“Alright, alright, alright”: the line that brought Matthew McConaughey into the spotlight in Hollywood. Especially with the addition of McConaughey’s southern drawl, these three words have a particular charm to them that audiences have loved.
Twenty-seven years after Dazed and Confused premiered, Matthew McConaughey is telling the story of his own life. On October 20, 2020, he released a memoir-esque book entitled Greenlights. It is a collection of stories, of life lessons, failures, and successes. “This is not a traditional memoir,” he writes. “This is an approach book. I am here to share stories, insights, and philosophies that can be objectively understood and, if you choose, subjectively adopted by either changing your reality or how you see it.”
The writing and the storytelling could be enjoyed by reading it on paper, but the true charm of the book is in listening to it. The audiobook, narrated by McConaughey himself, is captivating. A strong Texas drawl sounds through your ears as you’re transported to the scenes of the story: West Texas, Australia, Hollywood.
Combative yet loving parents, dirt road shenanigans, acne horrors, strange Australian families, nude arrests, waiting tables, film school, road trips, and falling in love—McConaughey covers it all. So what is the underlying theme? Green lights.
What are green lights? Green lights are affirmations—from yourself, others, or the world—that tell you to keep on keeping on. In life, these are the moments when you’re doing something right, and you know you’re on the right path. Proceed.
Life is about actions and reactions. You choose your college, you take your classes, you proceed on a path. Parts of that path will be right for you, but others you’ll be forced to rethink. McConaughey defines his early life in terms of roles he accepted. At a point in his career, he stopped accepting roles, so they stopped coming. He knew the positions he was taking were not right for him, so he had to change course. This was a red light, and these are equally as important as green lights because when you’re met with one, you have three options. “Persist, pivot, or concede,” McConaughey writes. “It’s up to us, our choice every time.”
McConaughey eventually pivoted. He went in a different direction with his career: a decision that came from a reevaluation of his purpose. This is another lesson he offers.
“What is success to me? Continue to ask yourself that question. How are you prosperous? What is your relevance?” he advises. “Your answer may change over time, and that’s fine, but do yourself this favor—whatever your answer is, don’t choose anything that would jeopardize your soul. Prioritize who you are, who you want to be, and don’t spend time with anything that antagonizes your character. Don’t depend on drinking the Kool-Aid—it’s popular, tastes sweet today, but it will give you cavities tomorrow.”
Now, imagine the same quote, but said with a strong Texas, smooth-talking accent. He knows what needs to be emphasized, he knows his own funny stories, the real kickers. He is a performer after all. So, when you do set about reading this book, listen to it instead. Let McConaughey himself give you his own life philosophy—the way it’s meant to be.
McConaughey concludes his 50-year life story with one last piece of advice. Our lives will be filled with green lights, yellow lights, and red lights. Success and priorities may look different at each stage in our lives. They could even look different day-to-day. “Live in a way where we look forward to looking back,” he says. In other words: look forward to writing your own memoir.