Monday, June 26, 2017

Interesting Idea: The Failure Resume

If you don't already visit Dan Pink's site on a regular basis to view the Pinkcast, I recommend you change that habit. He posts short, insightful videos that can help you improve yourself or think about things slightly differently. A few weeks ago as I was catching up on episodes I missed, I came across this quick one with Tina Seelig around her concept of a "failure resume." It's an interesting concept, and I urge you to take the 124 seconds required to watch and do that, then come back here for a quick 2 minute read with my take. I promise, I'll wait.

Back already? Awesome. So maybe you agree that keeping a failure resume sounds like a good idea. Let's break down how I think you can make it a success.

Schedule It

I find that the best way to keep something like this updated is to schedule some time regularly to do so. Find some time that is convenient to you to do your reflection and jot down the recent failings and your lessons learned and takeaways. Then put it on your calendar and treat that time as sacred. If you do have to intrude on it with other things, move it. Think of it as something you must do, like eat. You can postpone it, but inevitably, you have to get it done. Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, set aside enough time to reflect and take the appropriate introspection to learn from your mistakes.

Centralize It

Tina Seelig in that Pinkcast video makes a reference to sometimes keeping it in her head and sometimes writing it down. But she also says that writing it down makes it more likely that you don't repeat your mistakes. I say take that piece of advice and find a centralized place to write it all down, whether a journal, a file on your computer, or something else that works for you. By keeping it all centralized, you will not spend time looking for a place to update the next time it falls on the schedule, taking up valuable introspective time. It also gives you one place to come back to when you need to review your notes. Whatever your poison, I suggest you find a methodology that works, keep it in one place, and keep it secure and backed up.

Flip It

While Seelig's idea of the failure resume has novel implications for avoiding your mistakes, you should also take some time to track your successes. I used to work in a department where, at least semi-annually or annually, a Powerpoint slide would show up in a review with tiny print of all the successes that our department had accomplished in the year. Some of the projects were often questionable successes, but it was a powerful visual reminder of everything we accomplished throughout the year. All too often, when we update our actual resume, we don't have the meat ready to fill out any updates on our current position. Keeping a success log lets you have that ammo at the ready the next time you make that broader update.


The failure resume can be an interesting way to document and begin to learn from your mistakes. If you want it to work for you, I think you have to treat it like any other priority for you. Schedule time to make sure that you have a block to work it. And find a way to centralize it and keep it handy. I generally use Google Drive for things like that, but you can choose whatever method suits you. Then try to take a 360 degree approach to it - marking down your successes and how you could improve them alongside (or in a separate file from) your failure list. That way, you won't let the downs overwhelm the ups. Good luck!