Daniel Burke-Aguero Blog

Red Pill/Blue Pill

I was nine years old when the Wachowski brothers’ classic movie, The Matrix, came out. Now as a nine-year-old boy, it was definitely not encouraged for me to watch this gun-slinging, dark, action packed, rated R, sci-fi, shoot ’em up…but where there is a will, there is a way (am I right?).

I can still vividly remember being over at my friend Geoff’s house at 2 am for a sleepover and watching The Matrix on his basement TV. It was a few years later and we probably downloaded a poor quality version from the internet to enjoy while we chugged Mountian Dew and gorged on deep dish pizza. In the iconic red pill/blue pill scene, Morpheus offers Neo the choice between two pills: one would erase all the memories of this alternate universe he had uncovered and the other would be a chance to embrace the scary changes and dive in. In that moment of decision, Neo chooses the red pill and the rest is history.

Stick with me here; if you were to ask yourself this question: “Do you choose the red pill daily?” or the more realistic version, “Do you choose the uncomfortable over the easy way out?”, what would the answer be? Chances are, like most of us, the answer is no.

I’m no stranger to taking the easy way out. If anything, that’s something I struggle with. Maybe you do too.

The problem: usually it’s not a major life or death decision like it is in The Matrix. More often than not, it manifests itself in the day-to-day moments where we unconsciously choose the easy way out. Over time, these choices define who we are.

I want to be someone who chooses the uncomfortable over the easy.

Jesse Itzler has a hilarious book called Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet. Upon realizing he had hit a plateau in his life, Itzler decides to hire a Navy Seal to live with him and challenge him to get better. Without giving too much away (seriously a hilarious book; go check it out), there comes a moment where Itzler is getting ready for a training run and realizes that he didn’t pack his workout bag correctly. He thinks he will just skip the workout and do it the next day. But the only condition the SEAL had when Itzler agreed to hire him was that no matter what, Jesse would do exactly what he said. No questions asked. Opening scene:

“SEAL, I have a problem,” I say to him. “I didn’t bring any extra underwear.” “So what?” “I can’t run without underwear.” “Nah, bro, you can’t run without legs. It’s on.”
― Jesse Itzler, Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

Throughout the next few weeks, Jesse is pushed and pushed to overcome mental and physical obstacles. Daily, he chooses the red pill over the blue pill. Jesse is held accountable to follow through on things he said he would do but that often were hard and uncomfortable. (Think: running 10 miles in a blizzard and then jumping into a frozen lake to get better.) Jesse sums it up though by saying, “I learned that by constantly doing things that are hard and making myself uncomfortable, I improve my ability to handle obstacles. I get comfortable being uncomfortable—and that’s real mental toughness.”

I want to be someone who chooses the uncomfortable over the easy.

When I sold books with the Southwestern Company in my early 20s, we had a habit of waking up and taking a cold shower every day. The science here is that a cold shower increases immunity, promotes faster blood circulation, higher testosterone, better hair, less emotions, more alertness, kills depression, and increases muscle recovery (to name a few). Don’t knock it till you try it. There is something awesome about kick-starting your day with a little hypothermia before 7 am.

The most important part, though, was that I never wanted to do it.

I knew it would help me have a better day. I knew I didn’t want to but when I forced myself to jump into the arctic circle, it worked. It was a small uncomfortable thing that I chose to do every day. It was a little victory to start my day. I like to think that, like Jesse, consciously choosing the small uncomfortable situations over and over can give us the confidence to push through the bigger uncomfortable challenges in life. It did then.

I want to be someone who chooses the uncomfortable over the easy.

So lately, I’ve been looking back at the end of the day or the end of the week and I reflect on what choices I’ve been making. I’ve started to see that more often than not, I can choose the easy way out on the little things. The things that “don’t really matter.” Putting away the dishes at night, getting in the full workout at the gym, or reading during my quiet time for the full 30 minutes. Because it’s not that big of a deal, right?

And you know what? I don’t like that feeling.

For me, I don’t like looking back at the end of a day or a week and realizing that I definitely could have pushed through the little uncomfortable moments and not fallen victim to my own excuses.  I don’t like being on a call with a teammate and making an excuse for why I didn’t do what I said I would. I don’t like looking back and seeing that I’m (sometimes) not pushing myself to be better.

I’ll leave it here: if you are like me and you too find yourself taking the easy way out, can you find one spot this week where you draw the line in the sand? I know I can.

Choose where you will take the red pill, where you will take the cold shower, where you will commit to something that might be a bit uncomfortable and tell someone about it.

Take the red pill.

I want to be someone who chooses the uncomfortable over the easy.

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