Book Review of “The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success” by Megan McArdle

Posted: November 21, 2017 in Book Reviews
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The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to SuccessThe Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success by Megan McArdle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, this was a pretty good book. McArdle makes a good case for all the reasons why learning to fail well makes us more successful in the long run (a big reason is all those lessons we should – and if we don’t, then we’ve failed at failing – learn from falling flat on our faces).

One of the things that she does an excellent job of addressing is the Millennial problem of not being allowed to fail at all for the first 25 years (or however long Dad and Mom let you hang out for free in the basement and play video games all night and sleep all day) of life and then suddenly hitting the real world with totally unrealistic expectations and being completely unequipped to either succeed or fail on your own.

I had two problems with this book, though.

One was McArdle’s own inflated opinion of herself (“I’m an MBA and I know economics better than anyone else, so therefore, I have all the answers and I’ll argue you down until you agree with me”), which is off-putting for an otherwise sensible book.

Oh sure, she seems to be self-deprecating at times, but then immediately she turns around and tells you why she’s right and everyone else is wrong. I got tired of McArdle inserting herself into the narrative when it wasn’t about her at all.

The second problem was with the next to the last chapter where McArdle asserted with absolutely authority that there isn’t a root cause for every single problem/issue/situation that exists.

Instead, some things are just random and out of thin air (I would be one of those people that she would try to shout down into silence because I disagree with her on this one – that, by the way, is a character trait she reveals about herself throughout the book and it’s not flattering because none of us is right all the time about everything: in fact, the very opposite is true).

This is a superficial assumption on McArdle’s point that is erroneous.

She would have been on much more solid ground had she understood and acknowledged that roots causes are not always obvious. They may be ancient. They may be complicated and complex. They may have morphed so much over time and through complication and complexity that they don’t even look like they did initially.

But it doesn’t mean root causes don’t exist for everything. To suggest – or assert, as McArdle does – otherwise is arrogant ignorance.

View all my reviews

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