Resume of Truth

Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.

–Eric Blair/George Orwell

Bike Crash

Since I’m in full job hunt mode, I have to look at my resume almost everyday.  And while a resume is supposed to be a highlight of experience, accomplishments, and education as it relates to a job, it really is a selective reading of one’s work history; one that only highlights the good things you’ve done. What if we were to include the not-so-good things? I mean, if we were to follow George Orwell’s advice above, what would our resumes look like?

Life as a series of defeats is a harsh way to look at life, but there are many times in my own life where I’ve felt that a “series of defeats” is the keynote.  However, other times, I have to say that things have worked out okay.

Sure, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut because my imagination was taken with both science fiction TV shows and the NASA space program.  Did I ever become one? Uh, no.  But I think my desire to become an astronaut came at the same time I wanted to drive a truck because of the movie White Line Fever. How long did my 18 wheeler career dreams last?  Hmm…I think about a month.  Oh, and then I also wanted to be a firefighter because the fire department came to our elementary school to talk about fire safety, shoot off the big fire hose, and let us all wear the fire helmet. And how long did that desire last? Probably until I realized the TV show Emergency was stupid and had nothing to do with the work real firefighters do. Just ask any EMT what a “D5W I.V. drip” is and they’ll look at you like you’re retarded.

What about failures?  I came in 5th place on the 50 yard dash in 4th grade.  The first and only F I got in college was actually an “NC” (which stands for “No Credit”). It was a chemistry class and, well, I probably showed up 1/4 of the time for class, so what did I expect?  I lost a lawsuit when I was 18 because I incorrectly answered a technical question from the judge. The fine was only $75.00, and if I really listened to what he was asking, I wouldn’t have had to pay it ’cause I was in the right. No, really I was!   I didn’t get into the UCLA film school when I was 20, and at the time, it seemed like a big failure.  After getting my B.A. in 1990, I wanted to get a PhD, and every grad program I sent an application to turned me down (I applied to 20 of them).

They always say that you learn valuable lessons from your failures, and I suppose there are lessons to be learned in the ones I’ve listed.  Lessons about accepting defeat, being serious about my studies, being prepared to defend your position, not putting all your eggs into one basket, and perseverance. 


So, if you’re in an interview situation, and you’re asked about failures, make sure you have at least one story to tell since it’ll show your potential employers that, well, you’re human and you’ve learned from some of life’s defeats.  Be happy, however, that you’ll never have to explain this failure over and over:

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