Who Knew Matthew McConaughey Could Leave Behind a Legacy With “Greenlights?”

For starters, me. OK, maybe not, but also maybe. I always knew he was a fellow who danced to the beat of his own drum . He of the working out in public (GASP!) to supposedly show off. He of the long locks looking Adonis, with that southern-charm-smile. He of the same role, basically, movie after movie.

To Matthew himself, that was OK. That was part of the fun. Part of the ride. Until it wasn’t. Like most people in life, Matthew wanted more. He grew tired of the rom-com lifestyle. Basically, he was tired of being treated like a joke and not being taken serious. He wanted serious movie roles. He wanted serious offers. He wanted to actually prepare for something versus just show up with chiseled abs and that boy-howdy laugh, collect his millions and call it a day (er, movie). He wanted to leave behind a legacy.

Matthew McConaughey pretty much said as much in his round of podcasts recently (see, Joe Rogan, Tim Ferris, Ryan Holiday, to click on a few).

But Noah, doesn’t money always talk? Sure. Again, until it doesn’t. That’s just fool’s gold, as they say. Eventually there has to be more to life than just money and abs. Pretty women? They come and go. Fame? That fades. A legacy? Now that… that lasts forever.

A legacy is usually defined by something of value being left behind for heirs or family members. A question I like to ask people, when they tell me that they love what they do is, “Is this going to be your legacy, though?” I’m given confused looks and a “Huh?” answer. I ask you, the reader, what is your legacy? What was Matthew McConaughey’s? These are questions that need answers.

For starters, I agree that not everyone has their legacy in place. Heck, most of us don’t even have our current lives in order on a daily basis, much less a legacy. A legacy Noah!? You’re trying to talk to us about a legacy; what have YOU done? Well, not much. But I will get there, or die trying. Maybe that will be my legacy in of itself, die trying to reach my goals. Die trying to give myself a better life and those that come after me. I’d rather die trying than not. The bonus is, if I succeed, then my legacy will be intact forever. If I fail, then let that be my legacy. Win win, am I right?

Matthew McConaughey had his rom-com movie fanatics, but that was it. So, naturally, he went left when Hollywood went right. He settled down. He had children. He began to build his very own family legacy. In terms of wisdom and to the rest of the world, he still had work to do. With his latest book release, “Greenlights,” Matthew leaves behind so much anecdotal notes and stories, that we finally get to peel back the muscles and get inside his head. The strongest muscle after all, is the brain.

Alright, alright, alright…

Matthew’s brain is showcased throughout his book, and shows us all that you too, can find your own green light. Don’t slow down. Don’t stop. Keep going.

When Matthew wanted to rid himself of the romantic comedies and take on serious acting roles, no one else wanted him to. He was turned down. He had no offers on that front. Matthew tells the story of being offered something around 10 million dollars to do, yep, you guessed it, another romantic comedy. He said thanks but no thanks. They offered him another million. OK, let’s see the script he sheepishly mentioned. Still a no. The studio kept throwing millions at him until they were up to 15 MILLION DOLLARS for the part.

This, my friends, is where the conundrum really begins. This is where you are tested. This is the moment, and Matthew knew it, that would define the rest of his career. If he chose the movie, the part, the money, that’s just what his legacy would be. That of a romantic comedy actor. He wanted more though. He dug in and said… NO!

He stuck to his guns, and turned down the biggest offer of his life, because of what he believed in. Matthew McConaughey was turning pro. He was going to build his legacy his way or die trying. He was done with the romantic comedies. He was going for it. The serious roles, the method acting, all of it.

Now, once Hollywood got word of him turning down such an offer, you would think that would show just how serious he was. You’d be right, but… the new offers, the ones he now wanted, never came. It took nearly two years before he was given a chance to show his acting chops in something that wasn’t just a take-your-shirt-off -role and smirk. Along the way, he would begin to build his legacy. He would even go on to win a Screen Actor’s Guild award, along with a Golden Globe and even an Academy Award for his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club (2014). Matthew McConaughey had arrived.

With his legacy as an actor being set (he even earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), Matthew could now focus on his family and really doing what he wanted in life. After all, isn’t that what we all want; to do what we truly want in life? What is it that you really want out of life? Do you want to work that 9–5? Do you want to travel with your significant other? Do you want to make as much money as possible? Do you want to raise a beautiful family? These are answers only you can give. I can’t do it for you. And the real kicker behind all of these questions, is that there is no wrong answer. Your life is your choice. That’s the beauty of “Greenlights.” You get to make your own choices and leave your own legacy.

Matthew details his legacy, but it’s up to you, to detail yours. Find what’s most important in your life, and do that. Chase that. Achieve that. Matthew made a really interesting point that I want to end with. He mentions how, with every movie role that he takes now, he has to weigh what he’s giving up. The studio is giving up money. They’re paying him for his acting skills. Matthew is giving them his time, in return. 

Time. The one thing, that no matter how hard you try, you can never get back. You can’t buy it back. You can’t wish it back. Every second, every minute, hour, day, week, month, year, it goes away. So, again, what will you do with your time? When Matthew now accepts a movie role, he knows that he’s giving up time with his family. He’s giving up time with his wife and kids. He’s adding to an acting legacy, but leaving a family legacy behind. That’s time he will never get back.

One last time, I will ask; what do you want your legacy to be? Have you changed your mind because of Matthew McConaughey’s final point? Have you decided that time doing what you love the most or being with the ones you love the most matter more than other things? For me, it has. I want to spend my time with the ones I love and do the things I love more than I want to waste time. I want to go. I don’t want to stop at red. I want my greenlight.