July 28, 2009

FAIL in order to SUCCEED

I require my students to write a failure résumé. That is, to craft a résumé that summarizes all their biggest screw ups — personal, professional, and academic. For every failure, each student must describe what he or she learned from that experience. Just imagine the looks of surprise this assignment inspires in students who are so used to showcasing their successes. However, after they finish their résumé, they realize that viewing their experiences through the lens of failure forced them to come to terms with the mistakes they have made along the way and to extract important lessons from them. In fact, as the years go by, many former students continue to keep their failure résumé up-to-date, in parallel with their traditional résumé of successes.

A failure resume is a quick way to demonstrate that failure is an important part of our learning process, especially when you’re stretching your abilities, doing things the first time, or taking risks. We hire people who have experience not just because of their successes but also because of their failures. Failures increase the chance that you won’t make the same mistake again. Failures are also a sign that you have taken on challenges that expand your skills. In fact, many successful people believe that if you aren’t failing sometimes then you aren’t taking enough risks. Additionally, it is pretty clear that the ratio of our successes and failure is pretty constant. So, if you want more successes, you are going to have to tolerate more failure along the way.

This is a great video clip of Randy Komisar talking about the role of failure in success... It is a favorite on the ECorner web site.

4 comments:

Alicia said...

I actually completed your Failure Resume after reading about it in your book, and I have to say, it was very helpful. It brought up many feelings, including sadness and regret, but I believe that working through these feelings and learning from your failures is so important to bringing you in closer alignment with your values. Thanks for the great exercise.

I posted my own failure resume on my blog, along with my thoughts. www.aliciagardner.wordpress.com

John Potter said...

I read this informative article and I really enjoy reading it. I hope see more articles on this topic by you soon.

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Rusty Johannsberg said...

When I was in college, we were not taught how to construct a competitive resume but upon reading this topic, I think every job seeker must create the same thing as you mentioned above. A failure resume will help job seeker how they can improve their writing and capabilities in making a resume. Also, I also highly recommend to grab a copy of resume templates and/or resume samples here for some added guides.

Freek Sanders said...

Dear Tina, I reread your book "What I wish I knew when I was 20" very often and each time I find it so valuable. I share a lot of your thoughts and apply them in my personal life. I started teaching a year ago and and I often refer to your book!

Thanks for writing this wonderful book: both from a conceptual level as from a practical point of view (all the exercises) I find it very useful.

Kind regards,
Freek Sanders