We are all familiar with traditional CVs — all full of success and progress, and perhaps (and sometimes in fact), with exaggerated accomplishments. However, a Princeton psychology professor decided to do something different — he published a CV of his failures. It is long, and revealing, in part because it is so rare that we see individuals broadcast our failures.
Johannes Haushofer, a Princeton professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, posted a CV of failures in an attempt to “balance the record” and “provide some perspective”. He was inspired by a 2010 Nature article by Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. She suggested that keeping a visible record of your rejected applications can help others to deal with setbacks
The document is divided in six parts including: “Degree programs I did not get into”, “Academic positions and fellowships I did not get”, “Research funding I did not get” among others.
He suggests, according to the article, that failures should be embraced:
Our setbacks are “invisible” but they happen much more often than our successes, he argues.
“I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me,“ Haushofer said.
“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,” he added.
Of course, I doubt most AEC practitioners will broadcast their failures in RFP submissions and it is relatively easy for someone with authority (he is a Princeton prof, after all) and some degree of measured success to pull this off, but we are reminded again of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, where we tend to think much higher of our actual abilities and competencies when we truly don’t know what we are doing.
And I admit that no matter how many times I have failed in life — and there were countless failures — the last thing I want to do is to dwell on them (or even think about them). The glorious, wonderful, moments of success always will shine brightest, and I look forward to the future with optimism. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that things usually don’t go so well.