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Review: Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, Headline Publishing

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

Matthew McConaughey gathers his diaries, life lessons, adventures and experiences from the last 35 years to compile into his memoir, Greenlights. This isn’t a self-help book, as it could be perceived in the first few pages, but the title reflects McConaughey’s approach to the world. An optimist by nature, he refers to greenlights as the yes moments in life: successes, health, love, highs, smiles, approval or any other advances. Though society seems to insist that we must be constantly striving for greenlight after greenlight, McConaughey shows from his own life that yellow and red lights are not always easy, but what we need amongst the green lights. Red lights slow us down; they make us resilient; they teach us new approaches and make us change. Though we don’t like them at the time, they are just as vital. And red lights, will eventually turn green too. A line that stands out to me in the first few pages, and one to keep in mind throughout this book is McConaughey’s confession, ‘I’m not perfect; no, I step in shit all the time and recognize it when I do. I’ve just learned how to scrape it off my boots and carry on’.

Though valued as a Hollywood actor, this book shows the depth, intelligence, patience and solitary side to Matthew McConaughey as an imperfect being. This isn’t a story of his rise to fame in Hollywood, or at least, that isn’t at the heart of the book. His stories are heart-warming, bitter-sweet and informative for any reader to be immersed in. The life he has lived is inspirational and there are relatable and humorous moments that have been documented authentically since he was 15.

His upbringing is humble, challenging and his father was a strong and confrontational man, saturated with testosterone. He holds his parents highly in his life, but takes accountability for his own parenting which is vastly different to how he was raised…probably for the best. An admirable trait I take away from this is McConaughey’s embrace of his own company. He takes chances, risks and trips of isolation, to prove to himself that he trusts himself…For who else can we rely on?

Amongst the rollercoaster of box office hits, seeking enlightenment on his travels and family life, there are nuggets of gold. Phrases and approaches that stick with me after finishing the book. One being this. ‘Unbelievable?’ McConaughey poses to us. ‘Unbelievable? No. It just happened, you just witnessed it, you did it, believe it.’ He deconstructs this word, as something, no matter how great or tragic, never being impossible. He sees it as inaccurate, foolish and unnecessary. Incredible or catastrophic, things happen each and every second, and we must believe it, ‘if there’s one thing you can depend on people being, it is people’.

I can proudly say I read all 289 pages within roughly, 6 intermittent hours…A new record for finishing a book for me! Greenlights can be whatever you want it to be. An easy read; an insight into Matthew McConaughey’s life; subjective advice to apply to your own life or a recommended read you thought you’d give some time to unwind to. But if you do read this book with open arms and an open heart, you will treasure the stories and take away bite-sized epiphanies. Life is full of red lights, yellow lights and green lights. We need to accelerate at the greens, pause on the yellows and embrace the reds. So, in the words of McConaughey himself… ‘Greenlights. Here’s to catching more of them. Just keep livin’.’

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