Matthew McConaughey Shares his Trick for Getting What You Want | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Matthew McConaughey Shares his Trick for Getting What You Want".
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- Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of Impact Theory. I am here with a face that I think everybody is going to recognize, Mr. Matthew McConaughey. Thank you for joining me, man. - Good to be here, Tom. Thanks for having me. - Absolutely, dude. I am super excited. Your book was so much fun, and I listened to the audio book, so I got to hear you performing it and doing impressions and voices. I was really into it. I actually had sat down at one point, I was just going to do a quick 15 minutes, and then I had other things that I had planned to do sort of in a different sequence, and the book sucked me in, and I ended up reading it, listening to it, in almost one shot. It was really fantastic. - Thank you, thank you, thank you. - Absolutely, man. I love that you've gotten into what I would refer to as the mindset space, just walking people through what you've learned over a pretty extraordinary life and career. What was the origin behind wanting to write the book? - I had been threatening to go away and see if those 36 years of diaries were worthy of putting into book form. I've been threatening myself to do that for 15 years. Never had the courage to do it. Figured, oh, you know what, in martyrdom, my wife or a good friend will look at those diaries and journals, and if anything's worth sharing, they'll share it. And that was sort of a, I was sort of chickening out with that idea. So maybe it was coming on 50, although I'm not a sort of a numerologist where I think like, oh, I gotta do things by a certain time, but maybe that had something to do with it. I hired a ghost writer first to help me. We had one meeting and then he got pulled from the job by his boss and that was the best gift I could have been given. That was when I said, oh, okay, you need to go away. And my wife backed me up and said, yes, get out of here. Take that treasure chest full of journals and go see what you got. I felt like I had enough. I didn't know what it was gonna be. I actually thought it was gonna be much more academic than maybe it ended up being. And early on in the writing process, I remember I had to pull back and go, just look at what you have and let it reveal itself. And what revealed itself was stories, people, places, prescriptions, poems, prayers, and a whole lot of bumper stickers. So there are my seven stacks. And then the central thing that came out of those was the title of the book, Green Lights. - Now one of the, I don't know if you'd call it a bumper sticker or a prescription, but one of the things that you quote pretty early on in the book and seemed to inform a lot of the core thesis of the book is the Gore Vidal quote, which is, "Style is knowing who you are, "what you have to say, and not giving a damn."
Matthew Mcconaughey'S Life Philosophy And Travelling Experiences
Green Lights (02:19)
And I thought that was really fantastic. And when I think about somebody having the sort of it factor that makes an actor memorable and allows them to stick with people, I mean, starting as sort of a completely unknown kid working in a bar where a producer happened to come through and I think about how you translate that, you go into detail about why that quote impacted you so much. What is it about that quote and the idea of knowing yourself that you found so useful? - Well, what better subject to study than ourselves? What better subject to interrogate and investigate daily? What's the one character that we are never gonna get, that we should never get bored with chasing to figure out, but also what's the one, it's also the one character that we can't get away from ourselves. It's the one person that we can't get rid of. So I have enjoyed and not enjoyed investigating myself through my life. I write about this in the book. I don't, you know, to form a personal style or to know who we are or what we want, that's hard to do. So I have learned to, by process of elimination, get rid of the things that you go, well, that is not me or that is just a fad. That's not gonna ever be classic. That does not feed me. That may be, for instance, there are certain pursuits we go, yeah, that may be an immediate green light that's just plugged into a battery, but that light's gonna go out because that battery's gonna die. That's not truly a solar powered green light. So how to style is finding those things where we go, oh, that's a solar powered green light. That's who I am and who I am not. So we figured who we're not first, I found that I was able to figure out who I was by process of elimination. It's also, you know, I'd rather be a good man than a nice guy that happens later and that's part of style. You know, I've always said this, I'd rather have an asshole than a dork. Why? Because at least I know where the asshole stands. The dork's trying to be everything to everybody that he thinks they want them to be. I don't wanna be that. I don't really enjoy being around that person because I can't trust them. And when I've been one, I couldn't trust myself. So style is also about, you know, once you do find your frequency on something, go forward if you're a non-tyrant and don't ask permission. And that's the not giving a damn part. I've found that the world will actually acquiesce and go, yeah, I'll give you a green light on that if you actually go forward and mean it like you're in, you're gonna do it by hook or by crook and not ask permission. - Yeah, there's several stories in the book about you not asking permission, whether it's stealing the lumber to build the tree house, which is a lot of fun.
Breaking into Hollywood (05:22)
And then one thing that I really liked was when you first came to Hollywood and you were staying with a producer and he basically said, man, you seem like you need a job. And if you seem like you need a job, you're never gonna get one. And there's something about breaking into Hollywood that seems like the most sort of psychological break-in where everything else is, it's more of a skill, right? Can you do the accounting better? You can get a job in accounting. But there really is an intangible thing to breaking into Hollywood where people want to watch you. There's just something where the fact that this guy recognized that after spending a night with you in a bar, I think it was in a cab ride home or something where he says, hey, you ever thought about acting? Talk to me about cultivating the I don't give a damn part and how that trip, riding motorcycles in Sweden or wherever it was, ended up being exactly what you needed. - So I move out to Hollywood. I've just, I did days confused the summer of '92. I go back and graduate from University of Texas at Austin in '93, I do a quick stint in this Texas chainsaw and a mask or film and then I drive out with my U-Haul and 2,000 bucks to sleep on the couch of that guy that I met in the bar two years prior who cast me in my first job. $2,000, I know I'm sleeping on his couch, not paying rent, but $2,000 is gonna go pretty quickly and I'm starting to, after about two weeks, I'm gonna die, man, I need to, could you get me a meeting with an agent? Man, I need to get an agent, I need to get a job and he snaps at me and as you read in the book, cusses me out and tells me, look, this town smells needy, you're done, what you need to do is get the hell out of here and go do something with your buds and forget about Hollywood and what you think you need. Anyway, I did, I took off with my two buddies with what little money we had and we motorcycled through Europe for six weeks. Well, by the time I got back, I forgot all about needing an agent or oh, I need to get a part, I just had great life experience for six weeks and so he then brings it up about a week after I'm back and goes, you're ready, I go, for what? And he goes, tomorrow morning, we got the meeting with the agent. I'm like, oh, great, he was right on the money 'cause I was able to go into that meeting and be myself, be involved in that meeting and not be so impressed that I got that meeting. I talk about that in the book, less impressed, more involved. It's a trick, but it works in our life. I mean, sometimes if something is number one on our list and we gotta have it, oh, we need it, we need it. A lot of times we don't get it. Think about it, whether it's that girl or whether it's that friend or whatever it is, man, if you make them the number one thing in your life, they're gonna go like, well, what else did you have going before you came to me? You know what I mean? I want somebody who had their shit together before they came to me a little bit. If I'm your everything, then I'm probably, a lot of times people will go or situations will say, no, we don't want you 'cause you need us too bad. Something about taking that trip to Germany got that need out of my mind and the idea of getting a job or an agent in Hollywood became subliminally number two on my list of priorities. Just by sure that I'd kind of forgotten about it and wasn't thinking about it all the time. Well, that allowed me to relax, be involved in a meeting with an agent where they accepted me to then go out on auditions and actually get them because I was like, I really want this, but I don't need it. There's a big difference.
Developing selfawareness (09:04)
And Hollywood is, and fame, there's a game in Hollywood. It is an affair. It's not necessarily a marriage. And there's a game to play and it's better to want it and not need it. - The idea of confidence, you've got the southern charm, there's no question, and I'm sure you have a certain level of awareness about that. One thing that I find so interesting about actors is they're so good at conveying emotion. They understand how they're coming across. And that level of self-awareness is obviously part of their power. When you think about developing self-awareness and translating that into confidence, is that tied to how much preparation you do? How do you begin to, in your early 20s, have the kind of confidence where you can walk in with a big swagger, not need it, and captivate people like that? - Well, I've always been very intentional. I will say this. Part of it is don't worry, don't give a damn about the aware, and don't get objective. Don't hop out of yourself and say, "How am I being received?" Early. The best work I've done, and I am very aware of that, but then the best work I've done in my career is when my head's down in the process, and it is completely a subjective experience, and I don't give a damn what you think about it, or what anyone else thinks about it. And I sure as hell don't give a damn about the result, because I'm in it. And I'm so in it that the last day of shooting, they yell, "Wrap," and I go, "Okay, I'll see y'all tomorrow morning "for tomorrow's work." And they go, "No, it's over. "We finished film shooting 'Wrap.' "There is no tomorrow." Then I'm like, become objective for the first time. So in many ways, and I think especially today, not just in acting a career, but in all of our careers, athletes, everything, is with so much room to be objective, what are we on our phone? There's a jumbotron, immediate response when we put something out. We may be becoming too objective, or measuring too aware, giving too much credence to awareness of, oh, how am I perceived? Kids these days, it's what they put out, how it's received. If it's got enough thumbs up, they have a good day. If it's got enough thumbs down, they have a bad day. So their entire being and our attitude and how we feel about ourselves is more reliant, we're letting it be more reliant on what other people think about us today than ever before. I say, lean into the subjective, I don't give a damn about what anyone else thinks, I'm done it, but I'm gonna chase down and do what's truest to me. And then it's time to pop out sometimes and raise your reviews or have a look at the jumbotron or watch that performance on playback. But if you're thinking about the result or thinking in the third person too early, I don't believe you do near as good or true of a job in the first person, subjectively, that you could do. - Yeah, your approach, I find very intriguing, in the book you talk about these walkabouts that you go on and I love that there seems to be a process to what you do versus if everything just came easily to you, it would be far less interesting and far less instructive.
Matthew on going on walkabouts (12:12)
But in the book, and I was trying to explain this to my wife and sister and I was saying, you've gotta read this book. It's actually really fascinating to hear how he ends up having a wet dream that sends him to South America to float naked in the Amazon River and in that moment, has these realizations that he crystallizes in this journal and then he comes back and actually lives them. And that, when I think about people trying to come up with their identity, trying to create the space to figure out who they are, who they're not, to your point, but they're trying to figure that out. They don't know how to create that space. The walkabouts, the driving around, the in your 20s you could have just posted up in Hollywood and gotten laid day after day after day. So the fact that you were driving around the US, floating in the Amazon, what's the intention behind that? - Yeah, well, look, after that year that I had in Australia where I was-- - Tell people that story a little quickly, the duet was absolutely fucking hilarious, man. - I'm glad you found it funny. I think it's hilarious, too. - It was hilarious. - It's a black comedy. So I graduate high school, Longview, Texas. Now in my family, which is a high-discipline family, once you turn 18, woo, freedom. No curfew, if you hadn't learned it yet, not gonna learn it. Well, I've just graduated high school. I got 45 bucks in my pocket from a job I got. I got a four handicap. I've just made two holes in ones 11 days apart last month. I'm taking the best looking girl in my school and across town. I've made straight A's so mom and dad are super happy. I got a car that's paid for and I got no curfew. And right out of that, I decide I'm gonna go away to Australia to be an exchange student. It was Australia or Sweden. And I remember writing down in my 18-year-old mind, Sunny Beach is L. MacPherson, English-speaking Australia. So I head off to Australia. And I'm told by this family that I'm gonna live with, we live here, it's a beautiful place, we live on the outskirts of Sydney, you're gonna love it. Well, very quickly, after I meet this family in a three-hour drive out of Sydney, which is a bit of an exaggeration of what the outskirts are, we arrive at this little small home in the middle of the country outside of the town. That was population 305. Definitely not what I thought of the outskirts of Sydney. L. MacPherson was probably gonna be nowhere close unless she was running across the ranch land out there. And there were no beaches in sight. They did speak English though, so one out of three. Anyway, that year there was a trying one for me where I had to find my identity and was forced to go introspective. I had run across some very odd dealings, and what was valuable about the year is, remember where I was coming from? All the green lights I was catching rolling? Well, all of a sudden that was a screeching red light halt. I had no car, I had no money, I had no girlfriend, I had no buddies, I had no golf clubs, I did have a curfew, and I just had nobody I could question. So I started writing and writing letters, and a lot of people wouldn't return those letters because those letters, I understand, they were getting very heady, and they were long, and they were laborious letters to whoever was reading them on the other end of the line. So I began writing letters to myself, and then I'd write a letter back to myself. Well, I won't give you all the details, but I decided to create resistance in my life, things that I can overcome daily. Basically, I didn't know it then, but I was just to keep my insanity. Sometimes when we're lost and we're like, I don't know what the hell's going on in life, for me, I began running six miles a day. I decided to become celibate for the entire year. I become a vegetarian. I'm convinced my calling is to go to South Africa after this and help free Nelson Mandela. So when I'd run that six miles a day, when I would stay celibate, when I would eat my head of iceberg lettuce with ketchup on it because I was a vegetarian, these were little things that I could achieve in the day to give me some force of, okay, I did that. Gave me some sort of sanity, but not total sanity. - Was it partly about control? That's a lot of sort of self-denial. It's interesting that you chose high-discipline things. - Yes, well, you know, trust me, there was a run in there where on Friday nights with the one bar in town, I would go out and drink a hell of a lot more than I probably should have just to escape it, you know what I mean? But during the week, I needed these little things to go, okay, I can check that off my list 'cause the rest of my life is anarchy right now. And I don't know who to trust, what to believe, what matters, this is weird, I think what's going on. I needed a few things that go, okay, you ran six miles, check, okay, you didn't eat meat again, you ate lettuce, check, you were celibate again, check. I needed these little, these restrictions to give me some form or give me some sense of structure where I can just feel my feet on the ground and go, I'm holding my head above water going through this time, but at least I know what rope to hold on to. And it's these disciplines that I put in front of myself.
The importance of structure/spiritual disciplines (17:31)
Anyway, the year was wild and carny. And a year though that in hindsight, I would not be sitting here talking to you with the life I have if I did not have that year because I learned to stick with myself. I learned, I was never gonna pull the parachute and say I'm going back home. Why not? It was wild. Well, I'd given a handshake deal on it. And in my mind, I knew. And it just, a handshake deal meant that much to you. But a handshake deal meant that much and it meant that much to my father and the fact that in my gut, when, even at 5.30 when I would leave the dinner table to go back for my nightly ritual, and I'd go back and I'd write and do these things. Even then, in my gut, I always had a hunch that wait a minute, you finished this out. You finish it out.
Deal with crises better (18:34)
There's light on the other end of this tunnel. There's something you're supposed to learn, McConaughey. I would tell myself there's a golden lesson in here. You don't know what it is. But if you stick to it, the lesson will be even more worthy the longer you pay your penance. So I saw it as a penance. I didn't know what the answer was gonna be. But the answer was incredible. Like I said, I wouldn't be here now without that time. It helped me deal with other crises after that, which I just didn't even give those crises its credit 'cause they were nothing compared to what I had just gone through. So I had callous skin in a way. And it helped me, that's when I really began writing in earnest. That's when I really came to know myself because I had to rely only on myself for the decisions and what reality was and wasn't. And so I came, that's where I got a great identity. And so if I wouldn't have had that year, for instance, maybe I would have gone to Hollywood and not been able to take those walkabouts when I needed to find my balance. Maybe I would have not known, hey, you need to go off and be with yourself. You need to go through some uncomfortable times with yourself to come out the other side, which always happened for me when I did take those walkabouts. I did come out the other side, shaking hands with myself and going, hey, it's you and you. You're the only person I can't get rid of. So let's figure out how to get along here. So those trips away on my own after the Australian trip were always about, let's go figure out, Matthew, what we're gonna forgive and what we're gonna say enough's enough about. And the first 10 days of those trips on my own have always been hell. I did not enjoy the company and the company was me until I got on the other side. After about, usually around day 10, I figure out what I'm gonna forgive, what I'm not gonna put up with anymore. And then we move on and then all of a sudden I'm enjoying my company and I'm having a good time and I'm present again. I recalibrate. - There's a subtle thing that's happening there that I hope people take away, which is you knew that there is something to be extracted from living life. So whether you would agree with the statement that there's power in loneliness, certainly you were creating situations from which you had the frame of reference, I can extract value from this. How did you get that frame of reference? That's so useful, but I don't think most people have that. - You know, I don't know exactly where I got it. I mean, I would say again, to call back that Australian year where I did not have a choice, where I was forced into that situation and saw the green light assets from being alone and quite lonely. I do think that there's great value in being alone. And if we are alone and we get bored and we don't like the company, ding, may that light go off to say, "That does not mean we need to pick up our phone "to get some attention or go to the bottle "to ease the anxiety or go online to get some feedback, "to entertain ourselves." No, it's actually a great time to say no. Sit here in that discomfort long enough to go, okay, until you come out the other side to go, "All right, I'm good with me again." Now, it's part of that, I write about traveling in general. Ideally, you don't go to a place, you don't, I always say this, I don't wanna leave a place I travel to until I get to the point of going, "Ah, I could live here, this could be my existence." And soon as I get to that point, then I'm like, "Okay, you can go."
Do those trips on our own (22:00)
Now I can go. That's the same thing in the personal journeys. Stick with it till you get through the uncomfortable times until you go, "You know what? "I can spend time with myself, I could do this. "I could do this forever." Well, then it's okay to go re-engage, pick up your phone, go see your friends, go have a drink, what have you, go look for those things that are other relationships in life. But hopefully not until, there's great value in not doing that until you go, "I'm good with me and me for right now." - That's really interesting given the context of some of the stories that you tell. So you've got the floating down the Amazon River, so assuming that that falls into that same camp of I'm gonna be here in what is obviously very different than city life that you'd been used to. I know you traveled to rural Africa, it sounded like at one point, and have a pretty interesting time there, including a wrestling match, which is a phenomenal story. So when you're there, what you're trying to process through is the whatever beef you're having with yourself at that moment, or is it something about a daily life that involves activity, sweating, finding a way without sort of modern conveniences? What is the breakthrough? - The breakthrough is, I mean, I don't go there going, "Oh, I gotta work something out." It's more about I'm going to put myself in a place where I'm gonna be forced to work something out.
Leaning Into the Uncomfortable Aspects of Travel (23:32)
And that goes back to that place you're talking about that's very hard to find. Sometimes we don't know what it is we're trying to figure out, but can we put ourself in a place that may be very uncomfortable, where you're gonna go, "Well, I'm gonna be forced to." So I go to a place where no one knows my name, does not have any idea that I'm an actor, I've never seen my face, has no idea if I'm famous, does not speak the same language, which is another thing to force you on yourself because you get in a Socratic dialogue because you don't understand what everyone's talking about. And you are then forced to have a Socratic dialogue, you're forced to put a pen to paper for your own entertainment. And you're forced to quiet times where you're sitting there wishing you could go to sleep because it feels like it's 10 p.m., but it's actually only 5 p.m. and you're like, "Holy shit, time's moving so slow with this day, hurry up." It's uncomfortable. Oh, okay. 10, 12 days after that. I'm not enjoying the trip, but I know I have a destination. I have a place that I'm going that's 22 days away. My flight back is not for another 22 days, so I'm not going anywhere for 22 days. And I've arrived and say we're on day 10 and I'm going through hell and not enjoying myself. I'm on the move, I do recommend doing these things when you can break a sweat doing them. Don't go lock yourself in a room unless you wanna pad the walls and put on a helmet and a chin strap and a mouth guard, you know what I mean? I mean, take a trip, Mother Nature has a big help. It has been for me to go off and then have a journey. Oh, I got it each day I have, it's a 14 mile hike to this place, I need to get there. Fatigue can be very good for us in that way and letting relax in our mind and get some things out. And then after the 12 days of not enjoying my company, that's when I usually have some sort of purge, wake up, and the rest of the trip is just glorious. And that's when the lessons start to come, for me anyway. It's that next 10 days after I've gone through the not enjoying my own company. That's when I start to, that's when my pens to paper writing beautiful stuff, truisms, things that landed, things that I'm learning 'cause I'm being very present. But the first 10 are just the stuff I'm writing in is the who, what, where, when, how, and whys.
Reaping the Benefits of Being Present (25:38)
All the questions, the mental almost paralysis. Well after that becomes, ah, now I'm seeing beauty, now I'm seeing poetry in life. Now I'm seeing how my actions reverb with life and it comes back to me in the same way that I gave it out. Then life becomes a dance and a song. And that's when the trips are beautiful. But only because I went through the, I stuck with the early penance of it. I wish I didn't have to go through that 10 days. I wish you could just be like, okay, I'm here now. It just didn't work that way. It just never seems to work that way. And when you talk about penance, basically there's, for whatever reason, for you, for all of us, there's something that's hard that we have to get through. But if we're willing to do that, whether it's sweating, whether it's doing the hard emotional work, that there's some reward on the other side of that. Absolutely, there's great value in that. We can deny it. I've denied all the time certain things. But I'm sure many of you, I know myself, when I keep denying it, it comes out eventually, and usually in a very awkward way. It's sometimes in a public space where it's like, oh man, that bubbled over. Then I just, ah. And I regret it. I'm like, you should have gone off and dealt with that on your own before you went out and said, oh, I can try to keep it at bay, knowing, 'cause it's gonna come out. It will come out. It will come out awkwardly in a relationship. It'll take it out on your significant other, a friend. It'll take it out on a stranger. It'll come out somewhere in an awkward way, and you'll regret it. I know I have. - Do you think that identity is something that we're, you're doing this internal work to uncover who you are, or is there a sense of creation? - Uncover or create, that's a great question. Great concept. How much do you uncover and how much do you create? I mean, I would have to say my first gut feeling is that those two are part and parcel. What you're uncovering, 'cause I mean, we all have everything in us. Every human has every, everything that every other human has in us. Now, we have it to different, we have different innate abilities to different extents. Some of us are born with a higher level of an innate ability than some of us, but everyone else has some version of the abilities that everyone else has. So I think we are uncovering it, but let it expose itself. But the creating it is what gives the uncovering, what we uncover some form. Because there's things that I've uncovered that I may go, oh, wow, I didn't know you had a talent for that, Matthew, but I don't pursue it. 'Cause I'm not going, no, I only need in my four avenues of the four things that I wanna follow through on in my life. That really doesn't fit in one, but put that on the side as a little hobby. Maybe you'll go to it. Just remember that actually, you know what? You're pretty good at conducting an orchestra, but I'm not gonna be an orchestral conductor right now, for instance, you know what I mean? So it's uncovering, but then I think the creation is where do you channel it? And I know I'm very intentional. I wanna channel, if we can channel our innate, what we do have a great innate ability with what we're willing to cultivate, work at, hustle at, read about, learn about, keep our eyes open every day through the world. That's when we can make, maybe have a career instead of a job. That's when maybe we can do something that makes us look forward to Mondays. Not everybody, I don't believe everybody can do what they love to do. If everyone just did what they love to do, we'd have an extremely high unemployment rate.
Finding Your Innate Ability (29:31)
- Right. - You know what I mean? So I have learned to love some things that I didn't like doing. I have, I still do things that I don't love to do, but I know, team me up for more time to do what I love later. So the ideal, I think, is if you can find your own innate ability and then educate and work your butt off to learn more about that. And if you can form that into something that is a demand, if you can make that something, you can supply something to the world that is in demand that maybe the world doesn't even know they're demanding it or should, then that's the honey hole. We can find that spot. - One of the things that I find really inspiring about you and how you move through the world is that degree of intention, looking for those honey spots, finding when you were sort of burning out on being the rom-com guy, you went cold turkey on that for 20 months or whatever before the next bout of job offers came in and now have really reinvented yourself and obviously stepped into Academy Award-winning performances and that is really extraordinary. When you think about creating that and being true to yourself and taking that risk to step into the unknown, how do you conceptualize that?
Identifying the Honey Hole (30:22)
So many people get trapped by fame, they get trapped by the success and they're never able to reinvent themselves and there's something heart achingly sad about the person who's primed past them and they didn't reinvent themselves. How were you able to do that? Have a whole second set of the highest level of success ever and which gives me the feeling that whether it's chasing being the ministry of culture or whatever, whenever you decide that you wanted to move on beyond acting that you would just have a whole nother thing. How did you not get trapped by fame? Well, it was hard because I, so happy to even have the job I have. It's so happy to be doing what I get to do but again, being less impressed and more involved, I had to go, wait a minute, this is still very impressive and you can still be very respectful of the situation you're in, Matthew, and you're affluent and you're doing rom-coms and you like doing rom-coms and I do and I did and I was shirtless on the beach and I was like, yes, and those rom-coms are paying rent for those houses that I'm running shirtless on the beach for. Yes, sir, that is I, thank you, guilty, fact. At the same time, I was like, I'm not, don't feel like I'm growing in my work and my life at that time had become extremely vital, meaning I just had a newborn son with Camilla.
Your Life Is More Vital (32:14)
Wow, the only thing I ever knew I wanted to be and now I was and here's this job that I held most reverence for in my life, fatherhood, now I was. I was, my emotions, the ceiling and the basement of my emotions, the range was so wide, I was laughing louder, crying harder, getting angrier, showing more joy, having more sadness, all across the board, all emotions were much more extreme than they were or could be in the work 'cause it's a very compressed emotional ceiling and basement that is sort of inherent to rom-coms. They have to be buoyant, they have to stay within a certain frequency and bounce along the clouds. If you hang your hat on humanity or get love as hard or get as angry as you might in real life in a rom-com, you can sink that ship and the movie's over. You know, in the rom-com, the couple doesn't make it back if you get too mad or too happy, you know what I mean? So I said, your life's more vital than your work. Okay, well if it's gotta be one way or the other, congratulations, Matthew, good, but can my work challenge the vitality I'm feeling in my life? So the work I wanted to do, I heard certain scripts I wanted to do, wanted to do Dallas Buyers Club at that time other scripts, nobody's gonna touch me with a 10 foot pole in those movies. All the dramatic roles I wanted, they're like no, no, no, not, but God, I won't finance it. Okay, so I can't do what I wanna do, so I'm gonna stop doing what I've been doing. So I stopped doing rom-coms, I said no, I stopped. Well, if the first six months of not doing rom-coms, I wasn't doing anything, only thing that came in was rom-coms, I said no, no, no, no, no. Finally, nothing came in, and for 14 more months, nothing came in. I considered other careers, didn't know if it'd ever work again, but after 20 months of being gone, unbranding as I now call it, being out of sight, not being in your theater or your living room in a rom-com, not seeing me shirtless on the beach, I became a new good idea for some of those dramatic roles, because where's he been? I don't know, I haven't seen him, where has he been? So I was kinda refound and looked at in a different way. But you know what would be an interesting idea? Who wouldn't have been an interesting idea for Lincoln Lawyer two years ago, but is now? We're kinda hanging. So it was a recalibration, but it was a long unbranding phase. I had to do that for myself. I loved doing the rom-coms, but I was getting the scripts and I felt like I could do the same script tomorrow morning. And I was like, that's fine, but I want something that's gonna make me sweat in my boots. I want some work that's gonna challenge me and make me go, I'm scared of this role for all the right reasons, and I can't wait to go attack it and see how I come up the other side. That's what I was looking for, and I wasn't getting that in the rom-coms. So I stopped doing those, and 20 months later, the roles that I wanted to do that did make me do those things came to me. - Now why do you pursue things that scare you?
Life Challenges And Lessons Learned
Seeking out what's scary in life (35:20)
Why seek the role that's hard? - Because it costs me something. 'Cause it costs. It comes with a price, it's a bit of that line, don't pick a fight, it's not really a fight unless you can lose it. It's not really a risk unless you can lose the fight. I feel more alive in them. I have an experience in the making of them. I'm nervous every day I come to work. I feel like when I nail a day and I knock it and I know I did, I feel like, yes. I have a measure at the end of the day of like, you set out to do something, you prepared for it, you had intention, and you did it. And maybe even found some magic in the day. That, I sleep good knowing that I accomplished that day in building the architecture of a character's arc through a story. And if I could put the whole thing together and it comes out, one whole performance turns out to be a beautiful song, an original song of that character, then I'm like, yes. And I know that I was highly responsible for that. I was not solely responsible, but the most responsible for that. And that gives me pleasure. That gives me gratification. That makes me feel, gives me significance. That gives me confidence. If I don't pull it off, and I do have a day where I'm like, "Oh, no, you didn't ever." And it was my fault. I'd still, I would rather, with these kind of roles, I can look in the mirror and go, "So guess who's responsible for not pulling it off? You, Conahay." In the same way when I go, "Guess who's responsible for pulling it off?" I like knowing who, you. And it was also, again, work that challenged the vitality of my life. Dramatic roles allow the actor to have as high of a ceiling or as low of a basement, from love to hate, from happiness to pain, as that particular actor wants to bring to it. That's what's inherently beautiful about dramas. Okay, you're the part. You're playing the role. How is, are you gonna emulate that person through yourself? That is a vital thing. That I feel, that makes me sweat. That makes me sleep better at the end of the day. That gives me a sense of accomplishment. I'm like, yes, I did what I intended to do. I prepared for it, was ready. Oh, the day didn't go how I thought it was gonna go. But I called audibles along the way, enrolled and still told the truth on my man, the character. That gratification feels good. - I love the concept of having to earn your Saturday, which you talk about in the book.
The story behind the life lesson (37:46)
My favorite story from the book around this theme is when you go to Africa and you get into the wrestling match and they're cheering your name, Doda, I don't know, it wasn't actually your name. - Doda. - Doda. Walk us through that story because the punchline to that story is a life lesson, I think, for all of us. - There's a few punchlines. I hope I hit the right one. If I don't, just follow me up and ask for it. - I will happily feedback your punchline to you if it doesn't come up. - This was the following, literally following, one, two, the third time I had this very specific dream. The third time I had it in over eight years. And the second time I had it, I went to Peru. In this dream, I was floating down the Amazon River on my back, wrapped up in anacondas, pythons, piranhas, freshwater sharks, et cetera, and the left bank of the river all the way down past the horizon was lined with African tribesmen with spears and shields. It was an 11 second dream, 11 frames, frame, frame, frame, 11. And at the end of it, what those pictures look like they would be a nightmare, it was a wet dream, three different times. So when I had it the second time, I said, whoa, okay. There's somebody, there's a call in here. I gotta follow this. So I chased down the Amazon, went to Peru. Now we get to, I have it again in '99. And I'm like, oh, geez, I guess this is telling me to go chase down the second half of my dream. Now what's the only other thing I know in the dream? Geographically, African tribesmen. So I gotta go to Africa. Well, I decided to go, I didn't know where to go to Africa. So one of my favorite musicians was Ali Farkatoure. And I'd been listening to him and I said, oh, where is he from? Niafunke. I get a ticket to Bamako, hitchhike nine hours to Mopti, get dropped off, meet one guy who speaks English, finds a guy that I haggle over dinner. And the next day, we're on a boat headed up the Niger River to go find Ali. We find him four days later. After I find him, four days into my trip, I'm like, well, now where do we go? I don't know what my, is this, is that all of my dream? Was that what I was supposed to see? Well, my guide, he's a very wise man, says, I believe there's a place that you will remember now. It's called the Banjigara. We go to the Dogon country. We go up in the boat and we go and we hike many days to the, from village to village. And each village you come to, we get to the boundary and the chief come. And if the chief like what he see in your eyes, he raises his hand. You give him a soft handshake. If he no like what you see in your eyes, we keep walking to the next village to hopefully find chief that like what he see in your eyes. Well, we go on the trip. It's beautiful. We're hiking eight to 14 miles a day to these different tribes, sleeping on the roof each night. It's beautiful. One day I get to this place called Bijamatu. It's a beautiful village in the top of the mountains there. And it's split. There's a Muslim third, there's an animist third, and there's a Christian third. And they all live together. Well, I've been hiking all day. It was a 14 mile hike. And I'm laying there like I did when I would arrive from these hikes. I'm stretching on the ground and working out the day's kinks. And when I would arrive in village, I was sort of the village entertainment 'cause my skin was light, I had a beard, who's this traveler? So the village starts to gather around kids and middle-aged people. There's about 30 people gathered around. And two of these young, strapping young African boys, they were about 19, start kind of... And I could tell they were challenging me. I look over to Esau, I said, "Are they challenging me?" He's like, "Yes, Dauda, they want to wrestle strong white men named Dauda," which is the name I went under David, which became Dauda. And he goes, "They say they are the champion wrestlers of the village and they challenge Dauda to wrestle match."
Who was the Champion Wrestler? (41:43)
Oh, here we go. My heart speaks, so I decided to stretch him. And all of a sudden, that conversation is gathered now, about 50 villagers around. All of a sudden, while I'm stretching, looking up at the sky, thinking about this challenge, the village starts screaming, high-pitched screaming. I look up, the two boys who were challenging me, boom, running opposite way, sprinting. And all the villagers are laughing and going on. Well, why are they laughing? Because guess who steps up where the two boys were right over me? Michel, the real champion of the village, wrestler. So the two boys were talking, I know he's saying they were champions, when actually this guy is the real champion. Tree trunk legs, burlap bag tied around his waist, no shirt. He stands over me, points down at me, points to his chest, then points over there. As he does this, I know that this is a direct challenge. The crowd's going crazy. As my heart starts beating, I'm going like, no effing way. And this year's going, are you kidding me? You will regret not finding out what happened. So I get up, stand in front of him, point to his chest, point to my chest, look over there, and head that way. Now where am I heading? There's a big dirt pit. The crowd goes crazy now. I've, here comes strong white mandata, and Michel are going to have a match. We're in the middle of the ring. I don't know what the rules are. I don't know if there's hitting. I don't know if there's biting. I don't know, there seem to be no weapons, so that's good. And, but he reaches down. He grabs my waist, really stern, and looks at me to like mirror him, and I grab him by that waist. He puts his other arm down. So he's holding me by the waist with two hands, and I'm holding him by the waist, and we're face to face. Then he lowers his forehead and digs it into my collarbone right here, this clavicle right here. Digs it in. I do the same. So now we're ear to ear, holding each other's waist, and we're moving down into this position, like two bulls in the middle of this dirt pit. The chief comes over, puts hands on both our heads, and goes, "Dot!" Crowd goes crazy. I realize that dot means ding ding, and we get going. And he takes me down. I flip him over my back. I get up, take him down. We go around and around. I get slammed. I slam him. He gets me in a leg lock. I almost lose my breath and black out. I come out of it, get him in a headlock. All of a sudden, the chief comes in and splits us up. It's been about, it felt like 30 minutes. It's probably only been like two, two and a half. We stand up. I'm pouring sweat, hyperventilating. I had these talismans that were sewed in my beard at the time. Two of them are ripped out, so I've got blood running down my neck and chest. My knees are bleeding. My ankles are bleeding. And again, I'm huffing and puffing. Now mind you, I was in pretty damn good shape at this time. I'd just come off this film, "Rain of Fire," so I was in pretty good shape. But still, Michelle was like tree trunk legs and is just a sturdy rock. I look at him, not a bead of sweat. Maybe just a glisten of sweat, but he's not happy. The crowd is very happy for some reason. He's not happy. He's just stone face looking at me while I'm going. All of a sudden, the chief goes, "Up!" Round two, waist to waist, head down the clavicle. Here we go. Crowd's going, "Ape, shit." Here we go, bam, ding, ding. We go around again. Same thing's going. I catapult them over my head. He comes down. I come in. He leg locks me again. We go from head locks. I get him in a Boston crab. He flips me over. All of a sudden, chief comes in, breaks us up, raises both our hands. The crowd is dizzying now, frantically screaming, "Ah!" Michelle runs away. Now it's just me. The crowd starts going, "Dow, da, dow, da, dow." And I'm just engulfed by about 100 of the villagers. Well, I go on that night very happy with my day that I accepted the challenge. Wow, I think I did pretty good. I mean, I sleep that night. I think I've kind of crossed a cradle of truth. I see the Northern Cross for the first time, and the stars in the sky. I wasn't looking for it. It revealed itself. Laid there awake saw 29 shooting stars. One of those moments where I really felt like, ta-da, I'm in the cradle of truth. This is it. I'm really on it, which maybe I was. But as I'm thinking this and feeling so good about myself, really feeling like I am now in tune with the one, divine one, I'm laying there on top because I'm about to go to sleep that night feeling so good about myself, so high about myself. And I go as I get a little-- my nose blocks up as I'm just about to go to sleep. And I had some mucus in my nose. So I sit up, hock up a big loogie, for a better word, and go to launch it off the roof. I had forgot that I had had a mosquito net on. So the loogie goes whoop, and just splatters across my face like an oyster. And I remember just starting to howl in laughter. Because I was just in the moment where I was feeling like, I am here, the chosen one. I spit a loogie in my own face. So touche. Anyway, the next morning, we get up to leave.
And as we get to the edge of the boundary to that village on the way to our next 11 mile hike to the next village, guess who's waiting for me? Michelle. Doesn't say a word, looks me in the eye. And as I cross the boundary to go, he looks at me, walks up, grabs my hand, holds my hand, and walked with me the 11 miles to the next village.
Accepting the challenge (47:40)
We didn't say a word. Get to the next village. Soon as I got to the boundary, met the chief, got left in. He gave a slight bow, turned around, and walked back home. I go to Issa that night, my guide. I said, Issa, let's talk about last night the wrestling match. I mean, I think I did pretty good. He's like, oh, no doubt. You do very, very good. Very, very good. Everybody believed that Michelle's going to have strong white man named Dada on his back in 10 seconds. You did very, very good. I said, oh, good. Yeah, great. He goes, I go, well, why was I wanting to cheat on him? So cheat on my name. And he was like, you big man in this village. Not because you handled Michelle, but mainly because you accept the challenge. When you accept the challenge, you big man in this village. But you also a very good wrestler, Dada. I said, yeah, well, I wrestled my two older brothers. He goes, you know, Michelle, he's not only champion this village. Michelle is champion this village and Tree Village back, champion wrestler. I said, oh, really? He goes, yes, Dada. You come back. We make money. And I went back there unannounced six years later. Michelle had had four kids, busted hip, no wrestling match. Six years later, the next morning, after Benjimatu, when I left to go hike to the next village 11 miles away, guess who was again waiting for me at the boundary who held my hand and walked me the 11 miles without saying a word to the next village, bowed, and walked back? Michelle. Yeah, I love that story because it's about accepting the challenge, right? So win or lose, it's like that Rocky moment, just going the distance. That is what matters. And looking at your life and the way that you've navigated it, and you really have to read the book to get how many times over and over and over you do this. Nothing in your life was self-evident or obvious, not like you came from a wealthy family or a Hollywood family. It was the scrappy way that you get the job and the bar in the first place and then obviously earn the respect of people. So they introduce you to this guy, but then you know who you are, at least at that moment in your life. And so there's that effortlessness, the charm to get it, but then always accepting the what if. And the big what if of not taking the work, it could have ended-- you said you actually seriously considered going back and teaching fourth grade or becoming a high school football coach. And so when people think about Matthew McConaughey, oh, yeah, I remember he used to act, but now he's a fourth grade teacher, for you to step into that space and be like, I didn't need to leave that space because I was OK being the high school teacher or the fourth grade teacher. I didn't need to leave the wrestling match because I was OK losing the wrestling match. It's just like accepting those challenges is why you've survived for so long in a business that eats people up faster than the NFL. Well, how many times do we think as our first thought, oh, well, if I did that, if I became that fourth grade teacher, that would be a demotion or a demotive move in my life?
Mike drop (50:53)
No, it wouldn't have been. It would not have been. I'm glad I didn't have to do it now in hindsight, but that would not have been a demotion. I would have found certain value that was going to fill my soul in that role that I was not finding doing the work I was doing in Hollywood. So it would not have been a demotion. It may have been perceived as one, but I-- look, and I've got friends, and trust me, I've done it myself, that lose a job and then get another, but won't take it because it's less salary than maybe the one they had before. And all of a sudden find themselves three, four, five, six, seven, eight years, a decade later going, they're still stuck. They didn't do anything. They're still saying like, no, I'm going to find that thing. And I'm going, you missed a decade, man. Just go do that one that you love to do that maybe was going to pay you less because you'd at least been building something through the day, and who knows what that would have led to? Maybe that would have led to something where you're getting paid five times more than you were doing something else you love even more. So a lot of times I say this in the book, sometimes it's not even about what choice we make. Just make a choice and commit to it and go and dive in. Because we can look up. Limbo sucks. We're all in limbo now with COVID. Limbo sucks, but sometimes you just go, I don't know what to do. I'm just going to do this one. I'm just going to do it. And if I do this to the best of my ability, sometimes that lens, somebody sees us do that. And they come up and they go, you're actually more qualified. You're overqualified for this job. You should be doing that. You're like, yeah, that's what I really like to do. They'll see it, but put ourselves in a position, right? Because you can look up and days, weeks, months, years can go by and you can go, I've been tiptoeing around here, not committing to anything for so damn long. I'm missing out. - You talk about us being in limbo right now. And I know your obsession is values, values in your own life, values to pass on to your kids, values for us as a society to take away. And you gave a commencement speech at your alma mater that I thought was awesome. And it felt a bit like a dry run for the book 'cause so many of the themes carry into green lights. But man, really, really truly, first of all, the book is amazing and I really mean that. The commencement speech was amazing. Some of the values that you talked on, I think are so powerful, especially right now. The world isn't fair, it's never going to be. Life isn't easy, don't want it to be, which I thought was really interesting. You're gonna have to earn your way forward and that we should want it that way. What are some values, whether those or others, that you think people will get more out of their own life if they embrace? - That there's a responsibility to freedom and that there is freedom in responsibility.
Concept Of Greenlights And Power Of Reframing
And that earn your way there. We remember the stuff we earn, the stuff we experience more than what the teacher tells us or what someone gives us for free. We just do, we broke a proverbial sweat on it, whether it was mental or physical or whatever, we built it. We understand, we felt how we got it, how we achieved it, how we got what we wanted. Those stick with us, whether we forget them intellectually, they were written in our lineage and they build resilience and they build a healthy, true optimism going forward to know that, oh no, I've worked with something before and achieved it, delayed gratification. Oh, there are choices I can make today for myself that will pay me back later in life. Mailbox money, as we call it in the entertainment industry. ROI, there are specific personal choices we can make and they're worth considering. Look, I'm all for hedonism. I'm all for immediate gratification too. Sometimes it's like, yes, dude, it's Halloween. Eat all the candy you want, go for it. It's not gonna become a habit day to day. There's certain nights where you're like, hey guys, tonight we're gonna blow it out. The walls are padded and we're off work on Monday. Let's go. I mean, certain times to say that's okay. But there's, you know, where is the selfish choice, the selfless choice? Where is what we want actually what we need?
Where is what we need actually what we want? Where is the best choice for me, the best choice for we? Where's the best choice for we, the best choice for me? That's the place, I believe, talk about honey holes, that's the real place to go forward in trying to find. Tea ourselves up for those green lights in the future. And all the simple things. Let me bring it down to a really simple. You drink coffee? - I do. - Do you prepare your coffee, put it in the filter, and pour the water in the coffee maker the night before? - Not for myself, but ironically I do for my wife. - Because you're teeing her up for what? - A green light the next morning. So she doesn't have to come in and go, where's that filter? She can just come in and go, boop, press the button. You're giving her a gift to her future self.
Greenlights Explained (56:16)
You're making something easier for her. It's a very simple thing, but it's a great little simple metaphor. So there are choices we make. If you're gonna say right now, I'm gonna lie, cheat, and steal to get what I want, and I got it. I got an immediate green light for me. That's a battery powered green light. That's not a solar powered green light, why? Because now, everywhere I go, I gotta look over my shoulder to see if someone's there that I lied, cheat, and stole from, and when I'm doing that, I'm stealing whose time? My time. Now I'm not freedom. I'm not free. I don't have the freedom. I didn't create freedom in my future because I chose to make an irresponsible act that I left crumbs. I've now got reasons to look over my shoulder. And the more things we do to create in our future that we gotta look over our shoulder, the more of our most precious thing we have in our lives, time, that we're stealing from ourselves. So it's not puritanical. It's just like, it's actually self, it's a very selfish choice. And I'm a fan of the word selfish. I've helped redefine it. But I believe that there are selfish choices we can make that are the most selfless, that there are selfless choices that we can make that are the most selfish choices. Those two are not a contradiction, and we see them that way. Responsibility of freedom and the freedom in responsibility. Life's more than just straight Saturdays with as much cake as you wanna eat. It just is. You will see how long you last doing that if you really do it. You don't last that long. Responsibility is appreciation of a past. It's building of a lineage. It's investing in ourselves. It's investing in something we started to build yesterday that we wanna take into tomorrow. That gives us freedom. So to actually have true freedom, we have to be responsible, more responsible for certain things, for ourselves, who we are, constantly investigating and interrogating our better selves to say, "I'm gonna be a little bit better at this tomorrow," knowing that we never land. There's no ta-da moment. And that is one thing I think we all gotta watch 'cause we all are so result-oriented. Oh, if I keep doing this, I'm gonna get to that place of pure enlightenment. I'm gonna go, "Ta-da! "Bullshit!" No, you don't. Can it be a small ascension of evolution? Yes. But there's no ta-da moment. We're always chasing yet. And if we can get comfortable and understand and laugh and be ready to work hard at the fact that we're all just, if we could just say, we're all just achieving our way to the unachievable, and that's as good as it gets, and that's pretty damn awesome. That's the honey hole. It's the third time I've said that in this talk, but I love that word. I love that, man. Would you say that your book contains the bulk of the wisdom that you'd wanna pass on to your kids, or is there a key concept that didn't make the book that you're trying to instill in them? It's definitely in the book. It's not in the book in a form that my kids 12, 10, and 7 need to digest it right now because there's just the way the true stories would raise too many questions where they may miss the actual moral of the story. My parents instilled, the first four times I got in trouble, and in my family growing up as a kid, our version of getting in trouble was getting a whooping, was for not answering to my name, for saying I can't, for saying I hate you to my brother, and for lying.
The Power of Not Answering to Your Name (59:31)
There were values instilled in those four things.
Reframing the Meaning of Cant (59:44)
Those were words that hurt. Not the whooping I got, but if I'd have gone through life, answered to whatever name, lying, thinking I can't do stuff instead of feeling like I was having trouble, and hating, that would hurt me. That would have hurt me in my future life. I would not be who I am. Those would be a hurtful way for me to go on living life, to grow into a human, and I think that can apply for everybody. It's something we try to steal in our children. I remember this great story of my dad after I'd already learned the lesson of don't say can't, but forgot the lesson. I was going out to do my chores on Saturday morning. Part of those were mow the yard, we'd eat. Crank the lawnmower three times, four times, five times, put it on choke. Oh, well, ah, dammit, it won't start. I go inside, I go, "Dad, I can't start the lawnmower." He goes, "I saw his molars meet." And I went, "Uh-oh," and I knew right when I said, "Oh, I said that bad word." Can't. He didn't say a word, he got up slowly, walked out of the bedroom, through the kitchen, out of the garage, around to the back shed where the lawnmower was, pulled it a few times, it didn't start. He leaned down, got a screwdriver, took something off, fixed this gas leak where he got the tube hooked back up so it was getting gas. All of a sudden, he cranks it and it's running. And he walked over to me, he looked at me, kind of leaned down on hands on his front of his knees and looked me in the eye and he goes, "You see, son, you were just having trouble." Beautiful. He was right.
Stop Self-Sabotaging (01:01:31)
Sometimes, you know, we can't do it ourselves, we have trouble, we can seek help. Someone else can help us do that. So we try to instill in our children that same thing. No, no, no, don't say can't. They're not 100% perfect at it, but we're trying to help them understand why can't and hate are actually badder words than shit fuck damn. You know what I mean? They're not good for you. They're not good for your future. They don't, if you live hating and feeling like you can't do stuff or lying, you're not gonna create green lights in your future for yourself. - I love that, man. It's the perfect place to tap out. Guys, if you haven't already, go get the book. It's called Green Lights. It is phenomenal. I highly recommend the audio version. He is amazing in doing all the different voices and stuff. You guys will love it. Matthew, thank you so much for joining me. And everybody, if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. And until next time, my friends, be legendary. Take care. - If you always do good work from your standards, whether you're in a project that fails or succeeds, you can live with that. But if you're doing things on other people's criteria or standards and you fail, you feel terrible.