Summary of Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Summary of Greenlights
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Summary of Greenlights
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

This article is a complete summary of Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey.



The book “Greenlights” is a series of Matthew McConaughey’s journals from the past 36 years. He had postponed diving in these journals for several years but decided that it was finally the right time to take himself and the journals to a desert where there is no electricity. Here he wrote Greenlights, which he calls an “approach book”. By reading thousands of pages in these journals, McConaughey rekindled the core values that brought him success and happiness.

Greenlights is full of people and experiences and is illustrated by McConaughey as an aspirational book.

In other words, Greenlights means go, advance, continue.

In our life, they are an affirmation on our way—Endorsements, Support, Praise, Money, Health, Success, Sustainability, etc.

Green lights can also be disguised as yellow or red lights. Sometimes red lights give us what we need.

Getting the green light is a matter of skill or competence. We can capture more green lights just by finding where the red lights are and changing course to avoid them.

We can also earn greenlights, engineers, and design for them. Catching green lights also has to do with timing, the world’s timing, and ours. It can also be pure luck and fate. In order to best drive the highway of life, it is about moving at the right time compared to the inevitable.

The certainty of the situation is not relative. However, if we accept the outcome of a particular situation as inevitable, the way we deal with it is relative.

The problems we face today will ultimately be blessings in the mirror of life. Over time, yesterday’s red light turns us into green light.

About Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey is an actor and producer from Texas, USA. He came into the spotlight in the mid-1920s during his breakout support in Dazed and Confused (1993). Since then, he has had a career spanning almost 30 years and has starred in some of the greatest films. In 2013 McConaughey won an Oscar for his performance at the Dallas Buyers Club by Ron Woodroof, a cowboy that was diagnosed with AIDS. The following year, McConaughey was picked for the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Leading Actor for his lead role in True Detective.

The Making Of Greenlights

McConaughey has been writing this piece for 36 years. Greenlights gave him the opportunity to reread these journals and remember the incredible adventures he had along the way. Moreover, McConaughey also wanted to focus entirely on these memories. So he spent part of his writing time in the middle of the desert without electricity. He spent 12 days without electricity and 40 more in the desert with a small generator, precisely.

What Is A Greenlight?

“This book explains how to capture more YES in a world of NO and how to recognize when a NO can actually be a YES. This book is about capturing the green light and realizing that yellow and red will eventually turn green. ”


Matthew McConaughey describes the green light as a sign that you keep doing what you are doing. You may think that these signs are from the universe, from God, or by chance. The only important thing is that you follow that green light when it happens.

Green lights can be affirmations, endorsements, support, praise, or gifts. There are bright green lights on getting a job, for example, that you never thought you would get. In addition, there are also less obvious green lights disguised as yellow or even red lights.

A typical example of a green light disguised as a red light is a setback or challenge in life. As we go through these hard or difficult times, we may feel better when we are not pursuing our goals or dreams. McConaughey cites his father’s death, who was his most significant role model, as an example. Although it seemed like a red light, he now sees this time as a huge green light for his life.

This encouraged him to think more about the lessons his father had taught him. Then he became the man he wanted to be. McConaughey points out that your own tough times or challenges can be an important part of your journey to success and happiness. It’s up to you to turn these challenges into advantages. Eventually, all red or yellow lights will turn green.

You can better or increase your chances of catching the green light by working hard and being prepared. Apart from that, green lights can also be the result of wealth, intuition, karma, or fate. But, most importantly, when those green lights come in, you’ll be all set.

The Three Ways To React To A Red Light

Red lights will always be challenging to manage and overcome. McConaughey demonstrates that there are generally three ways to deal with a red light.

  1. Persist (push on)
  2. Pivot (change the way you do things)
  3. Concede (wave the white flag

You should never give in when standing in front of red light. You may have to be patient for that red light to turn green, but eventually, the change will happen. McConaughey describes marking a red light as another example of green light. So stick with your earlier strategy or use this time to ponder about your situation and turn around. Again, it is pertinent that you stay true to yourself when pivoting.

McConaughey’s Early Years

McConaughey’s family has its roots in the UK. His ancestors, in particular, emigrated from Ireland to Liverpool in England. And the family journey continued through West Virginia, New Orleans, Mississippi, where his father was born, and Pennsylvania, where his mother was born. Together, they settled in Texas, where Matthew was born and raised with his three brothers.

Although his parents exercised strict discipline, they used this parenting style to teach Matthew and his brothers to be honorable, responsible, and hardworking. Matthew’s father had very high expectations and granted each son with rites of passage that challenged him physically, morally, or philosophically. As long as Matthew and his brothers passed these tests, they would be treated equally by their father.

McConaughey’s Rite Of Passage

McConaughey’s rite of passage was physical and moral. First, he defended his father in an argument at a bar without overthinking. From that point on, his father treated him equally.

McConaughey’s First Green Light

McConaughey explains that he was given the first green light as a child, spending a summer in a trailer park with his father. He describes it as the best summer of his life because it was his first real sense of accomplishment. Matthew snuck into the local sawmill during the summer vacation and stole boards and essentials that he used to build a giant treehouse.

Matthew’s first life experience gave him the green light, and he had to work with it. The effort of working on this treehouse 90 days in a row has given him great pleasure. Sitting in this 13-story treehouse, he learned what it is to dream and the importance of making those dreams come true.

Dreaming About Becoming A Father

McConaughey’s journals have it constantly throughout; he wanted to be a father. This dream was never questioned, and he found it in his journals from the age of eight. When he was little, his father said he should always shake hands with older men. McConaughey discovered that all of these men were a father. From then on, he thought that once you became a father like these men, you’ve made it in life.

His own father also inspired McConaughey’s dreams of becoming a father. He considers his father to be a significant influence on his life. James McConaughey trained his children to be honorable, kind, responsible, hardworking, persevering, and humorous. He also taught them how to help the less fortunate.

The First Time Mcconaughey Met His Wife.

McConaughey reveals how surprised he was when he saw his wife for the first time. In 2006, Matthew decided it was time to settle down and find his life partner. He explains that most people would ask, “Who is this? When they see a beautiful person. Instead, McConaughey asked, “What is that?” Instead of walking, she was floating in his mind. Camila’s sheer beauty let his imagination run wild.

Later in the book, he explains that Camila exceeded those expectations the more he got to know her better. She was beautiful in every way. She was another Matthew McConaughey’s greenlights. Camila told Matthew that if he didn’t change, she would never leave him. So, from that moment on, Matthew decided never to change.

The next green light related to his marriage was that Camila became pregnant with their first child. He used the green light as a catalyst to devote more time to his family, charities, and acting. At the time, Matthew was running a production company and a music label. He locked them both so he could pursue the green light.

The next green light was the birth of this child, Levi Alves. Shortly after his birth, Matthew had to return to Texas due to a family crisis. During this trip, Matthew noticed how much he missed Texas. He also knew he needed to raise Levi there. So, they returned to Texas and became closer to his mother and brothers. The birth of Levi was the green light Matthew required to help him think about what he wanted out of his life.

Exchanging A Red Sports Car For A Truck

McConaughey describes his teens years as being a hustle. He drove a truck and hitchhiked girls to concerts. During these concerts, he worked hard to ensure that everyone had a place in front of the crowd. Besides, he was still the life of the party. If there were a dance floor, He would be on it. Instead, McConaughey made the stupid decision to trade in that truck for a red sports car. After this deal, his whole demeanor changed.

McConaughey lost his hustle and expected people to like him. It attracted the girls for about a day. Then everyone started asking him why he was so bored. Soon after, McConaughey decided to ditch the red sports car and buy another truck. Since then, he has adopted this hectic and challenging work trucking mentality. He didn’t let his fame change that.

McConaughey’s Student Exchange In Australia

After high school, Matthew didn’t know what to study, so he decided to do a student exchange in Australia. The exchange lasted a year, and he promised to hold out all year. It was an extremely difficult year, and McConaughey was homesick but kept his promise, and this experience of perseverance helped him become the person that he is today. He has learned to understand that sometimes life will be difficult and that you have to go through these times. It was another green light from McConaughey.

McConaughey Swapped Law School For Film School

When Matthew was younger, he had a dream of becoming a lawyer. After enrolling in several pre-law schools across the country, he moved to a cheaper public university because his father struggled to make money. During his sophomore year at UT Austin, Matthew began to question whether law was proper for him.

He realized that it would take at least six years to make an impact as a lawyer in the world. Matthew wanted to make a difference right away. So, he decided to turn around and go to film school. However, the deciding factor was that he had not made that decision but had given another green light. To Matthew’s surprise, his father fully supported his proposal to go to film school. This encouragement was a green light.

While studying at film school, Matthew met his first film producer, Don Phillips. They were having a drink together at a bar one night, and Don decided to pick up Matthew to audition for a small portion. This small part was a starting point for his career. Matthew was in an impromptu scene where he had to pick up a girl. In this scene, McConaughey’s famous “alright, alright, alright” rule was created. This line turned out to be Matthew’s next green light as it helped him get more significant roles in the movies.

How Does McConaughey Stay Grounded?

McConaughey explains that keeping yourself grounded has to be a daily chore. The way he stays grounded is to make sure he understands his values. If it feels like he’s lost, it takes a moment to reconnect. He wants his heart and his head to communicate clearly.

Plus, McConaughey encourages you to look back at your previous position before success. Understanding the hard work it takes to be successful will also help keep you grounded. McConaughey, for example, recalls being turned down for several dramatic roles in major films for much of his career.

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He had become known as a romantic comedy guy, which made it difficult for directors to see his potential in other genres. At one point, he was unemployed for almost a year because he had turned down roles in several romantic comedies. He had decided to take the risk of diversifying his genre. The risk was worth it. McConaughey’s decision made him stand out in romantic comedy and win an Oscar in a major film. But even after this success, he didn’t let his ego prevail. Instead, he remembered the hard work and the risks he had to take to get there.

Prescribes Guide Us

McConaughey talks about what he calls “prescribes” in the book. Prescribes are rules or prescriptions for your life. They are decision-making paradigms and compasses that guide us on our path. Prescribes are most useful when you are going through a difficult time in your life or when you have new successes.

Find Your Frequency

One prescribes that McConaughey describes in the book involves finding your frequency. He explains that this prescribe has become increasingly important during the Coronavirus pandemic. We are living in very troubling times. We must therefore find our frequency. McConaughey says finding our frequency is a personal adventure. It is all about looking at ourselves in the mirror and encouraging ourselves to be more responsible and empathetic.

How To Respond To Success

McConaughey insisted that success should always be appreciated. Celebrate your accomplishments in life because they don’t last forever. You should be ready to enjoy your next success when it comes around the corner.

Plus, success doesn’t solve all of your problems. Instead, success only changes your problems by creating new ones. New problems force us to learn and find new solutions.

After all, success can also be overwhelming. So be sure to step back if you think success will affect your understanding of your core values. Take the time to process your success. McConaughey’s personal success required introspection, isolation, and meditation. Then he decided to go to the Amazon River to reunite with himself. The result was a renewed McConaughey ready for the challenges and successes that lie ahead.

Preparation Is The Key To Success

“We must learn the consequence of negligence… it is not just what we do; it is what we don’t do that’s important as well. We are guilty by omission.”


Preparation is essential for success. Preparation gives us the confidence we need to perform well. This confidence allows us to impress others. After all, impressing others gives us great opportunities to be successful. This loop keeps going as long as we are prepared.

McConaughey always came to his auditions well prepared. This preparation gave him the confidence to ask questions about the roles he wanted in the movies. People were ready to listen to him because he was ready to earn his respect.

Take Action

“Sometimes the decision you make is not as important as making a decision and committing to it.”


Action leads to opportunity or failure. Opportunities almost always get you there, but failure can also help you achieve your goal. Mistakes teach you valuable lessons, while inaction leads to nothing happening. McConaughey would instead jump than fall.

McConaughey’s 10 Goals In Life

Greenlights is formatted like a scrapbook. In addition to the written words, there are also excepts from his journals, such as written poems, drawings and lists. One of those excerpts is a list from 1992. McConaughey gives readers the ten life goals he wrote in 1992 when he was 23 years old. It was also soon after McConaughey’s father, James McConaughey, had passed away.

  1. Become a father.
  2. Find and save the woman for me.
  3. Maintain my relationship with God.
  4. Chase my best self.
  5. Be an egotistical utilitarian.
  6. Take more risks.
  7. Stay close to mom and family.
  8. Win the Oscar for best actor.
  9. Look back and enjoy the view.
  10. Just keep living.

Matthew McConaughey’s 3 Life Lessons

Lesson 1:

McConaughey experienced tough love, loneliness, popularity, and career changes during his early years.

Matthew grew up in Texas from a family with quite unusual ideas. Her parents had a hotly contested relationship, but they always ended up loving again. They had two divorces and were married three times.

Matthew also took a few beats himself. One of those times, I was just saying, “I can’t.” On another occasion, he struggled to tell his brother that he hated him. But he drew two essential lessons from these events: that you must not hate and that you must never say that you cannot.

Unsurprisingly, he was famous and did well in high school. But things changed quickly after high school. As one of the Rotary Club members, Matthew spent a year on a student exchange in Australia.

When he arrived, he was shocked. He thought he would spend his time in Sydney but ended up in the small town of Warnervale instead. He experienced a form of isolation and loneliness that he had never known in his life.

But he is grateful for the experience for what it has taught him. First, he learned that he needed structure and a challenge in his life. So, he became a vegetarian and practiced abstinence. As difficult as it was, this time forced Matthew to look inside and find out who he truly was and what he wanted out of life.

When he returned home, he began pursuing law. But he later felt it wasn’t for him. Fortunately, he had a friend who read some of his short stories and suggested that he go to film school preferably. He was so scared to tell his dad, but when he did, he just said, “Well … don’t half-ass it.” It was just the green light he needed.

Lesson 2:

UT Austin Film School was where Matthew’s success and fame began.

He worked hard in film school but knew he needed his big break. It was a chance encounter at the bar of the Hyatt hotel that earned him this. One evening, while visiting a bartender friend, his friend pointed out a guy in town to produce a movie that was to be shot in Austin.

The name of the guy was Don Phillips, and he was a fan of vodka and golf, two things Matthew loved too. So, they drank together for a few hours before they had to be escorted to a cab when Don asked Matthew if he would like to play a role in the film.

The film was Dazed and Confused and starred Wooderson, a college-aged partier. Originally, Wooderson only had three scenes, but they liked the appearance and interpretation of Matthew’s character so much that he worked on the film for three weeks.

The door opened in a Daze and Confused, but another movie, A Time to Kill, made him famous. Director Joel Schumacher wanted Matthew to play a supporting role, but he asked for the lead role of the lawyer Jake Brigance. Schumacher liked the idea but knew the studio had someone else too.

But by chance, the part opened. So, Matthew came out to prove he was the right fit for the role. He followed the studio directors and performed the climactic courtroom scene from the movie.

Schumacher told him he had to go off-script in order to impress the executives. It was a green light for Matthew, and he gave the show everything he had. Two weeks later, they informed him that he had landed the role. He was immediately launched into stardom.

Lesson 3:

McConaughey’s career and life took him everywhere, but he settled down with a family and he found his place in the film industry.

Before long, Matthew was the king of romantic comedy and had a good life with money, women, and motorcycles. But again, he wondered: what does that mean? He said it was his existential challenge, and he thought it was up to him to find out.

Then he got a role that helped him refocus again. The movie was Reign of Fire, and it was meant to play an apocalyptic dragon slayer. Again, Matthew dug into the character. For two months he lived on a ranch in West Texas to strengthen his mind and body. Among other things, he ran barefoot in the desert and tackling cows for training. After the isolation and the intense training, he felt quite beaten up, but inside he felt strong.

Whenever he felt he needed more out of life, he looked for a green light to follow. One of which came in the form of a dream where he was on his porch with all his children. It reminded him that he had always dreamed of being a father, one of the few things he was sure of in life. He knew it was time. Shortly after, he met her, Camila.

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He then decides to change his career radically. He told his agent he wouldn’t do romantic comedies anymore. Although it was a significant risk for his career, he knew he had to do it. He was unemployed for two years, but during that time, he became a father.

Soon Hollywood called back, and he got new, non-romantic roles like Mud and Magic Mike. The so-called McConassance arrived.


Life is filled with red, yellow, and green lights. Red and yellow lights are setbacks to look forward to, but they are also an important part of your success. The importance of these lights is that they will eventually turn green if you are patient and prepared and take your chances when they present themselves.

The green light is a sign that you must continue. Your life will be filled with different push-forward “Greenlight” moments. Capturing these moments is the key to your success.

We’re just scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the original book, “Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey,” order it here now on Amazon to learn the juicy details.

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