“There is no spoon.”

In 2017, I came back completely transformed by one of the most fulfilling years of my life:

I had spent a year studying East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, California, and two months practicing Integral Yoga at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India. The return to France was rough, but thanks to a lot of support, I got back on my feet and was soon teaching the Productive Behaviors (“Soft Skills” should be called the “Hard Skills”) workshop to ESSEC BBA students with the team led by Mathieu Bouchaert and Laura De Boisset. We were asked to send a picture of ourself and a quote that defines us to display on a screen for the kick-off session with the hundreds of students sitting in the main auditorium at ESSEC.

Here is what my slide looked like:

The sentence “There is no spoon.” comes from The Matrix:

Indeed, in this very short explanation is a deeper level of understanding or reality:

Instead of Newtonian physics where matter is fixed, we shift our understanding to the infinite possibilities offered by quantum mechanics. We don’t perceive things as solid matter anymore, but shift to seeing that our mind perceives/creates our reality. There is no spoon “out there”, but the spoon is simply a projection from our mind on “the outside”, which is in reality inside us.

Once we understand that, we can play a wholly (holy?) different game in the Matrix.

What can we do with this realization? We can have a lot of fun, and do a lot of good in the world. We understand that when we look at “a spoon” (or anything else), this perceived object is “empty”, or, in other words, has an “empty potential”. The proverbial glass of water that is half full (or half-empty) is full of potential. With my free will and conscious choice, I get to do whatever I feel like with it:

Am I going to drink it?

Fill it up?

Add some colorant to it?

Add a slice of lemon?

Throw it against a wall?

That is the empty potential of all things described in The Diamond Cutter (check out my book review here).

It is neither good nor bad, positive nor negative (some people like to debate whether the glass half full is negative or whether it is the half-empty which is negative. They will argue quite a bit to defend their view. In reality, it is neither/nor, both/and).

Fast forward a few years, I am standing on stage in the same ESSEC amphitheater, for the Productive Behaviors workshop. And I share a story with the students:

“There is no spoon.”

Now you might be thinking:

“That’s a nice story, but how do I apply this in my everyday life?”


Take a situation, that you feel stuck in.

Take the biggest challenge or setback you are facing right now.

(That’s your glass of water half-empty/half full).

If that makes you feel better, write down on a piece of paper why this situation sucks so much:

What is challenging about it?

What emotions are you feeling when you think about it? (Anger? Fear? Frustration? Check out for more on this NVC inventory of feelings)

Who would you be without the thought that it is a challenging situation? (Being Free? Happy? More Successful? At Peace? …)

OK. Now, I want you to look at that situation, and find out 3 Hidden Gifts in this situation.

And write them down.

I’ll give you an example:

Years ago, I had a big challenge with a business partner. His company owed me 24 000 euros for work I had performed. His company was going under, and he couldn’t pay me.

I did feel frustration, sadness, anger, and it was challenging because I knew he was doing his best in addition to being the son of my mentor, who had just past away (so he had that grief to process too). At that moment he simply wasn’t capable of delivering.

There was a lot of irresponsibility on my side, and I know how I created that situation. But that’s not the point of this article.

Here are 3 hidden gifts that I found for this situation (I could find many more, but I’ll stick to 3):

  1. It forced me (helped me) to find other business partners and reduce my dependency on one main (unreliable) client which was responsible for 80% of my income)
  2. It helped me transition to a field I really wanted to work in (negotiation and conflict resolution), rather than stick only to management and leadership
  3. It helped me grow up and get a more mature and responsible sense of business relationships, protect my own interests, develop my assertiveness (which I teach in the Productive Behaviors workshop!), and know today what are red flags in business relationships, and knowing that I can show my teeth if I need to (that helps to protect my own interests, and helps my business partners to stick to their commitments and be in integrity with themselves – so showing your teeth is actually win-win for all)

How about you:

What are the 3 hidden gifts in your situation?

(It will be easier for you to find your 3 hidden gifts if you have first processed all the challenging emotions as you did above).

What are your insights from reading this article?

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