The Up Side of Down Book Summary - The Up Side of Down Book explained in key points
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The Up Side of Down summary

Megan McArdle

Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

3.7 (16 ratings)
16 mins
9 key ideas
Audio & text

What is The Up Side of Down about?

The Up Side of Down presents the case for failure as a valuable part of our growth process, and something that we should embrace. In addition, the book offers sound advice for how we, as individuals and as a society, can better manage and mitigate failure.

About the Author

Megan McArdle is a journalist whose writings on politics and economics have appeared in The Economist, Bloomberg View and The Atlantic. The Up Side of Down is her debut.

Table of Contents

    The Up Side of Down
    summarized in 9 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 9

    Learning how to fail gracefully is truly the only way to progress, and eventually, succeed.

    Sometimes it feels as though some people crash into every possible hurdle, while others never seem to even stumble.

    The truth is that we all fail. It’s how we fail that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.

    One way that we struggle with failure has to do with how we conceptualize it, incorrectly assuming that success comes from an innate talent or intelligence, rather than through hard work and commitment.

    Take Carol Dweck’s experiment, for example, in which two groups of children took a simple test and all passed. The children then got to choose from a collection of follow-up tests that varied in difficulty.

    One group was told they did well on the first test because of “how smart they were.” This group was likely to choose an easy follow-up test.

    The second group was told they did well “because of their hard work.” This group, in contrast, was much more willing to take on a challenge with a more difficult test, and succeed in the face of adversity.

    When children are praised for their innate skills, they find it harder to face challenges. “Naturally gifted” people will prefer to take an easier road over a bumpy one.

    Such people can’t fail gracefully. When coddled children finally end up in college or the “real world,” they don’t understand the importance of hard work, how to take criticism or how to fail.

    It’s not innate talent but graceful failure that leads to success, even if it’s a long and painful process. Those who see failure as normal and surmountable, who have a growth mentality, see that they have nothing to fear from failure.

    Mark Twain, for example, was a largely unsuccessful writer before he wrote Huckleberry Finn. Isaac Newton made blunders, too. Before his breakthrough discoveries in physics, he was drawn to alchemy, a pseudo-science that is now the laughing stock of the scientific community.

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    Best quote from The Up Side of Down

    Work begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing badly. – Alain de Botton

    —Megan McArdle
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    Who should read The Up Side of Down

    • Anyone who is currently job hunting
    • Anyone trying to develop their startup or creative endeavor
    • Anyone who wants to make a difference in the world

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