Recently I finished Greenlights, a memoir-type book by Matthew McConaughey the Academy Award winning actor. 'Wooderson' was the name of his character in his breakout role in Dazed in Confused in 1993 that ignited his career. In reading Matthew's memoir, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the wisdom and nuggets he shared based on his journey through life growing up in a blue collar family and eventually becoming one of the highest paid and well known actors. I wanted to share a few certain takeaways I found particularly interesting.
When he graduated high school he took a gap year and lived in Australia for a year. It was an exchange program that required him to move to a completely foreign part of the world having no clue what he was in for. After being placed with a family that lived hours and hours from the beach in a very remote, rural, and small town, it was far from the 'beaches and blondes' type experience he had envisioned. He wanted to leave soon after but he had given his word and affirmation to the exchange program that he would stick it out for the entire year, and he did. He worked numerous jobs and fully immersed himself into the community and was able to get a variety of different experiences along the way. What I appreciated about this story and related to the most was not only his commitment to stick it out (and follow through with what he said he would do), but also the fact that he fully immersed himself into the culture. Sometimes in life when we find ourselves in a situation we don't like or makes us uncomfortable, our first instinct is to escape it. However, by sticking it out and following through, generally we come out the other side a much stronger person. In addition to that, by fully 'immersing' himself into the culture versus just traveling through, he was able to get a much richer experience. I can relate to that because when my wife and I lived in New Zealand, part of the experience included getting an apartment for a few months and getting jobs in a local company. It really allows you to see life from the perspective of the people that live there.
Shortly before he auditioned for his breakout role of 'Dazed and Confused', he read a book called 'The Greatest Salesman in the World.' It's a short book about habits told through the eyes of salesman about 2,000 years ago in Babylon. Throughout the book the salesman learns certain scrolls that change his daily habits in order to enrich his life. Ironically, it's the same book I was introduced to when I was 18 years old that also changed my life. Matthew goes on to get the role in Dazed and Confused a short time later and the rest is history. The takeaway here is his openness to adhering to the wisdom in the book which allowed him to take ownership of his life and point him in the direction he was meant to go.
After Matthew had established himself as the romantic comedy guy (aka 'rom com'), he married his wife and starting having kids. However, he was at a point in his life where he didn't want to continue those roles as they didn't fulfill his deeper, inner desire to take his acting career to the next level. But Hollywood only wanted him for those roles, and those were the only offers that were coming in. He continually turned them down in order to hold out for a part that required a more serious and deeper role. At one point he even turned down $14 million for a part that would have only taken a few months to shoot. Almost 2 years went by and the phones eventually stopped ringing, and he continually had to second guess himself because he still had the desire and passion to act. But then he got a call about Lincoln Lawyer and the floodgates opened to a whole new world and identity as an actor. Shortly after he worked 'Dallas Buyers Club' for which he got the academy award. What I love about this part of his story is the incredible patience required to have his next major breakthrough. He had determined his values, what was important to him and his family, and he was relentless in protecting them even at the cost of turning down millions of dollars and the risk of becoming totally irrelevant. It ponders the question, How soon are each of us to give in too soon to our values? What's the time stamp or the price at which we are willing to compromise? It's a great lesson for all of us, and I appreciate the guts and fortitude it took for him to unlock that next level of success for he and his family.
There were some other good nuggets in the book, and it is always insightful to hear someone's path to success and happiness. I'd encourage you to read it if you get the chance. Have a great week!