Interview Question

If I ever have to hire someone again I want to ask this question: “What have you failed at?”  I think their response and how their resume shows they rebounded would give a good indication of their healthy attitude.  Relates a lot to Marc Andreessen’s post about getting out into the real world and failing so that it no longer fazes you.  Two small ventures have failed for me so far, but I am all the more ready for the next.

In my opinion, it’s now critically important to get into the real world and really challenge yourself — expose yourself to risk — put yourself in situations where you will succeed or fail by your own decisions and actions, and where that success or failure will be highly visible.

By failure I don’t mean getting a B or even a C, but rather: having your boss yell at you in front of your peers for screwing up a project, launching a product and seeing it tank, being unable to meet a ship date, missing a critical piece of information in a financial report, or getting fired.

Why? If you’re going to be a high achiever, you’re going to be in lots of situations where you’re going to be quickly making decisions in the presence of incomplete or incorrect information, under intense time pressure, and often under intense political pressure. You’re going to screw up — frequently — and the screwups will have serious consequences, and you’ll feel incredibly stupid every time. It can’t faze you — you have to be able to just get right back up and keep on going.

That may be the most valuable skill you can ever learn. Make sure you start learning it early.”

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One thought on “Interview Question

  1. J.K. Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard really hones in on the importance of failure, and is an interesting topic considering the sort of students produced by the Ivy League.

    I totally acknowledge the fact that I am a perfectionist, and am equally cognizant that on more than one occasion a fear of failure has limited my actions. Even with smaller problems – social interactions, per se – where long-term affects were small but still unpleasant, I was suffering for my resistance.

    So I really forced myself to let go, care a little bit less and throw a bit more caution to the wind. And as I made my mistakes and learned from them, I also learned how to laugh at those errors and land on my feet; any degree of adaptability I may have in a given situation, I totally credit to those early experiences.

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