How one really bold resume is starting a big conversation about failure.

Ever heard of a failure resume?

The simple but counterintuitive idea was first popularized by Stanford professor Tina Seelig. In her course on creativity and innovation, she requires students to write resumes that focus on their failures instead of their successes and accomplishments.

The personal exercise is meant to help people reshape how they view their own shortcomings and missteps — and to see them instead as experiences of growth and learning.


Photo via Alessandro Valli/Flickr.

Earlier this year, Ogilvy and Mather creative Jeff Scardino took that idea a step further and made the private exercise public.

Using his own failure resume template that he calls the " Relevant Resume," he applied for 10 positions that he considered himself qualified for. He sent in two separate applications for each position, with different names and addresses. One was his traditional resume full of accomplishments, awards, and impressive references. The other was the "relevant resume," which highlighted his "missed honors," "non-skills" (things he is not good at), and "bad references" from people who would have less-than-glowing things to say about him.

Image via Jeff Scardino/Vimeo.

And the results were pretty amazing.

The standard resume received one response and zero meeting requests. The "relevant resume"? Eight responses and five meeting requests.

Apparently, companies appreciated his creativity and honesty. But even those who saw it as a joke were intrigued enough to reach out to him. And that's never a bad thing.

You can check out the video he made recapping the experiment below. His project is just one in a string of efforts in recent years to emphasize the importance of failure. Heard any of these recently?

"Fail fast, fail often!"
"Failure is the building block of innovation!"
"Success begins with failure."

Failure is in and fear of failure is out.

And for good reason. As scientists and serial entrepreneurs know all too well, failure can lead to huge gains — and teach us a lot in the process.

But before you go out Monday morning and apply for jobs using this template or run head-first into your next loss, let me give you the "real talk" that I always long for when creatives, researchers, tech gurus, and Silicon Valley investors discuss failure so glowingly.

All failure isn't created equal.

Thumbnail image via amboo who?/Flickr.

In my experience, a person's level of comfort with failure is affected by a few factors that I don't hear failure evangelists acknowledge enough:

How wide and strong is your safety net?

What's at stake?

And how likely is it that you will be "given" another chance to try again without penalty?

Failure may be scarier for some of us than it is for others because of those factors. And rightfully so. It's much easier to quit your job, follow your dreams, and fail when you don't have mouths to feed and aren't living paycheck to paycheck. Or invest your last dime in a wild business idea if you can move back in with mommy and daddy when it fails. Or experiment at work and do something fun and crazy in a meeting that totally humiliates you when you're not already being doubted because of your gender, age, or race. Get what I mean?

So what's a no-safety-net-having, a-lot-to-lose, already-got-a-few-societal-strikes-against-me person to do? Should you always play it safe and risk nothing?

Of course not! No risk, no reward, right? You deserve all the rewards like growth, innovation, and new opportunities just as much as anyone else.

But in my personal journey as a non-Ivy-League-educated woman of color without a tremendous financial safety net, I had to realize that failure and risk might look a bit different for me than it does for the average Mark Zuckerberg.

What I think I look like in my head. Photo via iStock.

I learned that it was important to always have a strong network of emotional support full of people who understand my unique circumstances. And I learned that I don't have to risk it all to reap some benefits. Small risks — like doing something you think is a bit "too hard," trying something new, or following your dreams but with a bit more planning — are just as valuable to your growth as submitting a pretty off-the-wall resume or committing some radical act of fearlessness.

The purpose of all of this failure talk — even when it sounds lofty — is, at its core, actually pretty universal:

Don't let your fear of discomfort and negative results hold you back from taking risks that have the potential to move you forward and help you become who you want to become.

If a failure resume can help you do that, you're just one quick download away. Give it a try.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less