fail upwards

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Alternative forms[edit]


fail upwards (third-person singular simple present fails upwards, present participle failing upwards, simple past and past participle failed upwards)

  1. to advance in one's career despite failures
    • 1994, Gail O'Donnell, Michele Travolta, Making it in Hollywood: behind the success of 50 of today's favorite actors, screenwriters, producers, and directors, Sourcebooks, →ISBN, page 139:
      I got trapped in an absurd, "failing upwards" trajectory. Heathers got me work on a bigger film called Ford Fairlane. When that movie failed, I was given a post on an even bigger film, Hudson Hawk. After that one really, really failed, I was rewarded with the assignment of Batman Returns.
    • 1997, Robert A. Berman, Fade in: The Screenwriting Process, M. Wiese Productions, →ISBN, page 216:
      In Hollywood, as in many industries, there are countless tales of people who fail upwards. It means that no matter how poorly someone performs with one project, the next one he or she will be given will be significantly greater. If a director makes a flop for $15 million, you can bet the ranch that his next picture deal will be for $25 million.
    • 2008, William Goldman, Magic: A Novel, Random House Publishing Group, →ISBN, page 107:
      He was your standard show business example of failing upwards , and the Postman had no doubts that eventually Goldstone would be running a major Hollywood film studio into receivership.
    • 2010, Svetlana Savranskaya, Thomas S. Blanton, Vladislav Martinovich Zubok, Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Eastern Europe, Central European University Press, →ISBN, page 261:
      Gates himself would move to the White House as deputy national security adviser—in effect, failing upwards.