What lessons have you learnt from your “failures?”


I read an interesting article in Stylist magazine, a free paper magazine for women, generally circulated outside all London stations. Columnist and Features Writer, Lucy Mangan spoke of her “CV failures”. This is the first I had heard of the term “CV failure”. My initial thought was,

“Why would you make a point of noting life’s failures?”
“Is the memory not painful enough?”

Johannes Haushofer, a Princeton professor said this reminds us that failure is a hidden but a normal and healthy part of one’s life.

As a teenager I dreamt of being a journalist. I loved reading books, magazines and the media in general. I still do! Like Lucy, I applied for jobs with publishing companies, a well known newspaper, even with the BBC news section. I was moved by the fierce competition and did not appreciate that I would be required to work for peanuts (or for anything at all) as an intern or junior despite being a graduate.  I did have the privilege of writing for the Jamaican Gleaner newspaper over a two year period as volunteer. I still have the articles!

On occasion, when watching the news, I closely observe the newsreader and think;

“That could have been me. Perhaps if I had been willing to work as a runner or intern to get my feet into the BBC or other media company, it would be paying off for me right now.”

As an enthusiastic and somewhat naive graduate, I knew the salary I wanted and my focus was on moving into my own home and travelling abroad.  As it turns out I did both.

Reflecting on your past decisions has its benefits. It may well bring up issues or indeed experiences you would much rather leave behind but it allows you to accept these failings and move on. 

What was your dream job as a teenager? Was it a phase or did you spend years carving out this career?

Do you look to your past with regret or do you see your life experiences as having made you the person you are today?

30 thoughts on “What lessons have you learnt from your “failures?””

  1. “Do you look to your past with regret or do you see your life experiences as having made you the person you are today?”

    It’s not an either/or question in my case. I do look to my past, or at least parts of my past, with regret, and those parts have played a role in my becoming the cynic that I am today. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned that are relevant to this post:
    (1) By your early 20s you should have some understanding of what you can do well and what you can’t do well: if at all possible, pursue a career that leverages the former and steers clear of the latter.
    (2) Don’t be afraid or too proud to seek out an objective advisor/mentor who is willing to ask you challenging questions and dole out tough love as needed.


    1. Andy – you mention a mentor. I agree that mentors and indeed coaches are invaluable. They bring a level of accountability, helping to steer us in the right direction


  2. Childhood dream — being a published writer. I’ve always written, have not always tried to be published, earned a living doing everything but writing (unless creating training manuals everywhere I worked counts!) and am finally in the position where I’m pursuing the writing goal on a daily basis.

    All the failures? While no one likes to fail, I think we can all name one or two things we’ve learned from making That particular mistake. And That one and That one!


  3. I really don’t regret too many things in life. There are two things that I do regret though. The first thing that I regret is not studying abroad when I was in college. I let fear and procrastination get the best of me. The second thing that I regret is not seeing Prince in concert before he passed. I had the chance to purchase a ticket, but I chose not to because I didn’t want to pay $240 for it. I now wish I did.


  4. I didn’t really have a dream job when I was a teenager, it was just ingrained into me that I had to get good grades in my studies in order to get a well-paying job in the future. Having graduated as an engineer though, I found that it was not at all what I wanted to pursue career-wise and I’m just now discovering my passion in teaching. I think you’ve made a good point about learning from past mistakes. Our mistakes make us who we are as much as our successes. Thanks for sharing this post!


  5. My new quote is from Batman Begins, when Alfred says, “Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up”
    If there are no opportunities, no matter how many times you pick yourself up, there is no place to go. You must understand the difference of falling, and being knocked down.


  6. In high school, I studied to be a secretary and that’s what I did for five years after graduating. Then my company began offering tuition reimbursement so I thought “what the heck” might as well try a course at night school. Then I took more courses, switched to day school and graduated in four years. My goal was to be a journalist, and I worked part-time for a business newspaper while in school and then for a year full time after graduating.

    Here’s where I came to a fork in the road: I wanted to move to Manhattan so began applying for jobs. I was being interviewed by Business Week for a job as a reporter and BBDO, the PR/ad agency, for a job as its house organ editor . I decided whichever offer came first, that’s the one I would take. BBDO made the first offer and that’s how I entered the field of public relations (it’s called career planning!). I have no regrets but I often wonder what my career would have been like if I went to work at Business Week.


  7. I think it is good to look back from time and time and evaluate the choices one has made to understand where you are now and decide what path to go forward on. I’m not sure I would equate the decisions made along the way with “failings”. We can all do a lot of “what if” thinking about the paths not followed and don’t really know how differently things might have turned out.


  8. Hi Phoenicia, interesting question. At one time I wanted to be a bank manager but since at that time it was an impossible dream – only men were smart enough to be bank managers LOL – that dream was dropped. Which was just as well since I ended up with a dream job I had never dreamt about – executive director of a charity. So sometimes not getting what you want is a good thing.


  9. I have no regrets over life experiences and have always held firm they are what shaped me for better or worse. The key is continual forward movement. I always wanted to be a writer. Always. I ended up teaching and that zapped my energy for writing. Now that I’m freelancing, I’m starting to get my writing stride back as well.


  10. How neat that you wrote for a newspaper!

    My dream was to be an actress. Despite my family and all my teacher’s opposition, I went after my dream. I sometimes wonder where I would be now if I had done something more practical. But I would have spent my entire life wondering “what if”. So, I guess I’m glad I took the chance.


    1. Thank you Erica. I could say the same about your acting.

      The acting world appears ultra glamorous and so far removed from my world. The people on the inside may well see it differently.


  11. Oh my, I could write a book about this subject! Okay, I’ll share something with you that no one else knows about me. My dream growing up was to be an artist. I was pretty good I guess because I won a bunch of art shows and my teachers made a bid deal about my “talent”. In fact, without ever applying for anything, I was awarded a scholarship to the Art Center in Los Angeles. Sounds pretty good, huh?

    The rest of that story goes like this. In order to take advantage of that scholarship, I would have had to continue living at home – but there was a substance abuse problem at home and a lot of other bad stuff and I was so anxious to leave that I packed my belongings into cardboard boxes ready to move 2 months before I graduated from high school. I gave up the scholarship and got a job a local bank instead. I took night courses at the local college but having no desire to perpetuate the starving artist stereotype I focused on business courses instead so I could support myself. I don’t feel sad or resentful about giving up my dream. I did what I had to do to take care of myself and I went on to have a couple of pretty wonderful careers.


    1. Marquita – thank you for sharing such a personal matter. Our situation plays a huge part in our decision making. You were dedicated even back then and found a way forward.


  12. Great questions! I think looking back is important. I love to learn so I make it a point to learn from everything from personal activities to business tasks and project. So, the more experiences the better. Thank you for sharing this great post.


  13. Hi Phoenicia,
    As teenagers we can’t anticipate the twists and turns that our lives will take! But I think all of us had dreams about what we would LIKE to have happen to us. I never got my dream job – to be a television director – but I ended up with an even better job that matched my skills and personality better. It took 16 years after my university graduation, and two graduate degrees, and a divorce. But I made a good career eventually.

    Dr Rin


  14. I don’t think I had a dream job as a teenager. But I also had some experience in media, working for a newspaper as a reporter and editor. And, I didn’t make enough money to do things like buy a house or raise a family. So I can look back at a career that might have been but I have to remember it would have been a struggle financially all along the way. And it seems that has only gotten worse in the field of journalism.


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