Steve Young

is the author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful"

2008 provided an embarrassing, sometimes disastrous cascade of evidence that brilliant minds aren't always so brilliant.

One need not look further than former Federal Reserve chairman (and former economic genius) Alan Greenspan, who was "shocked" to find a flaw in his no-regulations-needed ideology. Or the Gray Lady of spoof, National Lampoon, which allegedly spoofed its stock value right into a federal securities-fraud case.

The good news is that all those mistakes, blunders and failures hold promise for the rest of us. It's been said that we should learn from the mistakes of others, since we won't live long enough to make them all ourselves.

Here's a somewhat skewed guide for making your own New Year's lemonade out of someone else's old lemons.

2008 failure:

Sarah Palin did little for John McCain and a lot for Tina Fey.

2009 lesson:

No matter what kind of relationship you're thinking of getting into, make sure you find out everything you can about the person you're getting involved with.

2008 failure:

In front of a packed Citizens Bank Park and countless kids watching on television, Chase Utley used a very colorful adjective to describe the Phillies' World Series championship.

2009 lesson:

Make your victory speeches before happy hour.

2008 failure:

O.J. Simpson was sentenced to at least nine years for kidnapping and robbery.

2009 lesson:

It might pay to take a hiatus from criminal activity for half a minute. Just because you get away with murder, you won't necessarily get away with everything.

2008 failure(s):

Al Pacino's

88 Minutes

and

Righteous Kill

; Mark Wahlberg's

The Happening

and

Max Payne

; Will Ferrell's

Semi-Pro

and

Step Brothers

.

2009 lesson:

Two wrongs don't make a right.

2008 failure:

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

,

Late Night with David Letterman

, and

The Daily Show

came to be thought of as legitimate campaign stops.

2009 lesson:

If you don't want to be considered a joke, don't go on comedy shows.

2008 failure:

Barack Obama described people in small towns as bitter, religion-clinging gun nuts. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said his running mate's election might provoke "an international crisis."

2009 lesson:

If talking while in the middle of a presidential campaign, assume everyone is listening.

2008 failure:

The economy.

2009 lesson:

Nobody knows nothin'.

Steve Young blogs at steveyoungonpolitics.com.

His e-mail address is theeothersteveyoung@juno.com.