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  • Writer's pictureDr Chan Abraham

Failure isn't a Roadblock...

Here at Leadership International we were interested when we came across a suggestion about keeping a "Failure Résumé."

Tim Herrera explains how he failed when he had to deliver a presentation at work on an unfamiliar topic. It seems that it went rather badly awry. He explains that when in a similar position at work, if we know what went wrong we can try to fix those issues before they become problems. He suggests that, when things go right, we’re generally pretty good at identifying why they went right. But failing gives scope to look at the things that went wrong, or traits/habits that led us to fail - to be embraced as an opportunity to improve.

So this gives rise to a failure résumé - not your normal résumé of successes, accomplishments and progress, but one that tracks the times you didn’t quite hit the mark, along with what lessons you learned.

Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at Edinburgh Medical School, knows this well. A few years ago, she called on academics to publish their own “failure résumés,” eventually publishing her own. On it, she lists graduate programs she didn’t get into, degrees she didn’t finish or pursue, harsh feedback from an old boss and even the rejections she got after auditioning for several orchestras.

Curiously, it transpires that there's more to be learned from failure than success, and honestly analyzing one’s failures can lead to the type of introspection that helps us grow — as well as show that the path to success isn’t a straight line.

Tim Herrera cites Oset Babur wrote a guide to failing the right way. In it, Ms. Babur wrote that to turn even our most public failures into advantages, we need to be critical, mindful, honest and, most important, kind about what went wrong. “I try to be more compassionate, use language that isn’t so harsh,” Ms. Babur said, “given how widespread failure is.”

The biggest impact she has seen is in “changing an otherwise pretty harsh internal monologue I had about failing, which, in some cases, prevented progress.” As a writer, she said, “if you’re hung up on calling yourself dumb or a bad writer, it’s hard to get to the part where you make your piece a lot better.”

Like Dr. Stefan, Ms. Babur has a version of a failure résumé, on which she lists her articles that were rejected — along with feedback or notes on each rejection, so she can strengthen her ideas.

Failure isn’t a roadblock. It’s part of the process.

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