I recently chanced upon the concept of CV of Failures from Princeton Professor Johannes Haushofer. He wasn’t the first to do so but I guess the first that actually popularised it. Inspired by his example, I decided to write the following post. After all, it is not just success that defines us but the failures as well.
I’m obviously not as academically-credentialed as this Princeton Prof so I’ll put up key events that happened in my life in both school and outside.
For obvious reasons, this will be an evergreen post that will be constantly updated.
Rosyth Primary (1997 - 2002)
Jan 2000: Appointed Class Monitor during my P4 class at the start of the year. Appointment rescinded the very next day as I made a serious mistake details which I cannot remember today. Teacher’s words “Don’t think I have any leadership qualities”.
Early 2003: PSLE results failed to get me into my higher choice Xinmin Secondary. Entered Ang Mo Kio Sec instead. Not that bad in hindsight.
Ang Mo Kio Sec (2003 - 2006)
2003, 2004: Did not pass the preliminary rounds for the National Junior Robotics Competitions (based on Lego Mindstorms). Because of the teams’ poor performance over 2 years (defined as not making it into the finals), funding for this programme was stopped by the school in 2005. I don’t know what happened after this.
Early 2007: Failed to get into Anderson JC with my A-Level Prelim results. My A-Level results also could not make it but would have if I had the bonus loyalty points if I entered during my prelims. In hindsight, getting into NYJC wasn’t a negative thing actually. Ironically, NYJC’s O-level cutoff points today is better than AJC.
Nanyang JC (2007 - 2008)
2007, 2008: Team and I did not pass preliminary rounds for MOE Invitational Debating Championship for 2 years. In consolation, I won the Best Speaker award during a debate in the 2008 competition. The debate CCA would close shortly after I graduated from NYJC. I was the second-last batch I think.
Dec 2007: Organised a Community Involvement Program (CIP) for my JC class as part of my duties of a CIP rep. Although the event was carried out to the end, execution and results were poor. The person who liaised the event for me said something along the lines of “In business, nobody cares about how much effort you put in or the execution, only the results. Once you fail, you usually don’t get second chances. You did not deliver the results.”
National Service (2009 - 2010)
Early 2009: Failed to get into both SCS and OCS command schools. In the words of one of my BMT commanders, he felt I was “too weak physically and mentally to withstand the rigours of command school”.
Late 2009: The only person to fail the military Class 3 internal mid-course driving test in my batch. Tester said I had no “feel” for driving. Ironically, I would go on to be the first one in my batch to pass the much harder official Class 4 test.
NUS (2011 - 2015)
2012 - 2014: I was in charge of quite a “unique” kid for 3 semesters under the NUS Community Service Club Yishun Reading Stars program. Due to serious issues, the kid had to be removed from the program prematurely, the first time this probably has happened. For my efforts, I would get the highest accolade “Most Fatherly Award” twice. Nevertheless, I always felt this was partially a failure on my end.
End 2012: Failed tutor application for CS1010, an introductory Computing module.
Mid 2013: Failed tutor application for CS2103. I was only successful in my second application in Aug 2014 and would go on to tutor for 2 Sems in total during my final year.
Q4 2013: The first time I actually spoke to a audience size >40 in CS3216. I was given the comment that I was looking downwards at my screen and script too much. I still read from a script for public speaking at this point.
Early 2011: Applied for IT-related jobs via an IT recruiter for the break between NS and Uni. IT recruiter couldn’t place me as I didn’t know a single programming language then.
Early 2015: Was approached by a recruiter from Google for the position of Site Reliability Engineer. I failed the phone screen because I did not know supposedly basic details of certain sort algorithms and Unix programming.
I joined quite a number of Hackathons, about 6? Never got pass the initial rounds in any of them.
Details omitted to protect the privacy of my ex.
Aug 2015 - Oct 2015: Did not complete my Class 2B lessons. I stopped at lesson 4 which was a class that included an emergency stop on a slippery surface. I fell off the bike which was quite a bad experience. Imagine falling off a bicycle, imagine it again but many times faster and with a heavier machine.
I would like to tell myself it was my work schedule and commitments that took time away from booking lessons. Deep down, it was probably that accident that scarred me. I’m not ruling out restarting my lessons again in the near future.
Mar 2016: Performed poorly as Hackware meetup emcee to the point where someone had to actually take over from me. I would not be a Hackware emcee again until one year later in April 2017 which I did successfully.
I appreciate you reading till this point. My list of failures is no doubt longer than what I have here but it is all I can recall at the moment. Writing this page also made me realise how far I have come as a person. Hopefully, you might be inspired to write your own!