Don’t Read Self-Help Books to Know About Success

Read the ‘CV of Failures’ written by successful people and dig deeper into their stories

Mukundarajan V N
4 min readApr 6, 2021


Accomplishment is only the tip of the iceberg (image

Success is visible, and people flaunt their successes with gusto. Nobody wants to talk about their failures. It’s not because they lack humility; people are not just interested in listening to uninspiring tales of setbacks.

Success is the most popular and bestselling self-help genre. We have thousands of titles beginning “How to Succeed………”, but very few books screaming with headlines like, “How to Fail and Then Succeed” or “Six Lessons I Learned from My Failures”.

In 2016, Johannes Haushofer, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Princeton University, (now Assistant Professor of Economics, Stockholm University) took the academic world by storm by publishing a two-page CV of Failures. He began his resume of failures with a profound statement. His opening lines summarised a pearl of wisdom that the self-help industry seldom cared to examine:

“Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days. This CV of failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective.”

Professor Haushofer lists his failures in the following categories:

  • Degree programs I did not get into
  • Academic positions and fellowships I did not get
  • Awards and scholarships I did not get
  • Paper rejections from academic journals
  • Research funding I did not get

The last part, titled, Meta Failures says:

2016 — “This darn CV of Failures received way more attention than my entire body of academic work.”

It inspired Professor Haushofer to write his CV of Failures after reading an article published by Melanie Stefan, Senior Lecturer, Edinburgh Medical School, in the journal



Mukundarajan V N

Retired banker living in India. Avid reader. I write to learn, inform and inspire. Believe in ethical living and sustainable development.