I love today’s movie with all my heart. I was 15 years old when it came out, putting me squarely in the prime demographic to not just fall in love with this film, but let it color various aspects of my teenage outlook well into my adult years.
It’s The Matrix, and you can probably relate with what I’m talking about. It’s revolutionary. Many movies have tried to be like it, but none have lived up to the standard set by the enduring masterpiece from the Wachowski sisters. It’s my great honor today to walk you through some of the very best personal development takeaways from this incredible film.
Welcome back to SUCCESS Movie Rewind—the only podcast where we question the very fabric of our reality and examine ways to better ourselves at the exact same time. As you read on, remember: All I’m offering is the truth about the personal development lessons in The Matrix, nothing more.
Don’t refuse the second call.
I won’t waste too much of your time recounting the basic plot of this movie because I’m nearly certain you’ve seen it. And if you haven’t, this is your 23-year reminder to go see this 1999 cinematic marvel.
Let’s just recount the basic premise: We meet our hero, Neo, played by the widely loved Keanu Reeves, right before he is thrust into a world that was previously unknown to him but which is very much reality. Not far into the movie, Neo gets a call. It’s Morpheus (the incomparable Laurence Fishburn), and he’s guiding Neo to help him escape from the agents who have entered his office building to apprehend him.
The escape attempt fails because Neo refuses to do what Morpheus asks of him. And I can’t blame him because Morpheus asked him to climb down the side of a skyscraper. Neo is taken into custody, and it feels like a failure. He refused the first call to find his new life. But, as people who have seen the movie know, he doesn’t refuse the second call, and that’s how he becomes the hero we know and love.
In your efforts to grow your business, climb the ladder, improve your health or otherwise grow, you have probably received and refused your fair share of first calls. That’s OK—it’s not a sin to find your values and what you were meant to do through failure. But when the second call comes, don’t refuse it. If the phone is ringing a second time and it’s your future on the other end of the line, it’s a sign that you need to answer the call.
Listen to love when it shines through the matrix.
The Matrix isn’t just a sci-fi action story—there’s a love story, too. It’s between Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Neo, and it culminates in a literal life-giving kiss—but instead of the prince kissing the princess to wake her, it’s the other way around. It’s sweet, and it’s an example of love shining through the matrix to do something really important.
In much less dramatic fashion, you get little beams of love shining through the matrix—the reality you have constructed for yourself, whether it’s the workplace you’ve built, the people you’ve surrounded yourself with or the goals you’ve worked so hard to achieve. You feel love in your heart, and your heart comes with you as you travel from one reality to another.
So, when you feel love shining through the matrix, listen to it. It’s important. It could be in the form of someone reaching out to you—a loved one or a friend or a colleague. It could be in the form of someone saying they see something special in you and would love to work together. It could be a lot of things, and ignoring it would be a mistake. You don’t have to be on a mission every single day. Sometimes, you can listen to your heart and follow a new path—even if just for a moment.
There’s always another matrix.
When The Matrix ends, you mourn it a little. It’s such a great movie, and there’s so much more of this story to tell. Well, for those who felt that the first time they saw the film, there was good news: There’s another Matrix film—a couple of them, in fact.
We’re getting a little meta here, because “matrix” is not only the title of the film but a concept representing a constructed reality in the film’s plot. And here’s the thing: Neo sees some success in beginning to break down the fabric of the flawed and problematic reality into which humanity has been forced. But at the end of the film, we’re still in reality—it’s just a new reality. And that will be true no matter how many more sequels they may decide to make in the future.
Reality is inescapable. So, when you leave one reality behind, you’re not leaving reality behind altogether. There’s always another matrix, another reality.
How does that apply to your personal development goals? At the end of the line, when you’ve accomplished your goal, you will be sitting squarely in reality. It’ll just look different. Remember that—you’re in the real world, and you’re going to make some compromises and adapt as you settle into your new reality, whatever that may be. And that’s OK because it’s a part of being a person.
Reality is inescapable, and it’s never perfect. You can—and should—work to improve it, but you will inevitably be in an imperfect reality when all is said and done. Come to terms with that, and you’ll probably be in a much better place.
That’s where I’ll leave it for The Matrix, folks. We could devote a whole additional episode to this incredible movie, but I won’t do that to you. We’ve got another great film for you next week, and remember: I’m only here to show you the personal development door that movies can open; you’re the one who has to walk through it. And I hope you’ll walk back through our door for next week’s episode.
Alex Stevens invented motivational media criticism and reinvents the genre every week on SUCCESS Movie Rewind. Alex is also a lawyer, creative consultant, and artist, sometimes all at once. Alex lives with his family in Dallas, Texas.