Don't change who you are. Be more of who you are - Sally Hogshead
Greenlights by Matthew McConoughey
Greenlights by Matthew McConoughey

Greenlights by Matthew McConoughey

Alright, alright, alright.

Even if you have never seen the movie, Dazed and Confused, you’ve probably heard someone quote that phrase. Odds are it will outlive many of us. What is amazing is to consider that this line was one of Matthew McConaughey’s first lines on film…even before he knew he was going to have a career as an actor. If you’ve seen any of his recent interviews, or took the time to read his new book, Greenlights, then you’ll know that he actually takes pride in this and acknowledges that very few actresses or actors have the privilege of having a role, character, or line live on long after the project.

Maybe that’s what I enjoyed most reading Greenlights…that sense that McConaughey knows how privileged he’s been and is grateful for all that life has brought him. However, similar to people like Richard Branson, there is no lack of hard work and personal reflection on McConoughey’s behalf. Many great individuals such as Branson, Samuel Goldwyn, and Thomas Jefferson have all seen the connection between hard work and the luck that seemingly follows. Greenlights describes many of both – McConoughey has been lucky and he has worked extremely hard both professionally and personally.

We live in a time when many people blame their parents…their childhood…their upbringing… almost anything for their lack of success. Many live lives trapped by their circumstances or their perceived circumstances. Matthew doesn’t’ describe an idyllic childhood – quite the contrary. There are moments when many would describe his upbringing as dysfunctional at best and abusive at worst. One of the early stories is that of his father and mother engaging in a physical and verbal altercation over the dinner table. In fact, his parents were divorced twice and married three times…to each other. Yet, he spends no time blaming his parents for this but rather shares the lessons he learned that were able to drive him forward.

Throughout the book the reader will experience Matthew’s penchant for storytelling, poetry, and summing up life lessons in what he calls bumperstickers (he has knowingly made these two words into one). Bumperstickers are “lyrics, one-liners, quick hitters, unobtrusive personal preferences that people publicly express”. If you’re reading the book (as opposed to listening to the audiobook), you’ll also enjoy the images of some of the notes and scraps that he has written himself and saved over the years – he indicates that he has been journaling and saving these scraps for the last 35+ years.

Something else the reader will experience is what McConoughey calls greenlights. Like a greenlight in traffic tells the driver to proceed forward, our greenlights indicates we can continue on our journey. Greenlights come both when expected and at times not soon enough. Matthew writes that through skill and timing we may catch more greenlights. He also warns/reminds the reader that we need yellow and red lights… and that they will eventually become greenlights.

McConoughey does not consider this a typical memoir as he does not want it just to be the story of his life. He also does not want to consider this an advice book. Rather, he shares his stories and his insights and hopes they may help the reader to adopt a new philosophy, change a reality, or at least change the way something is seen. If you’re like me, you will enjoy reading the stories and lessons shared. You may relate to some and shake your head at others. Hopefully, you’ll also take some time to reflect on your life and your greenlights.

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