I watched the Matrix last week. It's a long time since I last watched it and this time round it resonated hugely with how I'm feeling right now.
Being in a job is a bit like being in the Matrix. You're plugged into a machine (or a business organisation) and the Matrix does a great job in satisfying your needs and desires. It provides you with lots of tasks and distractions to keep your mind occupied. It can provide social interaction and it usually provides a nice comfortable standard of living through the monthly paycheck.
For many people that's fine and they are happy to work within the Matrix and trade their time and energy to keep the machine going.
For others there's a sense that something more 'real' lies outside of the Matrix and the machine they work in. Often they aren't sure if there is any way out, or are worried about unplugging, or maybe they just don't know how to do it.
Personally I fell squarely into the second group. For a long time I felt that there must be an alternative, but I wasn't sure how to unplug or what to do next.
Then just like Neo, I started to get messages from outside of my 'Matrix'. No not from Trinity unfortunately, but from others who had already broken out of their regular jobs and gone on to redesign their lives and setup their own businesses. I started to read more and more books and blogs on the subject and figured out the steps I needed to take. One key steps that a good friend pointed out to me was that I could never really change my life unless I took a leap of faith and left my job and paycheck behind. I needed to unplug!
So on a Thursday afternoon in a hotel room in Manchester I drafted my resignation letter. I sat in front of the screen with my finger over the send button knowing that if I pressed it, I would be quitting a great job and totally changing my life. I felt huge excitement but also total dread. If I went ahead there would be no turning back, what if it all went horribly wrong? Should I take the blue pill, delete the email and forget all about it, or take the red pill, send the email and go down the rabbit hole?
Morpheus wasn't there to give me any help, but I needed to know. I needed to find out what it would be like to unplug and step into the 'real' world outside of the Matrix, outside of the safety of the paycheck. So I took the red pill, sent the email, and the journey began.
Unlike Neo I didn't immediately have my cables removed, fall down a shoot, and wake up in a high tech hovercraft. Instead I had to work a 3 month notice period which is a bit strange as it forces a very slow and gradual unplug, but it does allow you time to start running some training exercises to get mentally and emotionally ready for the upcoming journey.
The training so far consists of reading a number of books and working through their exercises to get me in the right frame of mind. I've started to use the Amazon Kindle system because it allows me to buy a book once and read it on my Macbook, iPad and iPhone. This is great as it allows my to fill any downtime, such as commuting, with a Kindle based training session. So far I've read:
Rework: this is the excellent second book from the guys at 37signals.com which drills into how you should cut out any bullshit, streamline and focus. Quick read with some very useful tips and advice around why small businesses are often better than big ones.
59 seconds: whilst some advice can take a long time to implement, this book focuses on things you can do very quickly and easily that have a big effect on your life in areas such as happiness, motivation and relationships. I started writing a journal after reading this book and that alone has made a huge difference to how I think about things.
Wake up and change your life: written by Duncan Bannatyne of Dragon's Den fame, this is a super practical book that walks you step by step through the journey of becoming at entrepreneur with the goal of removing any obstacles you might encounter. Duncan's own story is extremely inspirational and he proves that you can start later in life with little funding and still make a success of a business. As he says 'anyone can do it'.
One thing I'm a little worried about is the fact that I might be eating the disgusting slime served up on the hovercraft rather than nice fillet steaks in the Matrix. But you know what, if that's the price of unplugging and venturing into the real world then I'm ready for it. Steaks can wait.