Reflections on the intersection of economics, history, politics, psychology and science

Building off the prior podcast on learning from the past, this discussion is all about success and failure. We all know the common wisdom that we all learn more from failure than from success, but of course we don’t strive to fail all of the time!

Defining success and failure is not as simple as it seems, so this discussion starts off with discussing these terms and the metrics we use (or don’t use) to measure our progress in any venture. And although we often do learn more from failure than from success, failure has plenty of downsides and success has plenty of upsides. The key seems to be how we choose to learn from both our successes and failures.

The podcast discusses the real-life implications of balancing success and failure in all walks of life, with examples from business, science, sports, and politics. However, when balancing success and failure and evaluating risks, it’s also important to distinguish the context of personal decisions versus community decisions. The latter is a much more complicated environment, with yardsticks of success that aren’t universally agreed-upon, the ability for people to “free ride” off of others’ success and failures, and the inherent conservatism in politics due to the community’s lower tolerance of failure in the political arena. 

Lastly, the hosts discuss lessons from the business world that can help us to collectively be more balanced when it comes to tolerating and learning from failures, and having those failures lead to success. 

Key Terms Used

Cognitive Dissonance, Conservatism, Corporate Personhood, Externality, Free Rider, Hindsight Bias, Progressive Tax, Public Good, Risk