Everyone falls the first time

They stand on the roof of a skyscraper. Across from them, at least a hundred feet away, is another rooftop, on another skyscraper. Between the two? A sheer drop of several hundred feet, down to what looks like very hard, very unforgiving asphalt.

Morpheus is explaining to Neo, if only he can free his mind of preconceived limitations, he will be able to jump across the hundred foot gap, to the roof on the other side.

Neo is reminding himself that, even though it all feels real, this is only virtual reality. Despite what it looks like, this is not an elaborate plan by Morpheus to get him to commit suicide (well, hopefully not).

On the mother ship, an expectant crew watch what is happening on those virtual rooftops.

Their excited hope is rising above the clouds, their fear of disappointment threatens to drag them into the depths of despair.

They have taken big risks for this new recruit. They believe he may be “The one!”. The one gifted with unbelievable superhuman abilities in this virtual space. The one to free humanity from generations of enslavement.

They have already seen him endure gruelling hours of intense training on his first day. They have seen him battle their leader and best fighter to a draw in his first match.

But this is the test that will show if he gets it. If he sees the prison that has been built around his mind, and if he can figure out how to unlock it for himself and for others.

The youngest of the crew, fidgeting with eagerness and excitement, voices the hope in all their hearts “What if he makes it?”

“No one ever makes the first jump.” That is an older voice. One dripped in cynicism. He has been around too many times, seen too many dreams crushed. He is too tired to hope again.

“But, what if he does?” The voice of hope whispers.

Nobody replies, though their hearts echo with the possibilities.

Back on the rooftop, Neo is preparing to jump.
He has just watched Morpheus perform a magnificent leap, which managed to look both powerful and effortless, to the second rooftop.

“Free your mind” he says to himself, “You can do this, …free your mind!”

And he starts to run, as he gets to the edge of the roof and he leaps!

You can see the intensity effort he is putting in, you can almost hear his mind willing his body into the air, with all the power it can muster.

For a second, he soars, the desire flickers into hope, he might just make it! Only for a second though, then he is falling, plummeting, crashing down, into, what he is relieved to discover, is a slightly more forgiving ground than he expected.

Back on the ship, the young voice of hope stammers, now crushed  “What does that mean?”. You can hear the disappointment that threatens to overwhelm.

“It doesn’t mean anything.” This is a third voice, one of pragmatic experience. “Everyone falls the first time.”

The crew heads away from the monitors. The disappointment still there, but less overwhelming.

Because the pragmatic voice has reminded them of the thing left unsaid.

They have all been there themselves.
They all jumped that first time and they all fell. Then they got up and jumped again, …and again.
Until, eventually, they made it.

Everybody falls the first time, but that’s not the end of the story.
It’s just the beginning.

(Any similarity between this story and any other story may not be entirely coincidental. 😉 )

I think this is an awesome story. Like most good stories, it has lots of lessons contained in it.
I can’t even attempt to talk about all of them, but I will try to on touch on a few.

Probably the most visible lesson has to do with perseverance.

If everybody falls the first time, then those who succeed are those who get up and try again, … and again.

So you fell down, it doesn’t mean anything. The important part is what you choose to learn from it, and whether you choose to get up again.

There is no growth without failure. So failure is nothing to fear.

Your race is not over until you give up.

The lesson of perseverance is a powerful one, one that every budding sorcerer needs to learn.

It is only one of the lessons here though. We can also apply foresight (the foreknowledge that everyone falls the first time) to multiply the power of this knowledge.

Once we know that whenever we try something new, the risk of failure is high, then we can do something awesome. We can prepare for that risk. To minimize it’s dangers and maximize its benefits. Once we are aware of this, there are many forms that preparation can take.

Taking the story as an example, Morpheus was training Neo, same way he had trained many others.

So how did he and his crew prepare for the fact that everybody falls the first time? They made the ground soft, but still painful.

That way, whenever a new trainee fell, they would survive to try again, …with just enough pain to motivate them to do better.

This is an important one. Ensuring that a single failure will not destroy you.

There are different ways to approach this.

For instance, imagine you are designing a new product, you don’t want to spend millions of dollars and years of your life building a new factory and mass producing the product when you have not even figured out if you can sell it.

You can start small, with a handful of products and try to sell those. Then, whenever you fail, you can learn and you can improve.

In Silicon valley, there is the mantra “Fail faster, fail better.”

What they mean is that you should aim to test things out as quickly as possible. So that you can learn and correct any errors quickly. If you have an idea, try to figure out a way to test it in miniature form, then make it a bit bigger, test again, then a bit bigger and again. That way you are constantly learning and improving and you are also finding and solving problems that might have been hidden, before those problems accumulate and become too big to manage.

Another way to mitigate it is with practice jumps.

This could be practice interviews, practice tests (or even actual practice jumping).

One way of looking at practice is that you are giving yourself a chance to fail the first time and get it over with.

That way you can start learning the lessons of experience, in a safe environment. One that can allow you examine your performance, experiment and improve.

Then, by the time you get to the real thing, it feels like you have done it a hundred times already.

Everybody falls the first time. So if you want even a reasonable chance of success, you need to be willing to prepare much more than the average person.

While it might be your first time facing this challenge, you are not the first person in the world to face this type of challenge.

Smart people learn from their mistakes, the smartest people also learn from the mistakes of others.

Other people have faced it before and have learned lessons. Lessons they are usually happy to share.

Do your research. Talk to these people, read their books, learn their strategies and ideas. To help give yourself the best chance to succeed.

So you have researched, you have practiced, you have thought of every possible way things can go wrong and prepared for it.

Now you actually have a good chance of succeeding.

If, after all that, you get to the rooftop and you jump and you do fall. It will be extremely disappointing (and pretty painful).

Remember, Neo was “The One”. Morpheus did everything he could to prepare Neo for that jump. Neo still fell.

It didn’t stop him though.

Eventually, after more struggles, more learning and more failures, not only did Neo learn to jump, he learnt to fly!

And yes, he did save the world.

For Further Study

Principles of Success by Ray Dalio – A youtube video (Also see the book “Principles” by Ray Dalio)

The Matrix trilogy – Movies (By that I mean Awesome Movies)

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