DAVID LALLY: Welcome to “The Brian Buffini Show,” where we explore the mindsets, motivations and methodologies of success. Here’s your coach, Brian Buffini.
BRIAN BUFFINI: Top of the morning to you. Welcome to the “The Brian Buffini Show.” Very special guests today, Oscar-winning actor. He’s a storyteller, committed husband, father, man of faith. Most importantly, a man with a rich Irish heritage, Mr. Matthew McConaughey. I know you guys know his work, whether it be “Dazed and Confused,” “Interstellar,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “True Detective,” and a dozen other great movies I can mention, but he’s written this incredibly popular book called “Greenlights.”
I was just telling Matthew, I read this over the holidays. You guys know how much I read, how many books I talk about. This was a kick in the pants. It was good for what ails you as my mother used to say. It’s just a breath of fresh air and we’re delighted to have him on the show today. Matthew, welcome to the show. Thanks for taking some time for us.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Good morning, Brian. Good to be here, man. I’m into whatever’s good for whatever ails you.
BUFFINI: Well, you got us. You know how the Irish pronounce your name as well. I want to dive right in. Tell the folks what a “greenlight” is.
MCCONAUGHEY: Green light, I mean, literally, on the highway, it’s a light that says go on, proceed. It affirms our way. Atta boy. Yes, ma’am. More, please. Freedom. Yes. We love green light because they do all those things and they do not slow us down or getting in our way. Now, the things that do slow us down and get in our way are the yellow and red lights in life. They may be an intervention, a time of introspection, a pause we have to take.
A tragedy, a crisis, a hardship, even a death. We don’t ever want the red and yellow lights, but I’ve found that I believe we all find out that we needed them for some reason, or at least they had a green light lesson within their red and yellow hue, somewhere down the line in life, in the rearview mirror, all yellows and reds, I believe do eventually turn green or at least reveal a green light asset in our life.
Now, we can engineer green lights by responsibilities we take today to create more freedom for our future all the way down to the simplest things like put your coffee in your coffee filter the night before. When you get up in the morning and you’re groggy, all you got to do is push the button. That’s a green light. That’s being cool and kind to your future self. Sometimes green lights fall on our lap. Good luck. Good fortune. Hell, where did that come from? I don’t know the reason behind it, but I’m going to make some rhyme of it. Other times, we just get a very, very fortunate and take advantage of those ones that fall in our lap or as I said, do something with the ones we have and engineer more of them for our future.
BUFFINI: A lot of folks in 2020 experienced yellow, red, and some green lights. I think all of us. For me, I had an empty nest and then I didn’t. My wife and I were ready to downsize. We’ve been raising kids for 30 years. Here it is, bought the smaller house. Here we go. Next thing you know, five of my kids came home from college. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. You notice people losing their businesses. There’s people losing their jobs. Other people are killing it.
We’re in the real estate side of things. People were having record years and it’s such a strange year because some people were winning, some people were losing, some were up and some were down. At the end of the day, what you’re talking about is whether it’s yellow or red to be looking for the green lights. I think that’s one of the things that I got about this book. It’s interesting. Sometimes more is caught than taught. You have some introspective things where you went and you went on a little journey, you went down the Amazon, you went through these different places and it evoked in me, “Oh. Right. I love to travel.” It got out of my mind and explore an experience. I really feel like timing as you well know in your career is everything. I even feel the timing for this book and this message is perfect because of where people are at. I think people would like to dream a little bit and aspire a little bit. There’s a relentless positivity in the book while also being very real and very, very candid about your life.
MCCONAUGHEY: Thank you. I’m not into delusional optimism or foolish optimism. I’m not a Hallmark card. “Hey, if you can dream it, you can do it. Rah, rah.” I don’t purchase that. I don’t believe it even to be true, but we are in a red and yellow light year. I think we can all admit that. One of the things, one of the approaches, the tools that I bring up early in the book is when faced with the inevitable, get relative. There enhances the tools for which to find or seek the green lights in a red or yellow light like this year.
It’s inevitable, this year. You and I have not had the vaccine for COVID. It’s inevitable that we were in it. How do we deal with it? How do we look around and things like you said, “Whoop, downsize.” All of a sudden got five of my kids back in the house. Well, is that a downside or an upside where you’re forced to be with family again? There’s an asset there. My mother’s with us, she’s 88 years old. She’s now with her grandkids every single day for the last nine months, that wouldn’t have happened.
You’re not flying around the world. A lot of people aren’t so that’s helping a carbon footprint. If you want to look at it that way with the climate, being forced to strip down to our necessities, which we all have been, makes us reevaluate what we value, maybe put our values in a different order. All those are some assets without ever denying the fact that you’re right. It’s a hell of a tough year we’re in right now, and tougher for others, than myself or probably yourself.
BUFFINI: Sure. What I’ve tried to do is my goal has been and again, it’s interesting as I reset myself over the holiday season, and yours is one of the books that was very helpful in that. I’ve just decided I’m going to increase my capacity. My physical capacity, my emotional capacity, spiritual capacity, so I can serve more people. If I can give it away because there is a lot of people who are hurting, there’s kids, and you’re involved in the University of Texas. A lot of kids struggling. There’s a lot of kids dealing with anxiety, frustrations, that kind of stuff.
I just feel like, I’ve had a lot of positives this last year. I’m going to take that increase my capacity, serve more. I want to throw one thing in here that will really light up our audience, you were on your way to becoming the family lawyer. I would have love that. It’s one of my favorite movies of yours when you are a lawyer, but you were stopped in your tracks by reading a book called “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino. That is a huge point of commonality with our audience. I’ve read, I’ve studied, I’ve mentored under Og Mandino. I’d love you to share just what impact that book made on you.
MCCONAUGHEY: I love too. I don’t believe I found that book, I believe that book found me. It was at a time, it was the first piece of reading material that a teacher didn’t tell me you must read this. It was the first thing that a friend didn’t come and go, “Oh, you got to read this.” There’s good reason to read those things, but when someone does that, for me, I always feel like oh, well, maybe the most I can get out of this is only 75, 80% because it’s already passing through someone else’s medium, and they’ve already approved it to pass it to me.
This book I found in between a stack of Sports Illustrated and Playboy m\Magazines, both subjects that I was already interested in, but for whatever reason on this day, I was not. Thankfully because I then saw this paperback book, it was a white cover and red cursive that said “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” to which I remember saying to myself, as I looked at the cover, I said, “Who the hell is that?” As you know, when you pick it up, and you start to read, you find that that is you.
I’ve done that book, it’s a 10-month read as you know, I’ve done it two times in full. I realize it’s so beautiful how Og structures it because it’s a little of what I like to call conservative, very liberal, late. Meaning, early on, he just talks about habits, love, and persistence, things that our mother taught us, but it’s just solidifying the habits and getting our relationship with those habits that maybe we forgot a little bit sound again.
Then the second half of the book sets you into flight. Like, now go out. Courage to go and act it. The second half of the book is about now, scale it out, increase your capacity, and take it into the world. A little simple thing, “I would greet this day with love in my heart.” There’s a thing in there that says, “Everybody I look at today, I will look them in the eye and say I love you without saying it,” and see what response you get. It works. Another thing is it’s very difficult to do.
I was only able to do it for maybe two hours, is my maximum, but it really works. I started reading it to my kids, going through chapters. The oldest one is getting to where he’s starting to really find it interesting and creative because like me, he started to go, “Oh, what if I go apply that in my daily life and see what kind of response I get back.” The reciprocity of that response that comes with the tools that that book gives you.
I’ve done it twice. I’ve got about six of them because my dogs have eaten them before, they’ve gotten wet. I’ve had nights where you’ll love this Brian, because you got to read it three times a day. Morning, noon, and night. I would have sometimes where I would head out on a Saturday thinking I was going to come back home, be back home that night at my house so I could lay by my bed and read my book. Well, that Saturday took me maybe two hours away from my house.
All of a sudden, I find myself down on the river in a cabin with some friends going, “Oh geez, it’s midnight. I don’t have my salesman book. Give me some coffee, drink some coffee, drive back home, and go get it.” I didn’t miss a read.
BUFFINI: I got to tell you, thank you because here’s the deal. My kids have grown up with us. Dad used to tell them this bedtime stories. They’ve had the quotes all over the house. They do this. At Buffini & Company, we have four buildings in our campus and all of our conference rooms are named after people. This is the Nightingale Studio after Earl Nightingale. We have the Mandino conference room where all of our biggest meetings are.
Here’s what happened, when I was reading this book over Christmas and all the kids are home. I go, “Hey, guys. Matthew McConaughey loves ‘The Greatest Salesman in the World.’” They’re like, “Really?” All of a sudden, it went from the eye-roll with dad’s book to if Matthew McConaughey thinks it’s cool, maybe I need to re-look at it again.” Bless you for that. On a deeper note, I grew up very fortunate in Ireland.
My mom and dad bought a house in 1953. They’re still in that house. They’re 90 years of age. They’re married 65 years. There was 710 square feet. There was eight of us and 10 on the weekends, only one toilet though. The good news is you never got a cold seat. I come to America and I see a different dynamic of families and family life and whatever else and it was kind of the wild west.
In your book, and this is very important. You detail both the affection and the dysfunction in your home growing up, you honor, and also are aware of there was violence. There was love. Your mom and dad were divorced twice and married three times. So many people seem to bring into their relationships the mistakes of what their parents did. Even if they try to avoid it. Like a homing pigeon, we find ourselves repeating the mistakes of our parents.
How have you avoided that? You’re in Hollywood, you’re a sex symbol. You’ve got this very unique upbringing and now here you are. You seem to be a very dedicated husband and father.
MCCONAUGHEY: It’s a great question. I’ve been asked that quite a few times and one that I’ve thought about and been forced to think about more so in the writing of this book and the touring of this book. Look, the one thing that was clear is when we had means of discipline was corporal punishment. My mom and dad fought which were bloody fights that I even witnessed. I account some of them in the book. Somehow I knew even at four years old, that the love was never questioned.
I understood. I love you. I just don’t like you right now. That’s how my mom and dad needed to communicate. My mom’s 88 years old in the other room right now. I write about her middle finger that’s broken four times from fights with my dad. She to this day says, “No, no, no, I don’t regret a minute of that. That’s exactly what I needed to communicate.” Hell. She started all the fights with my dad. When I met Camilla. I’m like, she comes from a family of mother and father that were divorced three times and married twice.
MCCONAUGHEY: They ended up divorced. Mine ended up married. Both of us, not too sure about this whole marriage thing but I said to my parents, I said, “Look, your relationship, you wanted to be in the middle of the storm in the Bermuda Triangle in the ocean.” I go, “I want a smoother rolling river with some rapids for some excitement but I don’t need the tidal waves that you all wanted.” Because they needed that. I did see early on and still do see that I want to instill in my children the same values that my mom and dad worked to instill in me but I’m doing it in a different way than they did.
The values of, for instance, I got my first butt whoopings for lying, for saying I can’t, and for saying I hate you to my brother. Now, whether you agree with getting the butt whooping or not, the reason I got in trouble was a damn good reason to get in trouble. Because look at the antonyms of those. Tell the truth, believe that you’re having trouble doing something but don’t believe you can’t, and love don’t hate. That’s three values.
They were instilling values for me to go become a autonomous young man who could hopefully negotiate the world with the right character. Now those are values that I want to instill in my children just as well. I wanted to go about it differently than my parents did, but I sure do believe in what they were teaching.
BUFFINI: What I hear is you were able to eat the meat, throw away the bones, you’ve extended a level of grace and in extending that level of grace which is in short supply in our society today, you were able to see the good and move past and not repeat. I’m sure we all have those thoughts or those reflexes or those responses but if we grow as people, it seems like we can grow through and past and create a new deal. You know?
MCCONAUGHEY: Yes. Who am I the hell to judge them on how they did it? It could be up for discussion but I turned out all right. I’m working on those things. I don’t remember the pain of the belt on my butt. What I remember is the feeling let down that I had let my parents down by not telling the truth or saying, “I can’t do this.” Or saying I hate you to my brother. I remember letting them down. I remember the pain in my mom and dad’s face going, “Damn it. Why’d you do that? Just tell me the truth, son.”
BUFFINI: One of the fruits I see in the book is the relationship you have with your siblings. Whether it’s playing golf, hanging out, being able to talk and communicate and get together, whether it’s even getting through the rough spots. You mentioned one time everybody gets together and it was a little rough or a little rocky. But one of the fruits of your parents’ life was that. Now that goes on into the grandchildren, which is a cool deal.
MCCONAUGHEY: We weren’t allowed to hold grudges in our family. I write about this, I’m sure you saw this. Instead of grounding us, they said, “Look, we’re not going to ground you because time is your most valuable asset and we’re not going to take your time away from you.” Their deal was boom, let’s get it over with. Once it was over with, it was never brought up in the family again, what you did wrong. The second it was over, you could never bring up, “Well, I don’t know, maybe what you did last weekend.” Then that person got in trouble for even bringing it up.
BUFFINI: That’s the one departure from your Irishness that I appreciate because in Ireland, they say, “When we have dementia in Ireland, we forget everything but the grudges.” It is a big thing. It made an impression on you. Shortly after your dad passed. I know he was a larger than life character, you curved a very meaningful phrase into a tree that says, “Less impressed, more involved.” It seems to be a very poignant, one of those significant moments in your life. What was the significance of less impressed, more involved?
MCCONAUGHEY: Well, anybody out there who’s lost a close loved one, and maybe even specifically a father, to a son, how it was for me. He’s gone physically. All of a sudden, it hits me, “Whoa, you don’t have him to rely on to have your back if you get in the pinch. You don’t have that father figure that you know is more powerful and influential than any government or law to be your crutch if you really get in a pinch, Matthew.” You sober up, you man up.
All of a sudden I went, “Oh, all these things he’s been instilling in me, that maybe I’ve been doing about half-assed 75% of because I know he’s got my back. I better man up and own these things and activate them in my life because he’s not there.” When I say less impressed, more involved, I began to notice that they were mortal things in life that I had reverence for, people, places, money, fame, that if I was encountered with them, maybe I’d be too much in awe, too impressed to actually be involved with them, because I would be looking up to them.
I also noticed that things in my life that I was condescending, sloughing off, “Oh, that’s not worthy of me, that’s nothing.” That I was looking down on and patronizing. I said those things that I was looking down on rose up to eye level. Those things that I was looking up at rose down to eye level. I remember writing the world is flat. I see further, I see wider, and I see more clearly than ever before. My heart got higher. I probably got a quarter of an inch higher. I held my head up, and I walked forward with much more courage because I knew it was now on me. I didn’t have my dad to have my back. I call it a certain sobriety of being less-impressed and more involved. I’ve taken it on to understand that in relationships. Do you know what I mean? Even with our spouses, if two people, and I’ve been guilty of this, hold each other in such irreverence, or such a reverential state.
If I think my wife’s Wonder Woman and she thinks I’m Superman, we’re screwed because neither one of us can live up to it. I can’t be involved with showing my wife who I am if I hold her in such reverence that she’s holier-than-thou, I can’t be it all. It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to her, and vice versa. It’s sort of a baseline look to just say, “Hey, sober up. Be less impressed with things, more involved,” and you’ll actually do those things better.
BUFFINI: My wife was an amazing woman. Former Olympic volleyball player, yaddy, yadda. I call her Wonder Woman because I always wonder where she is. She’s on the move all the time. We have a lot of business owners that are listening in today, and you’ve made two decisions from a career standpoint, and what I look at from a strategic business standpoint that, candidly, you could teach this at any MBA school. We’re this huge coaching and training company for fundamentals.
I don’t know if you even realize how brilliant a process you just blurt out in this book. You make a big deal of it, but it’s phenomenal and how many people reach these two crossroads. It’s kind of a two-part banger here, in regards to your career, that’ll be heard through the prism of many people who own a business. You said, “I have five things on my proverbial desk to tend to daily. I had a family, I had a foundation, I have acting, I had a production company, and I had a music label,” all of which carried your interest. You got money, you got resources, you’ve got wind at your back, and you find yourself in a very, very typical place that many of us do.
Over-opportunized, spreading yourself too thin, possibly getting overwhelmed. You said, “I eliminated two of my five commitments with plans to make As in the other three.” You were making Bs in five and you paired down and prioritize and reprioritize to make As in three. Now, that is the language of super-achievers, so you know. I just think it’s phenomenal. How did you come to that conclusion and what was that decision like? How hard was it to let go of those things?
MCCONAUGHEY: I’ll tell you, the decision came very quickly and immediately. Actually, this was one of those decisions, it was very clear when it came and also very clear when to put the choice into action. I’m sitting at home in my office one day, my phone rings. I go to reach for the phone, I notice the number is from my production company, the production company where I pay six employees. Production company where I’m paying the rent. As I’m reaching for the phone, I see the number. As soon as I see it’s from my office, my hand pauses. I remember pausing a minute and I remember looking at my hand going, “What the hell is that?” Pausing to pick up the phone from your own office of a business that you created. I sat there and held my hand there and I let the phone ring until it quit ringing. As soon as it quit ringing, I grabbed the phone, called my lawyer, and said, “I want to close the production company. I want to close the music label.
I’ve got five things and it’s too, too many, and I’ve got these five little campfires going, but I don’t have my three priorities for foundation, family, and my acting career turning a full blaze. I need Valhalla on those three instead of him spreading the wealth here.” I shut it down that day. It was very clear to me. Now, obviously, I had had a hunch that I felt like I was a little overleveraged leading up to that, but I needed that.
I remember that. My hand pausing on to pick up the phone. I was like, “That makes no sense. You created this in your life. You were paying out this and you don’t want to answer that call? Why create something to put on your desk that you don’t look forward to dealing with on Monday morning?”
BUFFINI: I had a different experience. I’m a stubborn Irish guy. Sometimes I got to have my personal growth handed to me over the head. I went to this leadership thing, and they had the former CEO of IBM was on there and he had turned the company around during — Big Blue went through a slump. He said, “I lined up all of our assets and we had 33 major projects, and we only had 40,000 staff available and $3 billion,” or whatever, and he says, “We have to prioritize.”
I went home to little old Buffini & Company where I had 200 employees and we lined up and we had exactly 33 projects. Let’s just say I had less than 3 billion in the bank. We went through it and we went from 33 projects down to four, and we increased our income the following year by a factor of 10, and it was better. We serve people better. We enjoyed it better. I couldn’t wait to go to work as opposed to I’m like, “Man, I might try to sell this thing and get out of it.”
MCCONAUGHEY: It really is. It’s a scary thing because it’s ingrained in us that more’s better. I have the opportunity. I can handle, and I’m very good at saying, I’m very good at over-leveraging myself. I actually have pulled certain things off because when people said, “You’ve taken on too much,” and I proved that, “No, actually I didn’t,” but again, it goes back to, we all know that to succeed we need to do good hard work, but is it the right kind of hard work? It’s the work smart and not because I still to this day have to because as a creative, I can find an angle to think anything works, and until this day.
My wife was very good at telling me, “You might want to call back, is that really essential?” I’m like, “Yes, but it’s great.” I had till this day, I’m still clearing my desk of things. “Now, that’s a one off. Don’t get into that.”
BUFFINI: See, I think the next piece is connected to it, because I feel like sometimes we get bored. On the path to mastery, it can be boring. It can be repetitive. It can be the same old, same old. It’s kind of nice to, especially if you’re a creative person to create something new, it’s the buzz, it’s the excitement, it’s the entrepreneurship, it gets the juices flowing, but it bifurcates the process of that grinding down and using the creativity internally to drill down further. That’s why the second part to me, there was another bold decision.
Again, any businessperson listening to this is going to take a deep breath. You were the King of the rom com, the romantic comedy. You’re this good-looking dude, you got this great charisma and personality. You got this stuff. You’ve got these beautiful leading ladies. People wanted it. There’s a lot of value in romantic comedies. There’s a lot of value in people going there because they want to feel better. They want to have that emotional journey. There’s value in those things.
I don’t discount those things at all, but you had become that guy. You’ve become labeled as that guy. You became a very wealthy man and a very successful actor doing those things. The more that you do, the more that you get. After you’ve trimmed down and you’ve gone to the, I’m going to do three instead of five, you decided you wanted to go in a different direction. You wanted to pursue different types of jobs, do different types of work. You wanted to test yourself and stretch yourself, and like anyone who makes that decision the phone stops ringing.
MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, it did.
BUFFINI: The phone stops ringing because it’s the movie industry. It’s an industry. It’s, “Hey, this is how we make money. We do this, we do Matthew’s name, Matthew’s face, put them up with J-Lo. Everything’s good.” You made this bold decision that led to this renaissance that you’ve coined the phrase McConaissance. That led to, the happy ending is here’s an Oscar-winning actor, here’s roles of a lifetime, here’s “Dallas Buyers Club.” Here’s “True Detective.” Here’s all these roles totally different than a rom-com guy.
There was major chops in this, the enemy of the best is the good. You had something good. Talk to me about how you stopped the good. Had to suck it up. Things weren’t going your way to pursue the best.
MCCONAUGHEY: Because I was so successful in the rom-coms, I was that go-to guy. I enjoyed doing them, for all the reasons you said, I really did enjoy doing them. I did notice that I would get the next rom-com script and read it and go, “Oh, that’s good. I think I could do that tomorrow morning.” I remember going, “That’s cool, but man, I sure would like to read something that I go, “Whoa, I don’t know what I’m going to do with this, but I can’t wait to find out.”
Those things that I wanted to do that I couldn’t wait to find out, those dramatic roles and scripts that I was looking for, no one was even letting me sniff those. I could take a 400% pay cut and they were going, “We’re not financing that with McConaughey the rom-com guy, the shirtless guy on the beach in that role, it’s not going to happen.” I said, “All right, if I can’t do what I want to do, what if I stopped doing what I’ve been doing?” Process of elimination. Big risk here. She had many a tear on Camilla’s shoulder because I was like, “If I stopped doing romcoms, Hollywood’s going to say, “What the hell is he doing getting out of his lane? He owns this lane. Do you know what I mean? People would take this lane if they could have it and who the hell does he think he is?” I talked to my money man, “How did I save my money?” “You’ve done well.” “I don’t know how long I’m going to go without work is what I’m asking.” I talked to my agent. I said, “I need you to be the guard at the gate.”
I said no, I moved back to Texas. I knew I’m going to battle with self-significance. I know I’m going to battle without working every day. I need accomplishment. What am I going to do? I’m going to get wobbly. I’m going to peek over at the old bottle a little bit earlier each day. That can be a little slippery slope too for a lot of people. How am I going to get my purpose each day? I made the pact, I’m going to do it.
For the first six months of my sabbatical of saying, “No, I’m not doing romcoms.” All I got sent was romcoms. I would read them. “No, thank you.” Read them. “No, thank you.” Read them, “No, thank you.” I checked this–
BUFFINI: The more you said no, the more the price they wanted. They kept offering you more money.
MCCONAUGHEY: It happens, right? Now, McConaughey is saying no and this one-off so how puritanical was I, Brian? They sent one in with an 8-million dollar offer. I read it, it’s pretty good. I say, “No, thank you.” They come back to me with the same script with a $10 million offer. I say, “No, thank you.” They come back with a $12.5 million offer. I say, “Ellipsis, ellipsis, ellipsis, no, thank you.” They come back with a $14.5 million offer. I said, “Let me read that again.”
BUFFINI: Just one-time honey.
MCCONAUGHEY: Exact same words as the original script but Brian, it was a better script. It was funnier. It was more dramatic. It had more of an angle that this could work for me, maybe. “No, thank you.” I passed. When I passed on that, it sent an invisible lightning bolt through Hollywood that said, “Oh, McConaughey is not bluffing. He’s really not doing those romcoms. We could not pull him back in.” Now, 14 months go by after that six months where nothing comes in, I call my agent every other day, “What do you got?” “Buddy, no one is even mentioning your name. I bring up your name they say, “Don’t even want to talk about it.”
Now I’m going, “I may have just taken a one-way ticket out of Hollywood. I may never work in Hollywood again,” but I had a hunch that I was like with each day– You know when you go and you endure something and you’re taking a pennant, with each day you build a little bit more honor and strength to drag it into this, the less it’s even going to be a possibility of me going back. I was not going back.
Fortunately, I had some things that kept my feet on the ground during that time, which was I had a newborn child. They just created the world Levi, which I remember telling myself, “When you get bored or you get full of angst, put your time and effort, love in front of that child right there and you cannot go wrong.” We had a family crisis outside of my immediate family that I had to tend to. One of those family crises that shows up that you just drop everything.
No matter what you’re doing you go, “I got to handle this.” I found some purpose in those two things. Right about then, once I’d forgotten about even going back to Hollywood, I wasn’t even thinking about it, well, guess what happened? Guess who is now a new novel good idea for dramatic roles like “Killer Joe,” “Mud,” “Paperboy,” “Bernie,” “True Detective,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Magic Mike”? Me. I found anonymity in the 20 months.
I turned into, “Where the hell’s McConaughey? He’s not in a rom-com in the theater in front of me. He’s not in a rom-com in my living room. I’m not seeing him shirtless on the beach, where the hell is he? I don’t know what he’s doing.” I found anonymity. I unbranded, and then when those came to me, the scripts came to me that I want to do that dramatic fair, I attacked it with fangs instead and just ate it up, because I knew what I wanted to do, but it was the unbranding. It was the go find anonymity again.
BUFFINI: You can’t say it, but I can say it. It was the chops and the guts to do it. That is a hard thing to do. It’s hard to say no to the good when you’re pursuing the great. The enemy of the best is the good. It took major chops, and you did it, and what’s come is it’s probably produced for you a rebirth of your craft and what it’s forced you to do and how you do it and probably one of the dynamics of what allowed you to even, I don’t know, just a rom-com guy could have written this book.
MCCONAUGHEY: I don’t know if the rom-com guy would have had the identity and the self-confidence to say, “I’m going to go sit with myself over the last 50 years. I’m going to go be in solitary confinement with myself and ride that bull.”
BUFFINI: That’s great, ride that bull. Let’s talk a little Texas here for a second because there’s a phrase there. You’re a big UT fan, you got yourself a new coach down there. I have to live with it every day. I have a trainer named, Rico, who actually used to serve you in a restaurant down in Austin. Every day, all I hear is the latest update on UT football and what’s happening and, oh my gosh, it’s a religion, but you quote Coach Darrell Royal. Now, when you get your name on a stadium anywhere, you’re a big deal, but when you’re a coach of football and you get your name on a stadium in Texas, that’s otherworldly.
There was a little story you told of a guy going through a tough time and there was a lot of chance for judgment and so on so forth. This guy positions himself in front of coach Royal and he gives them words of advice. I got highlighters all the way through this book, but this one got a highlight. It got a yellow highlight, it got a green highlight, and it says, “I’ve never had any trouble turning the page in the book of my life.” I don’t know the simplicity of it, the profundity of it, but talk a little bit about turning the page. A lot of people need to turn the page right this minute.
MCCONAUGHEY: Coach Darrell Royal, that was one of his strengths is that he could sum up, he was a one-liner guy. That was his answer to that man Larry who was going through that tough time. Larry probably talked to him for three hours, monologue, and then Coach Royal just answered when he was asked, “So what should I do?” Coach Royal goes, “You know, Larry, I’ve never had any trouble turning the page on the book of my life.” That really wasn’t advice, was it? It didn’t tell him what to do.
He just made him look at his situation differently then going, “Oh yes, all you got to do is turn it.” Maybe it’s turn the page in the same chapter. Maybe it’s a whole new chapter. Maybe a part two of the book but we are the author of our own book and to be able to turn the page– I write about the way to find the green light is by persistence or pivot or either sometimes knowing when to wave the white flag.
Turn the page is probably more leans to the pivot side going, “You know what? I’m banging my head, I keep waking up with the same damn hangover, I keep waking up with the same problem, this choice I keep making in my life is not giving me residuals, it’s not paying me back. I keep repeating it, trying to get a different outcome which is the definition of insanity, right?”
Maybe I need to back up and go, “Hang on a second, I got to reapproach this because I got to go about this a different way. I got to turn the page in how I’m looking at this or I’m going to get rid of that in my life.” It’s very important. I mean, it’s an art. You don’t want to turn the page too quickly on everything because that would mean we don’t have enough persistence or endurance.
BUFFINI: Or didn’t learn the lesson, right?
MCCONAUGHEY: Right. Sometimes you have to be in it. You have to bang your head, to sit there and go– like my mom and dad, their communication was violent, they needed more than words to communicate. What tickles some bruises others but sit there and go, “When is it the time to turn the page? Do I keep reading the same lines over? Why am I having trouble getting to the bottom of this page and going back to the top over and over again? Ask ourselves, is it paying me back? No, the story has to evolve, the story must go on.
Scary to turn the page because we don’t know what’s going to be on the next page. We dwell in it and we, like I said, end up banging our head into something and going, “I am a repeat offender. I have to turn the page and take the courage to say, “I’m the author. I got a blank page on the next page. Let me continue writing but let this story evolve.”
BUFFINI: Well, this book is a page-turner my friend. It has giggles, it has profound truths, it has a journal, it has stories, it has travel, it has transparency. I bless your wife, Camilla for supporting you. Very transparent, a lot of people would have a hard time being this transparent. You’ve been that. It makes it very human and very relatable. We have an audience that loves to read and I would say this is a book you’ll love to read and it’s blessed me.
It blessed me and I know we have hundreds and thousands of people tuning in today that are book buyers. I’ve already encouraged some folks to get it the last few weeks here and by the hundreds, and we’re going to encourage a lot of people to get it because it’s a blessing. I think it’s very pertinent and I thank you for writing it.
I’m going to finish up with you, Matthew. We do a little thing at the end of our show, we ask five questions of every guest and from astronauts to sportsman to actors, to you name it, giant businesspeople. We’ve had them all, and it’s just a fascinating piece and it gives a little different take. Just rapid-fire questions. You don’t know what they are, but here we go. What’s the single best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
MCCONAUGHEY: I’ve had thousands of crisis in my life. Most of them never happened.
BUFFINI: We just got a little actor out there folks. Bono tells me never trust a performer, that was beautiful. Well done. Next. One talent or gift do you wish to possess that you currently don’t?
MCCONAUGHEY: Playing the bass.
BUFFINI: That is the most common answer. When I heard Lou Holtz tell me that he wished he could stand on stage and perform rock and roll to 30,000 people in a stadium, I thought, okay, it’s deep for everybody. I’ve mentioned one book, but what other book has been most instrumental in your life?
MCCONAUGHEY: Emerson’s essays.
BUFFINI: Oh, very nice.
MCCONAUGHEY: That self-reliance if I could engrave that in my soul, it’s worth rereading and letting it re-penetrate. Love that, that has given me a lot of courage and determination and at the same time, empathy and forgiveness as well. That’s Emerson’s essays.
BUFFINI: Nice. That doesn’t surprise me. There’s a lot of thoughtful stuff throughout this book. You have a little part, theologian part, philosopher in there, so it’s great stuff. Now, I’ve asked this question to a lot of people, but maybe not as big a movie star as you are. What movie do you watch over and over again? There’s people that are scrolling the channels. Every time it’s on, they stop. Which one for you?
MCCONAUGHEY: “Raising Arizona,” it’s a Coen brother’s film. One of my favorite comedies of all time. I find something new to laugh at and that thing on the 22nd time of viewing it. I love that film, at any time.
BUFFINI: It sends shivers down my wife’s spine when she thinks somebody is stealing one of their babies. That’s good stuff. Then one last thing. What’s one thing still on the Matthew McConaughey bucket list?
MCCONAUGHEY: That one day, and I think it would have to be after my kids are out of the house that I’ll be on the one hand list of my kid’s best friend.
BUFFINI: You got to be their dad first, their friends second. Love your bride, be dad, and they all come back around. I’m kind of in that phase of life, I’m a grandpa now, and life is good. I got to say this. You’re a credit to your mom and dad. You’re a credit to the state of Taxes. You’re a credit to the profession of acting. Congratulations, it’s really been a blessing to meet you and to interview you. The book is a blessing. I think it’s a gift.
I know you said that it’s a love letter to life. I think that’s what it is and I think right now we could all use a little more light. Thanks for being on with us today. You really have been a blessing. I’m going to finish up today with the blessing. The biggest green light in my life, she’s 90 years of age, she’s 5’2″, she has more fire in her belly than most people do in their whole body. We’re going to finish off here tonight with my little mom’s Irish blessing for all of you. Until next time, God bless.
THERESE BUFFINI: May the road rise up to meet you and may the wind always be at your back. May the rain fall soft upon your fields and the sunshine warm upon your face. Until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand. See you next time.