Unplugging The Matrix

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It’s a big, big world out there. My way of doings things will not be your way of doing things.

You should be comfortable with that. I am. I don’t really see it as "my way" versus someone else’s. I see it more like The Matrix. I loved that movie (mostly the first one, but all three are much more bearable when watching them in one sitting). Beyond the special effects and subtext, there is something that much deeper happening in the movie. While I don’t believe that we spend our days living in a state of illusion while our real bodies are being farmed for energy like batteries by self-aware computers, I do believe that many of us are living in The Matrix. The Matrix being this place with set rules, controls, pressures and constructs (in the movie, this is how Morpheus defines it: "The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these 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.") There are many people who want no part of living in The Matrix (you can read more about these types of people here: Incompatible)… I’m one of them (I think).

What does our Matrix look like? 

The Matrix has rules like:

  • You have to work between 9 am – 5 pm.
  • The weekends are your free time.
  • You can take two (maybe three) weeks of vacation per year.
  • If you don’t get – at least – 7 hours of sleep, you won’t be able to function.
  • You need work/life balance (more on that here: The Myth Of Work Life Balance).
  • Great ideas come from creative people.
  • You should not work during your vacation.
  • If you’re serious, you’ll have an office with a lot of overhead.

There are countless other rules. Just look at your day-to-day routine… those are all rules of The Matrix.

All choices are fine choices. Your mileage may vary. What works for some, won’t work for others… but don’t fool yourself: the majority of people do fall into a very clean and rule-based existence and anything that falls outside of that "norm" (i.e.: "Mitch, you Blog during the holidays? Why don’t you take a break?!?") is seen as "unhealthy" or worse… like the person is some kind of freak or weirdo who is doing some kind of harm to either themselves or their loved ones.

Tell you what, I’ll be me and you be you.

I spend a lot of my days thinking about The Matrix that most of the people I know live within. I see them struggling through their days just trying to make it to the weekend and I’m able to fast-forward my life to my dying day. At that moment, I often think about being old, sick and waiting to die. What days will you think about when looking back on your life? You see, while I’m Blogging during the holidays, spending time to think and soaking in the good will of my family and friends, you’re dreading going back to work next week.

Beyond that…

While you’re spending your days wondering why others act the way they do, I am spending my days wondering what the future will look like and how I can help shape it. Thinking like that keeps me out of The Matrix. Thinking about getting old and having way too much time on my hands while waiting for fate to do with me what it will (and it will for each and every one of us) drives me to enjoy life (work, personal and community). So, while you wait for that moment to take a break from work, or for that week where you can unplug, just consider (for a moment) that for some of us, a true vacation is the complete opposite. For some, a vacation is every day. It’s the chance to be working on the art/work we were meant to do. For some (people like me), we feel blessed that everyday is what most might consider a vacation. The challenge is that this world is hard to imagine when you’re living in The Matrix ("what’s this. Mitch? Your work day is like a vacation? Are you on drugs?"). Always remember: "you take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." The difference is that I can’t show you anything. You have to show it to yourself.

So, red pill or blue pill?


  1. Hey Mitch!
    GREAT post and VERY motivating! Glad you loved the Matrix as much as i Did…. and YES if you are passionate about what you do… then holiday or not… keep pushing… Every day i strive to learn more to provide more resources to our clients and communities…
    I must tell you something though… if Keanu Reeves knew about the Matrix… He would of been able to Stop that Bus sO MUCH SOONER! 🙂
    Happy Holidays Mitch
    Worldwide Digital Artists with Graphic Solutions
    Founder / CEO & Creative Director

  2. Mitch, once again you nailed it. This is what I have tried to put into words for people when they ask me why I don’t take a break or why I don’t go on vacation(now I can just send them this).
    I don’t need to take a break. Reading blogs and books and gathering information and formulating new ideas is what I love to do. Sharing information is what I love to do. I don’t need to take a vacation and travel somewhere to escape my life because I love my life. I love thinking about what is next in my life and in that of my community.
    Looking forward to reading more of your wisdom in 2011 and beyond!

  3. Daniel Lanois recently said this to Toronto Star:
    “People would take weekends off or tell me ‘Monday’s a bank holiday and, of course, Friday I’ve got the barbecue’ and blah, blah, blah and I’m always, like: ‘How come I have no inclination to do any of this?’ I’d pay no attention to the markers of time. I was just working all the time.
    “So I talked to Neil Young, who’s crazier than me with work, and I asked him, ‘Do you ever go through this?’ And he says: ‘Yeah, of course. These are markers of time as determined by other people. We don’t need to operate by them.’ ”

  4. Right on, Mitch. Years ago I used to have that vacation mentality (and life) and I hated it. In fact, Sunday’s as a kid were like that. Dread that school was to begin on Monday.
    Of course, there’s always a chance that we are wrong and when we get old we’ll look back and think, “dang, shoulda spent more time doing nothing.” 🙂

  5. I couldn’t agree more Mitch! I unhooked from the system about six years ago (took the red pill) and have run with it ever since.
    Love The Matrix too and often use it’s life principles in explaining the dream to people…
    Thank you for being you and staying true. Your blogs are awesome x

  6. Why I left Corporate America: I hate Face Time, the conventional wisdom that if I show up, go to meetings and sit at my computer at the prescribed times, I am a good worker.
    But I’ve been working from home for myself for years now, working around my kids’ schedules and following my own plan. Here, I’m never completely at work, and never completely at home… just the way I prefer it. Thanks for putting this into words for me.
    I am teaching my kids to learn to work this way too because I think it’s the most satisfying way to live.
    (Also, as a writer, I am compelled to fix typos on the Net. You have a you’re where you mean your and an it’s where you mean its.)

  7. I took the red pill & followed the white rabbit. a couple of years ago.. though sometimes I confess I relate to Cypher & think about sleepwalking again. (It seemed a little easier & sometimes I feel judged by friends & family)
    But then I look back at some of the truly wonderful people and experiences that I have been fortunate to have had since making the shift & I know that I will smile when I look back over my journey in my final days.
    As you mentioned… everyone should live their life to what suits them best… there is no right or wrong way, but I believe to truly LIVE one must be true to themselves & be brave enough to walk that path.
    Thanks for being someone who can shed some light on exploring life outside the Matrix & sharing what you learn. Sure it’s your business & what you do… but it takes courage to be authentic & share as you do in your posts… I may not agree with everything you share but I appreciate & respect your voice.
    I wish you continued success creating your destiny & bending spoons in 2011 & beyond!

  8. The fun part begins when you have to deal with the red pill every day, every moment of your life, ´cause our lifes are on The Matrix…

  9. Awesome!! This is the articulation of what I have long believed, and thought about. Just like the cluetrain manifesto, I feel like there should be a petition every one who believes in these ideas should sign.

  10. Mitch,
    While I respect and agree to an extent, having kids changed everything (and a lot of your readers I’m sure). I use my vacations and weekends to connect with my 2 year old and (with another one on the way this March), my new born in the near future no doubt. While I’m still ‘plugged-in’ and thinking about the future, that future includes knowing my children and them knowing me. Not easily accomplished ‘working 24/7 365’. Unplugging with my kids helps me connect to them and to myself on a much more spiritual level than anything I’ve ever known. But that’s just me.
    Cheers – dt

  11. it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself ~ I’m debating on being the pill these days and the wise man replied: “the purpose is the first step” : )
    Happy Holidays

  12. nice post..liked the matrix analogy you have given..
    //a vacation is every day. It’s the chance to be working on the art/work we were meant to do. //
    liked this definition

  13. Thanks once again Mitch.
    I live my life not knowing what my alarm clock sounds like. I’ve told people I’m retired because I love the life I lead, but I like the vacation line better. Either way, it’s about freedom of time and doing the things I want to do. Mind if I use it?
    I love that my 4 kids see their mother plugged in to the world and engaged deeply in work that she loves. Amazingly enough, I have plenty of time to spend with them, to make them good food and even to knit for them.
    I live an integrated life of a perpetual vacation at home, at the office and on the road.

  14. Hi Mitch. Frequent reader, but this post moved me to comment for the first time.
    I love Matrix I, and have often thought about how well it reflects today’s reality. (Isn’t that the case with all good storytelling?) I, like many others, struggle greatly with the “red pill / blue pill” decision. Each time I feel myself reaching for the red pill, I find the society’s messaging pulling me back towards the blue. Propaganda all around us exacerbates our fear, our insecurities; Better safe than sorry, preach the pundits. Posts such as yours remind me that there are lots of folks unplugging from the machine and building better lives for it. Thanks so much. It really hit the spot.

  15. I am one of the few who never became a fan of “The Matrix”, virtually sleeping through it, but I do understand the example. For me you have simply described successful entrepreneurs, the red pill peoples, those who are always turned on and happy for it.
    BTW, sounds like you’ve heard “You Blog during the holidays? Why don’t you take a break?!?” a little too often this season. Tranquilnar Mitch.

  16. The problem with the Matrix is you need to leave the vast comfortable landscape of the majority, which is the essence of mediocrity – I too despise comfort zones 🙂
    Great post!

  17. Loved the post and loved The Matrix. As a Christian, I saw a lot of truth there. Thanks for the challenge for the new year.
    PS–I am not a robot, thank you very much.

  18. Weird coincidence. I rented The Matrix and saw it a cpl of days ago with my kids (too young to see it when it was first released). Love the analogies you have drawn

  19. Amazing post Mitch!
    This is a very inspiring post to those who have been forcing themselves working so hard without realizing that there is an alternative. But there is one problem here. Not all of us has given the chance to do what we want, to work for our dream job. In other countries(third world) people doesn’t even have the option to choose the work they want and they even consider themselves lucky just to have one. I have been always thinking about these kind of stuff if there is an answer to this problem. But it would be wonderful if all of us were given a chance or rather the opportunity to choose what we want to do just as you said.
    Thanks again for this amazing post.. I enjoyed reading it!

  20. A perfect post to read as I assess 2010 and decide what I liked about it and what I want to change in 2011 to make my own system work for me.
    (P.S. I know it’s been available for awhile but I wanted to thank you for adding the option to follow the conversation by email.)

  21. As society becomes more mobile, managers work harder to keep us in our cubicles. Why? Because they are managers. If workers are independent and still productive, who needs managers? Or offices?

  22. Maybe the matrix is changing and you actually can’t set yourself apart from it… but then again maybe you can by becoming enlightened. But then again maybe the experience of becoming enlightened only changes your part of the matrix, influencing the rest of the matrix to transform. I could go on more but I’ll refrain else I might give myself a headache 🙂

  23. If you really love what you’re doing, and where you do it, you won’t feel like in the Matrix, you’ll feel part of something bigger. In my company we definitely don’t have the classic concept of “workplace”, we often get involved in the most unconventional of activities because we truly believe the company philosophy isn’t just about hard-working.

  24. This touches on something I was thinking about [and blogged about] after the Montreal Gazette reported that “40 per cent of 25-to 34-year-olds concerned about when they can retire.” Why are 25 to 34 year olds concerned about when they can retire? I don’t mean they shouldn’t be saving or investing or planning for the future. They certainly should. But what I find discouraging is that instead of demanding more from their work and workplaces and/or figuring out how they can do what they love as long as they want, they’re worrying about how soon they can stop, get out. Apparently the matrix rules Mitch. My question is why?
    And on that note of frustration… Happy New Years! And thanks.

  25. Don’t feel too bad for Canada – in France 15 year olds were demonstrating in the streets when they raised the retirement age to 67! Work ethics and the perceived value of work in Europe and the US are very different indeed. I guess Canada is in between 🙂

  26. Bravo! We are socialized to function like employees of the 20th century under authoritative leadership to “produce”. Giving oneself ‘permission’ to enjoy our work takes the work out and puts the passion into our lives.
    PS. Sleep specialists who study circadian rhythms say that we have internal clocks and paying attention to our individual clock we function better. Here’s to creative ideas at 2 a.m.!

  27. Great post, and some great comments too!
    When I was a teenager, my excuse for staying up all night was that I was a nocturnal person and that the Montreal BBSes and nascent Internet would be more acessible with my 800 baud modem.
    When I was a student at McGill, my excuse for staying up all night was that I was a nocturnal person and that there were projects and deadlines I could work on.
    After college I realized that I’m not a nocturnal person… I’m just on a time-shifted cycle that isn’t exacftly 24 hours… and I suspect most people are like that. I’m most creative and productive when I’m most creative and productive. So I’m happily in red pill land…
    ..but meanwhile…
    I’ve also realized that everyone has responsibilities to others — whether those people are your employees, your clients, your kids, your loved ones — and that the 9-5 / weekend concept is important, too, because IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

  28. Hey Mitch,
    I’ve been thinking about this post and reflecting on 2010. I realize now why three books I read this past year were my favorite; Six Pixels of Separation, Making Ideas Happen and Linchpin. Because on some level, each deals with moving you out of the Matrix. Each, in it’s own way describes the movements and strategies necessary to make the transition. I still struggle with the venue that will take me from an unbalanced “silo” based five days to weekend agenda. Balanced for me is the mashup of personal and business with no silos, departments, or compartments. I’m looking for a seamless blending.
    As 2011 grows very near, I’ll continue the struggle until I find my place outside “The Matrix”. So thanks for a great book, some very thought-provoking commentary, and the chance to express my thoughts.

  29. Mitch – You accurately describe how the Matrix manifests in our world today, yet disagree with the image of humans as batteries being farmed for energy by self-aware computers. On this latter point you should think of that description as a metaphor, because it quite accurately describes the illusion that’s been pulled over our eyes. We are all debt slaves in one form or another to a globalized monetary system, be it through usury (the charging of interest and fees by banks) or taxation. To illustrate this point just take a look at the trillions of $$ in bailouts that went to banks in recent years. Instead of going straight to those banks, had that same money been used to pay off individual debts and mortgages and those payments, in turn, bailed out the banks it would have accomplished the same thing EXCEPT it would also have liberated millions of slaves from the debt system. This Matrix of a globalized monetary system cannot thrive on liberated slaves, which partly explains why it’s starting to unravel now.

  30. Davey:
    I couldn’t help but notice your use of the word “struggle” in your reply to Mitch. Reading that reminded me of some advice given by Hopi elders, that includes this very word. I’ve reposted it here in full….my apologies for taking up so much space with it. Hopefully someone reading it will find benefit from the Hopi wisdom.
    You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you
    must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are
    things to be considered. . . .
    Where are you living?
    What are you doing?
    What are your relationships?
    Are you in right relation?
    Where is your water?
    Know your garden.
    It is time to speak your truth.
    Create your community.
    Be good to each other.
    And do not look outside yourself for your leader.
    Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a
    good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and
    swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on
    to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer
    greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let
    go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes
    open, and our heads above the water.
    And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in
    history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For
    the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
    The time of the one wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
    Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All
    that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
    We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

  31. Hey John,
    First, thanks for taking the time, energy, and thought to reply. I think the key to moving “out” is a renewed focus on the five questions listed in your commentary. To know “your garden” and create “your community” is surely the by-product of realizing the actualization of these questions. I find it very interesting that the Hopi, who I believe, if my history is correct, were first encountered around the mid 1500’s, have summarized and articulated Seth Godin’s “Tribes” philosophy. This just reinforces my thinking around what is old is “new”.
    I guess my struggle as such is trying to identify my unique area of contribution and to not look outside myself for leadership. Generally speaking, the breakdown (bottleneck) is usually self-discipline and focus. Perhaps this is the metaphor for the Hopi illustration of holding on to the shore. As such, I will continue to work this out with the help of those like yourself who are courteous enough to serve up commentary of purpose. Thanks again John; much appreciated.

  32. Davey:
    Thanks for your comment and, again, my apolgies for making such a long post as a reply. I was simply trying to present the Hopi view on the word “struggle” within the bigger context of what they were saying, rather than just a sound byte.
    The Matrix was a brilliant piece of work on so many levels. What the Hopi say about people holding on to the proverbial shore is akin to Morpheus telling Neo that “most of these people are not ready to be unplugged” (by taking the red pill). Many indigenous people, including the Hopi, believe that the waking world we humans live in is, in fact, the world of illusion, while the world of dream is where we find out truth and reality. That said, it’s quite prescient that Morpheus is named after the Greek God of Dreams and as such he is trying to awaken Neo and others to the Truth.

  33. Great article, the comparison make very sense for me.
    And especially after reading the “Incompatible” post, because I used the same comparison when searching how/why I made certain choices while growing up (22 now).
    And that was viscerally “I’m not like them and I don’t want to be like them” (out of the matrix and incompatible with their system of acceptance without imagination) or something like that.
    That finally led me in Design, and now my work is a vacation of trying to make a better world (to make it short). If you really like what you do, it’s not a work anymore. I’m used to say ^^
    But I think, even if sometime these trait seems innate, we can educate kids to have a clear look of the world and society (as for a mermaid, if you really see it, you can’t stick with it and her trapping song), don’t always accept things as they are, and to keep having a free thinking, for imagining another society…
    I even hope that would be natural, if you don’t have a system which impose a vision on children and model them to fit in.

  34. I would like to take the red pill. This interpretation of a work/life balance is so true. I have been struggling personally trying to find a way out of the matrix so that I can make my own rules. I think 2011 is the year to do this, and you just solidified what I need to do. Thank you.

  35. Hey Mitch,
    I hear you! Especially the part about “a true vacation is the complete opposite”. When some of my peers go on vacation (or I see their latest holiday photo uploads on Facebook), I get this strange feeling because when most of other people would be jealous, I’m not. I keep asking the question “when would I have the chance to do that?” and “do I really want to have a vacation? There just seems to be so much to do, so much to finish here where I live”.
    Thanks for making that clear to me – that it’s alright to not want a vacation (in terms of a two to three week getaway).
    Cheers from a fellow Incompatible,

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