Back to insights
What I Learned After Reading ‘Greenlights’ by Matthew McConaughey
Book review of Mathew McConaughey's Greenlights

‘Greenlights’ is a memoir of sorts by Matthew McConaughey — the cool, somewhat enigmatic actor from Texas who, against the odds, made it big in Hollywood only to leave Hollywood and head back to Texas. McConaughey keeps it honest in his memoir. There’s no over-dramatizing of events in his life (despite growing up in a very unusual setting and experiencing some trauma). He gives sage decision-making advice by explaining his experiences and challenges — many of which are relatable to most of us in some way or another.

Reading ‘Greenlights’ also helped me understand why McConaughey is admired (I am a fan of his movies, but I didn’t know much about him before reading his memoir). His foundation behind living your best life is being true to yourself — cliche, no doubt, but if you learn how he defines that (being true to yourself), you will appreciate his world-class authenticity. 

Authenticity and openness are rare, particularly from someone of his celebrity.


A Gem from  McConaughey

One of the gems from McConaughey in ‘Greenlights’ is the mantra there are no peaks or valleys; there’s just life. Just red lights and green lights, all of which are moments in time that ooze of wisdom and help you grow. They should be remembered, but not overthought, mainly the negative stuff.


Pride in Work and Pursuit

McConaughey clearly is a guy who takes pride in hard work — in mastering his craft… he had a challenging road to get to Hollywood. Still, he was incredibly persistent, humble, and highly studious. He paid attention to the details of what made the great actors before him so great and then found ways to bring out his own genius. I don’t want to spoil the book, but reading about how McConaughey prepared for his role in Dazed and Confused was inspiring. He didn’t have an overly significant role in that movie, and he didn’t have a history of acting, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he trained for it. 

Acting was most certainly not in McConaughey’s upbringing or in the culture of the area he grew up in. Still, he learned to apply principles and experiences from his daily life toward acting — giving him that unique presence on screen. When preparing for a new role, McConaughey would sometimes draw on previous life experiences or people he knew and met. He would ‘borrow’ traits from people he met in life that most applied to the character he was playing on the screen.


McConaughey Stayed True to Himself, Despite Running Low on Money

Later in his career, after achieving fame and success, McConaughey made a pact with himself that he would not do rom-coms anymore. He knew, astutely, that he was typecast as the rom-com guy after much success in that genre. But he wanted more. 

When he made this personal pact to stay out of rom-coms, work dried up. After roughly two years without work, he received a call from a studio — $5 million to do another rom-com… he had bills to pay and a lifestyle to maintain, but he declined. Soon the offer was $10 million, and shortly after turning that down, it went higher. Still, he said no. The guy is true to himself, and that refusal to go back on his personal pact inevitably broke McConaughey through as a dynamic, Academy Award-winning actor… 

Because he turned down that lucrative rom-com role, he was able to make a run at being the lead for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. The rest is history… 

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ brought McConaughey from a rom-com lead to the heights of the silver screen, giving him leading man status reserved for the likes of DiCaprio, Day-Lewis, Brando, Pacino, etc.  


Greenlights by Mathew McConaughey

‘Greenlights’ is a short, easy read with gems of wisdom throughout. McConaughey is as authentic as it gets and a very driven entrepreneur, actor, and family man. Given his track record of honesty, accomplishment, and approachable southern demeanor, if indeed the rumors are true and he runs for Governor of Texas, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins. 

Stay hungry,