My Failure Resume

Mel wrote a post about writing one’s Failure Resume, the idea for which she got from a Lifehacker article. This is how the original article begins:

Listing out your victories is a great way to build some confidence, but it can also warp your perspective on how you achieved success. Listing out your biggest failures instead will remind you how you got to where you are, and help you learn what you need to succeed.

I think it’s true that we can learn a lot from our failures. I know I have. And while I don’t revel in revisiting all the many ways I’ve failed in my life, I do appreciate the chance to review the lessons I’ve learned. Here are just a few of my failures (both big and small) and what I learned from them.

The car I crashed (and totaled) two days after I got my license. The loss of a thing can be hard, but never take for granted that everyone is okay–that is a priceless gift.

My ectopic pregnancy. Really horrible things can happen, for no reason at all, and I can survive things that I believed would destroy me.

The book that never got published. Sometimes just creating something is a triumph, even if no one else ever sees it. I can hold my children’s book close to my heart, and even though no one wanted to publish it, the fact that I wrote and illustrated can be a victory.

The fact that I’m still not as fluent a Spanish speaker as I would like to be. The journey can be profoundly gratifying, and sometimes it’s hard to recognize when or if you’ve arrived at the ultimate destination. I’m not really sure if I’ll ever believe I’ve gotten there, and that’s probably okay.

My secondary infertility. The most unexpected thing can happen, even the ones that feel like miracles.

The YA novel I never finished. I may not know yet if I want to finish something, but that doesn’t mean starting it is a bad idea. Learning that I am not really interested can be just as valuable as completing what I set out to do.

Never being invited to write full time for the magazine. I have to ask specifically for what I want, not expect people to just hand it to me. That means I have to be confident enough in my own abilities to feel like I deserve asking for it in the first place.

Dumb shit I have posted on my blog. I don’t need to put it all out there; my words can really hurt people. Sometimes the best course of action is no action at all. Always wait a few days to publish (or send) words written in anger, frustration or pain.

My continued struggle with classroom management. Some skills are really hard to learn, but it is worth attempting to master them.

All the ways I’m not the mother I want to be. Good enough really can be good enough, AND it’s always worth trying to be better (as long as I can practice self-compassion along the way).

That time I walked the last three miles of a half marathon. Just because I finished a marathon a couple of years ago doesn’t mean I don’t have to train for a half marathon now. If I train for it, I can finish it, but if I don’t, I probably won’t.

My many shopping bans. I can fail to achieve a certain goal (not buying anything for six weeks) but still benefit from the ultimate desired outcome (changing my spending habits).

Embracing minimalism. Just because I’m not there yet doesn’t mean I never will be.

My failed friendship. This is the one I’m still not sure of yet. I guess maybe it’s that sometimes I will endure a tragedy and not learn anything more from it than the extent of what I can endure. I don’t want the lesson learned from this to be that you can never know or trust anyone, even those you feel closest to, so I’m going to stick with the first one.

What is something you would learn if you wrote your failure resume?


  1. Wow. I love the lessons you’re learning! I feel like if I wrote one of those, it would get me focused on my failures and thus depressed. But yours is great. I don’t know all the details about why that friendship failed, but I know that a lesson I often need to work on is “not everything is my fault. Sometimes it’s them.” So maybe that’s the lesson to learn for you, too. Stop looking for what you did wrong?

    1. That is a really good lesson to learn to take away from the friendship fiasco. I think I’m struggling to feel that because I’m still not entirely sure what happened, so I’m not entirely sure what part I played, and also because accepting personal responsibility is really important for me and something I’m always striving to do. Maybe another thing I need to learn is that sometimes I won’t understand how or why people do things, no matter how hard I try.

  2. Love this. I think failure resumes are as much for other people as they are for ourselves, you know? We write our real resume to put our best foot forward, but it isn’t REALLY the whole story. I think of failure resumes as even more valuable for other people because it gives a more panoramic view of a life.

  3. You are so honest, and so brave! I like the idea of doing this, and could do it for much of my life. But I’m not sure if I could do the last 5-10 years yet. I guess I won’t know until I try!

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