BY DIANA BRUK
When we compare ourselves to successful people, it’s easy to assume that they’ve got some sort of success gene that the rest of us don’t have. But the truth is that people who are “successful,” have failed at just as many things as the rest of us–they just know how to get up, brush themselves off, and try again…and again…annnnd again.
To prove this point in a powerful way, Johannes Haushofer, an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, shared a resume that lists his failures rather than his achievements.
To be clear, Professor Haushofer has a lot of achievements, including getting a B.A. from Oxford and a PhD from Harvard, winning a wide variety of coveted fellowships, getting papers published, and acquiring teaching positions at MIT, Harvard, and Princeton. But he’s also experienced a whole lot of failure and rejection, as this CV shows.
“Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible,” he wrote. “I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. 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.”
As Haushofer points out, he’s not the first person to do this, nor is it his original idea. He was inspired by a 2010 article written by Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. Now that his CV has gone viral, however, it’s inspired other people all over the world to share their own resumes of failure, to remind people that rejection is all just a normal part of the process.
CV OF FAILURES
Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. 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. This CV of Failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective.
This idea is not mine, but due to a wonderful article in Nature by Melanie I. Stefan, who is a Lecturer in the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. You can find her original article here, her website here, her publications here, and follow her on Twitter under @MelanieIStefan.
I am also not the first academic to post their CV of failures. Earlier examples are here, here, here, and here.
This CV is unlikely to be complete – it was written from memory and probably omits a lot of stuff. So
if it’s shorter than yours, it’s likely because you have better memory, or because you’re better at trying things than me.
Degree programs I did not get into
2008 PhD Program in Economics, Stockholm School of Economics
2003 Graduate Course in Medicine, Cambridge University
Graduate Course in Medicine, UCL
PhD Program in Psychology, Harvard University
PhD Program in Neuroscience and Psychology, Stanford University
1999 BA in International Relations, London School of Economics
Academic positions and fellowships I did not get
2014 Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professorship
UC Berkeley Agricultural and Resource Economics Assistant Professorship
MIT Brain & Cognitive Sciences Assistant Professorship
This list is restricted to institutions where I had campus visits; the list of places where I had
first-round interviews but wasn’t invited for a campus visit, and where I wasn’t invited to
interview in the first place, is much longer and I will write it up when I get a chance. The list
also shrouds the fact that I didn’t apply to most of the top economics departments (Harvard,
MIT, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Chicago, Berkeley, LSE) because one of my advisors felt they
could not write a strong letter for them.
Awards and scholarships I did not get
2011 Swiss Network for International Studies PhD Award
2010 Society of Fellows, Harvard University
Society in Science Scholarship
University of Zurich Research Scholarship
2009 Human Frontiers Fellowship
2007 Mind-Brain-Behavior Award (Harvard University)
2006 Mind-Brain-Behavior Award (Harvard University)
2003 Fulbright Scholarship
Haniel Scholarship (German National Merit Foundation)
Paper rejections from academic journals
2016 QJE, Experimental Economics
2015 AER x 2
2013 PNAS, Experimental Economics, Science, Neuron
2008 Science, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Vision
Research funding I did not get
2016 MQ Mental Health Research Grant
2015 Russell Sage Research Grant (two separate ones)
2013 National Science Foundation Research Grant
2010 University of Zurich Research Grant
Swiss National Science Foundation Research Grant
2009 Financial Innovation Grant
International Labor Organization Research Grant
3ie Research Grant
2016 This darn CV of Failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic