There is a strange paradox in our lives. It is obvious that we do not control the outcomes of our initiatives. Whenever you do something, there is a chance that you will fail, and it may have nothing to do with you.
Life happens, shit happens. You get the job you always wanted, and the next week you get a cancer diagnosis. You start a business, a civil war breaks out. You meet the love of your life, then she dies the next day.
And yet, the paradox is that we have to be accountable of the results of our lives. For the things we achieve, and the things we fail to achieve. There is nobody else to blame — truly.
Yes, the world is cruel and random, but within the randomness, within the chaos, we still have a degree of control. We can control our actions, we can control our long-term emotional responses.
And this is where we must have absolute accountability — for the things that we can control. Within that sphere, there can be no excuses, there can be no external blame.
You get punched in the face, it is fine to have an initial involuntary reaction. But a year later? Any issues you still have are on you.
This paradox reveals an important truth – that life is both unfair yet still meaningful. On one hand, random events can derail our best-laid plans. Disease, accidents, natural disasters – these can strike anyone at any time, regardless of how hard they work or how good they are. In that sense, life is capricious and unjust.
Yet on the other hand, we must take responsibility for our choices and responses. How we face challenges, treat others, and find meaning amid the chaos — these are the very things that define our character. We don’t become who we could become because things are easy, but it is the hard things that shape us in meaningful ways.
Viktor Frankl realised this even in a Nazi concentration camp – he could not control his horrific circumstances, yet maintained the freedom to choose his attitude, something that nobody can take away.
So while we cannot control external events, we shape our inner lives through our values, resilience, and care for one another. By focusing on this sphere of agency, we can create lives of purpose and dignity, despite life’s unpredictability. We are not passive victims of chance, but active agents crafting meaningful stories – our stories – even when the plot twists in unfair ways. And in doing so, we affirm our human spirit.
The paradox therefore reminds us to balance fate and free will, unfairness and responsibility – recognising life’s dual nature empowers us to live wisely. We control what we can, accept what we cannot, and find fulfilment through courage and compassion.
I’ll leave you with my favourite poem, Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.