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The Blessings in a Résumé of Failures

Sharing the full story of your life can be downright uplifting–and honest.

Life can be full of failure and still be a success.

I gave up social media for Lent this year and, almost instantly, I experienced a great sense of relief.

Maybe because I was freed from that feeling that tends to pop up when I scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feed. You know, that “oh my goodness, everyone else is traveling, getting married, popping out babies or starting companies, and my biggest accomplishment of the week was finding green grapes for $1.99 a pound at the supermarket!” kind of feeling.

The other day I came across something that put it all in perspective for me. A “CV of Failures” from Johannes Haushofer, an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University.

Johannes is no stranger to career success. He has a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Zurich. And yet he crafted a résumé of his work low points to show the true story behind his achievements.

“Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible,” he writes in his résumé’s intro:

“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. This CV of Failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective.”

Johannes goes on to list the degree programs he didn’t get into, fellowships he didn’t get and scholarships he didn’t receive. His very honest résumé went viral. And it’s no wonder. Not only is it a glimpse at the hard work and perseverance that goes into a career, it’s like a pep talk to anyone who’s chased after a dream.

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It’s also especially refreshing to those in search of a bit of realness in this social media age. A confirmation that we all experience highs and lows, that we’re not alone in our struggles. So often we see the highlights of a person’s life, rarely the whole picture.

But sharing the full story can be downright uplifting. And, as Johannes wrote, provide some much-needed perspective.

What about you? What would your “Résumé of Failures” look like?

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