In 2016, Princeton University psychology professor, Johannes Haushofer, posted his CV on his professional website that generated a lot of discussion in social, academic, and media circles.

Rather than give a narrative of his academic credentials and achievements, most of his CV was actually a chronology of failures that included academic papers that were rejected in journals and failed projects.

In justification he wrote: “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.”

Most of us are inclined to conceal our fears, failures and shortcomings and focus more on desiring to be seen from the illuminating part only.

This has its limitations. It is not inspiring and may be construed as pride and earn you resentment. It may also deny your audience inspiration and lessons that success is not always a smooth journey.

Various studies have confirmed that highly successful people both in the corporate and social world can win over their colleagues and foes by simply sharing the failures they encountered on the path to success.

As a manager or a business owner, you should share with your employees or colleagues your challenges and failures. Do not try to portray yourself as a super-human who always gets it right. Successful leaders who only highlight their achievements can easily elicit malicious envy in their peers and those they lead. They feel you are successful because you have some advantages which they don’t have. They feel as if you are pulling them down.

However, when you let them know how many failures you have encountered or how you struggled to work day and night to get the results against numerous odds, they not only admire you but also appreciate that you deserve it.

When rewarding or promoting an employee, it is motivating to others to know that it is not favour or luck. It is something that one has worked hard and overcome many odds, and that anyone else willing to pay the price can earn the same.

Contrary to what some people think, revealing your failures and struggles does not make you weak and undesired. This applies even when looking for a job or contract. What matters is your attitude and determination to overcome.

We all know that life is not smooth. So when you try to present a picture that anything you touch turns into gold, we know that you are lying.

As we move into 2019, let’s acknowledge our past failures and learn from them. Let’s share them with others, especially those who look upon us for inspiration, and send a strong message that tough times don’t last but tough people do.

Wishing you a prosperous 2019.


This article was first published in The Business Daily on January 8, 2019.

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