A Life Lived Out of the Box

Once a month, I’ll be highlighting a book that has made a significant impact on me, talking about what lessons or inspiration it offered me.

This month, I want to talk about Matthew McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights.

What I found most inspiring about his memoir is that he has clearly lived a life outside of boxes. He hasn’t let other people, places, or situations define him, or at least not too much.

His memoir, in many ways, is the story of his journey to stay out of the boxes that usually define us and confine us.

Well, he has the money to do that, you might be thinking. It’s easy to live outside the box when you have plenty of money.

Yes, but he hasn’t always had plenty of money, and it seems to me that he still lived outside of boxes anyway.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been put in boxes.

One of the big life changes that he talks about in Greenlights is his shift toward different types of acting roles that he calls the “McConaissance”, which occurred between 2011 and 2014.

At that time, he was known at ‘the leading actor’ in romantic comedies. However, his heart and spirit were leading him toward different types of acting roles, more serious and meaningful ones. He was kind of stuck, though, because he had been so successful as a lead in a romantic comedy that people didn’t think of him as a serious dramatic actor. He was in the box of a rom-com lead, and that’s all he was offered. Period.

He didn’t take them. At a certain point, he decided he wasn’t going to act in a rom-com again, and he didn’t.

He refused to stay in the box that Hollywood had put him in.

He worked hard on continuing to hone his craft (acting). He stayed open to opportunities and made sure he was prepared when they came along. And he continued to refuse to take any rom-com acting roles.

That’s pretty tough. He was an actor who was, in the eyes of Hollywood, refusing to act. He stopped getting calls or scripts. As far as the industry was concerned, he was done.

However, he didn’t think he was done. Why? Because he didn’t define himself solely as an actor. He defined himself as a human being. He took other roles in his life seriously: friend, family man, traveler, spiritual seeker, adventurer. His acting, while it was something he loved, was not the totality of who he is. And he wasn’t going to act, unless the roles were in alignment with his Higher Self. So, he didn’t.

And he didn’t act for two years.

But eventually, he made things happen. He got his hands on different kinds of scripts, and he made his “come back”. He had reinvented himself, and he was doing the kind of work that aligned his heart and his soul.

Yes, he had some advertising gigs in the interim, so he wasn’t suffering for money. But that was another opportunity that was kind of out of the box.

There are many other examples of how he’s lived out of the box in Greenlights. It’s quirky, funny, and very irreverent, yet spiritual, insightful and challenging.

One of my favorite lines in the book is Mr. McConaughey quoting Coach Darrell Royal:

“I have never had any trouble turning the page in the book of my life.”1

I love that. What freedom that gives us.

When we don’t like where we are, what box we are in, we turn the page. We start fresh on a blank page, without the boxes and expectation and labels.

We get to decide every day who we will be. Do we stay in the box because we love it? Or do we stay in it because we think we have to? Or because it’s comfortable, and it would too hard live without its boundaries?

What boxes are you in? Do you love them or are you just safe and comfortable in them?

I’ve lived a lot of my life, while not as extravagantly as Mr. McConaughey, getting out of boxes and starting fresh. Often into new boxes. But that’s okay. Boxes are cardboard. They can be broken down, torn up, and reshaped. Unless we fortify them, but that’s a topic for another day.

I’d love to hear what you think about the boxes you’re in, the labels you’ve been given. Are they working for you? If not, let’s talk.

With love and light,

1 2020. McConaughey, Matthew. Greenlights. Crown Publishing, NY. p. 218

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