It isn’t always a good idea to aspire to imitate celebrities. Famous figures often aren’t quite who we imagine them to be, and the things that draw us to them are often largely unattainable. However, “imitation” is also a broad concept; you don’t have to want to be celebrities you admire in order to draw lessons from them.
To that point, I want to discuss a celebrity that I’ve become drawn to in a way that has surprised me in recent years: Matthew McConaughey. I say this has surprised me because McConaughey has always stood out primarily as a sort of Hollywood oddball. He broke out with an oft-mocked (good-naturedly) role in the coming-of-age comedy Dazed And Confused; he established himself as a less-than-serious rom-com actor; and he ultimately rose to the top of the business with an out-of-nowhere series of exceptional performances.
Through it all he’s seemed like a bit of a character: a little unpredictable, a little detached from Hollywood’s inner circle, and perhaps a little full of himself. And as if it hasn’t all been strange enough, now there’s buzz McConaughey may dip his toe into politics. According to a report in The Texas Tribune, the actor (whose personal politics are somewhat unknown) is flirting with a run for governor in his beloved home state of Texas. It’s frankly hard to guess what might come next.
As McConaughey’s star has risen though, he has also become better known to the public. And while his career remains a series of unpredictable shifts, I’ve found that the character and habits of McConaughey demonstrate a lot of fascinating life lessons. All of the following are messages I’ve drawn from McConaughey in the hopes of bettering myself in a way that has nothing to do with fame or fortune.
Don’t Be Self-Serious
I’m certain that on some level McConaughey takes himself quite seriously. One would have to in order to enjoy such success, and even considering a run for governor speaks to a certain level of ego. At the same time however, McConaughey appears to have floated through his career with relative ease. It takes mental fortitude and an ability to look past negativity to evolve from a brushed-off rom-com star into an Oscar-winning leading man. And in McConaughey’s case, this evolution at least appears to be grounded in an innate ability to take his own life and career in stride.
Embrace Meditation & Nature
As you might glean through another article here on famous figures who meditate, McConaughey is not the only celebrity who teaches this kind of lesson. Nevertheless, McConaughey strikes me as being particularly genuine about meditation, spirituality, and — in a way that resonates with me — embracing nature. He believes in meditation to the point that he’s actually recorded voice tracks meant to soothe people to sleep through meditation apps, and he’s discussed how he values exercising outside and getting in touch with his surrounding on multiple occasions. All of this just strikes me as being very valuable, and it’s my goal personally to emulate the actor in these areas.
Be Giving & Charitable
We hear a lot about celebrities’ charitable causes, and it all tends to sound wonderful. But what I’ve read recently about McConaughey has inspired me particularly. Early on in the pandemic, as McConaughey’s foundation continued to work on behalf of education, CheatSheet reported that he had topped $1.5 million in giving to school charities. That may sound ordinary for a celebrity, but it’s rare we see that much given toward a general cause (as opposed to some specific disaster relief). Meanwhile, it’s also become clear that the actor doesn’t only practice charity in monetary form. Recently, a Foxy Bingo piece on celebrity bingo callers revealed that the actor spent some of his time during the pandemic hosting bingo games for elderly nursing home residents over Zoom. It’s a small thing, but an incredibly gracious act for anyone of McConaughey’s stature, and a strong reminder to me that we can all strive to be more giving.
Strive To Evolve
The idea of evolution more or less comes through in McConaughey’s career. While I do believe some of this comes from his lack of eriousness, it is also clear that McConaughey has thrived at evolving. He’s shown no fear in taking on new roles, and he’s been able to let go of on-screen personae and tendencies in pursuit of greater heights. Perhaps this is a journey every artist makes to a degree, but it’s particularly evident in the case of McConaughey, and it’s quite admirable. The capacity to evolve is something I believe we should all strive to embrace, even if there isn’t always a need to tap into it.
The latest lesson I’ve learned from McConaughey is to maintain a practice of introspection. Interestingly enough, this comes from McConaughey’s new book (“Greenlights”) and the actor’s own comments about it. He discusses how he feels he differs from people’s perceptions of him; he openly evaluates himself; and he discusses being able to update his personal philosophies on a near-daily basis. Regardless of the specific wisdom all of this yields, it’s the process I admire. We could all stand to assess ourselves and update our outlooks from time to time.
Add up these lessons, and you get a decent way to go about your life, in my book. I do strive not to get too caught up in celebrity imitation, or even admiration. But in this case, the famous figure is legitimately instructive. At least insofar as the ideas above are concerned, we could all strive to be a little bit more like McConaughey.