Call for Fuckup Bios! Just you and the nonjudging Internet #lote5

We figured there’s no way we get to talk about society and industry fuckups at Living on the Edge: Fail unFail, our upcoming event, without getting to know our own individual failures first. And instead of an onsite icebreaker where we get on a frightening stage talking about our own fuckups, why not dig into that early and get it out of the way? We do it online, well ahead, massively and with light hearts.

Everyone coming to Brussels February 25-28 is invited to share. People from all over the Internet are more than warmly welcome too!

Share your fuckup bio in a comment below (a few sentences, a poem, a one liner … whatever you wish), and pass on the challenge to your friends.

And don’t forget to register for Brussels, if you haven’t already! Completing this task means you’re earning your ticket.


(via @KiraVde :))

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FuckUp Me

Right, since @krismartens already called me FuckUp Kira on this platform, here goes. In my 25 years of living I have managed to cut short a gymnastic/otherwise sporty career by badly breaking my elbow/overtraining my knees + get fired from a movie theather cleaning job 'cause I worked too slow + agreed to write a book of 272 pages in three months (that obviously didn’t work out well, the high level of stress let to my shoulder muscles squeezing tight into my nerves and my right arm hurting non-stop, until I gave up meeting the deadline).

The thread through it all is self-overestimation, but perhaps also a deep desire to be extraordinary and therefore set the bar unrealistically high.


FuckedUp Paths

Born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia I majored in languages and literature, tried teaching for some time, decided it was not for me as I couldn’t keep a healthy distance from the pupils, was getting too involved and was not taken seriously/respected/feared (as the traditional schooling system requires) as a result. Moved to North Africa(dream come true) 6 years ago and started a career in tourism industry and thought it was what I wanted to do for living since I was good at it; turned out NOT - I missed my homeland and wanted to contribute to the social change happening here. Left literally everything behind except my daughter and a suitcase and moved back to Armenia in summer 2015 and started working for a platform helping the Syrian refugees. My current struggle is to find a balance and not to get too involved with each case as refugees become overly dependent on aid while the aim is for them to become self-sustainable in the long run. Read more about it here.


FuckedUp Choices

My first major fuckup was in putting myself through the ordeal of engineering school as a kind of backup plan. On day one it was clear there was a huge miss-match between my own exploratory way of learning and the highly structured learning environment. Actually this was pretty self-evident from secondary school where I spent most of the time trying to escape class to get to the library or go to dance class. What would have worked better would have been pursuing my own creative interests, picking up whatever skills and knowledge I needed as I went along. It was an expensive too: years of wasted time and tens of thousands in student loans to pay back. It was during the dotcom boom too so money was pretty easy to come buy for wierd startups: double fuckup. The second, ongoing, fuckup is having built a working life which involves far too much screentime. I think the thread here is straight out cowardice and failure to align working life and personal needs/temperament.


Forgot to mention my own school ordeal which seemed to be the only way to go back then for an Armenian girl who wanted to pursue her studies! What a waste of time(no money involved as I was on a scholarship for excellence) it was! I’d have gone travelling the world if I could turn back the time…


Fun thread

Ok, this is fun. Here’s me:

  • ex-brilliant student. Started PhD at top UK university, dropped out to be in punk-folk band (quite successful though).
  • years later, got bored of the band and quit it. Started second band, never quite broke through. 
  • started three companies. No hit. One is still alive but not making serious money; one went down in flames; jury's still out for the third one.
  • ran a project with the wrong people, the vocational training entities of the main trade unions in Abruzzo, a region of Italy. One of them was corrupt and was brought down by the law, with several people in jail. Blanket investigation on all projects, including the one I was involved in, followed. Ended up in court, where I was finally fully cleared – five years later. 

No more, please!


My career - a series of failures interspersed with redundancy

My first proper job was in a law firm - I left before they could kick me out.

I worked for a large company for seven years.  To avoid being fired, I kept moving. I was nearly made redundant once but moved, was moved sideways once due to incompetence and ultimately fired.

I joined another company and was made redundant.

I did some consulting work and the contract was terminated early.

I formed a consulting firm with some friends that closed within a year.

I then joined another company and was made redundant.

I was on the board of one company that went into liquidation while I was on the board.

Finally, I formed my own company so I couldn’t be made redundant.

I suppose I should have warned the team at Edgeryders of all this before I joined the board!

Don’t get me started about my failures as a father…


I thought I might as well smile while confessing (video)


There has been quite a lot of me in the last year and a half on this platform - and it will be hard not to repeat myself. I’m a nomad by choice, and this is one of the fuckups I am dealing with - unable to settle down, always packing and unpacking, eager to learn about new places and discover various lifestyles. Another one is a lack of career idea - which leads to quite interesting and random choices of jobs I do for a living, contributes to personal growth and happiness, but does not necessarily translate into better opportunities on the job market - I just don’t really fit there I guess. Of course lack of retirement plans and other benefits follow it. Finally, I guess the backbone to all that is my strong disagreement with how the world works, in general, and my idealistic longing to disagree and act against it. I do it in a rather clumsy and sometimes highly inconsistent manner. Maybe in some ten years, this will all lead to some nice conclusion and a happy ending;)


No dreams, no failures. When you chose to follow your guts and commit yourself to visions, it is quite probable that you will be confronted with painful failure. No projects, no failure. So here is my little, personal story on failure:

  • I dropped out of what could've been a (brilliant?) career as an academic: never finished my PhD and used my last years of scholarship money to support voluntary activities as an activist in a cultural association. The aim was to convince citizens, local administrators and cultural operators that Matera could be an ideal candidate for the European Capital of Culture title in 2019. It was 2009, and the beginning of the successful candidacy of Matera 2019. But success reached it's highest peak, and we are now assisting to the downfall. More during LOTE5.
  • Two years later, once the official bid of the city was finally launched, it was time to move back to Brussels and finish the PhD... but... got involved in an ambitious project once I was back in town. Opening a bar and art-café in the center of the city with some friends. The plan was to finish my PhD while launching and managing the venue. What actually happened is that I got eaten up by it. One year later we were closing down the venue and the company, I had lost 10 kilos and simply burnt out. Ended up without a PhD, with a closed bar and a failed company, with all the financial and emotional consequences that you can imagine.

Things are starting to settle now, but I cannot help asking myself if this is happening simply because I quit going for ambitious projects, swapped the love for visions for safety and adapted to a “normal life” which had always freaked me out before. I cannot help missing the struggle, the passion, the commitment, and the sense of shared vision with a broader community. The individualism that goes hand in hand with a safe standard life makes me think, especially when I stand looking at how the vision behind Matera 2019 is being teared down by ego, incompetencies and incapacity to delegate and truly open up to horizontality and decentralization. I am sure that these thoughts will find food for thought during the #LOTE5.


Had no idea

Burnout seems to be so tabu it’s not a first I hear people mentioning it after it happened. I can’t believe we worked together (albeit at distance) for the past years and had no idea what you had gone through. Racing to get ambitious stuff done is such a big part of our lives that we often tend to overlook stress and constant struggling because it is somehow part of the “package”, part of the choice we are making, as you rightly say.  There must be a middle way though, so we can get back on the horse without fear of deadly fails and live “normally” without selling our souls.

cc-ing @Alex_Stef who I think would love to meet you and is testing similar waters, maybe in Brussels.

Much to learn - hope to join the talks in Brussels

Indeed, Noemi. @ilariadauria’s experience is impressive, I’d love to get to talk to her and to such diverse bunch of people LOTE is bringing together about taking ‘risky’ but potentially immensely gratifying decisions at a point in life when stability and some degree of forecast is on one’s mind.

Although I’m not yet sure I’ll make it to Brussels, I’m thinking there’s no harm in sharing my own fuck-up story on here. I appreciate a lot those who dared to do so (and what lives you all live!).

Good choices for bad reasons and at the wrong moments

It’s so inspiring to read your stories! I’m sorry I missed the deadline (talking about failures…) but there is still some time to go before we meet in flesh and bones, so I guess I’ll post my story nevertheless.

My story is one of good choices with pretty interesting bad results, due mainly to wrong motivation or bad timing.

I got a PhD in Economics because I wanted to save the world from Economics. I thought I could do better than all previous economists had done. I wasn’t that bad, but of course my ambition was quite unrealistic and I got deeply disappointed. I quit and finally made the choice I should have made ten year earlier: I went to art school and studied graphic design. Unfortunately I graduated exactly when the big economic crisis started, in 2008 and graphic design is a very procyclic field (meaning it is one of the first to go down when crisis time comes) so there was no chance for me on the job market. I had to start my own company if I wanted to do anything creative at all. But I had no experience, no customer, no entrepreneur mentality very poor networking skills (I always try to make real friends rather than exchange favors) and no background in business whatsoever. So I had quite some interesting experience but broke up financially and I had to keep taking side-job after side-job, which was taking time away from my real work and in turn made me more dependent on side-jobs. Managed to do some freelance art teaching but couldn’t feel at ease with the task because I felt underqualified in the cultural fields.

I forgot to mention that I won a poetry contest when I was 18, felt that this was too easy (!) and decided to keep poetry as a hobby only. That was probably the worst decision ever. One of my biggest successes has been the organisation of a beautiful collective exhibition of visual poetry (Tentoonstelling Visuele Poëzie | Tilburg), that attracted around 200 visitors to a pretty unknown location and got substantial public financing, nevertheless ending in financial loss for us organisers.

Another big project of mine was a documentary about gay marriage, that was based on my personal marriage with another woman and ended up with us divorcing, and so badly we had to give up the project completely.

So as you see I think I fit the target participant pretty well :slight_smile:

See you all soon!

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I remember the documentary, it’s how me met!

Bardonecchia :slight_smile: I remember really liking the pitch. Plus it introduced me to some surprising attitudes and legislation w.r.t LBGT rights in Italy where I lived at the time.

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my late fuck-up

don’t know where to begin, so will start with the most recent fuck-ups

  • Failed in learning German language, been in Berlin for a year now ( not continuous though) and still can't speak the language. this is not my first language failure, as I learned French in school as a kid for almost 7 years, and also can't speak french.
  • After being a "not so good" architecture student, barely showing up and passing as I was always distracted with "much interesting stuff", knowing that I am "not feeling good" around academia, took the decision to go for a masters in urban development which I am experiencing with my last academic fuck up ( should have finished it in October but my new deadline now is on the 3rd of march and I am coming to LOTE rather than finishing my thesis. )
  • being a part of the collective failure of the Egyptian youth in the reform/revolt movement, failing into academics was a way to leave "home" for a while.
  • the longest job I had was working as an architect for 5 months (drawing floor plans for Banks and some luxury housing ) and couldn't continue more.
  • failed in learning programming languages ( most recent python then ruby )
  • failed with learning CGI animation.
  • experienced several failures with small initiatives, design projects, and a documentary.


yes, ok, why not?

Rather than a full bio, I’ll outline a particular infuriating pattern which runs through many of my professional failures: saying yes.

In many situations I’ve taken a job or helped out on a project where I really, really should have said no - or I could have easily saved myself much trouble with a ‘yes, but…’ or ‘maybe, but…

But in other cases, there’s really only one appropriate response: ‘fuck no.’

And yet, over, and over again, I found myself saying ‘yes, sure’. Usually these were low-paid projects offered at times of desperation. The rent had to be paid, no other offers were on the table. But looking back I can’t understand how I said yes to some of these.

In 2008, I had no computer, but I needed one to make music videos… so I said yes to editing 14 episodes of a horrendous, moronic reality TV show mostly revolving around tanks, cleavage and explosions. What I got for this was a hundred bucks per episode, a lesson in misogyny, and the use of the edit suite during any downtime (there wasn’t much downtime). I only managed to make one music video during this period.

And now, as much as I’d like to forget it, guess what comes up first when you search me on IMDB?

I said yes to editing a low-budget bilingual ‘Idol’ show called Maorioke, I said yes to shooting a 3am gig by a trash-techno band called ‘the dead crackwhores in the trunk’. And then I still said yes to helping on their dreadful music video. Only a couple of years ago I said yes to a 2-hour instructional video about building 3D printers. After 5 months of underpaid, overworked struggle, it was published. 6 months later I received my first royalty letter. We sold 52 copies. As it turns out, my pay had been an advance - I still need to sell another 650 more courses just to pay the company back their few hundred Euro. Nobody is buying the course, and they didn’t let us use an open license, so we can’t even give it away.

I’ve wasted months and months and months of time and energy working on useless crap over the years, and it’s agonising knowing I could have avoided so much in the fraction of a second it takes to say ‘no.’

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But the perks…?

But don’t you now know everything there is to know about tv shows, misoginism and the making of 3d printers? :expressionless:

Oh Sam, heartfelt. I have friends who made it their yearly resolution to learn to say no. I see it as a trend of the highly skilled, very popular, and overly kind souls - a lethal combination. I hope the tide is changing for you.


it’s getting better!

I’m definitely making progress. Every time I say no to a crappy job these days, I feel like I should pull out some champagne and celebrate :slight_smile:

Anyway, if you do say NO and people in your direct surroundings (mostly family) look at you like “are you nuts??? leaving that job (the status, the money, the opportunities) and for what…” it doesn’t feel nice either. I always have a hard time to argument why it was impossible for me to continue and haven’t found many people yet who understand.  At least I do :wink:


It’s a difficult one

Do you have any idea why they react that way? I  have had the same reactions from a lot of people. With the Parents I can understand- it’s tougher for some people in generations that had to struggle hard for the basics to understand how/why others would quit steady jobs. With friends it’s more exhausting for me. Partly because I think so much of their identity is invested into their relationship to work that to do differently is taken as a criticism of how they live.