Open Panel

Career Path

Blog about career tips and climbing the corporate ladder

Behind Your Success Are Your Failures Too

​We all have a list of failures equally as long as the list of success. From my own experience, I could write down a long list of opportunities I miss, the jobs I didn't get, the courses I skip and the articles I failed to write well. But these are not the things I would write down or tell others. These I consider my failures which I try to keep up under the radar.

But what would happen if we decided to actually write them all down? This is exactly what Johannes Haushofer, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, did—and for the general public to see, too.

Professor Haushofer recently published his CV of failures. Failures, not just for a period of time, but all of his failures throughout his career—all the degree programs he didn't get into, all the fellowships, awards, and funding he didn't receive, and all the rejections he got from academic journals.

He entitled it "CV OF FAILURES," and it's gone viral.

"Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible," he wrote at the top of the CV. "I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days."

What Haushofer is hoping is to express through his own list of failures that behind every success are more failures, failures of rejected awards and fellowships, and other letdowns. What he wants to show is that success comes with failure, with years of grueling work, mistakes, and late nights spent at the office. Most of the success people would have gone through tremendous struggles to end up where they are now. It's not that we ourselves are failures, but that it takes trials and tribulations to truly reach success.

We all have failures in our careers. But usually, we keep quiet about it. It is very important to make a list for yourself, not to bring yourself down but to see how far you've come, how hard you've worked, and how much you've improved since you first started your career. In addition to celebrating your successes, celebrate the failures that lead you there, and maybe, just maybe, that's all the motivation you need to know that you can move forward.

Failure is an important aspect in creating your character. It is not the failure we should be afraid off, but our ability to deal with it and bounce back. We all as some or other times have setbacks. But is manner we face that situation and address it defines our character, our destiny, and our success.

While searching for a job, we will create a perfect CV that will highlight all our strengths, our accomplishments etc. But if there's one thing you'd never do, is list your failures on there, right? In just showing the successes, a résumé or CV actually reflects only a tiny slice of one's experience – and perhaps not even the most important part. If you could read between the lines of the many successes that are recorded in a résumé, you would probably see far more failures: schools people didn't get into; scholarship we didn't get, articles that were rejected; job applications that were declined.

When you go for an interview with the company, along with the questions about your accomplishments, the hiring manager often ask about your setback. They will ask questions like – "Tell us about the time when you had a setback", "How did you handle the delay in the project", "What did you do when your manager or team did not agree to your idea" etc. The reason for this is that they want to know how you handle failure or setbacks. Companies know that they are not hiring super-humans who won't make mistakes or have setbacks. They also know that you will come across failure. But your ability to deal with it define how much success you get. The real tragedy isn't these failures -- it's when these failures convince people to stop trying.

This is what Haushofer is telling by his CV of failures. Not of what he has not accomplish, but what he was able to accomplished because of his failures. Haushofer has done important work around psychology and poverty in his 17-year academic career, including opening the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics in Kenya as a Harvard Prize Fellow to study how poverty affects economic decision-making.

He has earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Oxford University, a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Harvard, and a second doctorate in economics from the University of Zurich.

He's also won a whole bunch of scholarship awards and written roughly 33 academic articles in some top-notch journals, according to his resumé.

Note his last meta-failure: "This darn CV of failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic work."

4 Attitudes That Are Killing Your Career
How To Ask For LinkedIn Recommendations

Comments 1

Guest - Rachel @ Countdowns & Cupcakes on Thursday, 05 May 2016 12:51

This is such an interesting idea! I bet people would be more willing to try new things if they could see that the people they admire failed to get where they are.

This is such an interesting idea! I bet people would be more willing to try new things if they could see that the people they admire failed to get where they are.
Already Registered? Login Here
Saturday, 23 January 2021
To leave a comment, fill in the name field. If you'd like to register, please fill in the username, e-mail and name fields.

Captcha Image