Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from


A tour into the life and mind of award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey

By Matthew McConaughey
  • Read in 21 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 13 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Greenlights (2020) is a guided tour into the life and mind of award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey. These blinks tell his story as only he could tell it, full of “outlaw logic” that has informed a wildly original personal philosophy for how to live life to its utmost.

Key idea 1 of 13

Tough Love

The McConaughey clan has had its fair share of outlaws in the past. Cattle thieves, gamblers, even a bodyguard for the infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone. The family can be traced backward from New Orleans, to West Virginia, to Liverpool in England, all the way back to their home country of Ireland.

Matthew McConaughey’s father, Jim, was born in Louisiana, but the family settled in Texas, where he hustled to make it rich as a pipe salesman in the oil business. His mom, Katy, was from Altoona, Pennsylvania, but told everyone she was from Trenton, New Jersey. Why not just tell the truth? Well, as she put it, “who’d wanna be from a place called Altoona?”

Both parents had some unorthodox ideas that they passed down to their children, and their relationship with each other was combative, to say the least. But in the end, there was always love.

Matthew recalls a particularly eventful clash between his parents in 1974, when he was five years old. Jim had just gotten home from a long day at work. Everyone else had already eaten, so Katy brought out a plate of food that had been kept warm in the oven.

When Jim asked for more potatoes, Katy replied, “Sure you want more potatoes, fat man?” At first, Jim didn’t take the bait. But Katy continued to bark at him, calling him “fat man,” and throwing heaping spoonfuls of mashed potatoes onto his plate, until Jim stood up and threw the table into the air.

As he approached her, he said, “You can’t leave well enough alone, can ya, Katy?” But when he got close, Katy picked up the phone, swung it into his face, and broke his nose. Then she grabbed a knife, threatening to cut him “wide open.” Jim, blood gushing down his face and onto his shirt, grabbed a ketchup bottle and held it as if it were a sword and he was a matador. As he waved it around, streaks of ketchup came out and splashed against Katy. “Touché!” Jim said as he danced around the kitchen.

They stalked each other around the room until ketchup-covered Katy finally dropped the knife, blood-soaked Jim dropped the ketchup, and the two passionately embraced each other. The next moment, they were on the floor making love.

In the end, Matthew’s mom and dad got two divorces. But they married each other three times. His dad broke his mom’s middle finger on four separate occasions, after she’d stuck it in his face. This was how they got through to one another. This was how they loved one another.

Matthew got a few whuppings of his own growing up, for things like telling one of his two brothers that he hated him, or saying the two words “I can’t.” These were important lessons and values learned. This was how he was taught to never hate, and never to say you can’t.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Learn more, live more

Sign up now to learn and grow every day with the key ideas from top nonfiction and podcasts in 15 minutes.