The 13 Truths by Matthew McConaughey [Video]

A life changing commencement speech by the Oscar-winning actor at the University of Houston


I quoted a Matthew McConaughey speech in a post a few weeks back (to reach your goals look beyond them). The entire speech, given at the University of Houston commencement in 2015, is an invaluable resource on life, how to approach it, learn from it, and succeed in it. McConaughey provides his advice in the form of 13 truths.

“Now they may be truths to me, but don’t think that that makes them mine because you cannot own a truth. So please think of these as signposts, approaches, paradigms, that give some science to satisfaction. They’re yours to steal, they’re yours to share, liken to your own lives, and to personally apply in your own lives, in your own way, should you choose to.”

The following are the 13 truths with select quotes that I found to be particularly insightful:

  1. Life is not easy.

“Life’s not easy, it is not. Don’t try to make it that way. Life’s not fair, it never was, it isn’t now, and it won’t ever be. Do not fall into the trap—the entitlement trap—of feeling like you’re a victim. You are not. Get over it and get on with it. And yes, most things are rewarding when you break a sweat to get them.”

  1. Nothing that humans do is unbelievable.

“Unbelievable is the stupidest word in the dictionary. It should never come out of our mouths . . . Give others and yourself more credit . . . Nothing that we homo sapiens earthlings do is unbelievable . . . Acknowledge the acts of greatness as real. And do not be naïve about mankind’s capacity for evil, nor be in denial of our own shortcomings.”

  1. Seek joy, not happiness.

“Happiness is an emotional response to an outcome. If I win I will be happy. If I don’t I won’t. It’s an if-then, cause and effect, quid pro quo standard that we cannot sustain because we immediately raise it every time we obtain it. See happiness—happiness demands a certain outcome. It is result reliant. And I say if happiness is what you’re after you’re going to be let down frequently and you’re going to be unhappy much of your time.

Joy though, joy is a different thing. It’s not a choice. It’s not a response to some result. It’s a constant. Joy is the feeling that we have from doing what we are fashioned to do. No matter the outcome.”

  1. Define success for yourself.

“We all want to succeed, right? So the question that we have to ask ourselves is, “What success is to us? What success is to you?”

Is it more money? That’s fine. I’ve got nothing against money. I don’t. Maybe it’s a healthy family. Maybe it’s a happy marriage. To help others. To be famous. To be spiritually sound. To leave the world a little bit better place than you found it.

Continue to ask yourself that question. Now your answer may change over time and that’s fine. But do yourself this favor. Whatever your answer is, don’t choose anything that will jeopardize your soul. Prioritize who you are, who you want to be, and don’t spend time with anything that antagonizes your character.”

  1. Figure out who you are not.

“It is just as important where we are not as it is where we are. Look, the first step that leads to our identity in life is usually not ‘I know who I am’ . . . that’s not the first step. The first step is usually ‘I know who I am not’. Process of elimination. Defining ourselves by what we are not is the first step that leads is to knowing who we are.”

  1. Don’t leave crumbs.

“What are crumbs? The crumbs I’m talking about are the choices that we make that make us have to look over our shoulder in the future . . . They come in the form of regret, guilt, and remorse. You leave crumbs today they will cause you more stress tomorrow and they disallow you from creating a customized future in which you do not have to look over your shoulder.

So let’s flip the script. Instead of creating outcomes that take from us, let’s create outcomes that pay us back. Fill us up. Keep your fire lit. Turn you on for the most amount of time in your future . . . Get some ROI. You know what that is? Return. On. Investment.”

  1. Dissect your successes.

“We so often focus on failures, don’t we? We study failure. We obsess with failure. We dissect failure and our failures. We dissect them so much we end up intoxicated with them to the point of disillusion.

When do we write in our diary? When we’re depressed. What do we gossip about? Other people’s flaws and limitations. We can dissect ourselves into self-loathing if we’re not careful. I find that most of the times our obsession with what is wrong just ends up breeding more wrong. More failure.

The easiest way to dissect success is through gratitude. Giving thanks for that which we do have. For what is working. Appreciating the simple things we sometimes take for granted. We give thanks for these things and that gratitude reciprocates, creating more to be thankful for. It’s really simple and it works.

Now I’m not saying be in denial of your failures. No, we can learn from them too, but only if we look at them constructively. As a means to reveal what we are good at, what we can get better at, what we do succeed at.”

  1. Make voluntary obligations.

“I’m talking about the ‘you versus you’ obligations. We have to have them . . . these are not societal laws, expectations that we acknowledge and endow for anyone other than ourselves. These are faith-based obligations that we make on our own. These are not the lowered insurance rates for a good driving record. You will not be fined or be put in jail if you do not gratify these obligations I speak of. No one else governs these but you. They are your secrets with yourself. Your own private counsel. Personal protocols. While nobody throws you a part when you abide by them, no one is going to arrest you when you break them either. Except yourself . . . An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind. And when you lay down on that pillow at night, no matter who is in your bed, we all sleep alone.”

  1. Go from can to want.

“Just because you can…no…come on. It’s not a good enough reason to do something. Even when it means having more. Be discerning. Choose it because you want it. Do it because you want to.”

  1. A roof is a man-made thing.

“You ever choked . . . I have . . . Now what happens when we have that feeling. We tense up. We have this out-of-body experience where we are literally seeing ourselves in the third person and we realize that the moment just got bigger than us . . . It’s because we create a fictitious ceiling, a roof to our expectations of ourselves. A limit where we think it’s all too good to be true. But it’s not. And it’s not our right to say or believe it is. We shouldn’t create these restrictions on ourselves.

A blue ribbon, a statue, a score, a great idea, the love of our life, a euphoric bliss…Who are we to think that we don’t deserve or haven’t earned these gifts when we get them? . . . Take the lid of the man-made roofs that we put above ourselves and always play like an underdog.”

  1. Turn the page.

“You ever get in a rut? You know what I’m talking about? You get in a funk? Get stuck in a merry-go-round of a bad habit? I have.

Look…We’re going to make mistakes. You gotta own them. Then you gotta make amends. And then you got to move on. Guilt and regret kills many a man before their time. So turn the page, get off the ride, you are the author of the book of your life. Turn that page.”

  1. Give your obstacles credit.

I try to scare myself at least once a day. I get butterflies every morning before I go to work. I was nervous before I got here to speak tonight. I think fear is a good thing. Now why? Because it increases our need to overcome that fear . . . We’re all destined to have to do the thing we fear the most anyway, at some point. So give your obstacles credit and you will, one, find the courage to overcome them, or you will, two, see more clearly that they’re not really worth prevailing over.”

  1.  Receive the truth and live it.

“You see I crossed a truth that morning. Now how did I find it? I don’t know, I think it found me. Why? Because I put myself in a place to be found. I put myself in a place to receive the truth. So how do we know when we’ve crossed the truth? Well, I think the truth is all around us all the time . . . it’s always right there . . . We just don’t always see it. We don’t always grasp it. Hear it. Access it. Usually because we’re not in the right place to do so.

So what do we do? First, I believe we have to put ourselves in the place to receive the truth . . . That may be prayer, that may be meditation, that may be a walk about, that may be being in the right company, a road trip…whatever it is for you, schedule that time. Schedule it. So, if we do that, if we hear it, if we put ourselves in a place to hear, and we do, and it’s become clear—a  truth, natural and infinite—then the second part comes, which is to personalize it.

Ask yourself how it works for you. How it applies to you personally. Why you need it in your life, specifically. And if you do that, then comes the third part.

Have the patience to internalize it and get if from our intellectual head, thinking about it, and into our bones and our soul and our instinct. Now we cannot rush this part, it does take time. If we get that far . . . gotta have the courage to act on it. To actually take it into our daily lives and practice it . . . Live it . . . Then we have . . . the place where what we want is also just what we need.”

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