In a certain leadership program I did for years, I never once failed a test that I took; I earned all the awards I possibly could, and while my grades themselves were not perhaps the best, passing all those tests on my first try was enough to merit surprise, when so many others used three, or even four, attempts.
One thing I always hated about this, though, was talking about it – the variety of reactions might have scaled from praise to scoffing, but even on the best days, I just never liked the idea of people knowing this about me. Why? Well, they seemed to take a certain attitude that either I must be a snob, or everything came easy to me; or even that I never failed at all. When those words came from the mouth of someone I considered a friend, they hurt a surprising amount; because while I should not have cared, I felt as if it somehow made my own life out to be easier or less interesting than everyone else's.
Yet none of those things were true. The next time you come across someone who just always seems to succeed, remember that it doesn't mean they – or their life – are perfect. It does not automatically mean they think they're better than you – the first time I realized people wondered that about me, I was shocked. Because some of the very people who thought I would be stuck-up were also some of those I most compared myself to. Sure, I might have passed the tests they didn't – but they always seemed to have some other adventure I'd never achieved. Not once did I think my grades alone entitled me to more than anyone else.
Nor does success just come easily to those who seem to have enough of it! We only see the outside of those moments – we don't always get to see the hard work that went into it beforehand, or realize just how much time was spent. I often spent weeks studying for the hardest of tests I took, and I realize that not many others set aside that time for theirs. Knowing how much effort it took me, I believe that if I had only studied for days, as I saw others do, I wouldn't have passed, either. Just because they only saw the result, did not mean I didn't work for it.
And finally, just because someone passes tests doesn't mean their whole life is perfect, too. I've certainly failed other exams outside of that particular program, and my friend was wrong to think I didn't know what it felt like. But more importantly, even if I hadn't, that still didn't mean I'd "never failed in my life," never tried to achieve something and fallen short. We measure things so easily with grades and percentages, but as we make our way through this life it is rarely that simple.
Success isn't measured by grades, and neither is failure. So the next time you think someone has life easy because of how far they've made it, you might want to get the facts and see if they were really an incredibly lucky person, or if maybe they've worked hard for what they have – sometimes failures make for the best learning, and just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean others haven't ever failed.