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The Resumé of Failures

For every success, there are countless failures. Yet when we look at someone from the outside, especially someone who’s been particularly successful, we may not see the failures.

Scientist Melanie Stefan issued a challenge for academics to share their “CV of failures,” a formal listing of all the programs from which they were rejected, the funding they didn’t get, and the journal articles that weren’t published.

Here’s how she explains the idea:

"My CV does not reflect the bulk of my academic efforts — it does not mention the exams I failed, my unsuccessful PhD or fellowship applications, or the papers never accepted for publication. At conferences, I talk about the one project that worked, not about the many that failed."

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The Historian Who Couldn’t Escape from Alcatraz

In the introduction to one of the chapters of my new book, I wrote about escaping from Alcatraz. If you’re trying to get out of an unfulfilling job, it can sometimes feel just as difficult as getting out of prison. I used the Alcatraz story as a metaphor, but a reader who wants to remain anonymous passed on a story that I really liked. Here’s the story.

My uncle was a historian at the Maritime Museum in San Francisco. He gave me a tour of their private collection once, items that were too delicate for public display.

In a large metal drawer, he showed me the fake human heads made of soap that the escaped inmates had used to fool the nighttime guards. Can you imagine? Collecting the tiny end slivers of soap after a shower. Getting them back to your cell. Finally saving enough to create a head. They also made a makeshift drill out of hair clippers and a screw. You get really creative when you need to escape!

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First Steps to Working for Yourself (Follow-Up)

Last week I presented a scenario from one of our readers. Anna was recently laid off from a middle management job, and rather than look for work, she was hoping to become self-employed for the first time. What are the first steps? she wanted to know. I said that I would share my answer, but first I wanted to hear from the rest of our community. If you're in a similar situation or are just curious, you can read some of the answers and see if any advice serves your needs. I've copied a few of my favorite responses ...

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Everyday Decisions: Getting Started with Working for Yourself

Anna wrote in with a common question: how to get started working on your own?

I hear these questions a lot, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Despite the variations, most of them have a common theme. Here's how Anna put it in her message, which I'm sharing with her permission:

I was recently laid off after working in a middle management position for the past four years. The layoff was sad, but not completely unexpected. The company has been losing money, and while I'd like to think I was irreplaceable, I know the truth is that they simply had to eliminate some positions ...

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The Good Job

I visited a large company to give a talk about non-conformity and adventure. From all appearances, it was a well-run company doing good things. Many of the employees came up to me afterwards to chat, and I asked each of them, “How are things at _____?” Most of them said that things were good, and I had no reason to doubt them.

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How to Stand Out in Any Job

Regardless of what kind of work you do, it’s usually not difficult to set yourself apart by going beyond the status quo of being average. All too many working environments are filled with all kinds of people who are just ambling through their jobs. Many don’t want to be there at all, and never miss…

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