Megan McArdle: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success


"There's nothing as dangerous as perfect safety," says Megan McArdle, author of the new book, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success.

Failure is inevitable, says McArdle, who's also a Bloomberg View columnist. But how we handle our own failures and whether we learn from them go a long way in shaping individuals, institutions, and entire societies.

Drawing on personal anecdotes, current events, literature, and cutting-edge research, McArdle dissects our beliefs, myths, and cognitive biases about failure.

Runs about 13:22 minutes.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Krainin.

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  1. Why Failing Well is the Key to Success.

    Be nice to Suder-man, you guys.

    1. Why? He obviously married up.

      1. Yep. Now they just need to find some better friends.

    2. God damn it Warty, you pre-empted my "I guess it isn't marrying well that's her key to success" comment. I'm just busting your balls, Suder-Man!

    3. Hey, everybody is allowed to make a few mistakes.

  2. If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.

  3. Life isn't a sports game. There are many sub-optimal paths to take. I'd rather fail into something good that I didn't expect than bust by butt trying to succeed at something that, year's later, I realize wasn't really worth it.

    1. *years

  4. Failing is the key to success unless you are on Wall Street. Then failure is a moral emergency that everyone in America is supposed to pay for.

    Sorry, but McArdle's endless shilling for TARP is something that should be forgiven or forgotten. Everything she writes should be seen in light of her support for TARP. She claims to be for small government and free market but when the market turned against the right people she wanted them bailed out.

    1. But John, 2008 was a very special situation. WE HAD TO DO SOMETHING!!!!

      1. It was a market failure!!

        As you can tell I am still a bit bitter about that. I am more bitter against people like McArdle who claim to know better than I am towards the Progs. Hell some of them objected too.

        When push came to shove people like McArdle showed they didn't believe what they say they do. McArdle is all about small government if it benefits her or involves letting someone she doesn't know or doesn't like suffer the consequences of it. If the free market involves people she knows or considers important suffering, then that is a moral imperative and different. Something must be done.

        1. She's gonna get a second chance to revisit that if this keeps up.

          Mortgage lending declined to the lowest level in 14 years in the first quarter as homeowners pulled back sharply from refinancing and house hunters showed little appetite for new loans, the latest sign of how rising interest rates have dented the housing recovery.

          1. have dented the housing recovery.

            You know it's funny how when housing prices rise, it's a wonderful awesome thing that shows how strong the economy is, but when gas prices rise it's terrible and horrible and the subject of many many news pieces.

            Housing prices falling is a good thing for buyers. It's not a good thing for people who bought at the peak of a bubble. I recently found out that, despite my lack of what anyone would call a "real job", that I'm actually able to purchase a house for less than the rent would be. How crazy is that?

        2. She also voted for President Not My Fault in 2008.

          Clearly McCain was by no means much more than a RINO, but anyone who claims to support and believe in free markets and liberty should not have voted for a guy who relentlessly and unapologetically endorsed socialism and collectivism during both of his campaigns.

          1. You're making shit up again.

          2. Feb 15, 2009 10:03am

            Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina of the Senate Budget Committee said today on "This Week" that he is open to "nationalizing the banks."

            "I think if you put most of our major banks under a 'stress test,' they're going to fail," Graham told me.

            "This idea of nationalizing bank is not comfortable but I think we have got so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community throughout the world that we're going to have to do something that no one ever envisioned a year ago, no one likes," he said.


            Obama nixed this idea back then. A socialist would have finished Bush's nationalization off.

            Now STFU.

            1. Because one idiot is a socialist, it therefore follows that another is not. Got it.

              (Not that I think socialist is exactly the right label for Obama, but that's a helluva train of logic crash, Shreeeeek.)

              1. No, you fool. Obama wanted NO PART of nationalization. He said so. That means he is no socialist.

                Tman is not worth debating, by the way. He is a Fox News type idiot.

                1. Sniff.
                  Something stinks around here. Oh, look! A slime infestation!

                2. No, you fool. Obama wanted NO PART of nationalization. He said so.

                  Oh well if he SAID so...

            2. And that fucker is going to survive yet another GOP primary in a month. Thanks a lot SC tea partiers.

              1. What did the SC TP do wrong?

                1. They allowed this dimwit to get 60% of the vote heading into the primary.

        3. Mr. and Mrs. McArdle are both full-fledged members of the Cult of the Top Man.

          They fancy themselves to be technocrats and wonks, and as such they believe deep down in their hearts that the right group of Top Men in a position of centralized power will fix all of the world's problems

          1. And let me guess, you deny the existence of the US federal government?

            1. I have absolutely no idea what this is supposed to mean Weigel, but I certainly understand your need to stick up for your friends.

              1. I would suggest you just ignore Captain Eight Percent.

                Not worth your time.

    2. people being unable to pay back loans that the gov forced banks to make=market failure


    3. Her support for TARP didn't bother me. Differences of opinion are what they are. Her temper tantrum when the Republicans voted it down the first time bothered me.

      That was a key moment for me: the behavior that occurred that day was so dead on similar as to what happens when a spoiled child is finally told "no!," that it's difficult for me to ever view the Washington establishment as anything other than spoiled children at this point.

  5. She is on the right track on the 2008 Financial Crisis - higher capital rules would have insured the big banks liquidity.

    But the root cause of the crisis, all the no-doc garbage NINJA mortgages the private sector gorged on, is just a Black Swan event that was bound to happen someday.

    1. There were quite a few politicians bragging about the rising homeownership rate at the time. It's only after it all goes south that the "Damn that private sector!" comments start going out.

      Again, the great thing about being a socialist is never having to say your sorry.

      1. Again, the great thing about being a socialist is never having to say your sorry.

        As long as two kulaks are meeting in the dead of night to trade turnips for chicken eggs, the "free market" will be solely responsible for every problem.

    2. She is on the right track on the 2008 Financial Crisis - higher capital rules would have insured the big banks liquidity.

      Sure, as a prospective matter, that looks like good policy. That's not the objection, though. The objection is to bailing out some failed banks, (and later assisting them in acquiring other failed banks). Cronyism, however much lipstick you smear on it, is still a pig.

      The assertion that just letting them fail would lead to a radioactive wasteland populated by mutant cannibals (or whatever it was) has been proven by history and experience to have been false. Likely scenario would have been a nasty contraction, but one that was relatively short and followed by a snap-back recovery.

    3. higher capital rules would have insured the big banks liquidity.


  6. I liked this book better when it was called anti-fragile

    1. +1 for Nassim Talib

  7. I have such a crush on Nick. He looks better without the jacket.

  8. Speaking of failure, a small dose of Marcotte for y'all...

    Few stories really encapsulate the growing politicization of science and how the right is, as with racism and sexism, involved in a project of denying that they're anti-science while also promoting an anti-science point of view. To summarize, the editor in question, named Michael Moyer, was asked to come on to Fox News to talk about the future of technology. Since so much of that future is going to be shaped, inevitably, by climate change, he wanted to talk about that. But they wouldn't let him. Moyer said he's not going to come onto Fox anymore, and that the whole experience made him uncomfortable.

    It is anti-science and a political statement to keep a non-political show... non-political. Huh.

    It's clearly they censored him because this was supposed to be an "apolitical" segment. Again, they openly admit in this segment that they censored Moyer's attempts to mention climate change in an apolitical ain't-science-neat kind of segment. This is not in dispute. The true face of Fox News, one that is intrinsically anti-science and only accepts science on ideological and not evidentiary grounds, has been revealed. No wonder they're so mad.

    Those sneaky bastards.

    1. [Cont.]

      None of which is to say that we should generally be suspicious of cable news shows doing non-political segments on things like "exciting new developments in technology" or whatnot. Most of those are exactly what they seem. But there's almost always an ulterior motive going on at Fox News, even with the seemingly most innocuous and apolitical segments.

      Right, just like how most banks are just banks, unless they're run by Jews in which case they're fronts for the Zionist plot to take control of all of the world's governments and economies.

  9. Is it too much to ask that the squirrels strip out all the old comments when they re-post old articles?

  10. Here's one for Abraham LinkedIn (sp?)

    "Michigan Loses 'Right To Farm' This Week: A Farewell To Backyard Chickens and Beekeepers...

    "The Commission [of Agriculture and Rural Development] ruled that the Right to Farm Act protections no longer apply to many homeowners who keep small numbers of livestock....

    "...The ruling will allow local governments to arbitrarily ban goats, chickens and beehives on any property where there are 13 homes within one eighth mile or a residence within 250 feet of the property, according to Michigan Public Radio. The Right to Farm Act was created in 1981 to protect farmers from the complaints of people from the city who moved to the country and then attempted to make it more urban with anti-farming ordinances."

  11. But the root cause of the crisis, all the no-doc garbage NINJA mortgages the private sector gorged on, is just a Black Swan event that was bound to happen someday.


    1. "LAX fail caused by Cold War spy plane"

      For what it's worth, I think those things are still being built; they do things no other plane has ever been able to do WRT altitude, loiter time, payload, etc.
      Of Johnson's designs, the SR71 was 'way more dramatic, but the U2 has been far more successful.

      1. They're not being built. There is, literally, no place in this country you can fly them out of without *someone* noticing the take-off/landings. When the F-117 and B-2 were being tested the public knew *something* was going on years before they were officially acknowledged. As a matter of fact, a lot of the rumors about these planes had them as testing and operations for the SR-71 replacement we assumed was coming down the line.

        There really isn't anything these planes do nowadays that a satellite doesn't do as well or better. Short of a quick response look-see where you don't have time to reposition a satellite.

      2. There are several aircraft that beat the U-2 on loiter time, the Predator and the Reaper beat it by a little bit. The Global Hawk more than doubles the U-2's loiter time. Early variants of the Global Hawk came close to the U-2 on altitude. And the reason why the U-2's payload can't be duplicated is because they didn't want to duplicate the U-2's payload.

    2. So it wasn't actually the *plane* that did it, just that the software for ATC isn't designed to not freak out when tracking a plane flying around twice as high as normal airliners.

  12. This is why sports are good for kids. It teaches kids that who they tie their boat to matters, failing once or even multiple times isn't the end of the world, talent may set your starting position but hard work decides how far you go, and that just because someone's parents buy them better equipment than you doesn't mean you can't compete.

    1. Also, I like to see children attacking each other in mobs and causing each other enormous amounts of pain while people stand watch and laugh.

      Wait, why do you guys watch kids sports?

      1. Other parents do it, so it must be good. Blah blah character blah blah effort is good blah blah

      2. Well I guess we know who got picked last in gym.

        1. The PE teacher decided the teams there was no picking. Oh Lord even by public education standard PE is a pointless waste of time.

          1. Ah yes the socialist model as opposed to the capitalist model. No wonder.

        2. Actually there was a gay kid in my grade who the other boys roughed up whenever they had a chance. So if we played any sport where there was contact he would just stand off to the side out of everyone's way. I usually got picked ahead of him.

      3. Attacking each other in mobs? You know there are sports besides football right?

        1. Rugby!

          Oh.....never mind...

        2. Sure, there's soccer (kids attacking each other in mobs but with more elbows to the face) and dodgeball (WW1 style attacking each other in straight lines over dead man's land).

          1. They are calling it "medic" in my kids middle school now. Not sure why.

            1. by "it" I mean dodgeball, not soccer.

              1. probably because dodgeball is banned.

                When my school banned "smear the queer" we just called it rugby instead.

    2. Video games accomplish the same thing without bouncing your brain around inside your skull like a squishy pinball.

    3. Yeah, but damn, sometimes better equipment makes all the difference.

      Two guys of equal talent and work ethic will be decided on who has the better racket!

  13. The UN reminds you, on May 3, to observe Press Freedom Day.

    I'm not making this up!

  14. Was going to make teh juleps for Mrs. Shpip today, but I've decided on Seelbachs instead.

    Like a French 75 with a higher "knock you on your ass" factor.

  15. I saw the new Spiderman movie. No spoilers, but here's my review:

    -For you Archer fans, Dr. Krieger makes an appearance.

    -Emma Stone would be attractive, except her mouth seems to be on upside down.

    -One of the villains looks a lot like Feyd Rautha.

    1. (Er, just when she's talking. Upper lip moves more than lower lip.)

    2. The WSJ movie reviewer panned it, but it might be worth it for Krieger.

  16. Joan Baez chats with Vietnam vets protesting her concert, signs their placards.

  17. Of course Libertarians would sing the praises of failure, with the LP's track record over the past 40 years.

    Failing a lot when you first start something, and once in a great while later in your endeavors, is one thing. Failing all the time for decades is another.

    1. Pat Paulson for President!

    2. Libertarian ideas are still kicking around even if libertarian politicians (which is kind of an oxymoron anyway isn't it?) are so scarce.

    3. Libertarians =/= Libertarian Party

  18. It is NERD PROM tonight, BITCHES!

    1. Sniff; something STINKS!
      Oh, there it is! We have a slime infestation!

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