YAPClassic: Matthew McConaughey on Developing Confidence and Turning Red Lights into Green Lights

YAPClassic: Matthew McConaughey on Developing Confidence and Turning Red Lights into Green Lights

YAPClassic: Matthew McConaughey on Developing Confidence and Turning Red Lights into Green Lights

When Matthew McConaughey was a child, he entered a Little Mr. Texas contest. His mom told him he won the contest, and he believed that for over 41 years. It wasn’t until 2018 that he looked at the trophy and realized that he won runner-up. Still, the confidence that Matthew’s mother instilled in him by telling him he won contributed to the massive success he has had as an actor, producer, and best-selling author. In this episode of YAPClassic, Hala and Matthew discuss Matthew’s childhood and the origins of his confidence, his best-selling book, Greenlights, how to turn red and yellow lights to green lights, and some life lessons he learned along the way.

Matthew McConaughey is an Academy Award-winning actor and the author of the New York Times best-selling book Greenlights. He has appeared in over 50 films, including Dazed and Confused, Interstellar, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Matthew is also a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as Minister of Culture/M.O.C. for the University of Texas and the City of Austin.


In this episode, Hala and Matthew will discuss:

– Why you should journal about both your successes and failures

– Defining “Greenlights”

– Origin of Matthew’s confidence

– Matthew’s decision to go to a less expensive college

– Why Matthew went to film school

– On Dazed and Confused and the importance of preparation

– Experience with romantic comedy movies

– Matthew’s thoughts on celebrity status

– The Just Keep Livin’ Foundation

– Matthew’s secret to profiting in life

– And other topics…


Matthew McConaughey is an Academy Award-winning actor and the author of the New York Times best-selling book Greenlights. Matthew is also a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as Minister of Culture/M.O.C. for the University of Texas and the City of Austin. He is also a brand ambassador for Lincoln Motor Company, an owner of the Major League Soccer club Austin FC, and co-creator of Wild Turkey Longbranch bourbon. Matthew and his wife, Camila, founded The Just Keep Livin’ Foundation in 2009, which helps at-risk high school students make healthier mind, body, and spirit choices.


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Resources Mentioned:

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey: https://greenlights.com/

The Just Keep Livin’ Foundation: https://www.jklivinfoundation.org/

Matthew’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/McConaughey


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[00:00:00] Hala Taha: 

Alright, Alright, Alright. Welcome back, Yap Fam, and as you might have guessed from today's intro, our Yap Classic is going to be a special one.  We're dusting off my interview with the one and only Matthew McConaughey. Matthew McConaughey is one of Hollywood's most sought after men. He's an Academy Award winning actor who has appeared in over 50 films, including Dazed and Confused, Interstellar,  and The Wolf of Wall Street.

But that's not all, beyond his work as an actor, Matthew is also a creative director, producer, professor, and the co founder of the Just Keep Living Foundation. which helps at risk high school students make healthier mind, body, and spirit choices. He's also the author of the New York Times best selling book, Greenlights, and his latest book, Just Because, was released in 2023.

In this episode of Yap Classic, we chat about the origin of Matthew's confidence and the role preparation played in his success. We also discussed writing his first book, Green Lights, and we dive deep into how we can turn red lights and yellow lights into green lights, of course. I certainly reminisce about this interview all the time. and it was definitely a milestone in my career as a podcaster.

And I remember I did this interview right before I landed the cover of Podcast Magazine in January 2021. , and it's right around the time that I really started taking Yap Media seriously and my business seriously.

And honestly, this is like right at the peak of when everything really took off for me.  My podcaster seemed like a really consistent, slow growth. I didn't really see this interview at the time or in the moment as like some pivotal thing. But for everybody else around me, they saw it as that. They saw this as the pivotal moment of when I quote unquote made it. And till this day, people are like, Oh yeah, you interviewed Matthew McConaughey, right?

Like that's what everybody remembers. It's pretty funny. And this is obviously a really special interview to me. And you could probably hear it in my voice that I'm like really hyped to have him on and just really excited and energetic. So I hope you guys enjoy this conversation. I certainly did.


 with all your acting background, with your film production background, what made you think about writing a book?

Why didn't you just shoot a movie? 

[00:02:20] Matthew McConaughey: Yeah. Good question. Shooting a movie. All right, I'm, I'm, I'm doing, I'm acting in someone else's script directed by someone else, lensed in a camera by someone else and edited by someone else before it gets on screen for the viewer to watch. That's four filters separate from my first original raw expression.

I was like, a book will be only one filter. It's the written word. It's, it's a much more direct line of my art or means of communication to you because. I'm directing it. I'm lensing it. I'm editing it. Uh, it's my script, and I wanted to, I've always loved words. You know, I mean, I, I, I have a career where I perform.

It's not necessarily about the words. The words are only 10 percent of what an actor actually does. I wanted to say, well, can I get across what I want to via just the word? Can it be written in a way that you can hopefully See me performing it or you listen to the audible and that helps, but can it have my voice without actually having audibly my voice and my performance?

And that was a challenge I wanted to tackle. And I was hoping, you know, that I had stories and some wisdom I've learned along the way that I could share that people could apply to their own lives as well. 

[00:03:44] Hala Taha: So let's talk about the process of actually writing this book because from my understanding you actually went on a trek by yourself in the desert to kind of write this book.

You also journaled a lot growing up all throughout your life. So tell us about the process and also journaling and your process in writing the book with that. 

[00:04:02] Matthew McConaughey: Sure. So, I've been keeping journals since I was 14, so 37 years now. And just, and always have. And, and, and, many did them for myself, trying to write.

Like anyone at 14 years old, probably mostly confused, trying to figure out what's going on, why do I have pimples on my face, why did Why did Gretchen break up with me, blah, blah, blah, things like that. And then I also continued to journal when maybe I felt very certain about things. When I was on my frequency, when I was succeeding, when I had successful relationships, when all of a sudden I began to have successful working relationships, personal relations, when I was happy in life.

I continued to journal then. And I bring that up because even if you do journal, that's when most of us stop journaling. Because when things are going well, we go, Oh, I don't need to write this down. This is how it's supposed to be. I'll always remember this. No, write down, dissect your success as much or more than you dissect your failures or when you're confused and lost, because we will forget.

And I know for me, my journals have been a great tool to go back and look at, at times in my life, say if,I'm in a rut again, I can go, I've gone back and looked at my journals and said, well, what were you doing, Matthew, what were your habits back when you were rolling, when your relationships were good, when you were, you felt like you were in line and on time.

And I found habits that I followed that led to, gave us sort of a science to what satisfaction I had that then presently helped me recalibrate and go, well, I need to start doing that again so I can get back in line. And they've helped me get back on track. The writing of the book was, I took all those journals away to the desert for, uh, it was a, it was a total of 52 days in solitary, spread out over five different trips.

And I wanted to go away alone because. I didn't want to have the luxury of going, Oh, well, let me check my messages or the luxury of going, Hey, let me call so and so. I wanted to go to a place where there was no internet connection, where I had nobody to interrupt me, where even if I got bored, I had nowhere to run.

And the only place I could run to was to look back at my journals and who I've been over the last 50 years. And I wanted to be stuck with that person. And look that person in the eye. And that was the process of writing the book. 

[00:06:28] Hala Taha: Yeah, it's so cool that you journaled since such a young age. I think a lot of us have interesting stories growing up and we just forget them.

And the fact that you had them saved and you were able to kind of like pull them out and then reflect on them later on and write this book, I just think is so amazing and something that everyone can take away from this in terms of like the importance of journaling. 

[00:06:48] Matthew McConaughey: Yeah, well, keep the stories alive.

Again, you think when something awesome happens, or you cross a truth, or something's really entertaining, or you're, you individually really laugh at something, you think it's really special. Again, we always think, oh, I'll always remember that. But what happens over time is it gets fuzzy. So, one, I say, yes, journal.

But two, if you have something, the verbal telling of the story, keep telling the story over and over, keep sharing the story. That also keeps it alive. But also write it down, because The first way you remember it will be different than you tell it 10 years later. Stories kind of take, they become different things.

You come over time, you give them different facts. So it's good to be able to go back and go, how did I originally feel about that? What originally turned me on about that circumstance in my life? And again, just, you know, I always, I say in the book, I write things down so I can forget them. Not to remember.

What I mean by that is, If something turns me on in life and if I write it down, I know that I can now don't have to keep thinking, Oh, don't forget that, don't forget that, don't forget that. Because I've written it down. That means I can forget it because I go, No, I wrote that down. It's there when I want to go back to it.

So I don't have to continually go through life going, don't forget that thing, don't forget, make sure you don't forget that. Uh, I write it down so I can forget it because I know 

[00:08:08] Hala Taha: I have it written down. Yeah. That's something that David Allen taught me. He's the author of GTD, getting things done. And basically you have open loops in your brain and until you write them down, you don't actually close that loop.

So really good point. So let's talk about the title of your book. It's called Green Lights, and I just want to get my listeners some context in terms of what does a green light mean? What's the difference between a green light, a red light, and is there something called a yellow light? Tell us all about that.

[00:08:36] Matthew McConaughey: Yeah. Green lights mean go. They affirm our way. They say, carry on, please. More. Yes. Freedom Attaboy at a girl. Keep on going. We like 'em because they keep us in our flow. They don't interrupt us. Yellow light slows us down. We don't really like it. We don't want it to happen. Wait, why? Why am I getting this?

Why am I getting interrupted right now? You know what I mean? Get outta my way. Red light makes us stop. Those are crisises or times of retrospection or introspection in our life. We need those. We may not want them, but we need them if we're going to evolve as individuals and as humans. The red and yellow lights, I've found, eventually turn green.

In the rearview mirror of life, meaning hardships we've had or times where we've had to be introspective and look back over our shoulder and assess why we keep failing at something or why we keep running into the same problem or practicing the same bad habit. We find out later. Oh, I needed that. I needed that to turn the page.

I need my own life. I needed that to evolve. I needed that to grow. I needed that introspection because if it was all just green lights. And life was one big summer, Saturday, shoeless summer. And like I said, well, then what's it all for? It's kind of like, it's all for entertainment. There's no evolution. And then we'd get, we'd eventually get bored.

So you need the reds and the yellows and even hardships in tragedies, in the red lights in life. There's gifts in there and to realize that there's a green light asset in my life because my father died. You go, wait a minute. How's that a green light? No, I'm not saying his dying is a green light. That's a red light, but boy, did I learn a bunch of courage.

sooner than I would have if he had still been alive because I was trusting that he had my back, that he was a crutch for me. And his passing way made me go, you better start becoming the young man you want to become and quit acting like one and start being one. So there was a green light asset in his passing.

Again, I'm not, it doesn't deny the red light, but there's a green light asset in our red and yellow lights. 

[00:10:56] Hala Taha: I totally relate to that. My dad actually passed away this past May and since then, I, I remember in your book, you were, you were saying, you know, it was kind of serendipitous when my dad died because his closing of his life really led to the opening of my life and I thought, and it was just like a nice moment.

beautiful closing of that chapter and opening of yours. 

Okay, let's take things back to your childhood. I want to get into some of these really amazing stories that are in your book.

green lights. One of my favorite stories that I heard on there was your mother telling you since you were a child that you were little Mr. Texas, right? And so she told you that growing up and all throughout your life, your childhood, your teens, you believed that you were little Mr. Texas. But then, uh, later on in life, you know, when you were much older, you looked at that trophy.

You dusted it off and realized that you were just the runner up. So I thought this was a great lesson in terms of parenting and the fact that you can really instill confidence in your children. And that's really important. And I want to know, do you think you would be who you are today if you had never thought you were little Mr.

Texas? It's 

[00:12:03] Matthew McConaughey: a fun question and I throw it out there. Look, I think. I think I, I think I would. Be where I am today, if I'd have grown up, but it's a fun question to entertain. In 1977, I entered a Little Mr. Texas contest. I get a trophy. I'm holding a trophy. I get a picture taken of me. My mom puts that picture up in the kitchen and every morning tells me, Look at you.

You are Little Mr. Texas. And I grew up there. I'm Little Mr. Texas. Well, it was just a couple years ago. That I come across that picture cut to 2019, 2018. And I zoom in on the name plate on the trophy and it says runner up. Well, I'm like, wait a minute, 1977, 87, 97, 07, 17, 41 years later, I find that. And, and, you know, and I remember I went to my mom and I'm like, mom, I was runner up all these years.

She goes, no, no, no. You were a little Mr. Texas. I go, mom, it says runner up. She goes, no. The kid who won, his family was rich and they had enough money to buy him a really expensive suit, and we call that cheating. So you're little, Mr. Texas. So she's still like, even gets in there and says, no, you're still it.

So that's, that's my mom is a great malaproper and that's what I grew up believing. And you know, when we grow older, we all find that little, little white lies that were told us. Hopefully they're harmless. Some of them can be harmful. But we find out, you know, I'm sure maybe you found out things about your father who just passed away.

Things where the message was different than the messenger. You know, there's a gap between those. I know I did when my father moved on. I've done that, felt that way when many loved ones moved on. And the first feeling that sometimes we get is, well, how dare they? They didn't live by that, but they were telling me that?

Well, get over that part and go, no, you know what? They wanted me to be a little bit better than they were. They, they maybe weren't able to act it out, but they wanted me to be able to. And there's grace in that. So that was an innocent little white lie that my mom. Um, told me for 41 years, but, uh, it all worked out.

[00:14:12] Hala Taha: So how else did your parents instill confidence in you? Because as an actor, and you were actually a very natural actor, you just walked on set basically to start your acting career and you didn't really go to school before you started first acting. So you had this natural confidence. And I think. Little things like this add up.

So what else did your parents do to instill confidence in you? Do you think? 

[00:14:34] Matthew McConaughey: You know, we were always pushed to be ourselves, know ourselves. And it's true, it's true to this day. Who else is more interesting or should be more interesting to get to know than ourselves? And if we can then be more of ourselves, we are inherently becoming more original daily because there's only all of us.

So. You know, we, we, we see people, we look up to people, we see things, we want to be more like them. I wanted to be more like my older brother. Yeah, all that's fine. But boy, if you can sit there and go, who am I? And I know my parents are still like, wait, get to know yourself. You be confident with who you are as much as you can be.

And that's not easy. That's not easy to do, but it's, it's a, it's a task worth taking up. It's a challenge worth, worth taking. And it's a challenge that's never over. I'm still doing it. I'm going to be doing it hopefully until the day I die. It's a challenge that's never over. It's a constant, an infinite quest.

Um, that we never really arrive at being completely our truest selves. But boy, what a, what a, what a, what a race to be chasing, you know, after our truest selves, you know, and our, our, my mom would throw out quotes like, you know, we'd be nervous to go to the dance in junior high with our first date. And she'd be like, don't you walk into that place like you want to buy it.

You walk in there like you own it. You'd be like, whoa, what? Okay, you know, so like, you know, she threw that line back at me before my time to kill audition, which I was very nervous, which I ended up getting. I called her and she was like, don't you walk in there like you. You want that part. You walk in there like you are that part.

And like just great mental perspective to go. Okay. And that has probably helped me. And I think it's something that can help all of us not let moments become bigger than we are in them. Which is, I think is a very good thing to, for us all to try and understand. Don't let the moment become bigger than you.

You gain self respect from that. You gain self trust from that. You gain confidence from that. 

[00:16:49] Hala Taha: I think that's a really good insight and it kind of goes back to like your journaling. You seem to be very introspective. Like you like to reflect on your life, write things down, think about it, and that probably also helps your confidence too because you get to know yourself 

[00:17:02] Matthew McConaughey: better. Well, yeah, I mean, I've also, you know, in the writing of this book to go back and look at my journals from 36 years of being in the past.

Was a daunting task. I'm not a nostalgic guy. I don't really like to look back. I don't even watch all my movies. I don't watch any of my interviews. I'm like, I don't want it. It's uncomfortable. I'm like, no, I was there. I know what I did. I felt it. I don't need to go back and look at it and be a voyeur on it.

I felt what I did, but I don't like to look back and see replays of things I've done or look back in my life and see who I was. Well, to do that, I went back and I was like, man, I'm going to be embarrassed. Of who I was at times. I'm gonna feel shameful. I'm gonna feel guilty. I'm gonna see times where I was an arrogant little prick and I'm not gonna like who I was.

And I was like, well, I dare you, McConaughey. I dare you to go look back. And I was all those things, but I found out that most of the things I thought I'd be embarrassed about, I laughed at. Most of the things I thought I'd be shamed about and feel guilty about, I'd either already forgiven myself for or forgave myself for.

And times where I was like, yeah, you were an arrogant little know it all. Boy, what, that was ugly. Boy, you were such a know it all. It was ugly. But then I noticed, well, actually, you're arrogant at that time in your life, Matthew. Gave you the confidence to put yourself in a position to get humiliated, which you needed.

Which you wouldn't have had the confidence to put yourself in a position to get humbled if you wouldn't have been that arrogant. So everything sort of had its own little green light, you know? 

 Yeah. It's so interesting. And speaking of red lights, green lights, let's talk about a red light that you had.

[00:18:49] Hala Taha: And it's another one of my favorite stories from your book. It was your trip to Australia. So you went to Australia for one year, a rotary exchange program after you graduated high school. Yeah. And you stayed with a very unusual family. You were a very nice kid. You, you were trying to be respectful to them.

And you didn't really know if it was just cultural differences or if something really was going on. And tell us about that story, how it was a red light and how you turned it on its head and turned it into a green light. 

[00:19:19] Matthew McConaughey: Well, so I had just come out of high school where I was catching all green lights.

Meaning, I made straight A's so mom and dad were happy in high school. I had just turned 18, which meant for the first time I no longer had a curfew. I had a car, it was paid for. I had a job, I had 45 bucks in my back pocket at all times. I was dating the best looking girl at my school, dating the best looking girl across town.

I had a poor handicap in golf. I was rolling like Australia and it's like a screeching halt. I'm in this little town in the middle of nowhere. I got no car. I got no friends. I got no girlfriends. I do have a curfew. I have no job and I don't even have my golf clubs and I've got nothing around me. And I was with it in a strange circumstance with an unusual family.

And I went a little bit insane while I was going insane over there. And the reason I was going insane is because I only had me to rely on, I was writing 14 page letters to me and returning them, re writing a 14 letter page, letter back to me, . I mean, this was, I was in a Socratic sort of implosion, but I felt at the time, 'cause everyone was like, why didn't you come home?

Why did you come home? Why did come home? Well, one, I told the Rotary people, I said, I'll go, I'll give you a handshake that I'm not coming home before the year's over. So I felt part of a challenge. I wanted to live up to. Secondly, I felt like, even while I was losing my mind, I was like, I had a hunch. This is a penance for a reason.

There's light at the, there's, there's something, if you can survive this and get out of this. Cause I was forced to get to know myself. I didn't have anybody else to go, hey, is this cool what they're saying or what they want me to do? There was no, I had no sounding board. I didn't have mom and dad. I didn't have friends.

I had to ask myself, so I had to form my own identity and form my own judgment. And for my own discernment of things that I would stand up for or wouldn't stand up for. Things that I would let slide or wouldn't. And it was hard because I'm an 18 year old kid just figuring out, just becoming an adult. But it was wonderful.

Because I was forced to. I was forced to, by hook or by crook, make up my own mind and figure out how I was going to navigate through this hairy situation. Without anybody else's help. And it was a great rite of passage. for me. And a year, you know, you brought up a little Mr. Texas earlier. Would I be here with that little, if I had thought I was runner up?

I think so. Would I be here without that year in Australia? I doubt it. 

[00:21:55] Hala Taha: Yeah. So let's talk about when you, so you came back to the U.

S. and then you were going to go to college, right? And, uh, you wanted to be a lawyer for a while. I think since you were in high school, you wanted to be a lawyer, so you were going on that path. path and there was one school that you wanted to go to that was quite expensive and one that was more local that was more affordable.

And your brother actually told you like, Hey, you should probably go to the cheaper school because your dad's having some financial struggles. Right. And you quickly made the decision to. Respect your father. You never told him why he made that decision, but you went to the cheaper school And you listened to your brother and to me as like somebody that young that really showed me that you were mature You had really good decision making skills at that age.

So talk to us about that decision Talk to us about your decision making process in general and how you were able to have that good judgment. So young 

[00:22:47] Matthew McConaughey: We're a close family, and I knew, the school I wanted to go to was, was, was SMU. It was in Dallas, Texas. My idea was that as a lawyer in the big city of Dallas, I'll be able to get an internship early on.

So when I get out of school and I'm in law school, I'll jump right into the job because I'll already have, I've planted my feet and I've planted seeds within a law firm that I want to work in because it's a big metropolis. This other school, University of Texas, was in a much smaller town. In Austin, but it was a state school, so it was about a third of the price.

Well, my dad said, well, when you want to go to the University of Texas at Austin, I'm like, no, sir, I want to go to Dallas. He's like, you sure? I'm like, yes, sir. And he goes, okay, okay. And I remember he questioned, but I was wondering why is he questioning? But he didn't ever say you'd be doing me a big favor because it costs a lot less.

But my brother calls me and we're a close family. My brother says, hey, man, dad's not going to tell you this, but he's in business. It's tough right now. And it's going to cost 18 grand to go to SMU. It'll cost five grand to go to Texas. You'd be doing a real solid if you chose University of Texas. And then my brother didn't call, but those things, I wouldn't have got that call on a whimsy, you know what I mean?

My brother to tell me that. And then, then to also know that my dad had too much pride to let me know that. I'm like, Oh, okay. Yep. Got it. It was sort of, it was very, very quickly made decisions. Like, got it. Yeah. I'll go to University of Texas. And never, never told my dad that twice. So I called my dad and I go, dad, I decided I want to go to University of Texas.

And he's like, Oh, great idea, buddy. You know, super idea. Way to go. And I was like, yep, just changed my mind, you know, so another decision that, hey, would I be here now if I didn't go to the University of Texas at Austin, a city and a university that I, that have been very good to me and I, and I love a lot.

I don't know if I'd be here now. Would I have ended up going to law school and become a lawyer if I had gone to SMU? I don't know. So that decision, probably based on my, how tight we are as a family. My dad never asked anything of me. My dad had too much honor and pride to tell me or to tell anybody in our family.

I found out since he's passed away, there were many times that he was almost bankrupt. We couldn't tell. We had no idea. We never went back. We were middle class and lived more like upper middle class probably. We never knew he was financially strapped. Now, does that lead up to part of the stress he had that led up to him having a heart attack at 62?

Probably, but he never showed us. We never felt like we were going He never once said, we can't afford that. And so, even at that age, at 18, I'm like, what an honorable, cool thing of a father to do. He's not even letting us know that he can't afford the school. And he would have found a way. If I would have not If I was gone to that other school He would have paid for it.

He would have found a way. And I would have never known that it was taxing on his finances. So, that was obvious to me when my brother said that. So that was a quick decision to go, Oh yeah, let's do data solid here and I'll make This other school work, which it turned out to be a gift

[00:26:04] Hala Taha: Well, how about another tough decision when you decided to go to film school? What was, why did you decide to just switch gears, let go of the dream of being a lawyer? And how did your father take that information? 


[00:26:16] Matthew McConaughey: Well, I was not, I was not sleeping well for the first time with the idea of becoming a lawyer.

It's all I ever wanted to be. And now here I am, whatever, 19, 20, 20, 21 years old. And I'm starting to think, I don't know if I want to go to law school. I got to graduate here. Then I go four more years to law school. Then I get out. Basically, I wouldn't be working. putting my stamp or my fingerprint in society until I'm in my 30s.

I don't know if I want to spend my entire 20s learning. At the same time, I've been writing a lot and writing short stories and sharing short stories with a writer friend of mine who was telling me, Hey, those are pretty damn good. Probably secretly. enjoying performing in front of the camera, but not even able to admit it yet.

So I said, I want to go to film school to get in behind the camera to learn the art of storytelling from behind the camera and get into the storytelling business. Well, I'm very nervous to call my father who's paying for my school to tell him I don't want to go to law school anymore. I want to go to film school.

Remember, I come from a blue collar family. Which is, you get a job and you work your way up a company ladder. You get something that's dependable. The arts, film production, storytelling, that's a hobby on Saturday. Yeah, you can do it, but that's not the way you do it. I'm not gonna pay for you to go get educated in that.

 Well, I decided to call him one night and tell him that that's what I'd like to do. Ask, tell, and I called him and I said, dad, I don't want to, I've decided I don't really want to go to law school anymore. I want to go to film school.

And he goes, you sure that's what you want to do? I said, yes, sir. And the next three words he said to me were incredible. He said, well, don't half ass it. And I remember getting tingles at the time and almost crying because my dad, in saying don't half ass it, he didn't just approve my choice. He gave me responsibility, accountability, more than privilege.

He gave me freedom, courage, and a challenge to go do it. And in looking back at that moment, because I really did not think that telephone calls going to go, I thought he was going to be like, you want a what boy, what, what are you talking about? But in a matter of a 20 second conversation, he said, where I told him that I wanted to make a complete career choice change in school.

20 seconds later, he said, don't half ass it. I think what it was is that, like any parent out there, we build structure for our children. Here's what you should do. Follow these rules. Stay within the lines. And that's good because a lot of us will succeed to a certain extent if we do that. And that's, that is a very worthy thing to do.

But when a parent's really, I think, happy is when a child maybe is fortunate enough to come to them and go, I'm breaking out. I'm going on my own. I'm doing it. And I think he heard in my voice when I said, I don't want to go to law school anymore. I want to go to film school. Even though I was calling to ask permission, I really wasn't.

And he heard the certainty in his son's voice. Because if I would have gone, I mean, I think I do, I don't know, he'd have probably said hell no, because I would have been bluffing. He'd have heard me bluffing, right? So, he heard my voice that I was not bluffing. That I really wasn't asking permission. And that's what gave him, I think, the pride, the honor, and the pleasure to go, yes!

That my son is letting me know I've raised him well enough for him to have the confidence to come to me and go, Dad, this is what I'm doing. And that made him very happy. And I think that's something that makes any parent happy. 

[00:29:51] Hala Taha: Yeah, and it probably really helped you, you know, because I think he passed not too long after that.

It probably really helped you that he supported your acting decision, and that probably gave you the confidence to keep on going down that path. 

[00:30:04] Matthew McConaughey: Confidence and courage and, you know, I had my own bit of honor and pride to say. Look, dad gave you more than approval to go chase down this as a career path.

And now that he's gone, it gave me more courage to go, well, now you really better not half ass it. You really better not quit at this. You really better make this happen. You really better succeed. You really better do everything you can to be as good of an actor as you can. So, inherently, I'm sure that was part of it, too, of me going, I've got more, I'm doing this for more than just me.

[00:30:35] Hala Taha: So let's talk about your, the beginnings of your acting career. Like I mentioned before, you were very natural. You ended up kind of forcing your way to get your breakout role days, on Days and Confused. So tell us about that. Tell us how you convinced the director to give you that 

[00:30:49] Matthew McConaughey: part. Well, I, I go out to this, uh, bar in Austin one night with my girlfriend at the time, Antonia.

And I knew the bartender who was in film school with me, and he says, Hey, there's a guy down the bar named Don Phillips. He's in town producing a film. He's been coming here every night. He's staying in the hotel. I'll go down and introduce you. I introduced myself. Well, three hours later, he and I are talking golf and telling stories and movies we like, et cetera.

We get kicked out of the bar. On the cab ride home to drop me off that night. He's riding with me and, uh, to drop me off at my apartment. And he says, Hey, you ever done any acting before? And I said, I mean, I was in this Miller Lite commercial for about that long. You know, I was in a, in this music video and he's like, Hey, well, you might be right for this part.

You know, it's a guy called Wooderson here. I'm going to leave a script for you at this address. Come down tomorrow morning, pick it up. It's three lines, but it's cool character. You might be right for it. Well, I go pick up that script. There are three lines. I study those three lines for two weeks. I come back, I audition for the director, Richard Linklater.

I get the part. Now all of a sudden I'm on set One night I'm not supposed to work. I'm doing a hair and makeup and wardrobe test, which is where you just put on your makeup and your wardrobe and your and, and when the director has a free time, he walks off the set and comes and looks you up and down and gives you note to what have you.

I'm not supposed to work this night. My first day to work is a week later. Well, the director comes up and looks at me and goes, Yeah, this is Wooderson. I like it. And all of a sudden, as I'm about to say goodbye, he goes, Hey, you know, you think Wooderson would be interested in the red headed intellectual girl in school?

And I'm like, Yeah, man, Wooderson likes all kinds of girls. He goes, Well, There's a girl, Marissa Ribisi, who's playing the role of Cynthia, the red headed intellectual, and she's over here in the car, and she's got her three nerdy friends, and, I don't know, maybe Wooderson pulls up, tries to pick her up, tells her there's a party later on, and I'm like, give me 30 minutes.

And I took a walk with myself, and I was like, Who's my man? Who's Wooderson? Who's this guy? There's this scene I'm being invited into that there's no lines written for. Next thing I know, I'm in the car about to shoot my first scene ever. There's not a line written for it. All I know is the scenario. And I'm telling myself, who's my man?

Who's, who's Wooderson? the character I'm playing and I'm getting kind of nervous and I tell myself, to myself, I say I'm about my car. I said, well, I'm in my 70 Chevelle. There's one. I said, I'm about getting high. I said, well, Slater's riding shotgun. He's always got a doobie rolled up. There's two. I said, I'm about rock and roll.

I said, I got Ted News stranglehold in the eight track playing right now. There's three. And all of a sudden I hear action. And I look up across the parking lot at the red headed intellectual Cynthia. And I go and me, Wooderson. I'm about picking up chicks, and as I said that it went through my mind as I put it in drive.

Well, I've got three out of four and I'm going to get the fourth. All right. All right. All right. And pulled out. It's the first three words I ever said on camera in a film, 1992. And then we did the scene, and then I kept getting invited back every night. The director kept inviting me back and that whole cast.

would involve me in the scenes. They'd ask me questions in the middle of ask my character questions in the middle of the scene and sort of, they wrote me into the picture and all of a sudden I worked three weeks, three lines turned to three weeks work and it was awesome and I had a great time doing it.

People were telling me I was good at it. I'm getting paid 300 a day. I'm going. Is this legal? It's so much fun. And people are telling me I'm good at it. Please. I go back, I graduate college, and I drive out to Hollywood with a U Haul and 3, 000 bucks the next year. And here I am, 28, 29 years later, turned into a career.

[00:34:48] Hala Taha: It just goes to show that you need to really like take your opportunities. Cause that opportunity, you could have just chickened out. You could have just been like, you know what, I'm not ready. I didn't get my lines.

I've never done this before. You could have just chickened out. And you had that one moment, whatever, how many minutes that was, 30 minutes, you said, to figure it out And I just think that people need to realize that sometimes you need to take the opportunities that are in your face because they could just go away forever.

[00:35:15] Matthew McConaughey: They can. And you know, that window of opportunity so many times it opens up and we see it. And if we start to go, should I take it? That can sometimes already be too much time. It closes. So I remember he goes, you know, I was just answering the questions. Yeah, I'd like to, do you know what I mean? Think about my man.

Do you want to do this? And I'm already seeing this as like, well, this could be an opportunity. I don't know what the hell I'm going to do, but this is, let me go try and figure it out and then try and relax and just be my, be my man, be my character. But yeah, they do open up and it, you know. I could have said no and still been invited back and done the three scenes, the three lines and the three scenes and could have done well.

But I don't, I don't think I wouldn't be sitting here right now with the life I have or the career I have. And, but I've tried to take that into my acting career throughout is even if it's one line character, think about what that whole character is in every scenario, write a book on that character. So if you're in any position and someone throws you an improv line and ask you a question, You got an idea of what you, what your person would say, your character would say.

And I guess as I'm saying this, it goes along with who we are in life as well. Know ourselves well enough, play ourselves out and project ourselves into different scenarios to where if we're in them, we can improvise and be ourselves. 

[00:36:37] Hala Taha: it also goes back to, like, be so prepared that like, Nobody has a choice, but to give you that opportunity because they just know, Oh, well, he's got it.

He's, he's so good, you know, like give them no choice, but to give you that opportunity if it comes up. 

[00:36:53] Matthew McConaughey: If it comes up and it's a fine line, because look, you can, you know, say, Oh, I got to look for opportunities. So I got to, yes, we do create opportunities, but you've got to, you got to know your zone, you got to read the room, you got to know who you're dealing with.

Meaning say if I wanted to be in that scene that night, but wasn't invited, which I originally wasn't and say, I went up and they were like, okay, your car, you can go home now. And I'm like, no, I'm going to stay on set. Cause I'm looking for my opportunity. Right. And then maybe they're not getting the scene down and they're having trouble getting the scene.

And I'm still, I'm over there on the sideline, nervous thinking, when am I going to find my opening to say, Hey, can I get in here? And maybe I say it. And they're like, look at me. And I going, who the hell is this guy trying to get in here? And we're trying to think, hell no, you can't. Then I go home and then they're going, do we even want to invite this guy back to do the three lines we hired him to do he's in the ass he's trying to, he didn't gracefully.

So it's a bit of go after what you want, but also sit back and be prepared enough where if the opportunity comes, you're like, I got it. Put me in coach, give me the ball, you know, but you can't be overbearing because sometimes you can be overbearing and you're a nuisance. You know, but it's, so it's a, it's a balance.

 I love that. I think this is such good advice for my listeners, so I hope everyone is paying attention. Okay, so let's take it a little further down in your acting career. Mid 90s, you're like the biggest rom com actor ever. You're in every single movie. That's when I was a teenager, I was watching you all day, you know, um, and so.

[00:38:41] Hala Taha: Talk to us about that. Like, did you like doing rom coms? You also say that rom coms were green lights for you, or like the green light of movies. So tell us about that and your experience there. 

[00:38:52] Matthew McConaughey: Yeah, I did enjoy rom coms. You know, they were light, they were fun. When I prepare for them enough, the actual making of the movies, the acting movies, were easy.

They were supposed to be easy. It's a flow. No, the rom com is not. The characters aren't, you know, you say, uh, you know, hell is a guy, I'm an advertising agent, but the character is not about my character as an advertising agent. It's just a, that's a job I've got. So it's not what I talk about. It's not have to be job specific.

It's all about the lingo between the boy and the girl or the couple, whoever they are, who they have. The sauce. Are you, are you looking at him going, Ooh, this is good. And you got to have a joust. There's always a joust, you know, in a rom com. Boy meets girl, usually. They go on, they break up for some reason.

At the end in the third act, boy chases girl, gets her, roll the credits. You know that's going to happen. You know the couple's going to get together. You just want to have a good time seeing them do it. You want to think that it's going to fail, but then be happy when it does succeed. You want to be in on the joke when Kate Hudson's gonna, trying to, trying to trick me.

You want to be in on the, and I don't know it, but you, the audience, know it, and she does. You want to be in on the joke when I'm about to trick her, but she doesn't know it, but you, the audience, knows it. You want to have fun seeing us dupe each other in a fun, innocent way. So there's, it's about lingo. You can improvise in those things.

And I had always been a very comfortable improviser. And you play out the scenario and try to wiggle your way out of the, out of the, out of the trouble and try to come out of the scene winning. And that's part of the fun of watching rom com, seeing each character try and win and not always winning, watching someone fail, get duped, and then maybe recover or not.

So they were great fun. And I did, you know, they're also medium budget in Hollywood terms at that time. They were like 35 million budgets, not 80 million budget. So you could put them out. They didn't, the studio didn't have to put out so much bank. And the ones that I was doing were doing very well. And then they were getting played.

at the time, cable TV and DVDs. And now they're still playing. So that's also money back to the studio and they were succeeding. I was the rom com guy to go to guy. And I'd done like three or four now that had all succeeded. And. I was starting to feel like, ah, I feel like I'd read the next rom com script and I'd feel like, oh, it's a good one, but I feel like I could do this tomorrow morning.

Like, I want something that I'm looking at and going like, I don't know what I'm going to do with this character, but I can't wait to find out. And that was not rom com. So I decided to take a sabbatical from rom com. So I decided to say, look, the dramatic fare I want to do. They're not offering me that no one wants to finance the Matthew McConaughey drama.

So I said, if I can't do what I want to do, I'm going to quit doing what I've been doing. So I said, no more rom com. Well, that meant I was going to go without work for a while. And I did have to go without work for a while. I didn't get offered anything but rom coms for the first six months. I said no to them all.

And then for the next year and a half, I got offered nothing. So I go basically two years without working, wanting to work, but not working. And then after two years, I think I gained some anonymity. I think in the audience's eyes and the studio's eyes that make the movies, it was like, where's him coming?

Hasn't been in a rom com in front of us on the screen. We don't know where he is. We haven't seen him shirtless on the beach in Malibu. Where is he? Well, I was down in Texas, hiding out, saying no to rom coms, waiting, hopefully for something else to come. Well, after two years. With that anonymity that I gained, I unbranded and I became a new good idea for those dramatic roles that I wanted to do.

So it took two years of being gone to be able to be seen for the first time as, hey, you know, it'd be interesting casting. Original, cool casting for Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe, Paperboy, Magic Mike, Mudd, Bernie, True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club, kind of hang. But it wouldn't have happened unless I took the two years off and unbranded.

[00:43:24] Hala Taha: Yeah. It's so interesting because, you know, you're a celebrity, right? And so you needed to do that because everybody knew who you were. They recognized you as a certain character and you needed to unbrand yourself. And that's something that I think like the average person doesn't really have experience with.

We can just reinvent ourselves continually and it doesn't really, people aren't paying attention that closely where that would ever be an issue. Right. 

[00:43:49] Matthew McConaughey: Well, and look, and, and. I understand, you know, and some of the listeners may be out there going, yeah, well, lucky you, you were able to take off work for two years.

I'm brand, not everyone can do that. I get, I had invested well and been very conservative with my money enough to be where I could maintain a certain lifestyle without working. And I was trying to do some voice work during that time, but no acting. So yeah, I was in a privileged position to take time off, but the concept is still useful for anyone is to go, boy, if I can't do what I want to do, maybe I need to quit doing what I'm doing.

It's again, it's about when I talk about the book about finding our own identity. It's not always about knowing what we want to do. What's easier is to eliminate the things in our life of who we are not, whether that's work, whether that's who we're hanging out with, where we're going, how we're greeting the day, what we're drinking, how much we're sleeping, whatever that is.

[00:44:46] Hala Taha: So let's continue on this topic in terms of celebrity and some differences in terms of like what you guys have to deal with. And my, I know that your mother actually, you had a falling out with your mother for quite, quite some time because she was really interested in your celebrity and even invited tabloid news people into your house and you felt like you couldn't be yourself around your mother for that reason and I know a lot of people.

Celebrities are very private about their life and really just try to keep that separate because I'm sure it could be really hard. So talk to us about that and maybe some of the things that you've struggled with, with your celebrity and, uh, you know, how you deal with it. 

[00:45:23] Matthew McConaughey: so, you know, I became a celebrity sort of.

over one weekend and it was when a time to kill came out. I mean, I was a bit of a celebrity before, maybe to a certain extent, but I became famous when a time to kill came out that weekend. I was the lead in a major studio, Warner Brothers Picture that did well. And that when that film opened on that Friday, my life changed.

From that Friday to the following Monday, over the weekend, when that movie came out, the world was a mirror. All of a sudden, everyone was looking at me and had an idea and a biography of who I was, what they thought about me. People come up and go, Oh my God, I'm so sorry about Ms. Hud. And I'm like going, I've never met you.

How do you know I have a dog? How do you know her name's Ms. Hud? How do you know she has cancer? What's your name? You just skipped like four things and jumped right into my life. I'm like going, Whoa. You know, three days ago, you were a stranger. Now you're not, or you're at least acting like you're not. You lose anonymity.

So I had to go, chose to go off on my own to take some walkabouts with a backpack to gain my anonymity and to sit with myself and go, okay, all of a sudden you have all these new options in your life. You have all what was 99 no's. And one yes last Friday is now 99 yeses and one no. Wow, that's great. But at the same time, it's like, oh shit, what do you want me to do?

Three days ago, I would have done any of this, but I couldn't. And now you're telling me I can do almost all of it. And you want me to decide? So, you know, with all the options and when the roof was taken off, I was like, well, there's only 24 hours in the day. What do I, what do I, I need some discernment here to decide what it is I want to do.

I needed to go off, spend time with myself, figure out what the hell mattered to me and what didn't. Another lesson though that I learned with fame seven years in after that becoming famous is that with fame, you start to get a lot of things. You all of a sudden you get the backstage passes. You get to the front of the line, you get things carte blanche handed to you.

And it's awesome. At the same time, I went through a bit of an imposter syndrome, sort of non deserving complex, like a, why, why me? Why am I getting all this? Do I deserve this? And I was a little awkward with the champagne and caviar that were now being handed to me for free. And I was like, okay, okay.

Again, a few days ago, I couldn't even have this. But I learned to, and all of a sudden people say, throw the word, I love you around more. And I'm like, that's a word. I've only said to four people, but everyone's telling me they love me. And I don't even know them. What's this mean? And I took it personally to some extent, but I learned seven years after my fame that, Oh, it's not, none of it's personal.

It's business. I had, at the height of my fame, I could get anyone on the, any studio head on the phone, anybody on the phone. Well, then I go do a few movies that don't do as well. They don't return my calls. Then all of a sudden my career picks back up and I'm doing well. Now they're calling me. Well, I could either choose to go F you, man.

I remember when you wouldn't call or go. It's cool. It's all business. I got it. So when I made it less personal and said, Oh, it's all business. Just roll with it. Just, just, just. How the flow goes of my career and if someone who becomes famous or less famous at a time, and then more famous again, it ain't personal.

It's business. If you get that joke, that's the joke to get with fame. It ain't personal. It's business. If you get that joke, you'll be a lot less stressed. You'll be able to accept all of the adulation better. You'll be able to accept the champagne and caviar easier with grace, but you'll also, for me, not necessarily need that for your sense of identity as much because it's fleeting.

You got to watch it with fame. When you go to that and you need the attention, look at, look at musicians. I get it. You're on a stage with thousands of people looking up, adoring you in a show. And what happens when you don't, when you're not touring live anymore or no one's buying your albums? Huh? Real life?

Regular life? It's not enough to get off to. I need more of a buzz. I can't get off to this because I was so high. you gotta watch how much we get our identity and our sense of satisfaction and pleasure from things that you get at the height of You got to appreciate them, I think, but make sure they're not just completely making up your sense of who you are because in fame, it's infinite.

Yeses. Now that's where the devil be living. The devil be living in the infinite. Yes. It's not the nose. I mean, too many options can make a tyrant of any of us. So that's what you've got to watch with fame. You have all access. Well, if you got all access, ooooh, you can peter out and burn out because you just don't have the energy or you gotta watch your health and your mental health and your spiritual health and your physical health.

So, take some time if you're fortunate enough to get famous take some time to go check in with yourself and go, what matters to me? Because I write about this in the book for the first time you're, you can do things that you never could do before. So your first instinct is to go, well, yes. Why? Yes. Because I never had the option before.

So of course, well, ask yourself if you want to. Before you do when you can, 

[00:51:02] Hala Taha: I think that's, that's excellent advice. And I just have to say that You're obviously very famous. You've got a lot of privilege, but you do give back to the community.

So I did want to give you a chance to talk about your foundation. Tell us a little bit about your foundation and its mission. 

[00:51:17] Matthew McConaughey: Sure. Just keep living foundation. We're in. After school Title I schools, which is schools with lower income families and students, a lot of single parent homes, 50 percent dropout rate.

So we have a curriculum in those schools. After school days where kids and young men, women come to set a exercise goal. Maybe that is, I'm going to get in shape so I can make the football team. And I'm not in shape. We'll help you get in shape. Or maybe it's, I need to lose four pounds so I can fit my prom dress.

We're going to help you do that. We teach nutrition goals. Okay. Instead of five cheeseburgers again for dinner. Let's take that 38 and we're going to take you to a supermarket and you can buy vegetables, rice, beans, and maybe even some meat, a healthier meal. And you also get to cook it with your family.

Third thing, community service. All the students have to do community service within their own community. And fourth thing is we have what we call a gratitude circle, which at the end of each curriculum, all the students sit around. And openly share something they're thankful for in life. And the coolest thing about that is the students come and they're saying, I love the gratitude circle because I'm hearing my friends say thank you for things in their life that I have in my life that I've always taken for granted and never said thank you for.

So we believe that the more you're thankful for, the more you're going to create in your life to be thankful for. I think gratitude creates responsibility because if you give more value to things, you want to take care of them. And if you want to take care of the things that matter to you, that's actually how you get more freedom.

So, that's what we're, we're, we're providing in our curriculum, giving all the way down to giving these kids, some of them, it's just a safe place to go after school that they didn't have before. 

[00:53:04] Hala Taha: And where can people go to contribute to that foundation? 

[00:53:08] Matthew McConaughey: Just keep living, no G on the end, foundation. or JKLivingFoundation.

org. Thank you. 

[00:53:17] Hala Taha: Cool. I'll put that in the show notes. Okay, so the last question I ask all my guests is, what is your secret to profiting in 

[00:53:24] Matthew McConaughey: life? Well, sometimes it's a greater risk to go for something you want, and sometimes it's a greater risk to sacrifice and say, no, I'm going to go without that. That's really another place where the art, I think, of living.

Is, and we've been talking about that generally in the, for the last 30 minutes, try if you can to say, okay, look, we all want to make money's good. It's a great tool. It does help the world go around and the capitalist side, we need money I'm all for that. We want to fill our bank account, but let's ask ourselves when we're, when we're filling our bank account, can I also fill my soul's account at the same time, but if we find a way where we can fill our bank account and soul's account.

Well, we don't fill our bank account at the expense of who we are or what we believe in. We don't lie, cheat and steal and screw people over and burn bridges and, and to, to get what we want. That's long money. That's real profit. 

[00:54:33] Hala Taha: That's so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that. Thank you so much for joining us today, Matthew, uh, where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you're doing?

[00:54:44] Matthew McConaughey: Um, I mean, I share some pretty cool, what I think some pretty cool stuff on my Instagram and officially McConaughey. If you want to find out about the foundation, just keep living. org. And if you want to find out more about the book, hopefully go check it out and read it and get something from it, but that's greenlightsthebook.

com or greenlights. com. I'm still here living live, hopefully I'm only halfway through this big thing called life. We'll see. 

[00:55:08] Hala Taha: Awesome. Thank you so much, 

[00:55:09] Matthew McConaughey: Matthew. I appreciate it. 

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