Success Playbooks, The Powerful Philosophy of Greenlights, and Choosing The Paths Less Traveled | Matthew McConaughey on The Tim Ferriss Show

 Check out The Tim Ferriss Show Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  •  Matthew was set on being a lawyer until he read The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino and it gave him the confidence to pursue a career in acting
    • “That book is the most instrumental piece of literature and motivation I’ve ever read for me in my life”  – Matthew McConaughey
  • Most people only write in their diary when life is bad, but the secret is to write when life is both good and bad. That way, when things are bad, you can see what you were doing differently when life was good and start making necessary changes:
    • “I found consistencies. From what I was eating to who I was hanging out with, how much sleep I was getting to beauties in the world that I was noticing and really were affecting me. How I approached people, how I was approaching the day, how I was approaching conflict…and I found consistencies.” – Matthew McConaughey
      • “Dissect success as well as failure” 
  • The person you spend the most time with is yourself, so you have to learn to talk and live with them:
    • Don’t just constantly question yourself, also seek answers to those questions
      • “Stay there till you answer it. Wait till you get an answer.” – Matthew McConaughey 
  • The good times won’t last forever so there’s no need to self-sabotage yourself. When things do take a turn for the worse, get back to working on making life better. Matthew calls this lesson the art of running downhill:
    • “It’s going to come whether you want it to or not. So don’t trip yourself and face plant right now because you’re going to have to work your ass off here very shortly anyway.”  – Matthew McConaughey
  • “It’s okay to have a point to prove, just don’t always be trying to prove a point” – Matthew McConaughey
  • Whatever your craft, work at it so much that you make it look easy on game day:
    •  “To make it look easy comes from the preparation” – Matthew McConaughey

Intro

  • Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) is a Texas native and one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading men. He has won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club, appeared in more than 40 feature films that have grossed more than $1 billion, and has become a producer, director, and philanthropist with his Just Keep Livin’ Foundation
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Books Mentioned

About Matthew’s Childhood

  • Matthew grew up in Texas. His father was a pipe salesman and his mother was a mink oil saleswoman.
    • One of the uses of mink oil is to treat acne and since Matthew had acne as a teen he used it for several weeks. However, it made his acne horribly worse. Matthew’s father decided he would sue the company for false advertisement. 
      • However, around that time Matthew went to a dermatologist who put him on Accutane. By the time Matthew’s case made it to trial, two years had passed and Matthew’s skin was clear and he was voted “Most Handsome” in high school.
  • In the McConaughey household, saying curse words were okay, but saying “hate” or “can’t” was highly looked down upon
    • A lesson Matthew learned early in life: Even if you can’t do something, you can seek help or assistance from others to get something done

The Book That Changed Matthew’s Life

  • Until his sophomore year in college, Matthew’s wanted to become a defense attorney
    • Matthew wasn’t a reader growing up, but when he saw the book The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino, he felt drawn to it and started reading it
      • After only reading a few chapters, the book gave Matthew the confidence to change his life track and pursue film school 
        • “This book found me, this is a seminal moment in my life. I don’t know how or why but it is.” 
          • Matthew called up his dad to tell him. His father’s only response? “Don’t half-ass it.”
  • “I went down the next day, changed my course schedule and my GPA got me into film school…and I started off behind the camera and ended up as I am now, in front of the camera as well.” – Matthew McConaughey
  • The proper way to read The Greatest Salesman in the World requires each scroll to be read 3 times a day for a month before moving on to the next. In other words, it takes 10 months to read the entire book if you follow the author’s guidelines.
    • Matthew didn’t miss a single reading session for ten months. Even if he got home at 1 a.m. after a party, he would make sure he got his reading session in.
      • “I didn’t miss one single read for ten straight months” – Matthew McConaughey
        • It was the first book Matthew ever read cover to cover
          • “That book is the most instrumental piece of literature and motivation I’ve ever read for me in my life” 

The Importance of A Diary

  • Matthew has kept a diary for over 35 years
  •  In 1992, Matthew wrote down 10 life goals:  
    • 1) Become a father
    • 2) Find and keep the woman for me 
    • 3) Keep my relationship with God
    • 4) Chase my best self
    • 5) Be an egotistical utilitarian
    • 6) Take more risks
    • 7) Stay close to mom and family
    • 8) Win an Oscar for best actor
    • 9) Look back and enjoy the view 
    • 10) Just keep living
  • What did Matthew mean by being an egotistical utilitarian?
    • Oftentimes the most selfish decision for yourself is the most selfless decision for others
      • E.g: Matthew’s selfish decision to pursue acting resulted in the creation of amazing movies watched by millions of people 
  • Most people only write in their diary when life is bad, but the secret is to write when life is both good and bad. That way, when things are bad, you can see what you were doing differently when life was good and start making necessary changes:
    • “I found consistencies. From what I was eating to who I was hanging out with, how much sleep I was getting to beauties in the world that I was noticing and really were affecting me. How I approached people, how I was approaching the day, how I was approaching conflict…and I found consistencies.” – Matthew McConaughey
      • “Dissect success as well as failure” 

About Matthew’s Book Greenlights

  • What’s the meaning behind the title of Matthew’s book?
    • A green light is an event/experience that moves you towards your purpose
    • A yellow light is an event/experience that interrupts you from moving to your purpose
    • A red light is an event/experience that stops you from moving to your purpose
      • Sometimes when you encounter a red light, you have to go around and ask for help to make turn it into a green light
  • Matthew took 5 different trips to places where he was alone so he could focus and write this book

Thoughts on Stoicism

  • Matthew is a fan of stoicism and enjoyed reading The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
    • An important lesson Matthew took away from the book: The obstacle in your path may be difficult and uncomfortable but you’ll be rewarded for overcoming it
  • Ryan Holiday helped connect Tim and Matthew to make this podcast possible

Talk To Yourself

  • The person you spend the most time with is yourself, so you have to learn to talk and live with them:
    • Don’t just constantly question yourself, also seek answers to those questions
      • “Stay there till you answer it. Wait till you get an answer.” – Matthew McConaughey

The Art of Running Downhill

  • Matthew says that he officially became famous after the release of the film A Time to Kill (1996) 
    • All of the sudden, Matthew went from getting rejected by most casting directors to being desired by most casting directors
      • Because things were going so well and at times Matthew felt like an imposter, he would sometimes purposefully self-sabotage himself to make life harder
  • Matthew later learned that the highs never last and there’s no need to make life harder than it is:
    • A close family member will get sick
    • A relationship will fall apart
    • A movie will bomb
      • “It’s going to come whether you want it to or not. So don’t trip yourself and face plant right now because you’re going to have to work your ass off here very shortly anyway.”  – Matthew McConaughey
        • Instead, enjoy the good times while they last and when things turn for the worse, get back to working on making life better. Matthew calls this lesson the art of running downhill.

Changing Roles In Hollywood

  • For a period in his life, Matthew became the go-to actor for romantic comedy films
    • However, after doing several, Matthew felt that his work wasn’t challenging him and decided to stop doing any more rom-com films
      • He even turned down $15 million for a single role
        • For the next 20 months, Matthew got zero acting offers. He used this dry period to spend more time with his family.
          • After 22 months, Matthew finally started getting non-romantic comedy rules since he was no longer seen as the rom-com guy by the world

Additional Notes

  • “It’s okay to have a point to prove, just don’t always be trying to prove a point” – Matthew McConaughey
  • Whatever your craft, work at it so much that you make it look easy on game day:
    •  “To make it look easy comes from the preparation” – Matthew McConaughey
  • What would Matthew put on a billboard? “I value (fill in the blank)”
    • Identify your most important values and honor them
      • “The things we do today, the choices we make, are compounding assets to where we go in the future” – Matthew McConaughey
Tim Ferriss Show : , , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 12,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks