Getting off the corporate ‘hamster wheel’ (Part one)

Many years ago I woke up from a long sleep just like in the matrix (one of my favorite movies). I was inquisitive and wanted to try something new.

I was like most corporate executives working hard, playing hard, a big mortgage, a big lifestyle, and more than enough keeping up with my successful friends…then one day I was made redundant from my high-paying job when my employer ran out of money. I could have easily got another job back with another big corporation, but something stopped me and made me think.

Redundancy from my executive job forced me to consider what I had thought about in the back of my mind for years (and had been toying with since an early age) – to take the red pill!

The question of which pill to take illustrates the personal aspect of the decision to become an entrepreneur again (I started my first company at age 18). Do you live on in ignorance (and potentially bliss) or do you lead what Aristotle called ‘the examined life’…

The Matrix is a film filled with religious and philosophical symbolism. The plot supposes that humans live in vats many years in the future, being fed false sensory information by a giant virtual reality computer (the Matrix). The perpetrators of this horror are machines of the future who use humans as a source of power. Humans are literally farmed.

The central character of the film, Neo, is presented to us in the opening part of the film as a loner who is searching for a mysterious character called Morpheus (named after the Greek god of dreams and sleep). He is also trying to discover the answer to the question “What is the Matrix?”

Morpheus contacts Neo just as the machines (posing as sinister ‘agents’) are trying to keep Neo from finding out any more. When Morpheus and Neo meet, Morpheus offers Neo two pills. The red pill will answer the question “what is the Matrix?” (by removing him from it) and the blue pill simply for life to carry on as before. As Neo reaches for the red pill Morpheus warns Neo “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

The movie and especially the pill choosing scene is deeply interesting. Why is the choice between what you believe you know and an unknown ‘real’ truth so fascinating? How could a choice possibly be made? On the one hand, everyone you love and everything that you have built your life upon. One the other, the promise only of truth.

The question then is not about pills, but what they stand for in these circumstances. The question is asking us whether reality, truth, is worth pursuing. The blue pill will leave us as we are, in a life comprising habit, of things we believe we know. We are comfortable; we do not need truth to live. The blue pill symbolizes commuting to work every day, maintaining the status quo, keeping up with the rest of your peers, and being on a hamster wheel of work that’s very easy to stay on until you retire.

The red pill is an unknown quantity. We are told that it can help us find the truth. We don’t know what that truth is, or even that the pill will help us find it. The red pill symbolizes risk, doubt, and questioning. In order to answer the question, you can gamble your whole life and world on a reality you have never experienced.

However, in order to investigate which course of action to take we need to investigate why the choice is faced. Why should we even have to decide whether to pursue the truth?

The answer, in short, is inquisitiveness. Many people throughout human existence have questioned and enquired. Most of them have not been scientists or doctors or philosophers, but simply ordinary people asking ‘what if?’ or ‘why?’ Asking these questions ultimately leads us to a choice. Do you continue to ask and investigate, or do you stop and never ask again? This is the question posed to Neo in the film.

So what are the advantages of taking the blue pill? As one character in the film says, “ignorance is bliss” Essentially, if the truth is unknown, or you believe that you know the truth, what is there to question or worry about?

By accepting what we are told and experience life can be easier. There is social pressure to ‘fit in’, which is immensely strong in most cultures. Questioning the status quo carries the danger of ostracism, possibly persecution. This aspect has a strong link with politics. People doing well under the current system are not inclined to look favorably on those who question the system. Morpheus says to Neo “You have to understand that many people are not ready to be unplugged, and many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.”

The system also has a place for you, an expected path to follow. This removes much of the doubt and discomfort experienced by a trailblazer.

The question is are you really a trailblazer, a loner, an entrepreneur? Or are you happy in your world where the rules are made for you by someone else, where you have a set of ‘rails’ along which to run and are controlled by the system? The symbolism of humans being farmed for energy is too close to comfort for me now that I have been out of the ‘farm’ for over 10 years.

Which pill will you take…?

See part two for the results of that momentous decision.

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