I keep my college transcript in a desk drawer at the office.

In college, I earned two Ds and two Fs. I earned ‘em, too. They were the product of almost clinical procrastination, abysmal study skills, lousy impulse control, and a dash of math anxiety thrown in for good measure.

I’m at peace with those “bad” grades—they taught me a great deal about success—but I’ve also found a way to use them for good.

When I’m advising a panicking freshman who’s just realized she’s going to receive a D or an F in a course, I reach into my desk drawer.

“Here,” I say, “take a look at my transcript. You’ll see at least two of every letter grade. I thought my future was toast, but I still got paid to go to grad school.”

Works every time.

I used to be embarrassed by my little collection of Ds and Fs, and it took a while for me to get comfortable sharing them openly. Now, though, I’m completely used to it.

Each time another anxious student sees those grades and feels relief, a little more good is extracted from those negative experiences.

Secret Failures Can’t Help Anyone

Failure is useful because it teaches us more than success. It’s easy to forget, though, that our failures can teach others, too. In a way, it’s selfish to keep our failures a secret to protect our egos.

The next time failure teaches you a painful but valuable lesson, ask yourself, “Can I squeeze any more good out of this failure? Could it help anyone else?”

The answer is almost always “yes.”

Spread knowledge. Share your failures.