My failure resume, first pass

November 30, 2019 by Joshua
in Education

Someone mentioned the idea of a failure resume a month or two ago. You know as much about them as I do now. I haven’t looked up the idea but the name describes enough to go on.

I’ve thought about it long enough. Time to start it. I expect I’ll add to it and refine.

1970s and 80sMugged 5 times growing up, three bikes stolen, etc, felt shame, and kept the stories private.I can feel shame for things beyond your control and not realize it for decades.

Suppressing shame causes it to persist and fester.
1983Got a 55 on a 6th grade math test, on percentages. Possibly my worst test score.Low test scores aren’t the end of the world.
1988In courting Julie, my first girlfriend, considered by some the cutest girl in school, I learned: I could get the cutest girl in school, all I had to do was be her friend for a year and a half first.Much later (2007): learn more about differences between men and women and between friendship, attraction, and intimacy, learn and practice behaviors, skills, and beliefs that attract women.
1989First time the team captain didn’t put me in for an important game.Asked and answered: am I playing for fun or to compete, reach my potential, and contribute to the team?

Dropped entitled feeling that I should get to play just for showing up.

Ultimate became one of the greatest sources of value and growth from this moment.
1993-94First year of graduate school got worst grades of my life. Also girlfriend left me and I couldn’t find a team to play ultimate with. In other words the top three parts of my life all fell apart. My worst year and a half.This too shall pass.
1993Lived with roommates who didn’t pay bills and other untrustworthy things. (When I moved out, I moved to one of my favorite apartments, with a south facing bay window just off Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia)Be wary putting my name on bills that others might not pay.

The experience partly reset my understanding of humanity, trust, and standing by your word.
1996Three friends within a short period of time said, “I’ve known you a long time but don’t know the real you.”Stop my old strategy of choosing to open up after knowing someone for a while. Start opening up early to create the friendship
1999The most uncomfortable presentation of my life. I was solely responsible. On my second thesis defense, six months after my first (Columbia’s physics department requires two), I hadn’t practiced, thinking “How could I not remember what I spent four years working on?”

I forgot plenty.
Prepare for every presentation.
2002-03Submedia almost goes bankrupt, investors squeeze me out. A company I conceived of the technology for, co-founded, once owned more than half of, operating displays on four continents, covered in every major media outlet, valued at over $10 million—I was now a bit player on the sideline.

The year leading to my ouster tied with first year of graduate school for worst year of my life.
Business is based on relationships, not academic knowledge and abstract analysis that universities teach. Learn social and emotional skills.
2007First attempts at approaching women, for about a year no meaningful relationships resulted.I wasn’t the man I thought I was.

How to open up, allow myself to be vulnerable and make others feel comfortable opening up with me. Re-creating major parts of myself from the ground up. Stop putting women on pedestals and get to know people as individuals.
2012Didn’t get paid by licensee for upside of contract, for what should have been worth six figures.Be careful with overseas contracts that can’t be enforced.
2013Trusted an architect now ex-friend who suggested redesigning my apartment. The project started great, but he didn’t manage the contractor he recommended, who went over budget, over schedule, and shoddy work. Even my ex-friend recommended switching. Eventually my ex-friend stopped helping. Luckily my step-father stepped in and helped finish the job.I got closer to my family.

The experience partly reset my understanding of humanity, trust, and standing by your word.

I’ve been writing, reflecting, and editing a few hours. I know I can write more, but I expected I’d keep thinking of more failures for a long time, hand “first pass” in the title and the empty rows. I’ll stop here for now, but keep updating it when I can.


  • I thought I’d come up with more failures faster. I know I’m forgetting many.
  • Identifying the specific failure takes more consideration than I expected. For example, I first wrote the failure was being mugged. After reflection, I realized the failure was suppressing and accepting the shame.
  • I’ve known each failure and how important they were, but writing them honors them and enables me to learn anew.
  • I can’t tell yet for sure, but I think writing them and honoring them will enable me to build on them.
  • I’m not sure how to handle the repercussions of 9/11.
  • I recommend this exercise.

Success and failure

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