Matthew McConaughey Motivational Speech Transcript
On January 7, 2016 Matthew McConaughey gave a classic motivational speech at the University of Houston. It is considered one of the best motivational speeches of all time. Read the full transcript right here on Rev.com.
Matthew McConaughey: (00:01)
Can you hear me? Can you hear me? You hear me? Okay. Congratulations class of 2015. You guys and girls, and young men and women are the reason I’m here. I’m really looking forward to talking with you all tonight. You heard my dad played football here and I believe he even graduated from here. That was some extra incentive for me to come. Short and sweet or long and salty? A sugar doughnut or some oatmeal? Now, out of respect for you and your efforts in getting your degree, I thought long and hard about what I could share with you tonight. Did I want to stand up here at a podium and read you your rights? Did I want to come up here and just share some funny stories. I thought about what you would want, I thought about what you might need. I also thought about what I want to say and what I need to say. Hopefully, we’re both going to be happy on both accounts. As the saying goes, take what you like, leave the rest. Thank you for having me.
Matthew McConaughey: (01:20)
So before I share with you some what I do knows, I want to talk with you about what I don’t know. I have two older brothers. One was in high school in the early 1970s. And this was a time when a high school GED got you a job, and the college degree was exemplary. My other brother, Pat, was in high school in the early 80s. And by this time, the GED wasn’t enough to guarantee employment. He needed a college degree. And if you got one, you had a pretty good chance of getting the kind of job that you wanted after you graduated. Me, I graduated high school in 1988. Got my college degree in 1993. And that college degree in ’93 did not mean much. It was not a ticket. It was not a voucher. It was not a free pass go to anything. So I asked the question, what does your college degree mean?
Matthew McConaughey: (02:11)
It means you got an education. It means you have more knowledge in a specific subject, vocation. It means you may have more expertise in what your degree is in. But what’s it worth in the job market out there today? We know the market for college graduates is more competitive now than ever. Now, some of you already have a job lined up, you’ve got a path where today’s job is going to become tomorrow’s career. But for most of you, the future is probably still pretty fuzzy. And you don’t have that job that directly reflects the degree you just got. Many of you don’t even have a job at all. Think about it. You’ve just completed your scholastic educational curriculum in life, the one that you started when you were five years old in kindergarten up until now, and your future may not be any more clearer than it was five years ago. You don’t have the answers and is probably pretty damn scary.
Matthew McConaughey: (03:09)
And I say that’s okay. Because that is how it hits. This is the reality that many of you are facing. This is the world that we live in. And while I’m not here to discourage you, or in any way, belittle your accomplishments tonight, which I’d like to applaud that one more time. You graduated. Now, I’m not here to be a downer on that. Let’s get that straight. But I am here to talk brass tacks. I want to skip the flattery and the attaboys. Because I do know this. The sooner that we become less impressed with our life, with our accomplishments, with our career, with whatever that prospect is in front of us, the sooner we become less impressed and more involved with that and these things, the sooner we get a whole lot better at doing it. So I’m going to talk to you about some things I’ve learned in my journey. Most from experience, some of them I heard in passing, many of them I’m still practicing, but all of them I do believe are true.
Matthew McConaughey: (04:10)
Now, they may be truth to me, but don’t think that that makes them mine because you cannot own the truth. So please think of these as signposts, approaches paradigms, that give some science to satisfaction. They’re yours to steal, they’re yours to share, liken to your own lives, to personally apply in your own lives in your own way should you choose to. So here we go. Number one, and this should come up on the jumbotron, life’s not easy. Is it up there. Life is not easy. It is not. Don’t try to make it that way. Life’s not fair. It never was, it isn’t now, and it won’t ever be. Do not fall into the trap, the entitlement trap of feeling like you’re a victim. You are not. Get over it and get on with it. And yes, most things are more rewarding when you break a sweat to get them back. Fact.
Matthew McConaughey: (05:11)
Number two. I love this one. Unbelievable is the stupidest word in the dictionary. Should never come out of our mouths. Think about it. To say, what an unbelievable play. It was an unbelievable book, an unbelievable film, an unbelievable act of courage. Really? It may be spectacular, it may be phenomenal, most excellent or outstanding. But unbelievable? Give others and yourself more credit. It just happened. You witnessed it. You just did it. Believe it. What about the other side of unbelievable? That side when we humans underperform or act out of our best character. For instance, man flies a suicide jet into the World Trade Center. Millions died from diseases every day that we have cures for. Bob the Builder swears that he’s going to have your house built by Thanksgiving and you can’t move in until Christmas the next year. Our best friends lie to us. And we lie to ourselves all the time. Unbelievable? I don’t think so. Again, it just happens and it happens every day.
Matthew McConaughey: (06:31)
Nothing that we Homo sapien earthlings do is unbelievable. And if there’s one thing you can depend on people being, its people. So we shouldn’t be surprised. We, us are the trickiest mammals walking the planet. I’m not worried about the monkeys. I’m worried about you and me. So acknowledge the acts of greatness as real and do not be naive about mankind’s capacity for evil nor be in denial of our own shortcomings. [inaudible 00:07:00]. Happiness is an emotional response to an outcome. If I win, I will be happy. If I don’t, I won’t. It’s an if, then cause and effect, quid pro quo standard that we cannot sustain, because we immediately raise it every time we attain it. See, happiness demands a certain outcome. It is result reliant. And I say if happiness is what you’re after, then you’re going to be let down frequently and you’re going to be unhappy much of your time.
Matthew McConaughey: (08:00)
Joy, though, joy is a different thing. It’s something else. Joy is not a choice. It’s not a response to some result. It’s a constant. Joy is the feeling that we have from doing what we are fashioned to do, no matter the outcome. Now, personally as an actor, I started enjoying my work and literally being more happy when I stopped trying to make the daily labor a means to a certain end. For example, I need this film to be a box office success. I need my performance to be acknowledged. I need the respect of my peers. All those are reasonable aspirations. But the truth is, as soon as the work, the daily making of the movie, the doing of the deed became the reward in itself for me, I got more Box Office, more accolades and respect than I ever had before. See, Joy is always in process. It’s under construction. It is in constant approach. Alive and well in the doing of what we’re fashion to do and enjoying.
Matthew McConaughey: (09:08)
Number four. Define success for yourself. You already liked that one. Define success for yourself. Now, check this out. I’m in south of New Orleans a few years ago, and I went to a voodoo shop. And they had this wooden partition against the wall of these columns. In these columns were all these vials of these magic potions, right? And the headings above each potion defining what they would give you were things like fertility, health, family, legal help, energy, forgiveness, money. Guess which column was empty? Money. Let’s admit it. Money is king today, is what makes the world go round. It is success. The more we have, the more successful we are, right? I would argue that our cultural values have even been financialized.
Matthew McConaughey: (10:12)
Humility is not vogue anymore. It’s too passive. It’s a get rich quick on the internet, rich as 15 minutes of fame world that we live in, and we see it every day. But we all want to succeed, right? So the question that we got to ask ourselves is what success is to us? What success is to you? Is it more money? That’s fine. I got nothing against money. I don’t. Maybe it’s a healthy family. Maybe it’s a happy marriage. Maybe it’s to help others, to be famous, to be spiritually sound, to leave the world a little bit better place than you found it. Continue to ask yourself that question. Now, your answer may change over time and that’s fine. But do yourself this favor. Whatever your answer is, don’t choose anything that will jeopardize your soul.
Matthew McConaughey: (11:05)
Prioritize who you are, who you want to be, and don’t spend time with anything that antagonizes your character. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. It tastes sweet but you will get cavities tomorrow. Life is not a popularity contest. Be brave. Take the hill. But first answer that question. What’s my hill? So, me, how do I define success? For me myself. Well, for me, it’s a measurement of five things. We got fatherhood, we got being a good husband, we got my health, mind, body and spirit, we got career and we got friendships. These are what’s important to me in my life right now. So I try to measure these five things each day. I check in with them. I like to see whether or not I’m in the debit section or the credit section with each one. Am I in the red or I’m in the black? You follow?
Matthew McConaughey: (11:59)
For instance, sometimes say my career’s rolling. All right, it’s way up here in the black. But I see how my relationship with my wife maybe could use a little bit more of my attention. I got to pick up the slack on being a better husband. Get that one out of the red. Or say my spiritual health could use some maintenance. It’s down here, but hey man, my friendships and my social life, they’re in high gear. I got to recalibrate. Checks and balances. I got to go to church, remember to say thank you more often or something. But I got to take the tally, because I want to keep all five in healthy shape. And I know that if I don’t take care of them, if I don’t keep up maintenance on them, one of them is going to get weak, man.
Matthew McConaughey: (12:43)
It’s going to dip too deep into the debit section, it’s going to go bankrupt, it’s going to get sick, died. So first, we have to define success for ourselves. And then we have to put in the work to maintain it. Take that daily tally. Tend to our garden, keep the things that are important to us in good shape. I mean, let’s admit it. We’ve all got two wolves in us, a good one and a bad one, and they both want to eat. The best I can tell, we just got to feed that good one a little more than the other one. Here we go.
Matthew McConaughey: (13:21)
Number five. Process of elimination is the first step to our identity, a.k.a, where you are not is as important as where you are. 1992, I got my first job as an actor. Three lines, three days work, in a film called Dazed and Confused. All right. All right. All right. There we go. So this director of that film, Richard Linklater, he kept inviting me back to set each night, putting me in more scenes which led to more lines, all of which I happily said yes to. I mean, I’m having a blast. People are telling me I’m good at what I’m doing. And they’re writing me a check for $325 a day. I mean, hell yeah, give me more scenes. I love what I’m doing. Well, by the end of the shoot, by the end of the film, those three lines and turned into over three weeks worth, and it was mine. It was Wooderson since 1970 Chevelle that we went to go get Aerosmith tickets in. Yeah, it was badass.
Matthew McConaughey: (14:24)
Well, a few years ago, I’m watching this film again. And I noticed two scenes that I really shouldn’t have been in. In one of these scenes, my character, Wooderson, I exit screen left to head somewhere, and then I reenter the screen to double check if any of the other characters wanted to go with me. Now, in rewatching the film, and you’ll agree if you know Wooderson, Wooderson is not a guy who would ever say, later, and then come back to see if you were sure you didn’t want to go. Now, when Wooderson leaves, Wooderson is gone. He does not stutter step, flinch, rewind, ask twice or solicit. You know what I’m talking about? Wooderson has better things to do like liking those high school girls, man, because I get older and they stay the same age.
Matthew McConaughey: (15:13)
The point is, I should not have been in that scene. I shouldn’t have come back. I should have exited screen left and never come back. But back then making my first film, getting invited back to the set, cashing that check and having a ball, I wanted more screen time. I wanted to be in the scene longer and more and come back into the scene. Right? But I shouldn’t have been there. Wooderson shouldn’t have been there. It is just as important where we are not as it is where we are. Look, the first step that leads to our identity in life is usually not, I know who I am. I know who I am. That’s not the first step. The first step is usually, I know who I am not. Process of elimination. Defining ourselves by what we are not is the first step that leads us to really knowing who we are.
Matthew McConaughey: (16:11)
You know that group of friends that you hang out with that really might not bring out the best in you? They gossip too much or they’re kind of shady. They really aren’t going to be there for you in a pinch. How about that bar that we keep going to that we always seem to have the worst hangover from? Or that computer screen, that computer screen that keeps giving us an excuse not to get out of the house and engage with the world and get some real human interaction? How about that food that we keep eating? The stuff that tastes so good going down, it makes us feel like crap the next week, we feel lethargic and we keep putting on weight. Well, those people, those places, those things, stop giving them your time and energy. Just don’t go there.
Matthew McConaughey: (16:57)
I mean, put them down. And when you do this, when you do put them down, when you quit go in there and you quit giving them your time, you inadvertently find yourself spending more time and in more places that are healthy for you, that bring you more joy. Why? Because you just eliminated the who’s, the where’s, the what’s and the when that were keeping you from your identity. Trust me, too many options. I promise you, the too many options will make a tyrant of us all. So get rid of the excess, the wasted time. Decrease your options. If you do this, you will have accidentally, almost innocently put in front of you what is important to you by process of elimination. Knowing who we are is hard. It’s hard. So give yourself a break. Eliminate who you are not, first, and you’re going to find yourself where you need to be.
Matthew McConaughey: (18:00)
Number six. Don’t leave crumbs and the beauty of delayed gratification. So what a crumbs? The crumbs I’m talking about are the choices that we make that make us have to look over our shoulder in the future. You didn’t pay that guy back the money that you owed him and tonight you just saw him three rows behind you. Shit. You slept around on your spouse and you just found out that tomorrow she and the lady you’re having an affair with are going to be at the same PTA meeting. Shit again. You drank too much last night, you’re too hungover to drive your son to his 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning baseball practice. These are the crumbs. They come in the form of regret, guilt and remorse. You leave crumbs today, they will cause you more stress tomorrow. And they disallow you from creating a customized future in which you do not have to look over your shoulder.
Matthew McConaughey: (19:06)
So let’s flip the script. Instead of creating outcomes that take from us, let’s create more outcomes that pay us back, fill us up, keep your fire lit, turn you on for the most amount of time in your future. These are the choices I’m talking about. And this is the beauty of delayed gratification. Tee yourself up. Do yourself a favor, make the choices, the purchases today that pay you back tomorrow. Residuals. In my business, we call it mailbox money. If I do my job well today, and that movie keeps rerunning on TV, five years from now, I’m getting checks in the mailbox. It’s a heck of a deal.
Matthew McConaughey: (19:46)
So whether it’s prepping the coffee, make it the night before, so all you got to do is press the button in the morning. Or getting ready for the job interview early so you don’t have to cram the night before. Or choosing not to hook up with that married woman because you know you’re going to feel horrible about it tomorrow, and your husband carries a gun. Or paying your debts on time so that when you do see that guy three rows back tonight, you don’t have to hunker down in your seat hoping that he don’t see you. Get some ROI. You know what that is? Return on Investment. Your investment. You, customize your future. Don’t leave crumbs.
Matthew McConaughey: (20:29)
Number seven. Dissect your successes and the reciprocity of gratitude. We so often focus on failure, don’t we? We study failure. We’re obsessed with failure, we dissect failure in our failures. We dissect them so much we end up intoxicated with them to the point of disillusion. When do we write in our diary? Usually when we’re depressed. What do we gossip about? Other people’s flaws and limitations. We can dissect ourselves into self-loathing if we’re not careful. I find that most of the times our obsession with what is wrong, just ends up breeding more wrong, more failure. And the easiest way to dissect success is through gratitude. Giving thanks for that which we do have, for what is working, appreciating the simple things we sometimes take for granted. We give thanks for these things and that gratitude, reciprocates, creating more to be thankful for. It’s really simple and it works.
Matthew McConaughey: (21:43)
Now, I’m not saying be in denial of your failures. No. We can learn from them too, but only if we look at them constructively, as a means to reveal what we are good at, what we can get better at, what we do succeed at. Personally, I’ve read a whole lot of my bad reviews. I’ve had quite a few written by the more talented critics. They are the ones who give constructive bad reviews. They reveal to me what did translate in my work, what came across, what was seen or what wasn’t. Now, I don’t obsess on the unfavorable aspect of their review, but I do see what I can learn from it. Because their displeasure actually uncovers and makes more apparent what I do, do well, what I am successful at, and then I dissect that.
Matthew McConaughey: (22:38)
Life’s a verb. We try our best, we don’t always do our best. Our architecture is a verb as well. Yes, it is. And since we are the architects of our own lives, let’s study the habits, the practices, the routines that we have that lead to and feed our success, our joy, our honest pain, our laughter, our earn tears. Let’s dissect that, and give thanks for those things. And when we do that, guess what happens? We get better at them. And we have more to dissect.
Matthew McConaughey: (23:16)
Number eight. Make voluntary obligations. Mom and dad, since we were young, they teach us things as children. Teachers, mentors, the government and laws, they all give us guidelines for which to navigate this life. Rules to abide by in the name of accountability. I’m not talking about those obligations. I’m talking about the ones that we make with ourselves, with our God, with our own consciousness. I’m talking about the you versus you obligations. We have to have them. Again, these are not societal laws and expectations that we acknowledge and endow for anyone other than ourselves. These are faith-based obligations that we make on our own. These are not the lowered insurance rates for a good driving record.
Matthew McConaughey: (24:12)
You will not be fined or put in jail if you do not gratify these obligations I speak of. No one else governs these, but you. They are your secrets with yourself, your own private counsel, personal protocols. And while nobody throws you a party when you abide by them, no one’s going to arrest you when you break them either. Except yourself. Or some cops who got a disturbing the peace call at 2:30 in the morning because you were playing bongos in your birthday suit. That was me. An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind. And when you lay down on that pillow at night, no matter who’s in your bed, we all sleep alone. These are your personal Jiminy Cricket, and there are not enough cops in the entire world to police them. It’s on you. It’s on you.
Matthew McConaughey: (25:08)
Number nine. From can to want. All right, check this out. In 1995, I got my first big paycheck as an actor. I think it was 150 grand. The film I was on was Boys on the Side and we were shooting in Tucson, Arizona. I had this sweet little adobe guest house on the edge of the Saguaro National Park. The house came with a maid, my first maid. It was awesome. So I got a friend over one Friday night, we’re having a good time and I’m telling her about how happy I am with my setup. The house, the maid, especially the maid. I’m telling her look, this lady, she cleans the place up after I go to work. She washes my clothes, the dishes puts fresh water by my bed, leaves me cooked meal sometimes. She even presses my jeans.
Matthew McConaughey: (25:58)
My friend she smiles at me happy that I’m excited over this. She says, “Well, that’s great, Matthew. If you like your jeans pressed.” I kind of looked up at her, my jaw caught hanging open. I stuttered a moment. Had that dumb ass look that you get when you just been told the truth and you didn’t think about it. It hit me. I hate that line going down the front of my jeans. I hate that line. And it was then for the first time that I noticed it. I never thought about not liking that starched line down the front of my jeans because I’ve never had a maid iron my jeans before.
Matthew McConaughey: (26:36)
And since she did now for the first time of my life, I just liked it because I could get it. I never thought about if I really wanted it. Well, I didn’t want it there. That line. And that night I learned something, just because you can, nah. Come on. It’s not a good enough reason to do some. Even when it means having more, be discerning. Choose it because you want it. Do it because you want to. I’ve never have my jeans pressed again. I hate that line.
Matthew McConaughey: (27:18)
Number 10. A roof is a man-made thing. This may cut a little close to the bone since the geography, but I think we all were there and we will all remember where we were. But in January 3rd, 1993, it was the NFL playoffs, and your Houston Oilers were playing the Buffalo Bills. The Oilers were up 28-3 at half time, 35-3 early in the third. Frank Reich and the Bills come back to win 41-38 in overtime for one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. Yeah, the Bills won, but they didn’t really beat the Oilers. The Oilers lost that game, they beat themselves. You all remember that? Why? Why they beat themselves? Or how?
Matthew McConaughey: (28:12)
Was it because at halftime, they put a ceiling, roof, a limit on their belief in themselves, aka, prevent defense? Or maybe they started thinking about the next opponent in the playoffs at halftime. I mean, they were up, then they came out, played on their heels. Lost the mental edge the entire second half and voila, they lost. In a mere two quarters, defensive coordinator, Jim Eddy went from being called the defensive coordinator of the year and the man first in line to be a head coach next year, to a man without a job in the NFL.
Matthew McConaughey: (28:54)
You ever choked? Nobody has ever choked? I have. You know what I’m talking about, fumbling at the goal line, stuck a foot in your mouth once you got to the microphone, had a brain freeze on the exam that you were totally prepared for. Forgot the punch line to a joke in front of 4,000 graduating students at the University of Houston commencement. Or maybe you’ve had that feeling of, oh my god, life just cannot get any better than this moment. And ask yourself, do I deserve this? Now, what happens when we get that feeling? We tense up, we have this sort of outer body experience where we are literally seeing ourselves in the third person. And we realize that the moment just got bigger than us. Ever felt that way. I have.
Matthew McConaughey: (29:49)
It’s because we have created a fictitious ceiling, a roof, to our expectations of ourselves. A limit where we think it’s all too good to be true. But it’s not. And it’s not our right to say or believe it is. We shouldn’t create these restrictions on ourselves. A blue ribbon, a statue, a score, a great idea, the love of our life, a euphoric bliss. Who are we to think that we don’t deserve or haven’t earned these gifts when we get them? It’s not all right. But if we stay in process within ourselves in the joy of the doing, we will never choke at the finish line. Why? Because we aren’t thinking of the finish line. Because we’re not looking at the clock. We’re not watching ourselves on the jumbotron performing the very act that we’re in the middle of. No, we’re in process. The approach is the destination and we’re never finished.
Matthew McConaughey: (30:56)
Bo Jackson, what he do? He used to run over the goal line, through the end zone and up the tunnel. The greatest snipers and marksmen in the world, they don’t aim at the target. They aim on the other side of the target. We do our best when our destinations are beyond the measurement, when our reach continually exceeds our grasp, and when we have immortal finish lines. And when we do this, the race is never over, the journey has no port. The adventure never ends, because we are always on the way. So do this. Do this and let them, let somebody else come up and tap you on the shoulder and say “Hey, you scored.” Let them run up and tap you on the shoulder and say, “You won.” Let them come to you, “You go home now.” Let them say, “I love you too.” Let them say thank you. Take the lid off the man made roofs that we put above ourselves and always play like an underdog. Here we go.
Matthew McConaughey: (32:08)
Number 11. Turn the page. The the late great University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal. If you all remember him, he won the National Championship in ’69, he won a couple of National Championships. Remember Darrell Royal? He was a friend of mine and a good friend of many people. Now, a lot of people looked up to this man. One of the people that looked up to him was a musician named Larry. Now, at this time in his life, Larry was in the prime of this country music career. He had number one hits and his life was rolling. And he had picked up a bad habit of snorting the white stuff somewhere along the line. And at one particular party after a bathroom break, Larry went confidently up to his mentor Darrell, and he started telling him a story.
Matthew McConaughey: (32:59)
Coach Royal listened, as he always had. And when Larry finished his story and was about to walk away, Coach Royal put his gentle hand on his shoulder and he very discreetly said, “Hey, Larry, you got something on your nose there, bud.” Larry immediately hurried to the bathroom mirror where he saw some of the white powder that he hadn’t cleaned up his nose. He was ashamed. He was embarrassed as much because he felt so disrespectful to coach Royal and as much because he’d obviously gotten too comfortable with the drug to even hide it as well as he should. Well, the next day, Larry went to coach’s house. He rang the doorbell, coach answered and he said, “Coach, I need to talk to you.” Darrell said, “Sure, come on in.”
Matthew McConaughey: (33:42)
Larry confessed. He purged his sins to coach. He told him how embarrassed he was and how he had lost his way in the midst of all this fame and fortune. And towards the end of an hour, Larry who was in tears, he asked coach, he said, “Coach, what do you think I should do?” Coach, being a man of few words just looked at him and calmly said, “Larry, I have never had any trouble turning the page in the book of my life.” Larry got sober that day, and he’s been sober for the last 40 years. You ever get in a rut? You know I’m talking about? Getting the funk. Stuck on the merry-go-round of a bad habit? I have. Look, we’re going to make mistakes. You got to own them. Then you got to make amends. And then you got to move on. Guilt and regret kills many a man before their time. So turn the page, get off the ride. You are the author of the book of your life. Turn that page.
Matthew McConaughey: (34:57)
Number 12. Give your obstacles credit. You know those No Fear T-shirts that were out. I don’t know. Maybe you used to wear them 10 years ago, No Fear. You may remember those or is it just me? I saw them everywhere. All right. I don’t get them and I never did. I mean, I try to scare myself at least once a day. I mean, I get butterflies every morning before I go to work. I was nervous before I got here to speak tonight. I think fear is a good thing. Now, why? Because it increases our need to overcome that fear. Say your obstacle is fear of rejection. You want to ask her out or you want to ask him out, but you fear that he or she may say no. You you want to ask your boss for that promotion, but you’re scared he’s going to think you’re overstepping your bounds.
Matthew McConaughey: (36:00)
Well, instead of denying those fears, declare them. Say the fear out loud, admit it, give them the credit they deserve. Don’t get all macho, and act like they’re no big deal. And don’t get paralyzed by denying that they exist and therefore abandoning your need overcome them. I mean, I I’d even subscribe to believe that we’re all destined to have to do the thing that we fear the most anyway, at some point. So give your obstacles credit and you will, one, find the courage to overcome them. Or you will two, see more clearly that they’re not really worth prevailing over. So be brave, have courage. And when you do, you get stronger, you get more aware, you get more respectful of yourself, and that which you fear.
Matthew McConaughey: (36:51)
Number 13. So how do we know when we cross the truth? 13. Someone’s asking, why did I pick 13? That’s an unlucky number. I don’t know when 13 got the bad rap and became the mongrel of numerology. It’s never done me wrong 13. In fact, 13 has been a pretty lucky number for me and I want to tell you how. I’ve always taken these 21-day trips by myself to far off places where I usually don’t know the language and nobody knows my name. They’re adventures, one, but they’re also a purge. They’re a cleanse for me, they’re like a 21-day fast from attention, from all the things I have in my well-appointed life. They’re a check-out so I can check-in with me. See how I’m doing. Be forced to be my own and my only company, to have a look in my mirror. And we all know what can happen when we do that. Sometimes we do not like what we see.
Matthew McConaughey: (37:57)
Well in 1996, right after I got famous from the film I did call the time to kill, I headed out on one of these 21-day walkabout, and this time to the jungles in the mountains of Peru. The sudden fame that I just gotten was somewhat unbalancing. My face was everywhere. Everyone wanted a piece of me. People I’ve never met were swearing that they love me. Everywhere I went, there I was on a billboard, a magazine cover. It was just weird, overall. I was asking myself, what’s the reality in this and what’s the bullshit? Did I deserve all this? These were all questions I was asking myself. Who was I was another. Now there’s always an initiation period with these trips. An amount of time that it takes for the place to initiate the traveler. The time it takes to disconnect from the world that we just left and become completely present in the one we are traveling in.
Matthew McConaughey: (38:58)
For me, that initiation period usually last about 13 days, 13 hellish days until I’m out of my own way. And after that, the whole trip is really fun and smooth sailing. Well, it was the night of the 12th day in my 21 day trip. I’m settling into camp. I’d already hiked 80 miles to this point, and I had a three day trek ahead of me to Machu Picchu. And I was full on sick of myself. Wrestling with the loss of anonymity, I was guilt ridden for sins of my past, I had a lot of regret. I was lonely, disgusted with my company, mine. And I was doing a pretty good job of mentally beating the shit out of myself. Grappling with these demons on this night, I couldn’t sleep. All of these badges and banners and expectations and anxieties that I was carrying with me, I needed to free myself from them. Who was I? I asked myself. I mean, not only on this trip, but in this life.
Matthew McConaughey: (39:59)
So I stripped down to nothing. I took every moniker that gave me pride and confidence, all the window dressings, the packaging around the product, I discard them all. I got rid of my lucky and faithful American cat. I stripped off all my talismans from adventures past. I even discarded my late father’s gold ring with an M on it that he gave to me. It was a meltdown of he and my mom’s class rings and gold from my mom’s teeth. I even got rid of that. I was naked, literally and figuratively. And I got sick. Soaked in sweat, I [inaudible 00:40:40]. Now, a few hours later, I woke on this 13th morning to a rising sun, surprisingly, fresh and energized. I dressed, made some tea and I went for [inaudible 00:40:51] destination Machu Picchu but rather to nowhere in particular.
Matthew McConaughey: (40:56)
My gut was still a bit piqued from last night’s purge but I curiously felt pretty good. I felt alive. Felt clean. I felt free and light. Along a muddy path on this walk, I turned a corner. And there in the middle of the road was was this mirage in the most magnificent pinks and blues and red colors that I’d ever seen. It was electric, glowing and vibrant, just hovering just off the surface of the jungle floor as if it was plugged into some neon power plant. I stopped. I stared. There’s no way around it. The jungle floor in front of me was actually thousands of butterflies there in my path. It was spectacular. So I stayed awhile. And somewhere in my captivation, I heard this little voice inside my head say these words, “All I want is what I can see. And all I can see is what’s in front of me.”
Matthew McConaughey: (42:04)
Now, at that moment for the first time in this trip, I had stopped anticipating what was around the corner. For the first time I stopped thinking about what was coming up next. What was up ahead. Time slowed down. I was no longer in a rush to get anywhere. And my anxieties were greatly eased. Few hours later, I returned to camp. Packing for my continued journey [inaudible 00:42:30]. Even the local Sherpas I was traveling with, they noticed calling out to me. [foreign language 00:42:36], which means, you are light, in Spanish. See, I forgave myself that morning. I let go of the guilt. The weight that was on my shoulders was lifted, my penance was paid. And I got back in good graces with my God and I shook hands with myself. My best friend, the one that we’re all stuck with anyway, ourselves. And from that morning on, the adventure was awesome.
Matthew McConaughey: (43:00)
I was present, I was out of my own way. I was anticipating next. I was embracing only what was in front of my eyes and giving everything that justice that it deserved. See, I crossed the truth that morning. Now did I find it? I don’t know. I think it found me. Why? Because I put myself in a place to be found. I put myself in a place to receive the truth. So how do we know when we crossed the truth? Well, I think the truth is all around us all the time. I mean, I think the answer, it’s always right there, right there. I think it’s all around us. We just don’t always see it. We don’t always grasp it, hear it, access it. Usually because we’re not in the right place to do so. So what do we do?
Matthew McConaughey: (43:45)
First, I believe we’ve got to put ourselves in the place to receive the truth. We live in an extremely noisy world with all kinds of frequencies coming at us. We got commitments, we got deadlines, fix this, do that, plans, expectations, and they all make it hard to get clarity and peace of mind. So we have to consciously put ourselves in places to receive that clarity. Now, that may be prayer, that may be meditation, that may be a walk about, that may be being in the right company, a road trip, whatever it is for you, schedule that time. Schedule it. So, if we do that, if we hear it, if we put ourselves in a place to hear it and we do, and it’s become clear, a truth, natural and infinite, then the second part comes, which is to personalize it.
Matthew McConaughey: (44:34)
Ask yourself how it works for you. How it applies to you personally. Why you need it in your life, specifically. And if you do that, then comes the third part, have the patience to internalize it. And get it from our intellectual head, thinking about it and into our bones and our soul and our instinct. Now we cannot rush this part, it does take time. So if we get that far, we’ve received it, we personalize it and we’ve internalized it. If we make it that far, then comes to biggie man, this comes the fun one. Got to have the courage to act on it. To actually take it into our daily lives and practice it. To make it an active part of who we are and live it. If we can do that, then we have what I believe is heaven right here on earth. And that’s the place where what we want is also just what we need. I mean, that’s the ticket, isn’t it? Think about it. I know that’s what I want to live.
Matthew McConaughey: (45:40)
So, while we’re here, and they’re going to run across the jumbotron, let’s make it a place where we break a sweat. Where we believe, where we enjoy the process of succeeding in the places in ways that we are fashioned to. Where we don’t have to look over our shoulder because we’re too busy doing what we’re good at. Voluntarily keeping our own counsel because we want to. Traveling towards immortal finish lines, we write our own book. Overcoming our fears, we make friends with ourselves. And that is the place that I’m talking about. Thank you, good luck, and just keep living.