Failure Resume

In the next several months, I’m scheduled to speak at a PMI Washington, DC industry insights dinner and the University of Maryland Project Management Symposium on subtle ways that project managers can improve efficiency, boost productivity, and foster creativity. I’ve given this talk to a few different groups previously, both at work and at other conferences. The reaction is usually something along the lines of, “Wow, that’s great! But I’ll never be that organized” or “You’re so intimidating. Can I get the light version?” I’m planning to simplify the talk in an effort to inspire adoption, not self-defeat. But how to do this? Inspiration struck in the form of a colleague’s blog post suggestion. They pointed me to a recent New York Times article about someone who had decided to create a “failure resume” and asked for my take on its contents.

Of course I love this idea!—and for several reasons:

  • For those who struggle with impostor syndrome, reviewing a list of someone else’s failures can provide a welcome sense of solidarity with others (also known as everyone else) who have suffered similar professional setbacks.

  • A failure resume can also be a good tool for introspection. If you review your list of failures each year and don’t have anything new to add to it, then it likely means you aren’t taking enough risks. Just as you may have a goal of adding something new to your resume every quarter or six months, accept the challenge of adding something to your failure resume at the same frequency.

  • Maintaining a failure resume can also be beneficial for project managers. It helps document lessons learned, which is an essential component of monitoring and controlling any project. Since it helps you recall your professional setbacks, a failure resume is also a good tool for educating your staff about how they can either avoid those pitfalls or remind them that nothing ventured is nothing gained.

Going back to my original point about the presentation I’m giving, my presentation was not resonating with my audience because I had failed to explain why I have adopted these productivity-boosting systems. Simply put, productivity techniques helped pull me back from burnout, and they continue to let me grow in my career without having to return to that dark place. Therefore, in the spirit of full disclosure—especially for those that felt intimidated by my presentation—below are a few highlights from my failure resume:

Failure Resume (2).png