Fail harder

I read an article a while back about Johannes Haushofer, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University who wrote a rather unconventional résumé: rather than tout his accomplishments, instead he listed his failures.

Johannes Haushofer resume BLOG

“Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible,” Haushofer wrote.

That rings especially true in our age of social media, with its constant stream of images and posts. It’s easy to forget that those posts are highly curated, and that for every beautiful image we see there are likely a hundred crappy ones.

But wouldn’t it be refreshing if we occasionally set aside our polished highlight reels, and shared something a little bit more real?

In that spirit, today I’m abandoning my hand-picked travel photos to show you a shoot that went horribly wrong.

It wasn’t a professional gig, thank God — I simply wanted to make some nice portraits of my friends’ cat Rocky while I was cat-sitting.

I began with the obligatory Google search for “pet photography.” You know, for inspiration.

Google pet photography BLOG

Seems simple enough, right? In actual practice, it was much more complicated: ROCKY WOULD NOT SIT STILL.

First, he was twitchy as he stalked the squirrels.

Rocky 1030508 BLOG

Then he flopped around on the floor.

Rocky 1030596 CR BLOG

Finally, he got back on the table and threatened me with death.

Rocky 1030562 CL BLOG

Rocky 1030562 CR BLOG

And when none of those performances elicited the petting he so richly deserved, Rocky began head-butting my camera.


Rocky 1030440 BLOG


Rocky 1030408 BLOG


Rocky 1030409 BLOG

Covered in fur and cat spit, I finally convinced the animal to cooperate. Alas, even my best efforts fell short of the Googly goodness.

Rocky 1030671 BLOG

Rocky 1030633 CX BLOG

Rocky 1030330 BLOG

But you know what? That’s OK. None of us can excel at everything, right?

And anyway, at least one image did spark my imagination to take Rocky’s portrait in a whole new direction.

Rocky Cologne market 1020453 BLOG

Rocky Venice Gondoli 1560088 BLOG

Rocky Paris 1010494 BLOG

Rocky over NYC 1120528 BLOG

The moral of today’s story:

If at first you don’t succeed, FAIL HARDER.


  1. I can’t believe it but I am beginning to really like cats. Three of the kids have them and I think they are a hoot. And hard to get a good photo of too! Thanks for the fun blog!

    • I’m with you, Tom: I’ve always been more of a dog person, but thanks to Rocky cats are really growing on me! Though those sharp pointy teeth still scare me a bit … 😉

    • ¡Muchas gracias, querido Alberto! I’d thought about outfitting him with a kitty cape for his New York fly-over, but just plain ran out of time. It’s good to know the joke still carries, though! 🙂

  2. Haha, love it! I read the article too, following your link to it. What a great idea! Let’s celebrate failure too. I actually read a Facebook post a little while about someone who felt they weren’t really trying if they hadn’t failed at at least one thing that week! Certainly puts failure into perspective

      • What a great article. “You must reward people for failing….if not they won’t take risks and make breakthroughs.” Love to know what they actually do to reward them. And the failures they are talking about have to do with stepping out of the boat and shooting for the stars. What better kind of failure is there? Very refreshing indeed, and thank you for putting this up for us to read.

  3. Very nice post 😊
    A bit different take on success. Many say failure is the path for opportunities.
    But you made me think… The harder we fail then things appear more in black and white. We either continue our efforts with more zeal and finally succeed or we just let go. Them there is no hanging in between

    • I do think failure can be a path to opportunity — if we learn from our mistakes. That’s certainly been true for a lot of inventors and scientists over the years.

      Thank you for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to leave your kind comment.

  4. Failures make us better. As for me on socusl media …i wont say i am highly curated – lol … i am publish happy proof read later …i know mistake… huge mistake.
    Commenting via my smartphone and fat finger typos glore.

    Thanks for sharing this was a good read. Sorry i have been absent from visiting your blog. New job settling…still settling in. Have a good week bella

    • Indeed, Jim! I left with a whole new respect for professional pet photographers who somehow manage to get their subjects to settle down in minutes, instead of in the hour it took me.

  5. The combination of failures and success is like savory and sweetness (salted caramel lol) and makes our stories that more interesting… Thanks for sharing!

  6. Reblogged this on Amuse Pet and commented:
    The combination of failures and success is like savory and sweetness (salted caramel lol) and makes our stories that much more interesting…

  7. It’s always amusing trying to photograph a cat. I love my cats to death, but they’re not exactly cooperative in that department either.

    Anyway, I love that last line. Fail Harder. Such a wonderful message. Lots of failure on the road to success.

    • What *is* it with cats and cameras? It’s almost as if they know what cameras do, and deliberately set out to thwart our photographic efforts. Of course, I also say that about cats and diets, baths, leashes … LOL.

      As for that “fail harder” message: I can’t remember where I first read that phrase, but I loved it at first sight as well. There’s something liberating about the idea of embracing our face-plants as cheerfully as we do our successes, isn’t there?

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and especially for brightening my day with your kind comment.

  8. you actually can see then how much a person would do to get it done or get something he wanted to do but fails of it… but it inspires me that if you work hard you’ll be smart and knowing what you really would like to do and that it makes you happy

    • I can’t imagine a better way to spend your life than doing something that makes you happy! That way, whether you fail at it or succeed, at least you were happy. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

    • I loved, loved, LOVED your post, Fiona! Hadn’t ever considered being bad at something a benefit before, but you make a pretty compelling case. I think I’ll go home this evening and play my guitar extra-badly in your honor. 🙂

  9. Such a lovely and funny read. I thoroughly enjoyed it! It’s so true….sometimes we tend to get so caught up with promoting and publishing out best set of images and hope for the best when in fact sharing the trials and tribulations that went into creating those ‘well polished’ gems can in fact turn out to be the real head turners lol. I absolutely adore cats and Rocky just has me smitten. I loved all the images – great catalogue. 😃

    • Thank you for making my day with your kind words, Sóla! I’m pretty smitten with Rocky myself, even with all of his kitty squirming. 🙂 And thank you for the reassurance that I haven’t gone down *too* many pegs in your estimation for having aired my “photographic laundry.” 😀

    • Authenticity should be one of simplest and most natural things, shouldn’t it — how paradoxical that it’s one of the hardest things to achieve as a human being. Thank you so much for stopping by, Fezile, and especially for taking the time to comment! I greatly appreciate it.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by — especially since it introduced me to your wonderful blog! My heart goes out to you for having to battle this terrible disease, but I’m also inspired by how you’re embracing life and finding ways to travel anyway. As they’d say in France, “Bon courage” to you!

    • Isn’t that resume wonderful, Tasha? I loved it so much I started crafting one of my own. It got too long pretty quickly, though. 🙂 And thank you for the kind words about the snapshots. Rocky’s parents seemed pretty smitten, so that’s what counts.

  10. I saw the original fail CV and thought it was so refreshing to see someone admit that things don’t always go as we’d like! I thought your post was funny and similarly refreshing: something that can be hard to find in blogging these days.


    • I’m pleased and flattered that it spoke to you. Best wishes with your new blog (and in life as well). Thank you for stopping by!

  11. One of my few cat-sitting gigs, eons ago, ended prematurely when I locked the keys in the townhouse WITH the kitty for an entire week. But she survived. She was just a drama queen, like Rocky. Hahaha! I finished Amy Leach’s collection of essays last weekend, H. Thank you, again. I have so many favorites out of the collection, like the pandas 🙂 I hope you had (are having?) a nice summer……

    • AAAAUGHHH! Your cat-sitting experience sounds like a scene straight from hell. I can only imagine your anguish *for an entire week,* Jason. But we can laugh about it now, right? 🙂 And I’m so glad you liked May Leach’s essays. Given your keen observations of the world and your wonderful way with words, I thought you’d appreciate her writing. Cheers to you from sunny Minnesota — and wishing you a good rest of the summer too.

  12. Lol, love this! Thank you for reminding people that a photo shoot is never as easy as people think. As a wedding photographer, I was amazed at the expectations people had for their photos. Magazine quality with no budget. You’re right, for every great shot, there are hundreds of crappy ones.

    • You’re a wedding photog, Shanon? [as I bow in humility and deep respect]
      I tried that *once* and immediately vowed “never again.” As you say, the expectations are astronomical, and the rewards miniscule. But on the flip side, if you can do a wedding competently, you can shoot anything else. So hats off to you!

    • To paraphrase Lao Tsu, “It doesn’t matter how many times we fall; what matters is how many times we get back up.” 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • The “keep trying” part is so important isn’t it, Ed? Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • Excellent point! You’ve clearly learned valuable lessons from your failures. Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for your thoughtful comment.

  13. I absolutely adore this post. It’s encouraging to know that even the brightest fail but more importantly than them failing is the fact that they kept going. Also, your photo shoot with Rocky was amazing! I love all of photos especially the ones at the end. Thanks for sharing! 😉

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Marie (and my apologies for the delay in replying). You are so right in observing that the important thing in life is to keep moving. If we can learn from our failures that’s a bonus, but at a minimum we must be careful to not wallow in them and get stuck. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • In Rocky’s case, I think the head-bonking is out of frustration that I have two hands and neither of them is petting him, LOL. But he never has to bonk for very long because he’s such a cutie I can’t resist him. 🙂

      • Love this – cats can often be more insistent in asking for attention. I’m allergic, BUT can never resist petting them ; p Head butting the camera gave you some great shots!

  14. Reblogged this on Trisha McElvany and commented:
    Anybody can do anything with practice. Learning is a part of life; don’t be afraid to fail! Mental illness can hold you captive and convince you not to try anything new. Mental illness can make your mistakes feel monumental. But YOU are CAPABLE and WORTHY of learning through trial and error just like everyone else on this planet.

    • Thank you so much! I hope you *will* delve into photography, Steve — it may just become one of the most rewarding things in your life (as it has in mine). Cheers!

    • I admit I was a bit frustrated at first, until I found humor in Rocky’s antics as well. It’s all in how we frame things, isn’t? Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. Hi Heide This is very true. Years ago I was at a conference and one of the presentations was on marketing our organisations. The presenter said one thing he wanted everyone to do was “Fail Faster”. Fail faster, fail faster, fail faster he kept saying. What that meant was a) you would be open to trying new things b) lots of new things, and c) if we failed, we would just keep trying new marketing strategies. Hausofer is right if you don’t try things you never. And if you fail you just need to try again. Those last cats shots in the house turned out ok but I love the ones as part of the cities. Louise

    • I like the presenter’s idea of failing faster — because at least that way to get the failures out of the way quickly, LOL! All joking aside, I’m glad more organizations are embracing the idea that there is room for failure if we learn from our mistakes — because, after all, it’s inevitable! (For me anyway.) Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your kind comment.

Leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s