A Resume of my Failures

The foundation for the most meaningful work I’ve done in my life

A resume of my failures

Failure is tricky. We do everything to avoid it. It is certainly better to be successful. But if you have no tolerance for failure, success is going to be difficult.

When you have no tolerance for it:

  • It’s hard to explore the unknown
  • It’s hard to do interesting work
  • It’s hard to get up when you fall
  • It’s hard to take the necessary risks

When I interviewed Seth Godin at the beginning of this year, he gave me one piece of advice I’ll never forget. Anytime he starts a big project, he says to himself “this might not work.” That’s how things like the Domino Project, Startup School,and other epic projects of his come to life.

He knows he might fail, but he proceeds regardless. Here’s a fun little fact. Do a search on Amazon for EVERY book written by Seth Godin and you’ll find some duds like “email addresses of famous people”

A recent article on the Fast Company web site written by the founders of IDEO said that to find success, you should write your failure resume first. Most of my traditional resume is littered with failures . I jokingly tell people that my resume is a bit more like a rap sheet.


THE RAP SHEET (AKA MY FAILURE RESUME)

1996-2000

At age 18, I was accepted to a world class University, UC-Berkeley. But that was the start of an uphill battle. First I was rejected from the Haas School of Business. Then my grades were too low for the economics major. So I finished school with a 2.97 GPA and a degree in environmental economics which I’ll never use.

2001-2003

My first job out of college was working for a medical transcription software company. I was fired after 9 months because of my honesty. I was on a sales team and found it ridiculous that I had never been paid a commission check in the time I worked there.

I went on to another company that sold web conferencing software. When half the sales team (including me) was on a performance improvement plan, I saw the writing on the wall. I left and 6 weeks later the company got acquired by Microsoft.

The day before my 25th birthday I got fired again. I had become somewhat desensitized to things by this point. I had enough money saved up, so I wasn’t really phased by this. It definitely stung to be fired before my birthday, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin my birthday.

2003-2005

A few months later I ended up working for a major market research company. Roughly 2 years into the job, a VP decided that I didn’t seem like a person interested in controlling my own destiny. He put me on a performance improvement plan and I left before he could fire me.

2005-2007

I landed a job at an electronics manufacturer. But my plans to head for business school made me an easy target for a layoff when the company decided to downsize.

I got another job and started applying to business school. Again, it wasn’t long before the writing was on the wall. Luckily I had 90 days to clean up my act. If I could get past the 90 days, I would buy myself just enough time to ride out the job until I got accepted to business school.

I submitted 4 applications for business school and I got rejected from every one of them. In a last minute scramble I applied to Pepperdine and I got accepted with a 50% scholarship. I gave my notice a few months before school started and quit my job.

I thought I could finally push the reset button on my life.

2007-2009

The summer between the first and second year of business school, I was the social media strategy intern at Intuit. I learned about blogs, social media, and content. But at the end of the internship, I didn’t get an offer. I graduated from business school in April 2009 into the worst recession in history.

And strangely all of this has been the foundation for the most meaningful work I’ve done in my life:

I created an online show where I’ve interviewed over 400 bloggers, authors, and entrepreneurs:

My guests have included Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Chris Brogan, and 100's of other brilliant people. I’ve received a world class education in building things with my own two hands. Today 1000's of people around the world listen to the show every single day. It’s also sponsored by a few advertisers.

I’ve self published successful books:

The Small Army Strategy: A guide for turning fans and followers into fanatics has over 85 5-star reviews on Amazon.

The Art of Being Unmistakable which was released last week has ranked along side some well known authors like Steven Pressfield and Marc Ecko. My first thought was “ what’s a misfit like me doing here?

*A Quick Update: A few hours after writing this post, my latest book became a #1 Best Seller on Amazon and sold 1000 copies in a day.

I’ve been a speaker at conferences, schools, and even an all women’s retreat.

I’m an avid surfer and in better physical shape than I ever have been in my entire life. I weigh less than I did when I was 25.

And in a few months I’m hosting my very first conference.

I’ve done most of this within the last 3-4 years. A significant chunk has actually been done in the last 9 months.

I was talking to my cousin this last weekend about how much I thought the MBA was a complete waste. The MBA itself was pretty worthless. But every experience we have in our lives brings us to this very moment. It’s hard to say whether all those things would have happen if I hadn’t’ gone to business school and graduated into a recession. Two things came from this path that completely altered the course of my life

  • I learned to surf
  • My entrepreneurial journey started

Those two things are priceless.

At this point I have an unusually high tolerance for failure and my litmus test for anything is simply this:

  • Will I die
  • Will I go to jail
  • Will I go bankrupt?

If not, what’s the next step in this batshit crazy idea of mine. And In case you’re wondering, don’t get an MBA.


I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast, where I have weekly conversations with creative entrepreneurs and other insanely interesting people. Our guests have included bloggers, authors, bank robbers, happiness researchers and world famous cartoonists.