*The Up Side of Down*

That is the forthcoming book by Megan McArdle and the subtitle is Why Failing Well is the Key to Success.  I think this book will be a big deal.  It is extremely well written, engages the reader, is based upon entirely fresh anecdotes and research results, and develops an important point.  I look forward to seeing it make its mark.


"based upon entirely fresh anecdotes"

LOL, sounds like McMegan all right.

I take this to mean something like "not another re-hash of the Stanford Prison Experiment."

Yeah, but you must admit, extremely well written, is something new for McMegan. She must have hired a ghost.

And what exactly have u done boba that we would all be in awe of if we were to read it?

What exactly do u get out of being snarky?

Boba Zach the bounty hunter of snarkity snark snark plissken snarkles snarkeson. Fear him.

Megan is A Good Thing, and unusually tall withal.

Can you explain what distinguishes this book from Tim Harford's Adapt?

Amazingly, I have had blog announcements of two different books both called "The Up Side of Down" arrive in my RSS reader within the last 30 minutes. The other book is this http://www.amazon.com/The-Upside-Down-Charles-Kenny/dp/0465064736/ , with blog post here: http://www.cgdev.org/blog/upside-down-and-positive-sum-world

Real original sounding.

Amazon suggests two other books by other people, with different spellings of the same title.

I think Megan's gonna be pissed about this endorsement. This blurb has a certain "gun to the head" quality about it....

Does she actually make the bold claim that learning from ones mistakes is key in life?

And it will feature all the winners humblebragging about their "failure."

Yeah this sounds like selection and survivorship bias.

I hope her book fails so she can succeed in proving her point.

What is the key to Failing Well?

There are times when I find the snarkiness of MR commenters very depressing.

Now is one of them...

I'd be more worried about TC. "I look forward to seeing it make its mark" is a far cry from an endorsement.

Is that you Megan?

No - and I would not describe myself as a huge fan of hers...

But all of these snarky zingers with out any real substance are tiresome - the kind of thing you expect and get from 5 year olds.

If u have a substanitive point or criticism - I - we would love to hear it - but if all u have to offer is a "witty" attempt to impress us you might as well take few minutes to muster up a really huge fart - it would frankly be more impressive (and useful).


Was very sad to see that some long-time, thoughtful commenters on this blog have left recently, for precisely this reason. Also, the only commenter that was actually good at one-line zingers was Andrew'.

Q:What happens when a McArdle flies upside down? A: It quacks up

Yes, with so many new readers the commenting quality (maybe the best thing about this blog) was bound to decrease. I'm just surprised how fast it fell, but I guess it mirrors the new found popularity of the site?

I'm a longtime reader & commenter, so I don't think that's it. I'm no fan of snark in general, but some things are asking for it. Publishers put a lot into coming up with subtitles as stupid as the one for this book. Maybe the snark here is, in fact, constructive criticism. Or maybe stupid subtitles are good for selling books and snark is a reasonable response for coping in a universe where cliches sell.

Ok here goes: Megan McArdle is a vacuous troll that thrives on writing idiotic flame bait articles. Much like David Brooks, she goes out of her way to be stupid. Thus anything and everything she writes, including this book, deserves ridicule at being mentioned. Which is why we are mocking Tyler for linking as much as Megan for writing.

"a vacuous troll" Self-projecting, Benny?

I don't think she goes out of her way to be stupid; her writing just IS stupid. But it's wrapped up in layers of the most overly verbose, affected prose I've ever seen so it looks smart. There's a Newt Gingrich thing going on with her.

Mr. Lava,

I look forward to reading and leaning from your work - please forward links to a dozen or so examples of your best work!

Obviously we should be reading much more of what you have to say and much less of what Megan McCardle, Tyler, and Alex have to say...

Obviously you should be reading more of me and less of McArdle. I troll this blog, Sumner's blog, and am a troll emeritus at Yglesias' old blog. Do some googling, enjoy your waste of a few hours, come back and congratulate me for my snarking and hate.

Oh come on. There are times when a little snark is entirely appropriate. When one moderately well-known economics blogger praises a famous economics blogger, it is reasonable to suspect a little bit of back scratching. Especially when the former blogger's comments sound very nice but contain virtually no content whatsoever:

I think this book will be a big deal. It is extremely well written, engages the reader, is based upon entirely fresh anecdotes and research results, and develops an important point. I look forward to seeing it make its mark.

Notice what he is not saying. He does not say it is good. He does not say he likes it. He does not say it is interesting. He doesn't even say it makes a contribution to the field or it is important. He says he thinks it will do well - his view on what others think, not on what he thinks. He thinks it is well written. Faint praise indeed. It engages to reader. So does Cosmo. Fresh anecdotes? That verges on a criticism. Develops an important point? Well, just how does it develop it? Well? Originally? Comprehensively? Again he does not say it makes an important point or establishes one either. Making its mark? Well, Jayson Blair made his mark. So did Bernie Madoff.

But the over-all impression is very positive. It would be hard to say that he didn't like it. MM is not no one after all.

Sometimes snark is exactly the right response.

If you read this page a year from now with the names of the commenters and the commentee blacked out, you would have no idea if people are talking about de Long, Klein, Krugman, McArdle, Sullivan, Sumner, or Yglesias.

This is the worst kind of "discussion."

Yea, I think the snark at Tyler is pretty justified. Especially as he writes so many book reviews, and they almost always actually give some idea of what the book is about and why he finds it interesting.

This one reads like a forced confession.

I have expect to hear him mutter under his breath, "Eppur si sucks".

Nothing from Megan McArdle is going to be a big deal.

But how would her work stack up compared to CBBB?

That's a pretty low bar

Blurb from Amazon sounds trivial: "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."

BTW both "win-win" and "succeed by failing" are both Western concepts. Here in Asia, saving face and sure-fire ways to win are what's the norm. Mitsubishi and all the Japanese keiretsu and Korean chaebol got rich from partnering with government for coveted export licenses (source: Joe Studwell, "How Asia Works"). Further, in places such as the Philippines, it's often pseudo-Pareto optimal, in that for one person to win, another most lose (no 'win-win' here).

But dream on. I might also add that having lived and worked in Silicon Valley, it's true that often an entrepreneur fails six times before finally succeeding. But what is unmentioned is that he or she fails with OPM (Other People's Money). So the only risk was loss of reputation, not equity, and, if you can talk a good game, loss of reputation due to failure is small beer (indeed, if you buy into the Western "failure is success" meme, it's a badge of honor). On Wall Street, an example of a person who failed spectacularly more times than they succeeded is John William Meriwether, who still attracted OPM money. On a smaller scale, a study once showed that 'negative recommendations' hardly ever affected the careers of people who were given such negative recommendations. On a personal note, I worked for a while for the federal government, where by law there's no such thing as employer defamation. A vindictive boss was pissed I was leaving (made him look bad), and he told me he would ruin me by giving me a negative recommendation (I had to list him as a reference), but I still got a high paying job, just like the study predicted.

MR needs a post on OPM

The reason is isn't mentioned is that it isn't true. Most failed startups never receive venture funding of any type. The risk of loss is time! Years of your life can be wasted on projects that don't work out. I would be careful inferring too much about how the entirety of Silicon Valley works based on your limited experience.

But it's a well known fact that most venture capital ventures fail--I think, and Peter Thiel is the expert here--it's one out of four that succeed. (WSJ: "About three-quarters of venture-backed firms in the U.S. don't return investors' capital, according to recent research by Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.")

Those statistics are fine, but they do not support what I assumed you meant in your prior remarks. You said "it’s true that often an entrepreneur fails six times before finally succeeding. But what is unmentioned is that he or she fails with OPM (Other People’s Money)".

But your statistic applies only to venture-backed entrepreneurs. However, the vast majority of entrepreneurs are not venture-backed. If you wish to revise your prior remark by explicitly its scope to "venture-backed entrepreneurs", then we agree.

Plus, it's got a built-in sequel:

The Down Side of Up: Why Success is the Key to Failing Miserably

That actually could be a book, maybe even a better book.

Also the title of a widely read and reviewed book by Thomas Homer-Dixon.

Interesting to learn of this book the same day I heard a lengthy report on Fail Con which is the annual silicon valley celebration of failing that has been going on for more than a decade.

I do wonder if she devotes a chapter to Obama who has failed his way to success over and over. Can anyone name someone who has been counted out after a supposedly fatal failure more often than Obama?

And McArdle is certainly one of the top experts on the huge number of Obama failures given she comes up with a new one several times a week.

Quibble. It's actually Obama who comes up with another failure every week. Megan just reports on it.

Hey look at me! I'm saying snarky things. Withering joke about how Megan McArdle is terrible at whatever. I must be super-duper intelligent. Anyway, back to my foie gras, which is definitely NOT actually just a bowl of Cap'n Crunch.

how can a guy who loves yeezus and my bloody valentine enjoy a megan mcardle book?!

Sometimes I see a blurb like this and think, "Tyler's just being a shill." Then I think of how he slagged Google glass and think, "No, Tyler's giving his honest opinion." I don't know which thought I find more disturbing.

google doenst sponsor his center, but megan's biggest fans do.

Such cynicism.

Or experience in how things work in the DC region.

Conor Friedsdorf, at The Atlantic, on point.

I believe MJ & Nike got here first: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPFOlXo7UPI

Nobody is bribing anyone.

Oh please that's so primitive, it doesn't work that way

If you consider being paid to write as bribery, I'm not sure what to say.

Except to point out that anyone who has ever been paid to write knows that accepting a paycheck isn't bribery, it is a paycheck. For delivering the performance that the person making out the check expects - this has been true for centuries, by the way.

So, who are you working for then?

And I forgot to ask - have you ever been paid for what you write?


There was a time - and I don't tjoml to was very long ago - when reading the comments on MR was something I did regularly, looked forward to, and even learned or discovered something interesting.

Based on this thread I am afraid it is time to shut down commenting.

I wouldn't go that far, Lonely L. Look at who is posting the snarky comments. The usual snarky suspects. They couldn't generate the interesting articles, paragraphs, posts, etc., that McCardle does, not in a thousand years.

You can't be serious. McCardle is exhibit no. 1 if you need to demonstrate that contacts and self-promotion, rather than talent or intelligence, are the key to financial success. She is a Grade A Hack and that is obvious to anyone literate.

Megan McArdle is part of the Koch Brothers Keep America Stupid Foundation, and is therefore of supremely microscopic interest.


Sounds like a Soundgarden biography.

It is because a lot of us respect Tyler's intelligence that we find his continued fluffing of McCardle so disturbing. Tyler's shout-outs to mediocrity Matthew Yglesias are also a little odd. I guess DC based bloggers look out for each other.

Comments for this post are closed