The Academy Award-winning actor tells stories, plays the bongo and shares how to unlock your best life
In case you missed it, Matthew McConaughey jumped headfirst into the self-help world with his recent “Art of Livin’” four-hour livestream. The Academy-Award winner set out to ignite a fire in the weary souls of the masses and guide them on a wild, untamed journey toward living their best lives.
Drawing on his own storied life experiences along with insights from a gallery of special guest speakers, everyone’s favorite Texan dared participants to seize the reins of existence and craft their own extraordinary narratives.
Someone needed to report on all of this potential for illumination and self-actualization so I signed up and took the ride through the highways and byways of the heart of the human condition, guided by the enigmatic force that is Matthew McConaughey.
Supposedly 2.4 million people from 150 countries had registered for the event. Accurate or not I know I was dizzy trying to read the endless rapid-fire comments that poured through the chat window.
I was struck by the sheer number of people out there interested in changing their lives. It conjured up an image evoked by that Police song, “Message in a Bottle,” with its “hundred billion castaways looking for a home.” There is a reason why the self-help industry is an evergreen one, so many are looking for a message.
McConaughy had released Greenlights where he shared his philosophical musings and introspective approach to life so it was clear he was laying the groundwork for this next role. But when I tuned into the event I couldn’t help but wonder if McConaughey was going to be “McConnin’ me” into buying something else. But what could I do, the man’s laid-back, cowboy-style swagger drew me in though, and I gave it a chance.
Here are some key success takeaways that resonated with me. (For full impact, try reading them in McConaughey’s trademark cadence.)
1 — Don’t be a prisoner of your past. McConaughey saysmany of uslive in a state of perceived “lack of achievement.” We focus on why we are not where we “should” be and what we might have done differently. But we don’t give ourselves enough credit for all of the challenges we have overcome and what we have accomplished. Stop giving past failures too much power. Are we seeking and moving forward to a more meaningful chapter in our lives? Or running from ghosts of past mistakes?
2 — Work on what you do well. McConaughey says that despite his box office success, he’s not getting A’s in everything he does. If you are not good at something, just admit it to yourself. “If we wanna be legit we gotta admit.” (Yes, he said that.) But his advice is to build on your skills and interests. For things to change you gotta change. For things to get better you have to get better. Try to be great at what you are good at instead of good at what you are bad at.
3 — Open your unused gifts. Tapping out a beat on his African drum,McConaughey asks, “Ever notice how we love to show off our birthday and holiday gifts but not our spiritual gifts?” Instead of appreciating what we have we think about the things we haven’t got. Let’s focus more on what we have than what is missing. Consider this – You’ve been given the gifts of your talents but you’re leaving your gifts wrapped up.
“Every day try to close the gap between the person you are and the one you want to be.”— Matthew McConaughey
4 — Beware of outside counsel. Want to get real?Take a step back and evaluate who you have been listening to.A broke friend telling you how to make money? A single person giving you relationship advice? A sedentary relative dispensing fitness tips? Hot take — Don’t take advice from people not playing the game at the level you want to be.
5 — Instead of a “to-do” list make a “don’t” list. If to-do lists aren’t getting it done for you, maybe it’s time to mix it up a bit. Want to get fit or save more money? Instead of being stymied by exercise regimens or budgets start by removing some things that aren’t helping you reach your goals. Participants shared some of their “don’ts” in the comments. I don’t do junk food. I don’t do shots. I don’t do endless Netflix. I don’t do debt. Determine some of your own “don’ts” today and start from there.
6 — Wear your own glasses. Ever try putting on someone else’s prescription eyewear? They are often either not strong enough or else a blurry haze. Well in the same way our glasses don’t work for others. Sometimes the people close to us can’t see what matters to us. Your prescription is not meant for them so they may have a hard time comprehending your big visions.
7 — Boost your brainpower. McConaughey dropped some lines on neuroplasticity, “neurons that fire together, wire together,” and it turns out the science backs this up. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize and repair itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. A specialist in the field, Stanford professor Andrew Huberman, says we do indeed have the power to change our brains and reprogram our perceptions, regardless of our age. The brain simply believes whatever you tell it the most.
8 — Tap into your own “McConfidance.” Part ofMcConaughey’s appeal is that magnetic personality and unique charm. He exudes a positive vibe, and his upbeat energy is infectious. He believes that we are the conscious creators of our own lives, and no matter the challenge we always have a choice. So how do you increase your own confidence? Step 1, you have to start doing the thing. The trick is you don’t get the confidence until you make the changes. Step 2, do less of the things that take your confidence away. Become your own best friend instead of your own worst enemy. If you aren’t ‘for’ yourself than who the (bleep) is?
9 — Who are you? McConaughey says there are three kinds of people. 1) Those watching everything that is going on. 2) Those criticizing what’s going on, and 3) The “doers,” those getting things done. We all know there are too many folks in the first two buckets. You were meant to be in the game. You don’t want to get to the end of your life sitting in the stands. Whatever it is you want to do, start now, and make the subtle shifts in the direction you want to go.
10 — What decision can you make today? You only get one chance each day, don’t do it half-way. You are a choice away from a new beginning and a commitment away from a new life. McConaughey has played a wide range of roles in his career, from romantic comedies to intense dramas. He has demonstrated a willingness to take risks and experiment with his craft, which has earned him critical acclaim and a loyal fan base. Every day try to close the gap between the person you are and the one you want to be.
11 — Facing fear. McConaughey says, “fear is imagination undirected.” Focus on where you want to go instead of what you are afraid of. Fears and mistakes are the rights of passage to get where we want to go. Your fears will always be there and they need to be and we just have to face them. There’s always going to be the boogeyman, you gotta look him in the eye. If your biggest fear is failure then sometimes we have to chase down a dream just to find out.
12 — Leverage your own influence. McConaughey’s philanthropic causes include supporting first responders, promoting education and raising awareness about the environment. He says he wants to make a positive impact on the world and inspire others to do the same. McConaughey acknowledges that as a “star” he has a big platform. But he points out that you know lots of people he doesn’t. You live and work in places he doesn’t frequent. Your influence is greater than you think. You are uniquely positioned to reach people that “celebrities” can’t. So what are you doing with this opportunity?
13 — Check in with yourself. In his autobiography, McConaughey talks about looking for “greenlights” to guide the way forward. But sometimes life gives us a big red light telling us to stop, look around and check under the hood. Maybe we’re on the wrong road, or perhaps a routine we developed in the past is no longer working. You gotta check in with yourself every so often. Look in the mirror and ask, “Hey, how you doin’ on that dream?”