THE UP SIDE OF DOWN by Megan McArdle


Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success
Email this review


An illuminating look at the psychology behind rebounding from defeat.

“Failure can be the best thing that ever happened to you (though it may sometimes feel like the worst),” writes Bloomberg View columnist and blogger McArdle, who has found a humble, intelligent way of infusing positivity and opportunity into personal losses. The author, a self-admitted “Mozart of misfortune, the Paganini of poor luck,” adroitly examines the many facets of the spirit-crushing failure and rebound synthesis—from welfare reform to the blame game and debt forgiveness. McArdle states her points in prose saturated with a self-effacing lightheartedness, lending levity to the crestfallen reality of loss. A detour into her mother’s disastrous treatment for a ruptured appendix, however, feels odd when buttressed against chapters on the government bailout of General Motors and the art of self-identifying a recurring problem. Especially noteworthy is the fact that McArdle’s observations are not the thoughts of a detached outsider. The author has indeed been in the trenches of disappointment and disillusionment and gets personal in later chapters describing her hard-knocks ordeal fighting the depressive effects of being ill-qualified for a corporate job and then spending months on unemployment (“It is difficult to communicate the progressive corrosion of long-term unemployment to someone who has not endured it”). McArdle’s 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. Mistakes are learning tools for the greater good of society, she advises, and they should not inherently be classified as failures.

Sage counsel on how to learn from failure with humor and grace.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-670-02614-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2014


NonfictionBRILLIANT BLUNDERS by Mario Livio
by Mario Livio
NonfictionINEVITABLE ILLUSIONS by Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini
by Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini
NonfictionTHE LOGIC OF FAILURE by Dietrich Dörner
by Dietrich Dörner