Business Books About Failure

Business Books About Failure

Failure is not a popular topic to write about. However, I want to recommend the following books to you or anyone else who is actively practicing law. I feel that it is important for new lawyers to understand that failure comes in a range of shapes and sizes and that failing properly can be a powerful strategy on your journey towards success.

So, in no particular order, here are my recommendations if you are looking to reading a business book about failure:

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit, Seth Godin

The Dip

The old saying goes that winners never quit. Well, Seth Godin’s ‘The Tip’ goes into details about why winners do quit and quitters do win. Whether you are starting a new business or a new hobby, everything is fun and novel. However, things in business and in life tend to get hard and significantly less fun. And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a what Mr. Godin calls a ‘dip.’

The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success, Megan McArdle

Up Side of Down

Most new products fail. So do most 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? What separates those who keep treading water from those who harness the lessons from their mistakes?

One of our most popular business bloggers, Megan McArdle takes insights from emergency room doctors, kindergarten teachers, bankruptcy judges, and venture capitalists to teach us how to reinvent ourselves in the face of failure. The Up Side of Down is a book that just might change the way you lead your life.

Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company, Andrew S. Grove

Only the Paranoid Survive

Under Andy Grove’s leadership, Intel has become the world’s largest chip maker and one of the most admired companies in the world. In Only the Paranoid Survive, Grove reveals his strategy of focusing on a new way of measuring the nightmare moment every leader dreads–when massive change occurs and a company must, virtually overnight, adapt or fall by the wayside.

Grove calls such a moment a Strategic Inflection Point, which can be set off by almost anything: mega-competition, a change in regulations, or a seemingly modest change in technology. When a Strategic Inflection Point hits, the ordinary rules of business go out the window. Yet, managed right, a Strategic Inflection Point can be an opportunity to win in the marketplace and emerge stronger than ever.

Grove underscores his message by examining his own record of success and failure, including how he navigated the events of the Pentium flaw, which threatened Intel’s reputation in 1994, and how he has dealt with the explosions in growth of the Internet. The work of a lifetime, Only the Paranoid Survive is a classic of managerial and leadership skills.

Failure: Why Science Is So Successful, Stuart Firestein


The general public has a glorified view of the pursuit of scientific research. However, the idealized perception of science as a rule-based, methodical system for accumulating facts could not be further from the truth. Modern science involves the idiosyncratic, often bumbling search for understanding in uncharted territories, full of wrong turns, false findings, and the occasional remarkable success.

In his sequel to Ignorance (Oxford University Press, 2012), Stuart Firestein shows us that the scientific enterprise is riddled with mistakes and errors – and that this is a good thing! Failure: Why Science Is So Successful delves into the origins of scientific research as a process that relies upon trial and error, one which inevitably results in a hefty dose of failure. In fact, scientists throughout history have relied on failure to guide their research, viewing mistakes as a necessary part of the process. Citing both historical and contemporary examples, Firestein strips away the distorted view of science as infallible to provide the public with a rare, inside glimpse of the messy realities of the scientific process.

Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success, John C. Maxwell

Failing Forward

Are some people born to achieve anything they want while others struggle? Call them lucky, blessed, or possessors of the Midas touch. What is the real reason for their success? Is it family background, wealth, greater opportunities, high morals, an easy childhood?
New York Times best-selling author John C. Maxwell has the answer: The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.
Most people are never prepared to deal with failure. Maxwell says that if you are like him, coming out of school, you feared it, misunderstood it, and ran away from it. But Maxwell has learned to make failure his friend, and he can teach you to do the same.

The Wisdom of Failure: How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying the Price, Laurence G. Weinzimmer

Wisdom of Failure

The “how-not-to” leadership book.

There is a paradox in leadership: we can only succeed by knowing failure. Every accomplished leader knows there are minefields of failures that need to be navigated in order to succeed. Wouldn’t it be great to have the insights to help you prevent from making avoidable mistakes? Unfortunately, in business talking about mistakes can be taboo, and, at a certain level, learning from failure is not an option. Weinzimmer and McConoughey speak frankly about the things that are difficult to talk about – the unvarnished truths necessary to become a successful leader.

Rising Strong, Brené Brown

Rising Strong

Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth: Vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.


Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h

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