Matthew McConaughey on His Success Playbooks, the Powerful Philosophy of Greenlights, and Choosing the Paths Less Traveled (#474)

Illustration of Matthew McConaughey
Illustration via 99designs

“If all we’re doing is asking ourselves questions, but never coming up with an answer, well, that can lead to some very imbalanced insanity at times.”

— Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) is a Texas native and one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading men. A chance meeting in Austin with casting director and producer Don Phillips led him to director Richard Linklater, who launched the actor’s career in the cult classic Dazed and Confused. Since then, he has won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club, appeared in more than 40 feature films that have grossed more than $1 billion, and has become a producer, director, and philanthropist with his Just Keep Livin’ Foundation—all the while sticking to his Texas roots and “jk livin’” philosophy.

McConaughey also serves as creative director for Wild Turkey and has co-created his own bourbon, Longbranch. He serves as Minister of Culture/M.O.C. for the University of Texas Athletic Department and the Austin FC Soccer Club, where he is part owner. McConaughey will launch his first book, Greenlights, on October 20, 2020. He currently resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife Camilla and their three kids while he is a professor at the University of Texas in Austin.

Please enjoy!

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#474: Matthew McConaughey on His Success Playbooks, The Powerful Philosophy of Greenlights, and Choosing The Paths Less Traveled


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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear an episode with a friend Matthew and I have in common? Listen to my most recent conversation with Ryan Holiday in which we discuss using Stoicism to cope with pandemic lockdowns, managing fear when everything seems out of control, fast decisions versus rushed decisions, and much more.

#419: Ryan Holiday — How to Use Stoicism to Choose Alive Time Over Dead Time



  • Connect with Matthew McConaughey:

Official Greenlights Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Matthew comes from peddlin’ stock. What did his father peddle, and what is Matthew’s most vivid memory of him? [06:28]
  • How did the thing Matthew’s mother peddled get him involved in a lengthy legal dispute that had the potential to change his family’s fortune? [08:41]
  • Is it true that Matthew’s parents had an unusual marriage history, and that the words “hate” and “can’t” were forbidden in their household? What lesson did young Matthew learn on one occasion when he said “I can’t” to his father? [15:23]
  • Why has The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino had such an impact on Matthew, and how did he serendipitously happen upon it while studying to be a lawyer? [18:06]
  • Matthew’s 10 goals in life circa 1992, and what he was doing at that point in time. [26:52]
  • What did Matthew mean specifically with goal number five: be an egotistical utilitarian? [31:45]
  • Six: take more risks. Why? [33:42]
  • Why did Matthew start using a diary, and what have been the benefits of doing it for decades? How has its purpose evolved over this span of time? [39:10]
  • Why is Matthew’s new book titled Greenlights? [43:24]
  • A million directions and eight options. Where to go first? Down dirt roads and autobahns, and maybe a footpath of Stoicism. [47:52]
  • Was writing Greenlights in self-prescribed solitary confinement an act of penance? What did the process look like, and how does he address himself when he’s the only one around to talk to? What’s the most important thing to remember when you ask yourself questions? [55:57]
  • The art of running downhill — like when your world’s become inverted by overnight fame and success. [1:00:47]
  • How hard was it for Matthew to start saying “No” to roles he was no longer interested in playing when Hollywood had already typecast him as the rom-com guy — and financially rewarding him accordingly? [1:05:09]
  • What practices helped Matthew get through the 22-month period it took to become “unbranded” as the rom-com guy in the eyes of Hollywood? [1:18:12]
  • What misconceptions does the world have about Matthew that he’d like to clear up? [1:21:30]
  • What would Matthew’s billboard say? [1:27:04]
  • The galvanizing effects of Texas groundwater on optimal storytelling and other parting thoughts. [1:31:00]