Why do some failures inspire breakthroughs and others breakdowns?

Economist Megan McArdle examines the art of failing well in The Up Side of Down, which hits shops across the UK next week.

Here are her top tips on taking intelligent risks and bouncing back if they fail:

  • ‘We should encourage people to fail early and often – by making sure that their failures are learning opportunities, not catastrophes.’ (p. xii)
  • ‘Learning to fail well means learning to understand your mistakes, because unless you know what went wrong, you may do the wrong things to correct it.’ (p. viii)
  • ‘If you want to be able to take big risks, and then recover and move on, you cannot have everything riding on any one outcome. Diversify your emotional and financial investments.’ (p. 268)
  • ‘Getting the up side of down often means letting go of your instincts, ignoring conventional wisdom, and leaping for something that no one’s ever done before.’ (p.264)
  • ‘A resilient society lets you fail, and even lets the failure sting, but only for a moment. Then it helps you get back on track, and everyone reaps the benefit.’ (p. 264)
  • ‘The object is to take lots of small, manageable risks, because that is the only way to figure out what really works.’ (p.6)

McArdle is a columnist for Bloomberg View and has been a correspondent for The Economist, The Atlantic and The Daily Beast. Check out www.meganmcardle.com for more information.


The Up Side of Down is published on 27th February 2014 and will be available in both hardback and ebook formats.