Creative Destruction

The Power of Failure

Most people think of failure as something to be avoided. But in her book "The Up Side of Down" (Viking), Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle argues that it's actually a key to success.

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Most people think of failure as something to be avoided. But in her book The Up Side of Down (Viking), Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle argues that it's actually a key to success. In May, she offered three reasons why it's OK to fail.

  1. Failure is a great teacher. It's literally how we learn: We try something we think will work, and more often than not, we find out that it doesn't. Watch a baby learn to walk, a teenager learn to play tennis, or a speaker learn to deliver a great talk-it's all the same process of trial and error, heavy on the error.
  2. Failure is the engine of change. How does evolution turn an amoeba into an armadillo? Through random mutation and ruthless selection. How do markets create new products or industries? Creative destruction: Old firms and ideas die, which clears the way for new ones. Failure is the most powerful creative force in the universe.
  3. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. I became a journalist because my management consulting job evaporated. If I'd still had my six-figure job, I probably wouldn't have dared the risky charms of freelance journalism. That's not a unique story. Colonel Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 65 after his truck stop failed. Losing something good can clear the decks for even better options you wouldn't have considered while you still had a sure thing.