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The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success | [Megan McArdle]

The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

Most new products fail. So do most small businesses. And most of us, if we are honest, have experienced a major setback in our personal or professional lives. So what determines who will bounce back and follow up with a home run? If you want to succeed in business and in life, Megan McArdle argues in this hugely thought-provoking book, you have to learn how to harness the power of failure. McArdle has been one of our most popular business bloggers for more than a decade, covering the rise and fall of some the world' s top companies and challenging us to think differently about how we live, learn, and work.
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Publisher's Summary

For fans of Drive, Outliers, and Daring Greatly, a counterintuitive, paradigm-shifting new take on what makes people and companies succeed.

Most new products fail. So do most small businesses. And most of us, if we are honest, have experienced a major setback in our personal or professional lives. So what determines who will bounce back and follow up with a home run? If you want to succeed in business and in life, Megan McArdle argues in this hugely thought-provoking book, you have to learn how to harness the power of failure. McArdle has been one of our most popular business bloggers for more than a decade, covering the rise and fall of some the world' s top companies and challenging us to think differently about how we live, learn, and work. Drawing on cutting-edge research in science, psychology, economics, and business, and taking insights from turnaround experts, emergency room doctors, venture capitalists, child psychologists, bankruptcy judges, and mountaineers, McArdle argues that America is unique in its willingness to let people and companies fail, but also in its determination to let them pick up after the fall. Failure is how people and businesses learn. So how do you reinvent yourself when you are down? Dynamic and punchy, McArdle teaches us how to recognize mistakes early to channel setbacks into future success. The Up Side of Down marks the emergence of an author with her thumb on the pulse whose book just might change the way you lead your life.

©2014 Megan McArdle (P)2014 Recorded Books

What Members Say

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  •  
    Ray Glendale, AZ, United States 05-21-14
    Ray Glendale, AZ, United States 05-21-14 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good Book"

    First of all, this isn't a self-help book (fortunately). Rather it is an interesting look at some solid research with the author's own failings as a minor backdrop.

    Some of her examples seem to go a little far afield to make the point, but she manages to tie it all up pretty tightly before she's done. That a successful life requires a little friction isn't entirely new of course, but nothing in the book is tired or rehashed and all in all the reader walks away with some pretty good insight.

    20 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas C. Bates Boston, MA 09-23-14
    Douglas C. Bates Boston, MA 09-23-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Totally Derivitive"
    What disappointed you about The Up Side of Down?

    The author has simply read a bunch of popular books and assembled snippets of them, along with some personal experiences, to write an obviously derivative and non-original book.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Megan McArdle again?

    The author is an excellent writer. I might if there was good reason to believe she was going to write something original.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    If your interest in this topic is marginal, such that you're likely to read only one book on the subject, this book would be okay.


    Any additional comments?

    Consider reading Scott Adams' "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life" instead. It's totally original and far more entertaining.

    Or "Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure" by Tim Harford.

    Or some of the books the author steals from, such as "Thinking Fast and Slow" or "The Invisible Gorilla"

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W Perry Hall 08-27-14 Member Since 2015

    Atty/CPA, The South

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    "Book's potential drowned in lake of Narcissus"

    This book started out wonderfully. If the author had stuck to her plan stated in the first several pages of the book, it could well have been helpful and inspiring. And yet, her smugness and self-aggrandizing babel get the better of her and ruin this book, which becomes all about Ms. McArdle and her personal and political views, rather than a book that gives advice or even anecdotes about those who have succeeded after failure, how they did it or how and *why failing well is the key to success*.

    I didn't get to the last 3 chapters. I had suffered far too long, deciding instead to cut my costs and fail well.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Hampton, VA, United States 08-20-15
    Susan Hampton, VA, United States 08-20-15 Member Since 2010
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    "Everyone should read this book"
    What did you love best about The Up Side of Down?

    The information in this book is useful in the classroom, in the work environment, in personal budget planning and in life in general. It was useful and inspiring.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Always_Ariel 11-10-14

    Techie

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    "Started off great! Downhill from there"
    What disappointed you about The Up Side of Down?

    This book started off with a BANG. Good ideas, thought-provoking topics, etc. Then, as it went along (after chapter 2) it became drier and drier. Bogged down with needless facts and figures about every success and failure of every business model you can think of. Not really that helpful to the average individual in the long run and difficult to listen to for 10 hours!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie WASHINGTON, DC, United States 11-02-14
    Marie WASHINGTON, DC, United States 11-02-14 Member Since 2010

    Professional librarian type, amateur historian.

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    "Perfect is the enemy of the good"

    I totally recommend this book to parents, people starting a business, heck everyone.
    The author uses personal and other anecdotal stories to tell a bigger story of how we are forgetting that we learn from our mistakes and not making mistakes or the effort to prevent mistakes does us no favors. One was that of bankruptcy. In America you can start a business, fail, go bankrupt, and later try again (hopefully learning from the 1st effort). In other countries you only get to fail once, with sad results for the country as a whole.
    The narration coupled with the story made this audiobook a good listen. it was informative and a little entertaining.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Juelles 10-16-14
    Juelles 10-16-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Insanely Inspiring"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I LOVED this. Not only is the book awesome, the narrator is the epitome of awesomeness. The content and real life experiences of people are super interesting and made me feel like I could do anything. In order to be great you have to fail at some things first and that's ok. Awesome read.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 09-15-14
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 09-15-14 Member Since 2012

    Semper Audiendo

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Successful Failures"

    'm not a 'B-School graduate'. My undergraduate degrees is in Business Administration. It's from a prestigious private university. I could have chosen to go on to get a Master's from the same place. Instead, I chose to get a Juris Doctor, and I've been a litigator ever since.

    Do I want to manage people? Unless it's a trial team assembled on an ad hoc basis, I would rather clean tile grout with a toothbrush. I still love the theory of business management. I've been following it for the last quarter century. I work for a Major Company (you've heard of it) and I get to watch how the theories come and go, from the managed point if view.

    Some trends are a flash, or so radical they won't happen for at least a generation - but it Is fun to watch management try the ideas. Adam Grant's "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success" (2013) is an example. Nice idea, but it didn't work for the Soviet Union (1922 - 1991) and it's not working now. It might eventually - but the world's leading economy, the United States, and it's business leaders aren't at the tacit socialism Grant proposes.

    Megan McArdle's "The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well Drives Our Success" (2014) discusses a "trend" that's working well, from the perspective of the managed worker: learning from failure. I'm using "trend" in quotes because it sounds like a facile lesson, but it's really not. It's also not new - "Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years" (2008) is a wonderful book on the same subject by Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui.

    After discussing Old Coke/New Coke (THE quintessential B-mistake), "The Upside of Down" and "Billion Dollar Lessons" talk about different failures; the ways to approach and analyze them; and their causes.

    McArdle distinguishes an accident as "while there's lots of things you could have done differently, there's nothing you should have done differently" (Chapter 5 on Audible) and "failure" as a "mistake, performing without a safety net." It's a good way to distinguish them. McArdle emphasizes that a lot of mistakes are the result of large, well funded research that carefully asks exactly the wrong questions, or asks the right questions in the wrong situation.

    "The Upside of Down" is thought provoking, but there's an issue that I'd like to see addressed more fully: how to create an atmosphere where employees aren't subtly - or sometimes even overtly - required to hide mistakes, especially those that can compound and result in failure. After all, even one of the world's most successful investors, Warren Buffett, reported an $873,000,000 investing mistake to shareholders May 1, 2014. Referring to a bad investment, Buffett said, "Most of you have never heard" of the company, he wrote. "Consider yourselves lucky; I certainly wish I hadn't." What a no-nonsense way to share a problem without sharing the blame.

    The Audible narrator was fine, but the editing was rough - there were some long pauses.

    [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]

    9 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ernest Newton, NJ, United States 09-16-14
    Ernest Newton, NJ, United States 09-16-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Some good ideas. No miracles."
    Any additional comments?

    Not enough answers and solutions. The book uses several examples I have read before and some new ones. There are some good recommendations on how to view different situations. I am glad I listened to this book but I had hoped for some new ideas on dealing with problems. If you have read several books on this subject, don't expect a lot of new information. On the other hand it is a good overall picture of how to deal with and view failures. If you are new to this subject matter this book is a good choice.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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