“Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at.” – Rust Cohle
After many years as the go-to leading man for dire romantic comedies and roles that required nothing more than standing around without a shirt – Matthew McConaughey’s transition into one of the greatest actors alive today has been nothing short of astounding.
So how does someone go from earning a reputation as Hollywood’s biggest waster into an Academy award winner in just a few short years?
According to McConaughey himself, it was just a simple change in focus. It turned out that he wanted to “make some movies that I would pick out, that I would see.”
Approaching his 40’s and worried that he was getting too old for his usual roles, McConaughey stepped away from the public eye and entered a strange, yet carefully orchestrated ‘drying out’ period in which he turned down every offer than came his way.
The plan worked. He was a forgotten man. It was time to finally put the past decade behind him and rebrand himself as a serious actor.
Taking smaller, character driven roles – the reinvention began with movies such as The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Killer Joe and Mud before reaching the career high excellence of Dallas Buyers Club and his potential Emmy winning performance as Rust Cohle in HBO’s True Detective.
The metamorphosis was complete.
Why the need for change? He had a great life. Recently married with 3 children and an unfathomably healthy bank balance, he could have surfed his way into semi-retirement and no one would have batted an eyelid.
But, like any great actor when presented with the role of a lifetime – he simply became.
“For the next two months, I’m playing the character of Matthew McConaughey, an actor proud of the films he’s been in,” he says, before again opting for the third person. “And if any of those films or his performances are in awards shows, he’s going to go, heart high and head up, and look them all in the eye and say, ‘Damn right this is a great time in my career.’ That’s the role I’m in now. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.” Variety.com
Take a lead from Matthew McConaughey and ask yourself…
Is it the right option or just the easy option?
Let’s be honest. Most people are coasters.
Are you blindly stumbling through life, doing the bare minimum, hoping that nobody will call you out on your laziness?
I can empathise. Doing shit takes effort. Screw that, right?
At one time or another you’ve probably sat back and wondered if life is worth the hassle.
“Meh, I’ll just do whatever it takes to reach the end of the day without breaking sweat.”
Hauling yourself out of bed at 6am every morning to face another dreary day at your job is tough, sure. But it’s infinitely easier than waking up at 5.30am to write a letter of resignation.
Bollocks to that, you want your extra half hour sleep, even if it means never escaping your own personal Groundhog Day of perpetual hell.
The same can be said of your health. I know you want to be fitter, look better. We all do. But when you’ve dusted off your best spandex shorts and you’re laid on that bench, staring at the barbell that looms above – are you prepared to set another PB or do you want to just go through the motions?
You can trick the ego into believing you’ve had a great workout but deep down, that emptiness you feel when you stand before a full length mirror is a great reminder of your inner deception.
Take a look around.
Did you get married because you couldn’t say no? Are you stuck in a dead-end job because you can’t be bothered to look elsewhere? Is your expanding waist line forcing you to buy new clothes because you’d rather binge in front of the television instead of hitting the gym?
The correct option almost always takes effort. If you ever catch yourself wondering whether you made the right choice – here’s a hint…
Do something different.
Success is just one step further forward
It’s amazing how often people give up when they are on the cusp of success. They toil and struggle – putting in countless hours of blood, sweat and tears only to walk away at the final hurdle.
I often use the gym as a great analogy for life and I’m about to do it again.
Two years ago I set myself an arbitrary goal of being able to chest press 50kg dumbbells (110 lbs). I didn’t care if it was just for a single rep – they were the heaviest dumbbells in the gym and unsurprisingly, they were in pristine condition.
Nobody used them.
I wanted to be THAT guy.
Over a period of roughly 6 weeks I transitioned from the 40kg to 46kg. The goal was within my sights. I felt confident because I was easily performing 6 reps at this weight. Surely I was ready?
I managed to crank out 3 reps of the 48’s but my muscles were gone, depleted, the tank was empty.
Obviously overjoyed at my new PB – I took a few days off to nurse my weary joints and inexplicably, had a few heavy nights out followed by a very lazy week of almost no training. I then began a cutting phase to rid myself of the fat I had gained during my bulk.
The 50’s would have to wait.
I was close, but at the final hurdle I made a decision, consciously or otherwise, not to go for it.
Many people quit when the discomfort is at its peak. This is illogical. It’s not going to get any harder, so why not keep going? Following a period of relative inactivity, I’ve managed to regain some of my previous strength and last week I blasted through 5 reps of 44kg dumbbells.
I will soon make those 50’s my bitch – but I won’t stop. I will continue adding the reps. I won’t make the same mistake again, and hopefully, this mentality will find its way into other areas of my life.
I’ve learnt my lesson – but can you say the same thing?
Do you tend to stop running when your lungs are screaming for mercy? Carry on for 5 more minutes and see what happens.
Are you absolutely salivating at the prospect of eating a chocolate bar following your 30 day no junk food challenge? Whack an extra day on the end – then another – and another. Keep going.
Successful people don’t break the chain. As soon as they hit a goal, their mind is already focusing on the next one. Regardless if this is measured in days, reps, monetary gains or time – they continue to move forwards because they have eliminated all other routes.
“Today, you’ve got a decision to make. You’re gonna get better or you’re gonna get worse, but you’re not gonna stay the same. Which will it be?” - Joe Paterno
Out of necessity comes growth
So what happens when you eliminate the possibility of deviation? What occurs within the body and the mind when you force yourself to keep going?
There is only one possible outcome, and that’s growth.
Richard Branson started his fledgling music store by advertising records for considerably less than their high street value. The only problem being he didn’t have any to sell. This wasn’t an issue – he simply took the money and used necessity to find these items for an even cheaper price before giving them to his customers.
Growth occurred. It had to.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – possibly the owner of the greatest physique in bodybuilding history had one major flaw. He had relatively small calves – at least when compared to the rest of his body.
Faced with the prospect of underperforming at the Mr Olympia and losing vital points due to his one major weakness, Arnie had to create necessity in order to achieve growth. How did he do this?
He cut every pair of training bottoms just below the knee, thus exposing his calves to the world. In order to look (slightly) less ridiculous the only option was to train his calves with ferocious intensity.
Growth occurred. It had to.
How can you use this principle?
You need to start putting yourself in the firing line. You need to eliminate the possibility of deviation.
With the safety net of a regular income you’re probably lacking the intensity needed to change your job, your career or your lifestyle. The quickest way to achieve your dream is to put yourself in a position where you have no option but to grab it. You’ll never be ready – no one ever is.
If you quit your job you’ll be forced into action because the consequences of failure are terrifying.
If you continue to pick up heavier weights, your muscles will be forced to grow to meet the demand.
If you spend several hours a day on your chosen craft, the only possible outcome is one of excellence.
We’re all capable of amazing things. You’re capable of amazing things. There is no such thing as ‘sink or swim’. When backed into a corner – you’ll have no choice but to unleash your inner beast.
Lumps of coal are said to turn into diamonds via a combination of pressure and time.
Are you putting yourself through this pressure? Are you giving yourself the necessary time to succeed?
Without pressure or time you will remain average. However, if you combine the two and give yourself a chance – success is inevitable.
Are you getting better or are you happy being average?
The choice is yours.
How content are you with your lot? Do you have a plan for success? let me know in the comments below.
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