This is a picture of my little family. Isn’t it sweet? Happy, smiling, faces. A loving brother gently touching his sister while we look at our perfect, new baby girl. Outside the fact that we love each other, this picture was a total illusion. Here is the full truth of that day: I was a few days postpartum, sweating head to toe, and completely frazzled. I was desperately trying to soothe my crying baby and contain my tornado of a toddler so I could get that perfect photo. Kingston was wild and had zero interest in anything that involved his new sister or staying still. The only reason he is touching her and smiling, is because we put his favorite fruit snacks on her chest. The second the photographer left I cried. But the experience was considered successful because we got the picture. One single moment captured. It was true, it just was not the whole truth.
At work, we get snapshots of our co-workers. We see the new senior account manager, the promoted director, the put-together team member and we make assumptions. We look at a moment in time and assign all kinds of thoughts to who they are and how they got what they got. Certainly, they were just given accounts or opportunities. We are convinced that somehow in some way, the process was easier for them.
Elizabeth Taylor said, “Success is a great deodorant” meaning, it keeps us from seeing and experiencing all the things we do not really want to see or experience. The reality is the road to success is a long, hard, ugly road. It usually involves a massive battle with self-doubt and disappointment. It requires overcoming a million hurdles and a handful of heartbreaks. All those emotions are part of a story that is rarely told.
Next time you look at someone succeeding and feel a tinge of envy, know, behind every beautiful picture is a difficult story. I wonder how much could be gained if we simply asked to hear it. Maybe it would help us to understand that people who achieve great things are not spared a hard path. They are human. They are just like you, which means you can do it too.