Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey

Why I read it…  this was actually a Christmas present! But I have followed McConaughey’s career in the post-romantic comedy years as he has flexed his skills more in works like True Detective and Interstellar. I’ve always found him intelligent and reflective, and then I heard him on two podcasts: Dr Chatterjee and the High Performance Podcast and appreciated his Kerouac-style musings. So this was a pleasant surprise.

In summary:

This is an autobiography: ranging from early life, formative adolescent moments, life, career. However, where it differs from your average chronological memoir, is that McConaughey dedicates his life stories to picking out the Greenlights, those moments or ideals that propelled him forward.

While narrating his life events (in poetic and impressive fashion), he regularly pauses to reflect on what these moments taught him, and indeed can teach the reader. Sure, he dips into his work, but we spend more time in the wilderness or out on the road.

Key takeaways:

  1. Connection – you can tell from one interview that McConaughey is charming and charismatic; his energy is a draw. But he values true connection, whether that be with people he has worked for, or trailer park residents where he hitches up his trailer when he tours the country. He seems to go all in and fosters long-term, stare deeply into their soul, connection.
  2. Reflect on your evolution – when McConaughey could feel the lures of fame, he went to a monastery and met brother Christian, who gave him a listening ear. When he felt his roles becoming stale, he thought about what he wanted from his career, rejected lucrative offers and took a risk to reinvent himself. We could all benefit from a bit of discernment about who we are, and where we are going.
  3. Pinpoint your Greenlights – the book title is important, as McConaughey celebrates the moments in his life where he moved forward. He reflects on these ‘greenlights’ – how they occurred and what they lead to. Perhaps we should think about important moments and decisions in our lives that moved us forward.

Favourite quote: ‘I haven’t made all A’s in the art of livin, but I give a damn, and I’ll take an experienced C over an ignorant A any day’

Favourite moment:

When he was 18, McConaughey spent a year living in Australia as part of an exchange programme. The anecdotes are hilarious, but as throughout, there is a more profound reflection at play.  The risk of getting away and out into another culture are admirable for any young person, but it is the formation of his identity while he is there that is really worth reading about. The quiet nights, unfamiliar surroundings and lack of community (at first) force McConaughey to confront who he is and who he wants to become, and it really spoke to my 17-year-old self.

Question and reflect

  • In our busy lives, do we find our own ‘brother Christian’ who sits and listens to us, and helps us recalibrate?
  • Do we make brave choices or take risks, in order to stay true to who we are and our values?
  • When you come to reflect on your life, which connections and tales will you be proud to tell?

Read this if…

You like reading poetic, honest, self-deprecating, humorous and often profound reflections

Find it here

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