Red Pill, Blue Pill

Reality is harder.  That is the theme from the 1999 movie, “The Matrix”

Take the blue pill and return to a life conditioned by others.  Comfortable but meaningless. Take the red pill and live a real life.  Harsher but fulfilling.

The problem is no different for any of us.  Which to choose?

For most, the blue pill becomes the choice.  Comfortable job.  Quiet neighbours. Well-behaved children.  Good pension.  Orderly society.  Security.  A good life.

Comparing fiction and real life is problematic.  Fiction has to make sense and truth does not.  Reality has more dimensions.

Many people have found that, in the real world, the blue pill wears off.  The company moved to China, went bankrupt, down-sized or just topped out.  Maybe your career became obsolete.  Divorce.  Illness.  Who knows?  What we do know though is that most of the blue pill consumers are ill-prepared for the harsher life.

The red-pill gang do not seek comfort and predictability first.  They take risks.  They trust themselves.  They experience failure.  Probably more failure because the expose themselves to the possibility.  They develop resources to deal with crises.  They are resilient.

For them adversity is just a step along the way.  Most successful people have adversity somewhere in their lives.  Failure defines no one.

Consider these folks who went bankrupt.

  1. Henry Ford, twice before 1903
  2. Donald Trump, 1990
  3. Walt Disney, 1921
  4. Milton Hershey, 1880
  5. Abraham Lincoln, 1833
  6. H.J. Heinz, 1875

Fired from the company they founded

  1. Jerry Yang, Yahoo
  2. Mike Lazaridis, Blackberry
  3. Steve Jobs, Apple
  4. David Neeleman, Jet Blue

Adversity is not your enemy and it may be your friend.  You learn much more when you are wrong.

The problem is that as a society, we have been sold a blue pill hoax that says life should be easier.  Success is possible without risk, effort, deferred gratification, or time. 

Not so, sorry!

The red pill tactic exposes you to adversity and gives you the opportunity to learn from failure.  Start early when most of the failures are not life threatening.  It gets harder to make those decision when you have more responsibilities.  Recognize that some risk can be taken away by others.  Insurance for example.

Each of us is Neo.  We need to find our personal Morpheus.  We need a little more knowledge to make the decision that leads to our greatest self development.

It won’t be easy because if you listen careful to the media or politicians or social media, you will discover that some think there is a purple pill.  Like taking both.  Red when you want to be entrepreneurial, blue when you want predictability and leisure.

Taking both does not work.

Try something that has the prospect of success.  Look for your Morpheus.  Everyone needs a mentor.


Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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