Life is Not A Pass or Fail Test

Paula Jean Ferri
6 min readJun 19, 2018
Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Thomas A. Edison

“All through my life, I have been tested. My will has been tested, my courage has been tested, my strength has been tested. Now my patience and endurance are being tested.”
Muhammad Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey

We often have a really pretty picture of what life is supposed to look like. It varies from person to person, but it all boils down to the same ideas. Happiness and Success. These are the most common ideals we reach for.

Of course we want to be happy. No one wants to be miserable all of the time. No one likes to suffer. That’s hard. Happiness is certainly a much easier state of mind.

Of course we want success. No one wants to fail. That is also hard, not to mention embarrassing and a road block to all the things we want to achieve.

Based on these two ideals, we create our version of a perfect world that we want to achieve.

I’m not saying this is entirely a bad thing. It’s important to have goals to strive for. In fact, I think they are quite essential to living a more fulfilling life. But when that world starts to dictate every single thing that happens to us, we can get caught up in that pretty picture and just how far from it we are falling.

Change Your Perspective

“All through my life, I have been tested. My will has been tested, my courage has been tested, my strength has been tested. Now my patience and endurance are being tested.”
Muhammad Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey

Life is not a pass or fail test. Just because things don’t turn out the way the pretty picture dictates, doesn’t mean it’s over. Our view is often too short-sighted to see how something that can be considered a failure might actually turn into a good thing.

Let me share an example.

I am currently working on writing my third book, but was having trouble focusing, so I arranged for some accountability. I arranged with my friend Robbie that every week I didn’t write 2k words in my book- not counting any articles I write for Medium or on my blog- I would buy him a Papa Murphy’s pizza.

I did well for a few weeks, but last week was a struggle. I failed. I only wrote about 200 words all week in my book.

Not only that, but my phone was not sending or receiving text messages. So I made yesterday an errand day, further taking time from my writing to stop by the store to figure out what was going on with my phone, after which I stopped by to pick up Robbie’s pizza.

I am not normally in this area of town, but they were the closest to where I was at the time. So not knowing the area, I found the nearest place and ran in. While purchasing the pizza, I mentioned I was here because I basically lost a bet.

As they made the pizza, they asked me questions about the bet, which led to the books I have written and published. One of the employees said that sounds just like the type of book his mom loves to read. He gave me paper and a pen asking me to write down the titles and how to find them.

As they asked more questions, my blog was mentioned, as well as what I write here. That got another girl interested, who asked me to write down the link so she could read as well.

It didn’t stop there, as we kept chatting, they asked if I sold my books in the bookstore that was literally right next door. Not being familiar with this area of town, I hadn’t even noticed there was one! So I ran next door to find out what it takes to get my book on their shelves.

This was seriously the best bet I have ever lost. I may have failed on my word count, but what good is writing books if no one reads them?

I’m pretty sure I came out the winner in this situation and it was completely worth the cost of the pizza that I was then able to deliver to Robbie.

This is not an isolated event, nor is it limited to just me. I mentioned in my last article that “life may seem like it’s taking a stab at you, but the secret is that life is actually trying to help you out. In fact, you are really on the same team. We just aren’t able to see how great that set up is.”

When we take a step back and stop focusing on the negative, we start to see the good come into our lives. We start making room for opportunities to come into our lives.

Failure is a Short-Sighted Term

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas A. Edison

These opportunities didn’t just come into my life because I’m some kind of Disney princess. My life is far from perfect and I have had my fair share of struggles, pain and disappointments.

However, each of those rough patches have brought treasured moments and successes into my life.

If I hadn’t been kicked out of the social work program in college, I would never have found a better program for me to study and not become a writer, which I love doing more than anything.

If I hadn’t failed all of my classes one semester, I might never have figured out what all of my noises were and finally received a diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome.

If I hadn’t had to break off relationships and cancel my wedding, I would never have discovered my strengths and been in rotten relationships to boot.

All of these things at the time felt like a huge failure. It’s easy to turn on ourselves and blame our inability.

Yet these are the things that- years later- have made my life as wonderful as it is. Right now, things are good. And while they may not stay that way, I know it will come back around.


Life is hard. It does like to throw us curveballs and on occasion, we may strike out. That doesn’t mean the game is lost. Especially since life is a lot longer than a baseball game.

You will have many chances to fail, and you will have even more chances to succeed.

Just like Edison and his 10,000 failed attempts at creating a light bulb, it only takes once to make it all worth it.

While we may only have one life to live, and contrary to what movies portray, we have more than just one shot to get things right.

Sometimes, we can retake the test. We get another chance at bat. We write another book. We meet someone new.

And in the meantime, those failures give us something to build on to make the next opportunity even better than the first.

Just keep building.

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