Kevin Brown, Director of Franchise Sales for SERVPRO in Nashville, TN—a QBQ! believer and Miller friend— makes me think when he says, “Life is fair … bad things happen to all of us.”
How often, though, do we think life is not fair? Ever made statements like these?
The bank got us a “no interest” mortgage we now can’t afford. It’s not fair.
My kids don’t ever listen to me. It’s not fair.
My retirement account is way down. It’s not fair.
I didn’t get the promotion/I lost my job/I was denied a raise. It’s not fair.
Others don’t work as hard as I do. It’s not fair.
My boss doesn’t communicate, coach, or seem to care. It’s not fair.
My employer cut our benefits. It’s not fair.
The referees were awful and we lost the game. It’s not fair.
My staff doesn’t seem to get what we’re trying to do here. It’s not fair.
I listen to others more than they listen to me. It’s not fair.
I’m buried in high interest credit card debt. It’s not fair.
My home is worth less than I owe on it. It’s not fair.
The neighbors have a new boat/car/pool and we don’t. It’s not fair.
My co-workers are difficult and management doesn’t deal with it. It’s not fair.
Professional athletes make more than teachers. It’s not fair.
The government doesn’t exist to take care of me after all. It’s not fair.
Oh, and here’s a bonus one:
We’re going through a ton of change at work. It’s not fair!!!
My wife, Karen, has a favorite phrase. “It just is,” she’ll say. Meaning, sometimes stuff just happens, circumstances just exist, and people simply act like people. The truth is we were never promised “fairness.” Humans make hurtful comments, accidents occur, events take a turn we don’t expect, others are blessed with talents we lack, things happen out of our control—sometimes way out of our control.
Childhood friend, Philip Foltman, and I were both born May 28, 1958. I, though, am three hours older and never let him forget it.
Growing up in Ithaca, N.Y., we graduated from Ithaca High in 1976, were pals during our college years, and he served as my “best man” in 1980. And that he is: the best.
But in comparison to Phil, I am a victim! I have “the right” to be angry, hurt, and bitter. It’s not fair!
How come? Because for over 35 years Philip has had something that I have not:
In fact, he still has his mom. I can barely remember mine.
I’ve not had a mother since Gerald Ford was President, the Bee Gees were hot, and Star Wars was only in George Lucas’ imagination. It was May 20, 1975, while attending a “ladies’ meeting,” Mary Miller, age 51, experienced a blinding headache, slumped on a friend’s sofa, and was rushed to the hospital. Two hours later she was gone. A quiet but deadly killer had taken her. “Aneurism” is a word I wished I’d never learned, and certainly not at 16.
It wasn’t fair.
But Philip, my buddy, was there that tragic day in 1975. Within an hour he was at my house and five days later he and his mom—“Mrs. F”—came to my mom’s memorial service.
Three and a half decades later, he still has his mom. Phil is a fortunate man.
But so am I, as I have many blessings …
Karen is still my best friend, there are seven special people ages 27 down to 11 that call me “Dad,” a beautiful baby grandson, Joshua, has joined the Miller clan, and I love what I do.
And just as I certainly would never hold it against Philip for still having his mom, I shouldn’t hold it against anyone for having more of anything than I do. Envy doesn’t wear well. Neither does the It’s not fair! We’re all victims! mentality that pervades our society today.
Now here’s what’s not fair:
Begrudging people their achievements, success, possessions, financial status, and good fortune.
When I hold it against others that they have more of anything than I do, I have chosen to be a victim. And victim thinking, self-pity, and envy eat away at my soul, destroy my ability to contribute, and make me a lesser person. Maybe even a small person.
Bottomline, when I play victim, I serve nobody—not even myself. It’s far better to flip the switch and completely eliminate victim thinking from my life.
Kevin Brown is right: Bad things happen to all of us. Sometimes those bad things are tragedies beyond our control and sometimes they’re the result of our own mistakes. Either way, the secret to life success is in how I respond, the choices I make, and how I talk to myself.
And I—like you—will engage in healthy, productive, and truth-based self-talk saying:
- Success and happiness are based on choice not chance.
- My decisions have directed me to my destination.
- I am personally accountable for every choice I make.
- I am not a victim!
Thoughts like these enable each of us to be outstanding. It’s just as simple as that!