Book review of The Up Side of Down

How can you tell whether a relationship is really over – and how could this have helped General Motors? How did Apple capitalise on its failure with Newton and create the successful iPhone?

In The Up Side of Down, author and Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle challenges readers to think differently about the way they are living their lives. America, she argues, has been successful in breeding success because it has incorporated failure into its education system, something that the Europeans have vastly failed to do. Risk-averseness once cultivated from young, in that sense, becomes a rooted cultural effect that creates a “dwarfed” population. The country or region suffers as a whole.

Or what do we suppose about our welfare systems? A number of societies have dug a serious hole for themselves by creating a mentality of state care coupled with a sense of entitlement. Not only is it detrimental to future generations because of the unsustainable debt, it kills off human potential as it now becomes more blessed to slack than to work.

Or what about raising children? McArdle cites research that children who were promised rewards that never materialized (I.e. Having consistent broken promises, or an unreliable environment) found it much harder to control themselves. In fact, research shows that most criminals are raised in extremely unreliable environments. “Rewards don’t show up because mom promised… Or failed because Dad got laid off, or a medical bill ate the money … Or because mom’s drug habit or Dad’s temper got the best of them”.

Overall, it was an excellent read, as readers who love Malcolm Gladwell’s titles can look forward to McArdle’s teachings on how we can identify mistakes early on and channel setbacks into future successes.

The good:

The cutting edge research gives us food for thought to chew on and establishes a great deal of credibility on the issues discussed.

The bad:

The book layout can afford a little more flair, given the “catchiness” of the topic. The opening title and sub-title of each chapter makes for little thought invested into making it more appealing for readers.

To purchase a copy of the Kindle Edition of the book, click on the image below:

J.CJ (MBA), Editor, BLM


Read an extract of the book:

A lot of child rearing involves teaching kids the rules that society lives by. That means consistency. You cannot teach a child that they can pick their nose in public or kick the dog 50% of the time. That’s why child experts will tell you that giving in to tantrums just asking for more tantrums. Successful parents enforce the rules every single time – when they’re tired, grouchy, really need to go home, etc. sometimes in the moment it seems easier to give in. But you and your kids will generally pay for it later.

The more chaotic you own life is, the harder it is to focus on consistent discipline. Willpower is finite, and the many hassles of poverty – juggling bills, standing on your feet all day at a low-wage job, compensating for an absent partner, or worse, one who is violent or drunk of out of work of all three – quickly sap that willpower to a low ebb. Drugs drain it completely.

In an experiment, Kids were told that if they waited to open a jar of crayons, they could use a nicer art set when the researchers returned. In half the cases, the adults returned with the promised supplies, in the other half, they apologized for not doing so. The experiment was repeated with stickers. It was found that kids in the unreliable environment found it harder to control themselves than the kids in the reliable environment where crayons and stickers showed up on schedule. In fact, children in the reliable environment waited 4 times longer than those who had been primed to believe that stuff didn’t necessarily happen just because an adult said it would.

Most criminals are raised in extremely unreliable environments…”If you interview my subjects,most of them grew up in households where there was no ability to rely on any promise.”


Copyright – Viking Adult 2014.



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