Experiment 2: Failure Resume results!

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When I first read about the concept of creating a Failure Resume, I naively thought, “Well that sounds like a fun (albeit slightly confronting) project!” Clearly I underestimated things…

I’ll get into my reflections shortly, but I was completely unprepared for how many emails I received during this experiment with people explaining why they were going to sit this one out. Here are a couple of examples:

“I’ve found that thinking about failures for the resume exercise peppered my thoughts and I had two disturbed nights' sleep immediately after reading and posting about it. I would consider myself mentally healthy ATM but it was a trigger of sorts. So I didn't complete the exercise and stopped thinking on the topic and felt better.”

“To say this experiment was challenging is an understatement! I was able to write my failures down but could not bring myself to share them with anyone, even my husband.   The thought of doing so created immense shame and embarrassment along with the fear of being exposed as a failure!”  

Despite this reaction, many failure resumes have been born through this experiment. Some are public (search #myyearofbetter or #failureresume on Linkedin to read a few), many have been emailed, and some have been written but not shared. And if you missed mine, here it is

I am deeply touched by everyone who shared their resume and reflections with me personally. To be trusted with the information you shared is a privilege.

Now, let’s get on with the fun part: the analysis!

It should come as no surprise that the sample size for this experiment was small - if you didn’t write a Failure Resume, then we couldn’t use your data.

There were 50-odd people who wrote a Failure Resume AND completed the pre- and post-experiment survey. From this sample, I am very excited to reveal that for those who also shared their Failure Resume, resilience increased by 13% - over the course of just one week!

Now, what’s really interesting is that writing but not sharing a Failure Resume failed to increase resilience. This suggests that sharing your failures was critical to boosting resilience.

What I learnt from writing a Failure Resume

What I expected to learn and experience and what actually happened were two completely separate things. Here are the biggest things I took from this experiment.

1. Don’t reject feedback because I am “too busy” to apply it.

When the friend who I mentioned in my Failure Resume post gave me his damning feedback, one of my initial thoughts was: How am I going to find time to apply this? The perfectionist part of me of course did find the time…

But then, I then shared my Failure Resume with my team at Inventium, literally a few hours before I planned to make it public. One of my team mates, Joey (who I adore because he is brutally honest with me), challenged me to go deeper, especially about my failure as a mother. 

At first I resisted. ’I am a busy woman. I don’t have time to go deeper. I am on a deadline!’ I thought. But I reminded myself of the purpose of the experiment and that I just needed to make the time. I wanted to lead by example and to make myself more vulnerable, not less. So I dug deeper around my last failure relating to my role as a mother. 

I sent it back to Joey. He said I could go even deeper. 

I thought ‘No, I can’t’. 

But then I did. 

And my Failure Resume was all the better for it.

2. Something magical happens when a whole team shares their failures with each other.

A day or so after posting the Failure Resume experiment instructions, Inventium’s CEO, Mish, shared her Failure Resume with the entire team. This then led to a domino effect of everyone writing and sharing their own Failure Resumes. Through reading about everyone’s (very raw and personal) failures, I learnt so much about people who I have known, in some cases, for several years. It reminded me that there is always so much more to learn about the people we think we know well.

More strikingly, however, the process brought us all so much closer as a collective. It felt like people’s metaphorical armour had been taken off and we stood together in our flawed selves in all their glory.

I highly recommend this exercise if you and your team is up for it.

3. We fear that sharing failures will make people see us in a worse light. But the opposite tends to happen.

I felt very nervous hitting “publish” when I shared my failures with the masses (read: 30,000 people in total). My fear was that people would judge me or think less of me. Instead, I received So Many emails and notes to the contrary. In spite of my flaws, my poor decisions, and misguided actions, people accepted me. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?