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HomeNewsArchivesThe Bookworm: 'Fail Up' May Be the Book You Need to Succeed

The Bookworm: 'Fail Up' May Be the Book You Need to Succeed

“Fail Up” by Tavis Smiley, copyright 2011 by SmileyBooks, $19.95, 263 pages

To err is human, the old saying tells us, and mistakes and failures are inevitable at some point or other – so why not use them? Start by reading “Fail Up” by Tavis Smiley, the talk show host and potica commentator, and find out how going wrong can be so right.

As the oldest of 10 children growing up in Kokomo, Ind., Tavis Smiley was a big fan of Muhammad Ali. Young Smiley particularly loved to listen to the fighter’s trash-talk, figuring that if it worked for Ali, that it should work with fools in fifth grade. That it didn’t was Smiley’s first lesson in reaching for success.

But learning didn’t stop there. Throughout his life and his career Smiley has embraced wise words and sound advice from people who were willing to teach. One of the lessons, he says, is to see disappointments, setbacks, and failure as opportunity. Seize mistakes, learn from them, and use them to fail up.

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“Failure is an inevitable part of the human journey,” Smiley says. “Fail up is the trampoline needed when you’re down.”

But there are other things you can do to move ahead in life and business. Smiley shares the 20 lessons he’s learned in his 20 years of broadcasting, starting with his personal Ali lesson: practice humility instead of arrogance. Even Ali is a humble man.

When admonishing people – including children and employees – be sure to affirm, too, and give them their dignity. Offer a second chance to right the wrong and allow people an “out.”

Watch what you say when you say it, and remember that there is no “off the record” anymore. If you mess up, maintain your dignity. Keep a cool head. Do your homework, use your gifts, don’t gossip. Don’t try to jump in where you don’t fit in. Above all, use rejection as a “launching pad” for success.

At a time when the economy feels shaky, it’s easy to get pessimistic about the future. Fortunately, it’s just as easy to follow the advice you’ll find in this book.

Common sense is plentiful in “Fail Up.” There’s nothing in here that you didn’t learn at your mama’s knee or in Business 101, no revelations, no earth-shattering new methods for achievement. You’ve heard this stuff before. You might not have been listening, but you heard it.
The things you’ll read are fresh and relevant in Tavis Smiley’s hands. He has a perspective that’s useful in today’s world, which makes this the kind of book you’ll want to tuck in your desk at work, the kind of thing you’ll underline, dog-ear, and return to again and again.

If your confidence is shredded, a pink slip has you red-faced, or you’re looking for a mentor (if only on paper), this is the book you need. For you and your future, “Fail Up” is just perfect.


The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. Her self-syndicated reviews appear in more than 260 newspapers.

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“Fail Up” by Tavis Smiley, copyright 2011 by SmileyBooks, $19.95, 263 pages

To err is human, the old saying tells us, and mistakes and failures are inevitable at some point or other – so why not use them? Start by reading “Fail Up” by Tavis Smiley, the talk show host and potica commentator, and find out how going wrong can be so right.

As the oldest of 10 children growing up in Kokomo, Ind., Tavis Smiley was a big fan of Muhammad Ali. Young Smiley particularly loved to listen to the fighter’s trash-talk, figuring that if it worked for Ali, that it should work with fools in fifth grade. That it didn’t was Smiley’s first lesson in reaching for success.

But learning didn’t stop there. Throughout his life and his career Smiley has embraced wise words and sound advice from people who were willing to teach. One of the lessons, he says, is to see disappointments, setbacks, and failure as opportunity. Seize mistakes, learn from them, and use them to fail up.

“Failure is an inevitable part of the human journey,” Smiley says. “Fail up is the trampoline needed when you’re down.”

But there are other things you can do to move ahead in life and business. Smiley shares the 20 lessons he’s learned in his 20 years of broadcasting, starting with his personal Ali lesson: practice humility instead of arrogance. Even Ali is a humble man.

When admonishing people – including children and employees – be sure to affirm, too, and give them their dignity. Offer a second chance to right the wrong and allow people an “out.”

Watch what you say when you say it, and remember that there is no “off the record” anymore. If you mess up, maintain your dignity. Keep a cool head. Do your homework, use your gifts, don’t gossip. Don’t try to jump in where you don’t fit in. Above all, use rejection as a “launching pad” for success.

At a time when the economy feels shaky, it’s easy to get pessimistic about the future. Fortunately, it’s just as easy to follow the advice you’ll find in this book.

Common sense is plentiful in “Fail Up.” There’s nothing in here that you didn’t learn at your mama’s knee or in Business 101, no revelations, no earth-shattering new methods for achievement. You’ve heard this stuff before. You might not have been listening, but you heard it.
The things you’ll read are fresh and relevant in Tavis Smiley’s hands. He has a perspective that’s useful in today’s world, which makes this the kind of book you’ll want to tuck in your desk at work, the kind of thing you’ll underline, dog-ear, and return to again and again.

If your confidence is shredded, a pink slip has you red-faced, or you’re looking for a mentor (if only on paper), this is the book you need. For you and your future, “Fail Up” is just perfect.


The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. Her self-syndicated reviews appear in more than 260 newspapers.