Make It

Why Wharton’s No. 1 professor recommends keeping a resume of your failures

Adam Grant's resume is 32 pages long. He's the number one professor six years running at Wharton, one of the leading business schools in the country; a New York Times bestselling author multiple times over; and a frequent keynote speaker, researcher and consultant. He's worked with the likes of Facebook, Google, Goldman Sachs and the NBA.

That's a lot of success. But Grant has recently been inspired to work on a resume of his failures.

"Every resume and bio that you put together is basically just stringing one success or accomplishment next to another, and we kind of erase all the failures in between," Grant tells CNBC. "We should all be more open about the challenges we faced."

Adam Grant
Photo by Amy E. Price
Adam Grant

Grant got the idea to put together a resume of failures from Princeton professor Johannes Haushofer whose "CV of Failures" — written to give others an honest look at his professional process — went viral.

"Every resume and bio that you put together is basically just stringing one success next to another and we erase all the failures in between." -Adam Grant, author

For Grant, working on his own resume of failures is a reminder that his extensive CV doesn't tell the whole story.

"As I put this together, I've I forgotten how many times I've screwed up and how many goals I had that that I just didn't meet."

In particular, when Grant interviewed for his first teaching job after grad school, he was told that he wasn't capable of teaching MBA students. When he taught a course for military generals early on in his career, the feedback forms were overwhelmingly negative and criticized his young age. "The feedback was was pretty — what's the right term for it? — soul destroying," says Grant.

Despite the setbacks early in his career, though, Grant was persistent and committed to improve his teaching skills. That, he says, is the real key to his resume of feats.

"I don't think there's any skill more critical for success than resilience," says Grant.

"I think about resilience as the speed and strength of your response to adversity," he continues, "so when you encounter a difficulty, a hardship, a challenge, how quickly and how effectively are you able to marshal strength and either overcome that challenge or persevere in the face of it?"

See also:

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