You’ve said them a thousand times. You said them when you were a kid. You said them last year. You’ve caught yourself saying them recently as you watched the world tear apart your carefully made plans.
It’s not fair.
These three words are favored by kids and angry adults alike…when we want things to be otherwise, when we are caught by surprise, when we—the people who pay our taxes, who try to always do what’s right—get stuck with the consequences of something that wasn’t our fault.
When we talked to Tim Ferriss a few weeks ago for the Daily Stoic podcast (we do long-form episodes on the weekend—subscribe here), he advised that you strip those three words out of your vocabulary. Because they are impotent and meaningless. Because they don’t do anything but make you upset.
No one promised you that the world was fair. Certainly the Stoics never did. No, the Stoics told you that life was going to be hard. They warned you that Fortune was capricious and cruel. They told you that bad things happened to good people. They told you to get ready—that preparation and endurance were the only options on an unpredictable planet.
Remember what Marcus said: It’s choosing to feel harmed that adds pain on top of objective events. Trying to project standards of fairness or order onto a pandemic? Onto cancer? Onto something as random as the economy or the climate? This is only going to make you miserable. This is only going to set you up for disappointment.
You’re feeling that right now. Because you forgot that it’s not things that upset us, it’s our judgement about things. So stop thinking about what’s fair or unfair, awful or awesome and focus on what is.
That’s plenty to deal with.