The Best Advice You Ever Received (or, How The Matrix Changed My Life)

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Confession time: I’m a huge fan of the movie, The Matrix. If you’ve been reading for a while you know this, and today I’m going to share with you why. Perhaps you have a book or movie or event that revealed the best advice or deepest learning in your life, and I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments below.

A Personal Matrix

I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it. ~ Morpheus

The Matrix was released in 1999, a time of great questioning in my life. I’d been going along to get along for a decade, and I was finally discovering the price of making life easy.

Life became incredibly hard.

Everything I was supposed to want was suffocating me, and I couldn’t understand why. I had been trying to live my life according to a plan on paper. My Matrix was a false reality of my own creation, a way to set boundaries and controls when I felt powerless and scared by outside forces. It eased the angst in the moment, but hiding it behind a pretty veneer allowed it to fester and build over time in secret until it exploded in just about the messiest way possible over my entire life.

The message in the movie of waking up to the real world – even when it wasn’t as pretty as the manufactured one – set my heart racing. The main character, Neo, is searching for The Matrix. He doesn’t know what it is, only that it is out there. He looks for clues all around him, and he searches for the elusive Morpheus, whom he thinks can give him the answers.

The movie starts when Morpheus finds him. And now that the answers are at his fingertips, Neo isn’t quite sure what to do next. What happens when the answers you seek are made available to you, but there’s a certain amount of discomfort and pain to get to them? Neo struggled with this realization, and so did I.

Would I be strong enough to stand the discomfort of change in my life? Is “real” better than “easy?” Now that the idea was in front of me, could I let it go even if I wanted to? My mind was racing, and I wanted to stand up in the theater and shout to everyone around me, “Let’s all take the red pill!”

Yeah, a crazy-feeling moment for sure. Thankfully, I kept it together and didn’t get thrown out.

Divorce, a cross-country move, a career change, a financial hit – these were the actions and results I was contemplating as my “red pill.” Even though those things scared the hell out of me, they were still more appealing than the everyday life I was living.

Perhaps you can relate?

Facing Reality & Finding Mentors

Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?

Morpheus: You’ve never used them before.

This new view of life is a lot like going to the gym after 10 years of inactivity. You don’t realize just how out of shape you are until you try to go on your first hike or take an exercise class. You’re going to feel that effort for the next several days with every move you make.

There was soreness from flexing muscles that had never been used before. I began running every activity, relationship, and purchase through a filter: Is this what I really want, or am I just doing it because I’ve always done it?

In the movie Neo could learn new skills just by plugging in to a program, but real life is more complex. It means rethinking your old assumptions, taking an active role in improving your life, and making plenty of mistakes along the way.

Lucky for me, I had a Morpheus to lead me out of the Matrix and into reality. Pat, an older woman I met through a conference at my job, took me under her wing and called me every single day as I transitioned into my new life. We called it “board meeting,” and it became a lifeline for me. 

If I hadn’t shared with her my epiphany about life and what I was thinking of doing, I’m not sure I would have had the nerve to do it. This is why it is so important to seek out new people in your life. They are more readily able to see you as you are and what you want to be than the people you’ve had at your side for years. They are not overly burdened by history and expectation, and by association they teach you not to be, either.

The New Normal

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.

The freedom to be me was intoxicating, and even though I got drunk on it a few times, it finally evened out. It became the status quo instead of a wild Saturday night feeling I couldn’t quite control.

I didn’t have the answers, not by a long shot. And after a while I figured out that was the point. When you have everything mapped out and know the answers, you aren’t allowing for growth, experience, and change. It seems like a better way to live until you actually try to live it.

I became comfortable with the unknown, with stepping into new experiences, and with trusting my instincts and experience. In short, I became the self-assured, direct, and adventurous woman I always dreamed of.

  • I found Warren after this shift in reality, helped in large part by finally realizing what I wanted in a mate…and having the confidence to say it out loud.
  • My career took off when I stopped comparing myself to everyone else and just did my best work.
  • I took a red velvet rope approach to allowing new friends into my life, and as a consequence my relationships were deeper and more fulfilling.

Once I started creating a life to fit me instead of trying to fit into another life, I stopped being unhappy. And even though The Matrix didn’t solve any of my problems, I am forever thankful to it for speaking to me when I was ready to hear the message. It woke me up so I could solve those problems myself.

The teacher appears when the student is ready. 

Not everyone will get the same insight out of a post-apocalyptic shoot-em-up. Hell, if I saw the movie for the first time today it probably wouldn’t affect me the same. But the combination of timing + need + message is a powerful one, and you can be just as moved to change by a book, a song, or even a television commercial.

It could be zombies, puppies, a history book, or even a quirky commercial on television.

When you’re ready to hear it, you’re going to find the message. The trick is to pair it with action to create the life of your dreams.

What has been the unconventional source of the best advice in your life? Tell me about it in the comments.

Learning to speak up and fly my own freak flag has transformed my life. If you’re struggling with being the people pleaser, putting everyone else’s needs above your own, or just not giving yourself the time to even know what you want, I can help. Click here to figure out what you’ve got standing in the way of your shine. (Oh, and don’t forget to check out the video at the end where I shaved my head!)

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