Live On Purpose.


14. Fear, Doubt, and Disbelief

If you've ever seen The Matrix, one of the first films by the Wachowski siblings', you know the scene I'm talking about.

But in case you haven't seen it, I'll catch you up a bit. The premise of The Matrix is that a war will break out between mankind and the AI machines we create in the not-too-distant future. Mankind has nearly lost the battle when we decide, in a last effort to survive, to scorch the Earth's sky, permanently blotting out the sun, which we believed the solar-powered machines needed for energy. But before they run out of energy, the machines defeat the humans, wire their brains into a computer simulation of reality called the Matrix to make us believe everything is normal, and feed off the energy our bodies produce. They find a way to artifically grow humans so they can keep our actual bodies in tubes all our lives and liquify the dead bodies to feed them to the next generation.

Or, alternately, since the Matrix simulation appears to exist right around the turn of the 21st century, this has already happened and we're living inside the Matrix right now- whichever sounds more dystopian to you.

Still with me?

Morpheus (the guy with the glasses) is part of the final resistance of mankind against the machines, because he is one of the few whose mind has been freed from the Matrix. He frees Neo (the hero, visible in Morpheus's glasses in the picture), because he believes Neo is The One- a Messiah-like figure who is supposed to defeat the machines and free humanity.

In one scene, Morpheus is teaching Neo that when he is in the Matrix, laws like gravity and physics don't apply because they're inside a computer program. He tells Neo, "You need to let it all go... Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind." And then he jumps about 1000 feet from the top of one skyscraper to another.

Neo tries to follow suit and fails miserably- he makes it about halfway and then lands flat on his face on the asphalt 80 stories below (not dying because, well, he's in a computer program). The reason is that Neo has not yet freed his own mind from fear, doubt, and disbelief. He does not yet believe that he is the One.

I went on this extensive Matrix anecdote for a reason: I've observed that most people around me are a lot like Neo on his first jump. They're perfectly capable of improving their lifestyles, relationships, and careers- in other words, perfectly capable of being immensely successful- but they don't believe in themselves, so they don't do it. They don't have the confidence to learn something new, meet new people, and build the life they want, so they get stuck in place, hanging out with people that don't really help them grow and doing the same job they don't like for years on end.

What are you trying to tell me, that I can dodge bullets?

What are you trying to tell me, that I can dodge bullets?

It's perfectly fine for people to screw up and be nervous sometimes. But I feel as though there's a strange fear of success (even moderate success that requires little risk) in our culture. I think part of the reason is that we struggle to differentiate between confidence and cockiness. If someone is devoted to achieving their goals and is working towards them, whether those goals relate to their lifestyle, relationships, career, or health, that is nothing more than confidence, which is 100% okay. Cockiness is bragging and rubbing success in others' faces, which is not okay.

Put another way, I think we're afraid that if we act confident, we will come across as arrogant. This is likely because confident people are often ridiculed by unhappy people, because it's easy to be a critic of anothers' work.

But I think it is of the utmost importance to ignore the critics unless they have something of genuine value to say. It is too easy to allow others' criticism and negativity to hold you back from achieving your goals. Negative, unhappy, toxic people will tell you that you cannot accomplish what you want to accomplish or list all the reasons why your ideas won't work. This is no different from what happens when you come up with an excuse not to try on your own- it paralyzes you with doubt.

Don't allow others to stop you, and certainly don't allow your own worries to stop you. Let go of the fear, the doubt, and the disbelief.

Free your mind.

No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you are ready, you won't have to.

No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you are ready, you won't have to.

Dan RiceComment