My Resume of Failures

Remember when that “CV of Failures” went viral last year? Where a Princeton professor (Johannes Haushofer) decided to share all his scholastic fails to better “balance the record and provide some perspective” around his successes?

I’ve always thought that was incredibly raw and beautiful. Not only for such great personal reflection, but then to throw it out there for the world to ingest too! Cojones!

Here’s a clip from it:

“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”

(You can download it here (PDF))

So so true… Most of what’s “known” out there are all things that people have chosen to place into the world consciously, while conveniently ignoring the not-so-great things. A very popular technique, and one that’s rampant on social media like Facebook and Instagram, and even here in our financial blogging community!

But shocker: we all fail. And typically the more successful you are, the harder you’ve fallen.

Check out this list of Elon Musk’s biggest fails! And it’s only a 10-year snapshot!

  • 1995: Unsuccessfully applied for a job at Netscape*
  • 1996: Ousted as CEO of his own company, Zip2.
  • 1999: First Paypal product (which he co-founded) was voted one of the top 10 worst business ideas
  • 1999: Crashed his brand new $1 million McLaren F1
  • 2000: Ousted from Paypal while on his honeymoon
  • 2000: Almost died from “cerebral malaria”
  • 2006: Launched 1st rocket and it exploded
  • 2007: Launched 2nd rocket and it exploded
  • 2008: Launched 3rd rocket and it also had a critical failure
  • 2008: Both Tesla and SpaceX on brink of bankruptcy

You can’t NOT fail. Especially if you’re going for greatness.

So today I thought we’d do some of our own “balancing of the perceptions”, and share our own epic fails so that others are reminded they’re not alone. Especially since we’ve done a crap ton of tooting our own horns here on this blog lately, haha….

I’ll go first, and then it’s your turn :) Though feel free to keep them to yourselves if you’d rather… Unless you’re a blogger, in which case you must accept my challenge and publicly share them too!


J. Money’s Resume of Failures


(I’m swapping in “Resume” for “CV” as I still don’t know the difference for the life of me, haha…  And I will also narrow them down to *financial* fails since that’s the focus of our blog here, but feel free to adapt it however you’d like for your own purposes and reflection.)


  • 2017: Commissioned a series of articles for $2,800 and then scrapped them
  • 2016: Overpaid for my Lexus SUV because I rushed it
  • 2016: Had to bring $14,000 to the table in order to get rid of our house
  • 2013-2016: Lost over $90,000 in cash due to cash flow issues (!!!)
  • 2013: Invested $6,000 into a friend’s company and lost it all
  • 2012: Invested $10,000 in another friend’s company and lost $6,000 of it
  • 2010-2013: Launched a number of websites that never panned out despite how clever I named them ;) (,,
  • 1997-2010: Spent wayyyyyyyyyyyy too much on alcohol, eating out, $40 bottles of water, cell phones, pagers (remember those?), credit card bills, and a string of mindless shopping out of pure boredom because apparently I’d never heard of the term “side hustle” before…


  • Being stingy with my money
  • Donating more money to charities
  • Treating my businesses too much as hobbies than businesses (sometimes by design, others not)
  • And the hardest of all to break – feeling like an imposter. Otherwise known as “Imposter Syndrome” (when you feel like a phony and/or not smart or capable enough, despite accomplishing a lot)


Whew – that felt good! And I’m sure I’ve forgotten over half of them too!

But as you can see, no one can escape failure as much as they try. Because to try is to fail!  That is life! And an important thing to keep in mind as we trot alongside our neighbors in the new year…

(Fun Fact: did you know that even the Joneses can’t keep up with the Joneses?)

So if you’re feeling up for it, I encourage you to come up with your own Resume of Failures today, or later in the week, and then pass it along to whomever you think it could help.

I’ll leave you with one last clip that was the inspiration for our Princeton friend here in starting his viral CV… It comes from scientist Melanie Stefan, though again, easily adaptable in your own lives.

Log every unsuccessful application, refused grant proposal and rejected paper. Don’t dwell on it for hours, just keep a running, up-to-date tally… It will probably be utterly depressing at first sight. But it will remind you of the missing truths, some of the essential parts of what it means to be a scientist — and it might inspire a colleague to shake off a rejection and start again.

*Apparently after being ignored he walked into the Netscape offices with his resume in hand, but was too shy and embarrassed to talk to anyone and walked back out!

UPDATE: You can read about some of my fails in more detail here in this older article I published: 8 Fails over 8 Years of Blogging… Totally forgot to include earlier, sorry!

[Pic up top not me (obvi), but I feel like we’d be good friends :)]

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  1. Accidental Fire January 10, 2018 at 5:28 AM

    Spent waaaaaay too much on alcohol…. I bet I’ve got ya beat on that one.

    One of my biggest was being turned down for a job at the Washington Post. In the end it probably worked out okay for me, but I really wanted the job, it came down to me and one other dude, and he got it. Still kind of bugs me a little to this day.

    Oh, and way back in the late 90s I bought Cisco at $90 a share, only to sell it in the end for $40. But that got me started on Index Fund investing, so another victory in the end I guess!

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:13 PM

      Would you like us all to boycott The Post movie now?? I’ll do it! But only for you! ;)

      1. Accidental FIRE January 13, 2018 at 6:42 PM

        Well had I gotten the job I’d be Jeff Bezos’ personal assistant now. Maybe I would have gotten free Prime membership out of it – damn!

  2. Ms99to1percent January 10, 2018 at 6:05 AM

    Good idea. Are you going to do Part 2 ? I would like to read the juicy details.

    And yes, it’s important to talk about our failures to balance it out. Not too long ago I wrote about our 6 financial mistakes. Some of them were pretty embarrassing but at least people found the article entertaining and educational :-)

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:15 PM

      Good job!! I wish all bloggers did it!!

      No part two anytime soon (unless I make a ton of new mistakes all of a sudden, haha…), but I did go into a lot of these on my 8 year blogiversary:

      Actually meant to include it in the post – oops!

  3. Leo T. Ly January 10, 2018 at 6:24 AM

    Before I increases my net worth by half a million in the last two years, there were a couple of years where my net worth would decrease by $50k to $100k.

    The reason that my net worth suffered those massive losses were due to the lack of investment experience and risk management on my part. My investments are still very concentrated in the North American markets and I am still very aggressive in terms of risk taking. My investment portfolio is 100% stocks.

    Based on my last 10 years of investment experience, I learned a lot more when I lost money in the market than when I made money. I hope that I don’t have to pay for another $100k lesson in the future.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:17 PM

      Hah! You and me both…

      But pretty impressive that you can go from -$100k/year to +$250k/year!! That’s quite the drastic difference, haha…

  4. Nicole @ Budget Like a Lady January 10, 2018 at 6:34 AM

    I know what it feels like to pay too much for a vehicle. My bad purchase still haunts me to this day! I was young, just graduated college and “needed ” a new car to match my new big salary (well big salary to me since I was a starving college student for 4 years…lol). I paid waaayy to much for that Chevy Malibu….

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:19 PM

      At least you can clump it into your overall ignorance of finances! I did it as a personal finance blogger!! (I was about to put “professional” there, but we all know I am not that ;))

  5. Mike @ Balanced Dividends January 10, 2018 at 6:39 AM

    I had not seen the CV of failures before – thanks for sharing.

    As Tina @ 99to1 mentioned above, sharing top mistakes via a post is very interesting; we’re actually doing one as well.

    A preview and related to your questions above, I have:

    – Plowed $100k into a utility index fund to chase yield; the results were NOT electrifying.
    – Caused a +$300k loss at work; it was an expensive lesson learned.
    – Filed taxes as SINGLE for the year Mrs. BD and I got MARRIED.

    Remember, as the head mercenary villain from the Steven Seagal classic Under Siege 2: Dark Territory stated, “Assumption is the mother of all f*ck-ups.”

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:22 PM

      Hahaha…. you officially win for the best comment today :) Hard to beat puns AND Steven Seagal!!

  6. Jason@WinningPersonalFinance January 10, 2018 at 6:47 AM

    We all have a list like this. My latest is that I started a blog as a side hustle and have earned nothing so far hahaha. Still plenty of time on the time though and sometimes persistence prevents failure.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:22 PM

      That’s because blogging wasn’t meant for side hustling :) Gotta do it for the love of the game and if you happen to get lucky, you get lucky!

  7. OMGF January 10, 2018 at 7:09 AM

    Oh my list is long. It starts with getting fired from McDonald’s at 16 years old. There was also the unfinished novel, rejected applications to MFA programs, and way too many job underachievements to name. As I start my business I’m sure there will be many more.

    Great perspective to have. We definitely curate our success for others’ consumption.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:23 PM

      What did you get fired for? :)

      1. OMGF January 10, 2018 at 7:52 PM

        Telling a customer to pick the tomato off his crispy chicken sandwich himself. I was kidding. He was not amused.

        1. J. Money January 12, 2018 at 1:48 PM

          Oh man, haha… sarcasm is just not appreciated these days.

  8. [HCF] January 10, 2018 at 7:19 AM

    I think my failure resume would contain only f*cking up school and wasting time and the opportunity cost of not chasing a personal project since started working.

    By the way, I have a good app idea, I only need an investor with $6k to finish it, are you in? ;)

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:24 PM

      (DON’T TEMPT ME!!!! $6,000 is my weakness!!)

  9. Lily | The Frugal Gene January 10, 2018 at 7:32 AM

    “he walked into the Netscape offices with his resume in hand, but was too shy and embarrassed to talk to anyone and walked back out!”

    I did that once! Oh I just realized Elon’s worst failures beats my best ever wins by miles. It’s all about perspective!!! A success is if you tried and y’all both tried. Not failures! Just lessons!!

    1. Olivia Lee January 10, 2018 at 1:36 PM

      This reminds me of your story about Jared and how he decided to work @ Amazon.

      Agree, sure it was voted one of the worst 10 business ideas, but he made it a giant business before!

      And sure, a ton of those blew up, but at least they made it to outer space and put their respective payloads in space!

  10. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance January 10, 2018 at 7:44 AM

    Oh wow this is super original. I have felt like a failure/loser most of my life, so it won’t be too hard for me to write my CV of failures hehe.

    I always feel like I’m not smart enough, and knowing that it’s true had helped me be at peace with myself while still wishing I were a bit smarter :D

    1. OMGF January 10, 2018 at 8:09 AM

      I read your blog regularly. I hate to burst your bubble, but you are more than smart enough. Not only do you have intelligence, you also have that rare quality called wisdom. Own it.

      1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:27 PM

        AGREED!!!! We’re all smarter in some areas than others, but when it comes to $$$ and blogging you are great, Ms. Frugal Asian Finance!! And we love you for it!

  11. Budget on a Stick January 10, 2018 at 8:05 AM

    My head is full of how I fail. Probably should write them down but I may get a hand cramp.

    I can see how it can put things into perspective especially if are starting to feel invincible after becoming reasonably successful.

  12. Chris @ Duke of Dollars January 10, 2018 at 8:10 AM

    Imposter syndrome is the worst!! That is one we must all check and realize we’re falling victim to sometimes.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:28 PM

      It affects a number of tycoons and celebrities too from what I’ve read!

  13. FullTimeFinance January 10, 2018 at 8:12 AM

    You know what they say, if you can’t recognize your failures your doomed to repeat them. Ours have been too numerous to count over the years. From cancelled flights where we ate the ticket for an international trip to investments in individual stocks early on hat went practically to zero, in each case at least we took advantage of three learning opportunity.

  14. fin$avvy panda @ January 10, 2018 at 9:11 AM

    Hey J$! I love this post. It’s so original, raw and to the point. I can’t count the number of times I’ve failed because there’s way too many. For some reason, I can only remember my failures more than my achievements. It is so hard for me to even think of 1 thing I achieved, so writing down failures should be an easy thing for me, haha!

    But of course our failures and mistakes had to lead to some sort of success. Just hard for me to think since I just woke up and lying in bed lol! I need to write this down myself later. Thnx for sharing this post.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:30 PM

      Is it wrong that I find it sexy that you read my blog in bed????

  15. maria@moneyprinciple January 10, 2018 at 9:24 AM

    Everything spent on alcohol, gadgets and fun is money well spent. (Where did you think most of my money goes :)). On a more serious note, you did make me think: what have a failed big time in my career and life in the last 10 years. And here we go: 1) got in $160,000 worth of consumer debt (paid it all off); 2) invested in a fitness business $18,000 and lost it all; 3) never tested how far my online business can go (this is yet to be corrected); and 4) managed to procrastinate a year of my life by reading novels and watching Netflix (summer 2016 to summer 2017 and you would guess why I did that).

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:32 PM

      Haha… And thank GOODNESS for your $160k debt or else you would have never started your blog and I’d be talking to no one right now! :)

      But I’m surprised you actually didn’t relate this to your own professional endeavors? Seeing how you too are a super duper professor extraordinaire? Did you come across handfuls of rejections like Johannes did on your teaching journey, or not so much?

  16. G January 10, 2018 at 9:39 AM

    I can name my top two failures easily:

    I’ve only ever applied for one job, and I didn’t get it (I actually applied for it twice, and every job since then has been based on my professional reputation)

    I was a PhD candidate in electrical engineering, but I didn’t finish my dissertation because of the mental cripplers from the PTSD from my first three engineering degrees.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:35 PM


      so you’ve continuously gotten hired from others seeing your work? how did they first come across you/your work, is it published/shared somewhere?

      1. G January 10, 2018 at 8:19 PM

        After being turned down twice, I got my first job because one of my professors liked my work in school and hired me to teach, and then I got put into an internship program, which was a temporary job that was low risk for the company, and off I went.

        After a while, a friend suggested I submit some ideas to a conference, which got accepted, and that conference has grown significantly since I started presenting.

        I’m afraid at some point I’ll need to apply for a job, and I won’t be any good at resumes or interviewing. I still wonder what my life would be like if I had gotten my dream job, way back when. I consider that my life could be significantly worse, but it’s still hard to let go.

        1. J. Money January 12, 2018 at 1:51 PM


          This cracked me up too, haha… “Customer vs. Meter Accuracy: Which is Better at Knowing When the Power Is Out?”

  17. Dave @ Married with Money January 10, 2018 at 9:55 AM

    I needed a good post for Friday, looks like I’ve got one. I have a few things off the top of my head that I know I can add to my own list! :)

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:36 PM

      Good! And I bet a handful more will come to you between now and then too, haha… once you uncork the repressed memories they all come flowing back :)

  18. SP January 10, 2018 at 10:22 AM

    CV is for europeans and academics, resume is for everyone else ;)

    I’m really not good at talking about my failures, and I’m also not good at taking risks. So, that would be probably my biggest failure – failure to take risks! There are surely others, but I don’t want to ruin my morning thinking about them. I’ll have to come back to this.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:44 PM

      Woww – I haven’t talked to you in forever! I remember reading your blog when I first started mine! Yours is even older!! Hello again! :)

  19. PaulM January 10, 2018 at 10:31 AM

    As many here, my list is long too and, despite trying to learn from my mistakes, there’s always something new and unfamiliar to screw up on. Financially I think my biggest mistake has been trying to time the market and trying to pick individual stocks over index funds. I learned the hard way that it’s easier and more lucrative just to invest in the S$P 500 and let it ride.

    Reminds of what Jeff Bezos once said when asked about the failure of the Amazon phone — something to effect that…he’s made billions on failures and just wait there are even bigger failures to come….

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:46 PM

      Never heard of that before – so true :)

  20. Miguel (The Rich Miser) January 10, 2018 at 12:57 PM

    Awesome post J$. I think “failing forward” is part of any project in life. It’s easy to think that everyone else is so successful and you’re just a mess, but everyone I’ve ever known well has had plenty of problems and failures (we all do).

    I think it’s a matter of persistence and learning from those failures. After all, they teach us what no to do and allow us to adjust.

    From what I’ve seen, life can be scary as hell. But things usually turn out well for those that set high standards for themselves and treat others fairly.

  21. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life January 10, 2018 at 1:33 PM

    Hmm, trying to decide if I can *remember* all my fails! But also I dwell on them way too long so I’m guessing that it would be entertaining for someone else to see the weird things I remember and consider fails.

  22. Olivia Lee January 10, 2018 at 1:46 PM

    Bloggers should do this! I remember being back in college and staring at the number of internships I was rejected for.

    The last sentence of his CV is super funny.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:47 PM

      Yeah – I almost spit out my coffee on that one ;)

  23. Sean @ FrugalMoneyMan January 10, 2018 at 2:10 PM

    I once had a professor who told us this…”For every “YES’ someone receives in life, their were 10 “NO”S” that came before it. Another great lesson that you will fail much more often than you succeed, so never give up!

    Here are a few of my memorable moments (not all finance):

    – Got cut from my varsity basketball team in high school (I thought I was ALL THAT)
    – Didn’t work in college until my junior year
    – Didn’t seek out my true passion in college and simply floated by
    – Bought a $26,000 brand new car out of college…I still cry inside knowing what this could’ve done invested in an index fund over the past couple years
    – Didn’t enroll in my companies 401k until 6 months in to the job

    It always feels good to get it all out in the open!

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:48 PM


      You’re pretty similar to Michael Jordan too – he also didn’t make Varsity back in the day :)

  24. FIRECracker January 10, 2018 at 2:18 PM

    Whoa, I had no idea Elon Musk almost died from cerebral malaria! Yikes!

    This is a great post, J! As you know, you are one of my favourite bloggers (especially now that I’ve met you in person at FinCon) because of your humbleness and it’s posts like this that really brings that point home. We all have failures but everyone just sees the successes and it makes them feel bad that they’re not succeeding all the time. I get caught up with seeing other people succeed harder than me all the time. But the reality is everyone fails. The faster you fail, the more you learn. The important thing is the learning part. If you never learn, then you’re destined to fail forever, but as long as you learn, failure is the best teacher. Humility plays a big part in that. Thanks for sharing your CV of failures!

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:51 PM

      *Bows in thanks*

  25. Sara @ Gathering Dreams January 10, 2018 at 4:16 PM

    So interesting! Thanks for sharing…It’s hard sometimes to remember that you only fail when you are actually trying to do something. If you don’t ever do anything, you will not fail.
    I have a big list of failures, and I am proud of it as, looking back, each failure thought me something and pushed me to do better afterwards.
    Imposter syndrome is one of my big problems too! I always feel like I don’t deserve something, even after working really hard to get there! Must get better at it!

  26. Dads Dollars Debts January 10, 2018 at 4:31 PM

    – lots and lots of research paper rejections
    – rejected to be an astronaut 3 times, but interviewed twice so that feels like a win
    – big time imposter syndrome
    – spending way too much on booze as a younger man…most of it not high quality
    – not spending enough on booze as an older man- better to drink good stuff instead of crap at this point
    And many many more things that are mainly personal and not professional.

    Nice post and to all that we learn from failure.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:55 PM

      you were interviewed twice to be an astronaut???

      that’s wild man!! Love it!

      (and too funny about the booze haha… same here, very much so)

  27. Jason Butler January 10, 2018 at 4:34 PM

    I have a lot of failures myself. I’m right there with you when it comes to the overspending on alcohol. I wasted a lot of money on it when I was in college. I also have trouble with the imposter syndrome too.

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 5:56 PM

      But not for creating t-shirts right??

      You are DOPE at that!

      1. Jason Butler January 13, 2018 at 10:14 AM

        Right, the t-shirts are a hit! Thanks!

  28. Gene Roberts January 10, 2018 at 5:19 PM

    Here are my “big” fails:

    #1. Didn’t start saving for retirement until I was 26. Admittedly, money was tight in the Navy and I did start saving immediately after landing my first job in the civilian sector.

    #2. For a year or two (15 year ago), I had everything in my 401K sunk into the stock of the company I work for. Not generally a smart idea to double down on your risk.

    #3. Because I didn’t know any better, I:
    – Invested in individual stocks (one was bad IPO) – little if any diversification.
    – Didn’t stick to low expense ration mutual funds. At least I avoided “loaded” funds early on.

    I’m sure I’ll have more in 5 or 10 years. At least I can say that all those listed above no longer apply. :)

    1. J. Money January 10, 2018 at 6:00 PM

      That’s all we can ask for, right? :)

  29. Krystal @ Simple Finance Mom January 11, 2018 at 11:24 AM

    Wow! “Imposter Syndrome” is my biggest struggle right now. Friends in real life look like I have it all together in finances. Because if you write about it, you’re perfect. right? But that is so not the case all the time! And as a PF blogger, I was literally talking with my mastermind group yesterday, sharing with them how I am super intimidated by other PF bloggers. Their content is meatier, their sites seem so professional, I don’t know enough for them to share the blogosphere with me. I almost let these insecurities prevent me from participating in Rockstar’s Rumble. But I realized I’m wasting time and effort wishing things were different instead of putting time and effort into helping my readers! smh

    Side note: the rest of your post was awesome, too. But that line really struck a nerve in me! Thanks for making me think!!

    1. J. Money January 12, 2018 at 1:58 PM

      Good!! And all of us bloggers think the same because there is ALWAYS someone doing something better or cooler or whatever than you are. But at the end of the day our jobs aren’t to be the coolest or best around, it’s to be US because that’s why our readers are there on our sites to begin with :) Or else they’d be on all the other blogs instead, right? Plus no one else has our “story” so as long as we try keeping as true to it as possible we should be headed in the right direction… Even though we’ll still feel sucky because that’s the nature of imposture syndrome, haha… But maybe if you type it out enough it incrementally gets better? :)

  30. Paul N January 11, 2018 at 1:51 PM

    Love your blog and the idea, this CV of failures as an academic rings so true, especially for me (a ‘failed’ academic!). I’d read it before, but in this context, gave me new meaning.
    Oh, and as a Spanish teacher (ex, as of a few days ago), I gotta correct you; it’s cojones!!!, not cajones. :-)
    Take care man, glad you liked the coins!
    Paul N

    1. J. Money January 12, 2018 at 2:29 PM

      Hah – thank you sir! Edited! And glad you liked my take on it all – that’s what makes $$$ blogs so helpful in general in my opinion. Everyone’s sharing their own views on a topic that’s remained virtually the same for thousands of years, haha… And yet we still need to hear it in more ways for stuff to finally soak in :)

  31. ZJ Thorne January 15, 2018 at 9:18 PM

    Loaned money to my first girlfriend. Waited to yell at her when she did not pay back according to our terms. Covered a month’s rent in a fancy apartment for a different girlfriend when I had agreed to half. Had my business pay me before it was ready and subsequently had to re-loan my business the money plus some.

    Too much on alcohol when I was on a team sport.

    1. J. Money January 16, 2018 at 9:46 AM

      Yup yup, all things many of us have done! You’re in good company :)

  32. JoeHx January 17, 2018 at 2:06 PM

    “failure the greatest teacher is” – quote by somebody in some movie

    I honestly believe the first step to success is failure. It is extremely hard to succeed if you don’t know how to fail. I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my life, but am certainly better for it. It’s gotten me to where I am now.

    Love this post and the confessional aspect to it!

    1. J. Money January 19, 2018 at 10:55 AM

      Agreeing all the way, brother.

      And sometimes it’s great going into things naive as well, because you take risks that pay off whether accidental or not! I wouldn’t do half the things I used to in my youth knowing what I know now haha…