Red pill. Two simple words … huge implications. You’ve either heard the phrase—or—you haven’t. It’s popular in certain areas of the Internet these days. The first time I heard it, though, was in The Matrix. Morpheus sits down with Neo as he discusses the “prison he cannot smell, or taste, or touch.”
“This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill: the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill: you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Now, The Matrix may be fictional (my inner nerd doesn’t want to think so), but the choice Neo faces in this scene is relevant. “Taking the red pill” signifies a willingness to find the truth. It’s a free-thinking, deviating from societal norms, attitude. He’s taking the path away from “normal” life and throwing caution to the wind. You can hear the warning in Morpheus’ voice at the end of the scene, “Remember; all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
I doubt you’ve sat across from your own real life Morpheus and faced the daunting music and suspense we saw in the theater; however we still face similar choices. These choices are presented in the few moments that exist in our lives where we maintain full capability to redefine the world’s perception of us. In these moments, we hold a unique opportunity to impose our will on the world in a fashion we deem appropriate. Before this, though, we must resolve to find the truth—and finding the truth isn’t something that can be done overnight. It’s a process—full of struggles, both internal and external.
See, (part of) the truth is: we live in The Age of Equality—the age where everyone is special. Losers don’t exist, because Dad’s Club and the YMCA give us participation trophies for showing up. Hell, we’ve been given certificates in grade school for good attendance (just me?), and we grow up hearing phrases like, “We don’t keep score. Everybody is a winner, because we all tried hard.”
We’ve grown up on blue pill “wisdom”, otherwise known as “bullshit”. Because of this “wisdom”, we are now presented with an interesting dynamic. It’s challenging, but not in the sense that the challenges are insurmountable, per se; they’re really just kind of annoying nuances that wear us down. On Monday, your girlfriend scolded you because you haven’t had an alone night with her in weeks. On Tuesday, your boss yelled at you for leaving early on Monday, re: taking your girlfriend out to dinner. Wednesday rolled through and your parents were still bothering you about getting a job to utilize the six-figure degree you earned. The cycle continues and restarts on Monday. Sounds awful, right?
Let’s reflect for a moment. Think about all the things you need to accomplish in a given day or week. How many of the expectations or “action items” are self imposed? Meaning, how many of these expectations have you given yourself versus the number of expectations others have of you? (e.g. girlfriend, boss, parents, etc.) Make a quick list…on paper or in your head.
Done? Now, review your list. If your list is similar to the list I had when I first did this, you’re going to be seeing far more expectations from external sources than internal. What’s the difference?
Internal vs. External Expectations
This might be self-explanatory, so bear with me.
Internal expectations are those you’ve placed on yourself. For example, I’ve wanted to maintain a 3.0+ GPA in my engineering curriculum while in college. That’s an internal goal I have of myself. This is something I maintain complete control of during my study.
External expectations are those placed on you by others. Similar example, in my engineering curriculum, there is a requirement that I must maintain a 2.0+ GPA across my professional engineering courses to graduate with an accredited degree. That’s a requirement set forth by the school and accrediting board. It’s an expectation I must abide by.
While these expectations seem to be related, they are entirely different both in the origin of the expectation and my perception of the expectation. With the internal expectation of a 3.0+ GPA, it doesn’t matter what the school expects of me. I need to get B’s or better to satisfy my self-imposed expectations. Had I accepted the external expectation as my bar for schooling, I’d be in the middle to lower half of my class. Otherwise speaking, I would have accepted a mediocre class ranking as my reality.
The case can just as easily be made for the issues with your girlfriend, boss, or parents. Your boss’ expectations of you can (and should) only matter if they line up with the expectations you have of yourself to be performing that job. If that job isn’t necessary to you fulfilling your internal expectations, then quit. Find a job that fits your reality. The same goes for your girlfriend. If her expectations of you don’t fit the expectations you have of that relationship, then you need to address the issues. Remember: you’re only resolving to find the truth.
All of this to say: accepting external expectations as your reality (re: “blue pill” breeding) encourages mediocrity in your life. With this acceptance, come low, internal expectations to do something truly awesome and inspiring, while the external expectations for us to conform to society’s standards skyrocket. With high expectations to flock together, we battle continual resistance in our road to non-conformance. It’s a fact of life, really; challenge the status quo and you throw off the balance.
I ask, “What balance?” because seemingly, most people are sheep. They’re non-thinkers and they march as an incredulous army. By challenging the status quo, you’re a threat to their delusional perception of how life is supposed to work. You’re pissing people off who are content with being average. Now, I’m not here to bash on the average. I’m just here to remind you that average isn’t for all of us.
It’s easy to see why people get upset, though. You’re a direct threat to their idea of happiness. Do you think Steve Jobs gave a shit about what other people thought of his dreams? Probably not. You shouldn’t either…in regards to how you’re living your life.
Take a look at some common examples of seemingly harmless societal expectations manifesting themselves into something much worse than their original intent.
- Everyone should go to college, get a degree, and graduate to get a job. Because…
- Without a degree, you won’t get a good job. And…
- Without a good job, you won’t be a suitable spouse. And…
- Without a suitable spouse, you won’t have kids. And we all know that…
- Being an unsuitable spouse will forever cast you in singledom, which everyone knows is the sign of forever alone-ness…because…
- Being single makes you unfit as a human being. Let’s not even act like…
- You could possibly be successful as a single person…because why would another human being not want to spend his or her life with someone who is successful?
- …you get the idea.
Listen, I’ll be the first person to preach that earning a college degree might be the best decision you could ever make. (I sort of co-founded a company on this principle.) But I’ll also be the first person to tell you that college isn’t for everyone…nor is getting married right for everyone. It’s right for some people, sure; but you get to make that decision.
To do that, you need to be your own man—and being your own man requires you to be masculine. Masculinity is about strength. It’s about having the ability to recognize what’s best for you and doing it. Masculinity is about realizing your desires and making them happen. Masculinity is about projecting your will on the world and living your life in a way YOU deem appropriate.
Simply, it’s a decision to be made based on the type of life you wish to live. If you’re ready to swallow the red pill…or even if you think you are…
Don’t do it because your Baby Boomer parents expect you to go to college.
Don’t do it because some sanctimonious nitwit scolded you for not being married with children.
Don’t do it because some CEO needs you to fuel the engine he built
Do it for yourself. Do it because you’re fed up with your current situation. Do it because your life is intolerable in its current state. Do it because living the life you want is far better than dreaming about it. Do it because improper action will always be better than proper inaction.
Understand that from this point forward, you’re only resolving to find the truth—truth in yourself, your beliefs, and your expectations—and the truth in others, for better or worse. You’ll have zero excuses from this point forward. No matter how much of a failure you think you are, no matter how deep of a hole you think you’ve dug, and no matter how down on yourself you might be, you’re at point zero. You can choose to retreat, remain stagnant, or move forward.
The caveat is that you won’t be living your life in accordance with others. If they have a problem, let them deal with it. It’s your life. Live it according to your expectations.
About Samuel Hershberger:
Community Director and Co-Founder of Undergrad Success, Samuel is a budding serial entrepreneur and male fashionista. He splits his time between nerd activities like reading and writing about education, personal development, social dynamics and masculinity — and awesome activities like street photography, sipping coffee, and discovering new music. Follow him on Twitter for a daily kick in the ass.
More Info on Undergrad Success:
A committed team of informed entrepreneurs, dedicated to maximizing the college experience for students and their communities. Inquiries are encouraged and can be directed via email or on Twitter — @UGSuccess.
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