how to embrace failure

larmes-tears.jpg!LargeMelanie Stefan a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and wrote an article for  Nature magazine about creating an alternative CV of failures.  “As scientists, we construct a narrative of success that renders our setbacks invisible both to ourselves and to others.  Often, there scientists’ careers seem to be a constant, streamlined series of triumphs. Therefore, whenever we experience an individual failure, we feel alone and dejected.”

What does this have to do with gardening on a professional level?  I think 8c3319c725bc93094041cefc7d5d811eeverything.  How many times have I had failures in my professional life? More than I can count.

Stefan advises “Complile an ‘alternative’ CV of failures. 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.  If you dare – and can afford to – make it public.  It will be six times as long as your normal CV.  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.”

This is a photograph of my own garden.  Every plant you see has been replaced many times.  It might be a change in my aesthetics, but often these are simply failures.  It is making bad choices.  Putting the wrong plant in the wrong place.  How many plants have I purchased, because I love them, but will not thrive on  a Vermont hillside.  One might say this an essential part of gardening.  But the plant-centric nature of what we do is only one part of being a professional gardener/artist.

Johannes Haushoher, an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University, upon reading Stefan’s article posted his CV of failures on twitter.( #cvoffailures)  Ironically,  this was dubbed ‘inspiring”, “brillant” and “beautiful.”  His CV of failures includes:  Degree programs I did not get into, Academic positions and fellowships I did not get and Awards and scholarships I did not get.

Inspired by Haushoher, I will soon posting my CV of failures.



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