Matthew McConaughey – This Is Why You’re Not Happy
Matthew McConaughey has lived a life of great success, a life many would dream about living. Here he shares his greatest life lessons in one of the best commencement speeches ever, at the University of Houston.
1. Life Isn’t Easy or Fair
Nothing good in life ever comes easy. Think about the last time you worked hard for a particular goal. How did it feel to finally achieve it? Don’t feel entitled to things and don’t play the victim. As Muhammad Ali said once, the service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
Take full responsibility for what is good and bad in your life and keep moving forward. Don’t expect life to be easy. When you’re a hard worker, it doesn’t matter if life is hard.
2. “Unbelievable” is the Stupidest Word in the Dictionary
Never be too flabbergasted by anything that you fail to give credit to the person who created it. For example, Elon Musk’s plan to dig down the surface of the earth and building cascading lanes for traffic sounds “unbelievable”.
But if you look closely, there’s nothing unbelievable. It’s an exceptional feat but anything is possible with human creativity. Think about the invention of airplanes, the electric bulb, internet, virtual reality – it’s all unbelievable until you realize your own power.
3. Happiness is Different Than Joy
“If happiness is what you’re after, then you are going to be let down frequently and be unhappy much of your time. Joy, though, is something else. It’s not a choice, not a response to some result, it is a constant. Joy is “the feeling we have from doing what we are fashioned to do,” no matter the outcome.”
Happiness is a response to an external outcome – getting a raise at work, seeing the face of your newborn, or meeting an old friend after a long time. It is a conditional, an if-then thing. But joy, we feel, when we are doing something that we are meant to do. For some, it is playing sports, for others, it is building an exceptional physique.
As they say, follow your bliss. Find what you enjoy in life and do more of it. Matthew McConaughey says that when he started to enjoy the making of a movie, the deed itself, instead of treating it as a means to an end, i.e. the respect of his peers or awards, he surprisingly received more awards and more respect. In other words, when you can enjoy your craft, you’ll naturally work harder and the results will be great naturally.
4. Define Success For Yourself
“Whatever your answer is, don’t choose anything that will jeopardize your soul. Prioritize who you are, who you want to be.”
Matthew McConaughey says that we should always keep asking ourselves an important question: “What success means for me? It might be getting rich, raising a healthy family, a happy marriage, or attaining spiritual enlightenment.
“DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID!!It tastes sweet today but it will give you cavities tomorrow. Life is not a popularity contest. Be brave, take the hill but first, answer the question, “What is my hill?”
5. Process of Elimination is the First Step to Our Identity
The first step to self-actualization, to discover who we are, is to first discover what we are not. It’s only by heading into the wrong direction and hitting a wall, people realize that they have to change their ways.
According to Matthew McConaughey,
“The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually NOT “I know who I am,” but rather “I know who I AM NOT.” Process of elimination.”
For example, sometimes you spend time with friends or colleagues who gossip a lot, complain a lot about how President Trump is ruining their lives, the dog on the street irritates them every morning, and how their spouse is the real reason they’re not making any progress at work.
When we realize that people or places make us feel unpleasant, it’s essential that we stop visiting them again. It’s essential to weed out “what you’re not” to become “what you are”.
6. DON’T LEAVE CRUMBS — and the beauty of delayed gratification
Crumbs are the choices we make today that haunt us in the future, they make us look over our shoulder. They makes us feel regret, guilt, and remorse. For example, you didn’t prepare well for the job and it breaks your spirit to see your colleague getting promoted but not you. You drank too much last night and now you fear that you will blow the presentation. Or you lied to your wife about where you are but she finds out from the text message on your phone later.
Matthew McConaughey says that instead of leaving crumbs for the future, why not plant seeds of goodness for the future. For example, you work harder than required on a project and it impresses the manager so much that they give you an even bigger opportunity.
“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 speak of and this is the beauty of delayed gratification.” – Matthew McConaughey
7. DISSECT YOUR SUCCESSES (Gratitude Reciprocates)
According to Matthew McConaughey, the only time we stop and assess ourselves is when we fall down. We only gossip about others’ shortcomings, we only write in our diaries when we’re feeling sad.
But if we start to dissect our successes more often, we’ll find that we will have more successes. This is a lesson in gratitude. The more you thank the universe for what you have, the more you will have to thank for.
8. Make Voluntary Obligations
Society wants us to fulfill some responsibilities, to not deviate from morals and ethics, to become productive members of society. But the most important obligations are the ones we put on ourselves. Because when you deviate from your own values, it’ll be hard to go to sleep at night.
So make sure you always follow this personal protocol to have a peaceful life.
“An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind, and when you lay down on the pillow at night, no matter who’s in our bed we ALL sleep alone. — These are your personal jiminy crickets. And there are not enough cops in the entire world to police them — It’s on YOU.” – Matthew McConaughey
9. From Can to Want
Don’t say yes to opportunities just because you can. Say yes because you want to. Many people never leave jobs they hate because they can get promoted even though they don’t want to do the work. They’d be better off opening their own yoga studio or becoming a fitness coach, but they keep doing soulless work for money.
Say yes to what you want before it’s too late.
Consider the example of Peter Dinklage, the Lannister from Game of Thrones. He spent 6 years doing data processing, a job he hated to the core, before he finally took a low-paying acting gig. The point is that, never do things because they’re available to you, do them because you want to.
“Just because you CAN?… Nah… It’s not a good enough reason to do something. Even when it means having more, be discerning, choose it, because you WANT it, DO IT because you WANT to.” – Matthew McConaughey
10. A Roof is a Man Made Thing
“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 ISN’T. AND IT’S NOT OUR RIGHT TO SAY OR BELIEVE IT IS.” – Matthew McConaughey
We often put limitations on our abilities, our self-belief, on what we deserve. So when something beyond those limits happens to us, when we are called to interview for an influential position, when we get a chance to talk to our crush, we freeze inside and can’t control the situation.
But if we were instead focused on the experience, enJOYing the craft as discussed earlier, it wouldn’t matter. The point is to enjoy and focus on the process so much that you score a goal without making it a big deal. The goal, the “big moment” becomes just another part of the process.
11. Turn the page
We often keep running in circles in life. No matter how hard we try to change things for the better, something keeps us taking back to where we were. In this merry-go-round, what we have to realize is that we are the authors of our own story.
The mistake we make is that we believe we can’t change, change is hard, or external things are to blame. But if we realize our power, to create life on our own terms, then change will come easy. First we have to make the internal shift.
“You ever get in a rut? Stuck on the merry-go-round of a bad habit? I have. You are going to make mistakes — own them, make amends, and move on. Guilt and regret kills many a man before their time. Turn the page, get off the ride. YOU are the author of the book of your life. Turn the page.”
12. Give Your Obstacles Credit
You don’t need to eliminate your fears or obstacles. Nah! Admit that they exist and then cross them anyway. When you reach the other side, you’ll realize how good you feel because you took that courageous step.
“Well, instead of denying these fears, declare them, say them out loud, admit them, give them the credit they deserve…..Find the courage to overcome them or see clearly that they are not really worth prevailing over.” – Matthew McConaughey
13. So how do we know when we cross the truth?
Matthew McConaughey takes 21-day trips by himself to get away from the noise of the world. He travels to places where nobody speaks his language and knows him by his name. These adventures serve as a purge, a cleansing ritual for him. He was tired, anxious, and confused about his newfound fame, so he went to Peru.
And on the 13th day, he “crossed the truth”.
As he was going for a walk, he turned a corner and there was this beautiful scenario – a thousand butterflies in front of him. No way further. He had an epiphany. He realized that “All I want is what I can see, and what I can see, is in front of me.” In that moment, he let go of all anxieties, guilt, anticipation and fully embraced the present moment.
To cross your own truth, you have to get away from the noise. Go away for a weekend to be with yourself and see what you find.