It's hard to find fault with index funds: Low costs and broad diversification make them the surest bet for the long run. But by definition index funds are no better than average, and let's face it: Sometimes you want to win a race.
Let's say you bought two stocks last year. One has tanked and looks likely to fall further. One has gone up and you expect it to keep rising. (Hey, it's not completely impossible.) Which are you more apt to sell?
Ten years later, Marlene Chism still gets upset when she thinks about the time she lost her temper in front of the higher-ups. Every time she tried to talk during a meeting at the manufacturing plant where she worked, she says, the male human resources manager discounted her idea.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld knows failure. A professor at the Yale School of Management and founder of the non-profit Chief Executive Leadership Institute, Sonnenfeld has risen to leadership-guru status by becoming the expert on how CEOs stumble and bounce back. He first explored failure 20 years ago in his book "The Hero's Farewell: What Happens When CEOs Retire." Sonnenfeld's latest, "Firing Back: How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters," hits the topic head on. Fortune editor at large Patricia Sellers talked with Sonnenfeld about what he has learned studying failure. An edited version of their conversation: