During the week I happened to stumble across Matthew McConaughey’s “5 Rules to Live By” which he delivered in a key note speaker’s address to graduates at a university that I can’t remember. My initial thought was that he was an interesting choice of key note speaker but then when he began I thought, wow, this guy has learnt a few pearls of wisdom along his journey. I’ve been wanting to reflect on the speech all weekend and then when I opened my laptop to start writing this blog post, I figured why not share my thoughts right here. Here’s my take on Matthew McConaughey’s 5 Rules to Live By.
1. Life’s not easy
It’s true. Life’s not easy. I lost my mother suddenly and really tragically at the age of 11. I’ve had plenty experience with grief. I’ve suffered a stroke that set me back 18 months of my life. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve worked in a company with a US dollar billionaire for a chairman but that was on the verge of liquidation and worried about finding my feet before retrenchment became a real discussion. That’s just a portion of my story but everyone has their own struggles. Life isn’t easy for anyone. It’s worth remembering that and being kind to everyone you come across because you truly have no idea what an individual has been through or are currently going through.
McConaughey made a poignant point of drawing awareness to the fact that you should never be someone that acts entitled. It’s actually a really horrible trait. Entitlement should quickly be replaced with humility and respect for the next person. Even the person that looks as though the world is their oyster has their own issues. There’s no time for entitlement whatsoever.
2. “Unbelievable” is a really dumb word
At first I wondered where McConaughey was going with this point because it wasn’t clear to me bar the fact that the word really irritates him and plenty words irritate plenty of people. After chewing on this concept for a while, I now see his point clearly. The logic has more to do with acceptance than the word “unbelievable.” Things shouldn’t shock or surprise us because everything has happened at one or other point in the history of humankind. Pandemics, wars, family feuds, the end of a friendship, corruption, etc – these things shouldn’t shock us as much as they do because they’re nothing new. Rather than focusing on the shock, we should be focusing on the acceptance of that fact and how we may need to pivot in reaction to whatever has taken us by surprise.
After nearly missing the true meaning of this point, I now can now apply it to my own life. My pregnancy has been an absolute blessing and brought me so much happiness. I’ve been blessed to be healthy throughout, despite it being classified as “high risk” with my stroke background. It has, however, been accompanied by an external factor that I never saw coming and that’s left me in tatters. There have been many, many tears shed throughout the past few months. Rather than focusing on how “unbelievable” or shocking the scenario has been, I should rather have aligned my thoughts on the acceptance of the situation and repurposing my energy towards something else that would serve rather than shatter me. It’s been a big lesson to learn, but now I agree, it is definitely one of the 5 rules to live by. Nothing should surprise you and you shouldn’t let any situation have the power to throw you off your course. Accept it and keep moving forward.
3. Don’t strive for happiness, opt for joy instead
People often use “happiness” as a goal. Something to achieve in life. If happiness is your goal, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment because life naturally progresses from highs to lows and back again. That’s completely normal. Buying yourself a luxury car might make you happy for a short period but your emotions will move away from happiness again. Happiness is a product that is short-lived. Joy, on the other hand, however, is constant. You can choose joy every day. You can express joyfulness by expressing gratitude for the life you live, playing music you love, sharing your time with loved ones, taking your dog for a walk, finishing a good book, etc. These things will often make you happy but they don’t necessarily need to. You can listen to sad songs when you’ve unhappy and still express joy because you have those beautiful songs to listen to. Be joyful. Fill your heart with the joy of the life you are living and the journey that you’re on.
4. Define success for yourself
Success could mean many things to you. Perhaps it means having money in the bank, a great career, a family, a university degree or completing a marathon. Perhaps its a combination of all of the above. It’s important to understand what success means to you. They may change over time and that’s perfectly normal but it’s important to be aware of what matters to you and how you are going about achieving them. At no point do you want to have your goals unbalanced. If you value your spirituality, for example, and you’re spending too much time chasing your monetary goals that you’re at a 10/10 in terms of finances but completely depleted on a spiritual level. You don’t want to have a failing relationship because you’ve prioritised something of lesser value over your relationship. This is why it’s important to clearly define what success means to you and to frequently check in with your definition of success to ensure there is balance in your life. Balance will also give you joy. Obviously there are times when you need to push harder on one goal at the others will take lesser priority, for example, when exam season kicks off, but it’s time to rebalance after your exam period has finished and get back to ensuring your health / fitness / relationship / creativity / social life are make it back to status they deserve in your life.
5. Don’t leave crumbs
This point focused on looking out for your future self. Do the extra work now. Don’t procrastinate. If you’re planning to do a marathon in 6 months, your body will thank you for the training you do today. If you do the dishes tonight, you won’t need to do them tomorrow morning. Plan ahead and give yourself reason to thank yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself.
Intertwined with point is the concept of delayed gratification. If, for example, you decide that you want to travel to Italy next year, reprioritise your finances now. Do your nails at home rather than at the salon, for example, and put a little extra away into your savings account now. You will thank yourself next year when you’re able to pay for your travels upfront and have no need to worry about maxing out your credit card. The gratification you will experience will be worth more than gold when you realise how well you’ve looked after your future self. This is a straightforward example but you can use this principle for so many aspects of your life. This principle is expanded so well by James Clear in Atomic Habits so I’d definitely recommend that book if you’d like to read a bit more on this topic.
Needless to say, I’ve thought about McConaughey’s speech quite a bit in the past few days and I will be in the next few days too. I’m so glad I’m able to record my take on his thoughts here to share with you so that we can all come back to this post for reference and to check in on his 5 Rules to Live By and ensure we’re not falling off the band wagon at any point. It’s always good to finish the year with a bit of reflection and perspective and I’m so glad to be doing just that. I hope I’ve encouraged you to do the same. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.