Are You Ready to Take the Red Pill? (Self-Employment)

“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.” — Morpheus (to Neo), The Matrix

Fans of the movie The Matrix see all kinds of symbolism in the plot — political, social, cultural, technical, and spiritual. We all create our own reality, so it’s natural for each of us to see what we want to see, or believe what we want to believe, in the message. Most people would agree that the central theme of the movie is choosing between the harsh reality of truth (Red Pill) and the ignorant bliss of illusion (Blue Pill).

For me, the movie is a metaphor for corporate life (Blue Pill) versus startup or self-employment life (Red Pill). The Matrix of most people’s working lives is the corporate construct — which includes big government. It is one that fosters dependency. The majority of working people in the U.S. get a W2, not a 1099, meaning they work for someone else, not for themselves. But a full 75% of people who get a W2 say they would rather work for themselves. They want to be independent — they want to take the Red Pill!

The fact is that people fantasize about owning their own business, but most will never unplug from the Matrix because the reality of self-employment is overwhelming to them. It’s a very BIG decision, one that would have dramatic implications for their lives. To be honest, most people shouldn’t take the Red Pill because, as Jack Nicholson said in another popular movie (A Few Good Men),“You can’t handle the truth!”

The truth is, owning your own business is not glamorous, or even more rewarding than working for someone else. Lots of people who have their own business hate it. They just hate it less than working for someone else, or they have no choice but to be working for themselves. Lots of people who are self-employed secretly wish they could do what Cypher did in the movie: become a bluepill again, be plugged back into the Matrix.

Starting or buying a business is hard work. It can be lonely and more stressful than working for someone else. You’ve heard the stats, most startups fail. You can lose everything, including your family. People who are not ready for this harsh reality should NOT even attempt it.

Still not deterred? Good!

How do you know if you are ready to take the Red Pill?

You’re an independent thinker and a rebel at heart. You’re still young enough to take on the world. You don’t have much to lose. Heck, you’re already $100,000 in debt from student loans. Why rush into a life of indentured servitude for the privilege of making those payments for the rest of your life? You’re ready to join the resistance. You want to disrupt an industry and change the world. You would rather die trying than live the life of a drone inside of the Matrix.

You’ve been awakened. You’ve been living the life of a bluepill and you know something is dreadfully wrong with it. You’re in a dead-end job, barely making ends meet, and your situation is not likely to change. People get promoted ahead of you because of politics, favoritism or nepotism, not because of merit. You’re not on a good path no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you suck up. You’ve also done the math. There is not going to be a gold watch or a comfortable retirement at the end of the path you are currently on. You know you need to find a new path.

You live close to a Zion and you already know some redpills. There is a reason that Silicon Valley and other metro startup ecosystems are so successful at driving innovation, disrupting the Matrix and creating new wealth. They tolerate — even celebrate — risk. They offer a community that fosters bold thinking, independence and entrepreneurship. The entire community is comprised of redpills. They can’t help but encourage you to unplug and join their ranks. If you join the crew of one of their ships, they will make you an owner. If you don’t already live close to a Zion, move there. If you don’t already have friends who are redpills, get some.

You’ve been unceremoniously dejected from the Matrix and flushed down the sewer pipe. You got downsized or laid off. You may have been a victim of ageism. You are not likely to get plugged back in and, if you do, the fantasy they will give you will not be nearly as satisfying. It may be too late for you to live in Zion. They don’t like older former bluepills — they don’t want any contaminates who might give them up to the Matrix.

In this case, you’re going to have to find a ship — a small one. That’s okay. Not to mix movie metaphors here, but the Millennium Falcon was an old bucket of bolts that was able to wreak some serious havoc in the universe. Get out of the sewer and strap yourself into your own small business or franchise.

You’re capable of being reprogrammed. If you look like a bluepill, think like a bluepill, and act like a bluepill, you will never survive in the redpill real world. Seriously, if you think you can simply apply what you know from the bluepill world to the redpill world, you will be doomed. To make the transition, you can’t have a fixed mindset. You need a growth mindset. You need to be coachable. You’re okay with starting from scratch, perhaps even risking your nest egg to try something entirely new. You’re willing to learn a whole new way of thinking, living and working.

You have a Morpheus. Neo had Morpheus to guide him from the Matrix to the real world. You need someone who believes in you — who will stick by you when fear and doubt creep in. You have identified the right mentors (coaches) and advisors. (To understand the differences, see my last post). They will help you figure out your options, weigh the trade-offs, and make good decisions. They will understand your needs, priorities, natural strengths and abilities. They will be honest about your weaknesses and blind spots. Only then will you be ready to join a redpill crew, or take command of your own ship.

You want to create a new reality and share it with others. You want to create a Zion. You want to be a Morpheus. You want to create a world full of redpills — with friends and colleagues who are awake, self-reliant and using every fiber of their being to thrive in the real world. This is a special calling. You have already taken the redpill, you’re just trying to figure out how to help others unplug from the Matrix and join you. Start a company, launch an accelerator, join an innovation center, or become a coach.

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Taking the redpill is no guarantee of happiness or financial success. It’s a hard life. But there is no better place to live than in the real world, where you truly control your own destiny. I hope you will join us!