Talking to a colleague today (thanks Mia!), it struck me what a great training aid for sales people the film The Matrix is, the one starring Keanu Reeves (yes that one!) OK, maybe not the whole thing, but certainly the central concepts. Allow me to explain.
Choose the Red Pill
In the film there are a group of humans existing outside of a computer / machine controlled reality know as The Matrix. These rebels are on a constant search for the person they call ‘The One’ who they believe will lead them in their fight to free humanity from the control of the machines. OK? with me so far?
The computer / machine ‘overlords’ need human beings to provide power for their vast networks, and have the entire human race in its billions, connected to their power grid to achieve this aim. Humans, being the difficult creatures they are, spend all of their time cocooned in womb like constructions, sedated and connected to The Matrix. The Matrix gives the humans the illusion that they are living full and rich lives, when in fact they are simply creatures providing the machines with the sustenance they need.
The reality the humans experience is entirely provided by the computerised Matrix. It’s a computer construct. Nothing that the human race experiences, actually happens. That is except for our small band of heroes and their latest hope ‘Neo’ – played by Keanu in possibly his best ever role (really). This group live outside of the Matrix, fighting for the freedom of the human race. Neo is our hero’s ‘hacker’ name, Anderson being his given name, and the name he goes by whilst inside the Matrix.
Thats the set up. And the story really kicks in as Morpheus, Neo’s guide through The Matrix teaches him the rules of the Matrix’s reality as he now knows it, and his ability to ‘control’ that reality.
‘I know Kung Fu’
In this clip, after having Kung Fu downloaded directly into his brain, Neo is trained in a martial arts while actually inside a computer programme, looking suspiciously like a dojo. We are left in no doubt that this martial arts training is in fact training in the ways of the Matrix.
Neo gradually learns that his perception of reality IS his reality. For instance, Morpheus asks him to make the point, ‘Do you think that’s air you are breathing?
Throughout the rest of the film we watch as Neo gradually grows into his role as ‘the one’ and takes up the mantle of the leader of the band of rebels.
The reason I like this film, apart from the facts its a great retelling of a fairly well established philosophical discussion (the idea of mankind being ‘fooled’ into thinking their reality is their actual reality is an old one, going back at least to medieval philosophy at least) and some great performances from the lead actors, is that it gives us a fairly easy to understand introduction to a complex idea.
Because, while the film paints the computers / machines as some kind of nebulous evil force, controlling mankind’s reality to aid their nefarious aims, the truth is surprising similar. At least, more accurately, my truth is similar!
Everything we think we know, everything we perceive, is actually ‘filtered’ through the ‘devices’ we use to see, hear, touch and taste. All these things are also run through our mental processes in order for us to make sense of them all. What our eyes see, and our ears hear, in a literal sense, are our perceptions of reality. In fact there is a very famous, and often misquoted saying along these lines:
Our perception of reality is our reality
Philosophers have struggled with this concept for thousands of years, and I am not going to go into much detail here, suffice to say, this part at least, is readily accessible to most people. This idea, that our upbringing, our belief system and our emotional intelligence quotient for example, all contribute to the processing and therefore our understanding of the environments we inhabit and the relationships we find ourselves in. And to add to that, the specific data our sensory organs provide to our brain for processing are also effected by the sensory organs themselves. We know for instance, not everyone hears in the same way, and not everyone sees in the same way.
Some people have a tolerance for lower tones than others for instance, and some people are colour blind. It’s not massive, but it means that each of us, while we think we share experiences, language and therefore the ability to communicate, will be actually talking about slightly different things, even when we are all looking at the same thing at the same time.
If that’s not complicated enough
Here’s where it gets a bit wacky. And I do admit I reserve this stuff for my ‘best’ students. The brightest, most engaged, most willing to learn. Given your reality is subject to the filtration of your senses and the comprehension of your mental processes, in others words only what you perceive it to be, we can in fact start to ‘control’ our reality.
I am pretty sure we can’t do so in the same way that Neo manages in the film (don’t think I haven’t tried!) but we can control for instance, our reactions.
Instead of escalating an emotional situation we can choose to stay calm.
Instead of reacting to the pressure of our environment, we can choose to not allow is to effect us.
Instead of bending to the will of the person negotiating with us, we can choose to stay relaxed and safe in our own comfort zone.
Thats the first step. For advanced students, we can also create a reality in which we are as good a sales person as we want to be. Or business person, or finance person (or whatever) as we want to be. Given enough time and enough belief, these things will become your reality.
Be ‘The One’ for yourself
Smile, and eventually you will feel happy. Start to see the hand of lady luck in all the good things that happen to you, and you will become lucky. Think and act like a winner, whatever that looks like to you, and you will eventually start to win.
The converse is also the case. Believe the world is against you, and it is. Consider yourself unlucky, and that will be the case. Think you are always missing out by the tiniest of margins? Thats what will continue to happen.
We can choose how to react. It takes practice but it can be done. We can choose how we will feel during the coming day. Sometimes this gets derailed by an unexpected problem, but we can also chose how we will react to these situations. We can choose calm reflection rather than emotional reflex. We can choose to be kind rather than thoughtless and considerate rather than selfish.
We can, in fact, shape the very realities in which we exist, and in which we do business.
We may not be able to attain the zen level of control that Neo does by the end of the film, with the ability to stop bullets in mid-air, but we can go a long way to achieving our most fundamental goals and targets.
How much would your life change if you chose to believe that you will definitely win, even if you aren’t sure when that might happen, instead of worrying that you may or may not win?
As a good friend of mine once said you’ve nothing to lose, and you don’t know, it might even work!
Finally, here is Neo for the first time realising he has full control over the Matrix and winning for the first time a battle with the computer agent ‘Smith’ – enjoy!