Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.
We’ve all seen that amazing scene in the Matrix, where Neo learns how the Matrix works… and when you heard that quote above, you probably said “whoa.”
Believe it or not, our pal Morpheus here is teaching Neo the same lesson you’re going to learn today. By the time I’m done with you, you’re going to accomplish more in one day than you accomplished in all of last week.
I have spent the past few weeks living like Neo, seeing how the Matrix works, and operating at peak efficiency. Instead of dodging bullets and putting out fires, I’m now more in control of life than ever before.
If you feel like your life is in shambles or you want to get healthier and happier but never have the chance to work on it, then today is for you.
It was a rude awakening, but I now feel like Morpheus, which means you get to be Neo.
Instead of learning how to dodge bullets as they’re shot at you, we’re going to stop them from happening in the first place.
Within a few weeks, you’ll be crushing every Agent Smith that stands in your way.
Hacking the Matrix is NOT a Band-Aid
When it comes to getting healthier, stronger, happier with work, or more productive with your time, a band-aid is a temporary or fragile solution to a problem without addressing the underlying cause.
Let me give you a few examples:
Let’s say we’re somebody who’s overweight that decides to go on a diet. A temporary solution would be to starve ourselves and run on a treadmill for a few weeks to a month until we can go back to eating like we used to. Once we reach our goal weight and go back to how we used to eat, we’ll put the weight right back on, and have to continually repeat the process.
Let’s say we’re somebody that wants to start exercising. If we have a vacation coming up in a month, and we suddenly start going to five days a week of bootcamps (that we don’t actually enjoy), sure…we might reach our target goal weight in time for the vacation to squeeze into that bathing suit…but two months later we’re right back to square one!
Maybe we struggle with depression and wonder if we’re stuck in the Matrix with our day jobs. We come home exhausted from work and have half a dozen drinks to help us forget the crappy day we had. We stay up too late playing video games – the only part of our life in which we feel like we have control – and then we wake up exhausted to an alarm clock, and chug a pot of coffee to get us through the next day of work.
Every single thing on this list is a temporary band-aid for a serious problem that is not being addressed.
Above, we are seeking temporary solutions to major problems - like somebody trying to follow the rules in a Matrix that doesn’t want the human to wake up. Somebody else is pulling the strings, programming your movements, and you’re stuck simply going through the motions. Trying to use a band-aid when the whole Matrix is set up for you to remain locked in this “prison for your mind” is like trying to hold back the tide.
If we want to start living a leveled-up life, we need to hack the Matrix to fit OUR lives, not try to operate within its stupid rules.
As Morpheus tells us:
“Some rules can be bent, others can be broken.”
THAT’S when the fun starts to happen.
Find the Source Code
As we said above, band-aids and patches are temporary, fragile solutions to problems that have a much deeper cause.
If you’re a programmer or coder, you might have been advised by your bosses to “just get the program working again” for a piece of software you just inherited. This requires you to haphazardly patch together a solution that solves the problem, but doesn’t deal with the crux of the issue: the original code was poorly written!
So, you’re going to spend hours upon hours writing temporary hacks and solutions instead of being given the chance to fix the buggy code at its source.
Instead of buying bigger and better band-aids, or creating more elegant hacks and patches to the code, what happens if we clean up the source code instead? By identifying the problem and then implementing a solution that addresses the cause of the problem, we can systematically destroy that end result requiring the band-aid in the first place.
Let’s get even nerdier: think about it like a video game. Normally you only have control over the character, but we want you to have access to the source code as well. If you’ve ever played an Elder Scrolls game or the original Doom, you’re familiar with this: you get to be the Architect behind the game – which enemies go where, if you get double the speed, can levitate, or activate God Mode.
Want to go old school? You’re the Dungeon Master in a D&D game!
Build the game yourself, and force the enemies to adapt to you and how YOU want to play. Pretty freaking awesome huh? It turns out, life is our computer program, and we can design it like an Architect.
On the recommendation of Ramit Sethi, I read a book called Work the System by Sam Carpenter. It might as well have been called “Hack the Matrix.” Although Sam mostly discusses the use of building systems in the workplace for efficiency, I’ve been applying these systems to my very own life. It’s the ultimate argument for “proactive vs reactive.”
So, how do we attack the source of our problems and put band-aids out of business? By finding the source code that sucks and rewriting it, and applying systems to stop problems before they start.
STEP-BY-STEP PROACTIVE ASS-KICKING GAME PLAN:
1) Identify the overarching outcome you want to have for our program. What does the optimal version of your Matrix look like? Are you in shape, waking up without an alarm, going to a job and home by 5pm to see your kids?
2) Identify the decisions that are made or systems that are in place that are keeping you from reaching your desired outcome: If you’re not in shape, identify what is causing the problem (lack of healthy nutrition, not enough exercise, long hours at work, stress at home, etc.).
3) Identify inefficiencies or issues in ONE of those systems. “I want to eat better, but I get lazy and only eat fast food because it’s so convenient.”
4) Fix the problem or the inefficiency that’s the root cause of the problem. Prepare meals in advance on Sunday so “lazy” doesn’t factor in come Wednesday afternoon.
5) Repeat the problem with each inefficiency until the system is running smoothly (aka you have built a new habit or the system runs without your input), then attack the next inefficient system.
Let me give you a few more examples, along with how I’ve recently changed my life to adapt the Matrix to the existence I’m building.
Be proactive with your health
Let’s take one of the systems that we’re hoping to fix, and attack our nutrition problem. If you are somebody who is overweight and struggles to lose weight, then we have a system that is operating inefficiently. Fortunately for you, because it’s a system, a few small changes to how the program operates can get to the root of the problem.
So, looking at our five steps above, let’s see what we can do.
1) Identify the overarching desired outcome: a clean bill of health from the doctor and a smaller waistline.
2) Identify the decisions that are made or systems that are in place that are causing the issue: although we know not all calories are created equal, we know that eating less is a step in the right direction for weight loss. So we need to identify WHY we are overeating or how we can start to eat less:
- Do you eat more food when you are bored? Are you eating when you are doing other things (watching movies, sitting at your computer, etc.?
- Do you eat more food when you are unhappy? It might be time to dig into the cause of that unhappiness, and your relationship with food.
- Do you opt for junk food or drive-through meals when you are “too busy”?
- Do you simply not know how to cook healthy food? Maybe you’re afraid of your kitchen and need to prove to yourself you can cook a healthy meal.
3) Identify inefficiencies in that system. We need to educate ourselves on what’s missing or how we can make an adjustment to that system.
NOTE: Just saying “I need to eat less” or “I will try to eat less” is a recipe for disaster. Remember, we are building systems here! If you leave it up to “willpower” or “when I’m inspired” you will NOT make permanent changes. You need to write better code from the start; vague or abstract doesn’t work when you have to dial it down to 1s and 0s.
So, using the example above, let’s put some rules in place to take action.
4) Change the inefficient part of the system:
Eat when you’re bored? Make a rule that you are not allowed to eat when doing another activity. Don’t eat while working. Don’t eat while watching TV. Don’t eat while playing games. This is the part of the system you are changing – otherwise you can eat normally.
Eat fast food when you don’t have time to cook? Pick a handful of healthier fast food options (like a salad bowl from Chipotle) that you restrict yourself to when you find yourself needing to get a quick bite.
5) Track your progress and repeat until you reach the desired outcome. After a month of focusing on your new system, check your results. Is it working? Keep doing it! Then pick another system and attack that with equal vigor. It’s working but not as fast as you’d like? Pick another part of that system and make an additional adjustment.
Put agents Out of Business
I can see you reading all of the above, and I can see you saying to yourself, “Steve, I know I need to make changes. I know my “Matrix” is broken. That’s not the problem. I just can’t get myself to do the stuff I need to do. I’m too lazy, too busy, and too good at procrastinating.”
To that I say: these feelings are all merely symptoms of a massively inefficient system! Remember, “F*** motivation! Cultivate discipline.” We need to build ourselves an environment that sets us up to win (Like a Batcave!), and we need to build our lives in a way that we can effortlessly operate at peak efficiency within our program.
I’m reminded of the following quote:
“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” S.Somerset Maugham
If you’re truly interested in changing your life, the more you can break it down into systems and then get to work on improving those systems, the more long-term success you will have. No “motivation” or superpowers required. Just results.
So enough with accepting the Matrix for what it is and trying to be a dutiful slave within it! Hack the Matrix, and start to build your own rules within it:
1) Stop dieting. This is a band-aid. Make fundamental changes at a deep level.
2) Find exercise that you enjoy. Changing your life at the source code means finding long term sustainable activities, not temporary miserable bouts to lose a few pounds.
3) Build systems at work too - go to work excited and come home proud. Here’s how to become more efficient in the office.
4) Start insanely small. Think big, systems big. But when starting to change, you can only change one line of code at a time. Pick one habit to build, make it incredibly simple and basic, and stick with it for weeks. Five minutes of walking every day for 30 days is more powerful than 2 hours of walking for two weeks and then giving up.
With each system that you change, with each update to the source code in your Matrix, you get one step closer to Neo status.
This is coming from somebody who used to stay up way too late, spend way too much time “being busy,” procrastinating ’til the last minute, and never getting to accomplish the things I wanted to do.
Now? I’ve hacked the code at its source, stopped fires from happening instead of constantly having to put them out, and I’m able to accomplish more than I have ever accomplished in the past. I haven’t quite learned how to fly yet, but the Agents ARE scared.
I want to hear from you and how you plan to hack the Matrix:
What’s ONE problem in your life that you are currently dealing with reactively, and how do you plan on taking a birds eye view of the situation and finding a proactive solution?
I want a concrete example with the NEXT STEP you plan on taking to hack your source code to stop putting out fires and running from agents, and stack the game in your favor.
Be specific. And take action!
Wake up, Neo…
photo source: Sam: Band Aid, Jonathan: Matrix, stefan tarnell: morning workout