I used to work with someone who was a film lover. While I didn’t see him as a mentor at the time, I definitely reflect back on the many things I learned from him and realize that he was.
His single greatest piece of work advice was, “there is no spoon.”
Taken from the movie The Matrix, the “there is no spoon” scene is seemingly insignificant, weird, and cryptic at first. As you watch the movie, you realize that this is actually one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie. While the context in canon is science fiction, there is a great lesson to learn in it.
Do not try and bend the spoon. That is impossible.
Neo is tasked with bending a spoon. He can’t do it, no matter how hard he tries.
The child in the scene basically says, “why would you even try to do something that you know is impossible?”
The work lesson here hearkens to Albert Einstein’s famous, “the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I once spent years trying to change the way a colleague thought about a given issue, and it never changed. They were dug in. Why would I keep presenting different ways to try and make them change their mind?
Instead only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon.
In the movie, the thought experiment that the spoon is not there is literal, because the Matrix is a computer program and the spoon literally doesn’t exist.
In reality, this is a metaphor and lesson about living in the grey and working smarter, not harder.
Sometimes, processes and planning do not make sense in the face of what is happening. Sometimes older habits that worked in the past don’t work anymore.
Remove the spoon from the equation and think about the situation from the context of problem solving.
Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
Learn how to break the rules appropriately, and you will free your mind to new possibilities.
Start thinking about problems in new ways, with fresh perspectives and start living more in the grey of life!