While it never seems like there is perfect timing for anything, there’s never a bad time to look back at what you have done and where you are, decide you want a different result, and instead of just thinking about it, decide to act regardless of the number of things, timing, or history that tells a lesser person “you’ll never be able to pull this off”. It is that personal, “I will start today” and “I will do whatever it takes” attitude that creates success in the face of a daunting past. People who “reflect, decide, and act” have determined that past results don’t define future success. They become anxious to start. They take the first step without looking, and find the momentum of just acting pushes them closer to where they always thought they would be. Today, I want to help you lose those excuses, and find your results.
This article will be filled with the words of Matthew McConaughey with a comment or two from me. I think it seemed unlikely, for the most part, when we look at his start in acting with a small part in the film Dazed and Confused in 1993 where he immortalized the phrase “alright, alright, alright” in his South Texas accent, that he would ever be a “best actor” and star in iconic movies. This same Oscar winning actor, Matthew McConaughey, shared his own personal experiences with the University of Houston graduates in the form of 13 life lessons during their commencement address. This takes place in the university’s (then) new football stadium. I hope you enjoy and embrace this abbreviated transcript of his words that day. If you want to take the time to actually listen to his speech, just click here – it is well worth it.
- Life is not easy: Do not fall into the entitlement trap of feeling like a victim. You are not. Get over it and get on with it. Yes, most things are more rewarding when you break a sweat to get them.
- Unbelievable is the stupidest word in the dictionary: It shouldn’t ever come out of our mouths. To say, “what an unbelievable play!” It was an unbelievable book, film, acts of courage…really? It may be spectacular, phenomenal, most excellent and outstanding…but unbelievable? NO. Give others and yourself more credit. It just happened, you witnessed it, you just did it, believe it. How about the other side of unbelievable? When we humans “under-perform” or act out of character? If there is one thing you can depend on people being, it’s people. I think unbelievable is an unbelievably stupid word.
- Happiness is different than joy: The actor noted that once he started acting in films that brought him joy rather than happiness, he started receiving more success. As soon as the work, the daily making of the movie, the doing of the deed became the reward in itself for me, I got more box office, more accolades, more respect than I ever had before.
- Define success for yourself: McConaughey says he defines himself by five things: fatherhood, being a good husband, health, career, and friendships. I want to keep all five in healthy shape. If I don’t keep maintenance on them, one of them is going to get weak.
- Process of elimination is the first step to our identity: It is just as important to know who we are not, as it is who we are. The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually NOT “I know who I am,” but rather “I know, who I AM NOT.” The process of elimination. Defining ourselves by what we are NOT, is the first step that leads us to really knowing who we are. Knowing who we are is hard. Give yourself a break. Eliminate who you are NOT first, and you’ll find yourself where you need to be.
- Don’t leave crumbs and the beauty of delayed gratification: If I do my job well today and that movie keeps re-running on TV, five years from now I’m getting checks in the mailbox. It’s a heck of deal. Get some return on your investment. Instead of creating outcomes that take away from us, let’s create more outcomes that pay us back, fill us up, keep your fire lit, turn you on, for the most amount of time in your future. These are the choices I speak of and this is the beauty of delayed gratification. Get some return on investment (ROI). Your investment. You. You customize your future. Don’t leave breadcrumbs.
- Dissect your successes and the reciprocity of gratitude: The actor noted that he’s spent a lot of time reading the bad revues of his films that are written by respected critics. I don’t obsess on the unfavorable aspect of their review, but I do seek what I can learn from it. Their displeasure actually uncovers and makes more apparent what I do, do well.
- Make voluntary obligations: Mom and dad teach us things as children. Teachers, mentors, the government, and laws all give us guidelines to navigate life, rules to abide by in the name of accountability. I’m not talking about those obligations. I’m talking about the ones we make with ourselves, with our God, with our own consciousness. I’m talking about the YOU versus Your obligations. We have to have them. Again, these are not societal laws and expectations that we acknowledge and endow for anyone other than ourselves. These are faith- based obligations that we make on our own. An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind, and when you lay down on that pillow at night, no matter who’s in our bed, we all sleep alone. These are your personal jiminy crickets. And there are not enough cops in the entire world to police them. It’s all on YOU.
- From “can” to “want”: Just because you can? Nah. It’s not a good enough reason to do something. Even when it means having more, be discerning, choose it, because you WANT it, DO IT because you WANT to.
- A roof is a man-made thing: Have you ever choked or really messed up? You know what I mean, fumbled at the goal line, stuck your foot in your mouth once you got the microphone, had a brain freeze on the exam you were totally prepared for, forgot the punch line to a joke in front of four thousand graduating students at a University of Houston commencement speech”? What happens when we get that feeling” We tense up, we have this out of body experience where we are literally seeing ourselves in the third person. We realize that the moment just got bigger than us. You ever felt that way? I have. It’s because we have created a fictitious ceiling, a roof, to our expectations of ourselves, a limit where we think it’s all too good to be true. But it isn’t. It’s not out right to say or believe it is. We shouldn’t create these restrictions on ourselves. Who are we to think we don’t deserve or haven’t earned these gifts when we get them”? Take the lid off the man-made roofs we put above ourselves and always play like an underdog.
- Turn the page: Have you ever gotten in a “rut,” stuck on the merry-go-round of bad habits”? I have. You are going to make mistakes. Own them, make amends, and move on. Guilt and regret kill many a man before their time. Turn the page, get off the ride. You are the author of the book of your life. Turn the page.
- Give your obstacles credit: You know those NO FEAR t-shirts? I don’t get ‘em. Hell, I try to scare myself at least once a day. I get butterflies every morning before I go to work. Say your obstacle is fear of rejection. You want to ask her out, but you fear she may say “NO”. You want to ask for that promotion, but you’re scared your boss will think you’re overstepping your bounds. Well instead of denying these fears, declare them, say them out loud, admit them, give them the credit they deserve. Be brave, have courage. When you do you get stronger, more aware, and more respectful of yourself, and that which you fear.
- How do we know when we cross the truth? I have always taken 21-day trips by myself to far off places where I usually don’t know the language, and nobody knows my name. They’re adventures and they’re a purge, a cleanse for me. Like a 21-day fast from attention, from all the things I have in my well-appointed life. They’re a check out, so I can check in with myself. See how I’m doing, be forced to be my one and only company, to have a look in my mirror. And you know what can happen when we do that? Sometimes we don’t like what we see. …I forgave myself. I let go of the guilt, the weight on my shoulders lifted, my penance paid, and I got back in good graces with God. I shook hands with myself, my best friend, the one we’re all stuck with anyway. From that morning on, the adventure was awesome. I was present, out of my own way, not anticipating my next, embracing only what was in front of my eyes, and giving everything the justice it deserved. So how do you know when you cross the “truth”? I believe the truth is all around us, all the time. The answer, you know, it’s always right there. But we don’t always see it, grasp it, hear it, access it, because we’re not in the right place to. So, what do we do? First, we have to put ourselves in the place to receive the truth. We live in an extremely noisy world with all kinds of frequencies coming at us, commitments, deadlines, fix this, do that, plans, expectations, and they all make it hard to get clarity and peace of mind. So, we have to consciously put ourselves in a place to receive that clarity. Whether that’s prayer, meditation, a walkabout, being in right company, a road trip, whatever it is for you. Schedule that time to be in a place to receive the truth. Now, if we hear it, if it becomes clear, a truth that is natural and infinite, then the second part comes, which is to personalize it. Ask how it works for you, how it applies to you personally, why you need it in your life, specifically. If we do that, then comes the third part: having the patience to internalize it and get it from our intellectual head and into our bones and soul and our instinct. We can’t rush this part, it takes time. Having the courage to act on it. To actually take it into our daily lives and practice it, to make it an active part of who we are and live it. So, while you are here, we write our book. Overcome our fear. We make friends with ourselves.
May 15, 2015
For me, these 13 life lessons are a great start no matter where you are and no matter what the date is. Reflect, decide, and act is the perfect formula for a new and better start. There is no substitute for action. At some point you have to accept that nothing changes in your life if nothing changes in your life. Whatever challenge you have, whatever result you want to change, and whatever situation you find yourself in, answer with action. Answering with action is the mindset you need to crush every goal you set in 2024.
Michael Abernathy DDS
PS. If one of the things you’d like to change in 2024 is your financial future, you might consider checking out my good friend Dr. David Phelps and his group called Freedom Founders. I recently did an interview with David that you can access by clicking here.