpicks. If you like McArdle's writing, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy this book.
Like most people I've done a lot of failing; I haven't always failed well, but I think that my childhood in the 50s and 60s did have a (very) few advantages over more recent childhoods, and one of those advantages was greater freedom to fail, and recover.
Maybe I am just missing out on some great material later in the book, but the book just failed to teach me anything. Yes, I enjoyed it at times, but I expect more from a non-fiction book. I expect in-depth analysis or a new, radical, point of view.