On Texas Independence Day (March 2) in 2014, Matthew McConaughey stood onstage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, and announced he was his own hero. If you recall, he was accepting the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club, and after thanking his team, his collaborators on the film, and his family, he told the audience that since he was 15 years old, he has considered his hero to be himself 10 years in the future. At 15 he was inspired by all that he might have at 25, at 25 he was moved by Matthew the thirtysomething, and in March 2014—the height of the McConaissance—he was chasing the accomplishments of himself 10 years in the future.
One can only imagine, then, just how proud that wide-eyed 44-year-old Best Actor would be to see himself nearly 10 years later, hosting a Tony Robbins–produced live stream titled The Art of Livin’, urging more than “two point four million” viewers (according to McConaughey) to buy his new self-help “course,” Roadtrip: The Highway to More, with an interactive workbook (an advertised $1,094 value that viewers could get for much cheaper—more on that later). He shared astute gems such as “If I go forty-eight hours without achieving something I start to freak out,” “We gotta trust each other, but we gotta start by trusting ourselves,” and “I know there is a science to satisfaction: the science is the notes; the art is the music.” Priceless pearls of wisdom, soundtracked by Matthew’s occasional tippity-taps on a conga drum and a laugh/applause track that let his purely virtual audience know whenever we were supposed to find Matthew funny or inspirational.
The week leading up to the live stream had been confusing. Targeted ads were plastered across social media, offering a vague “ ‘First of Its Kind’ McConaughey Live Event.” Anyone who actually clicked was told “IT’S TIME TO STOP SETTLING, AND START LIVIN.’ IT’S TIME TO BECOME THE PERSON YOU ARE MEANT TO BE . . .” and was encouraged to save a “free” seat by providing nothing more than a name and an email address. Then the upsells began: first an invitation to pay $47 for a “VIP Fast Lane” pass to access a private Zoom, then an offer for lifetime access to the live stream replay for just $17. For just $77 more I could access audio from other “inspirational” speakers, unironically referred to as the “Confidence Collection.”
It should have come as no surprise, then, that two and a half hours into a five-hour live stream, audience members learned of the event’s real purpose, to introduce something else that we could buy: Roadtrip, a nine-part curriculum put on by Mastermind.com, an online platform for course creators founded by Robbins and his business partner Dean Graziosi. It was Graziosi who interrupted McConaughey’s pontificating to offer viewers a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to get even more: the Roadtrip course plus a 64-page digital workbook, monthly “live trainings,” access to Mastermind’s digital library, something called “private community access,” and fifty meals donated to Feeding America (Graziosi said the value of these meals was “priceless,” but Feeding America says it can make fifty meals out of only $5, so do with that information what you will). All in all, if we ACTED NOW we could get a package valued at $3,961 for just $397.
As a self-described McConnoisseur, I was easily talked into the VIP experience, so I was watching the live stream along with more than five hundred other dreamers from around the world via private Zoom. When the event officially turned from McConaughey pep talk to shameless infomercial, there was some groaning in the chat, but a lot more support—or at least it seemed that way, since I watched some of the more skeptical and outright negative comments get deleted from the chat in real time.
The event had started to derail before Roadtrip was even announced. McConaughey stopped being primary wisdom sharer and turned emcee, introducing others such as Graziosi; Marie Forleo, whom Oprah once described as a thought leader for the next generation; and, after the announcement, Tony Robbins himself. Robbins logged on from some mansion in hour three, and there was a lot of reverb on his audio, which gave his diatribe an ominous echo reminiscent of Thanos’s. We had been told to set aside four hours for the event and a post–live stream Q&A between McConaughey and VIP-pass holders, but I logged off at four hours and five minutes, when Robbins was still rambling on about things like social psychology and helicopter surfing.
As a lifelong McConaughey fan, fascinated by his ever-evolving personal brand, it wasn’t hard for me to understand why McConaughey would think himself qualified to tell people how to think and live. He’s been a wildly successful actor for multiple decades now, and his 2020 self-help autobiography, Greenlights, was a major best-seller. At the start of the live stream he told his audience that after he published the book, he was “bombarded with requests to go even deeper.” Midway through he told Graziosi that he was riding high on the event, especially the way it allowed him to interact directly with his audience, without having to be filtered through a screenwriter, director, cinematographer, and film editor. “This is filterless,” he said. “It’s live, alive,” he added.
McConaughey has always been this way. He has a weird, one-of-a-kind mind, always seeking some kind of inspiration and excited to share what he finds with anyone willing to listen to him. His unique intensity and charm have allowed him to produce some truly incredible art and entertainment, but his intensity has always been at its best when harnessed and molded by other trained professionals. McConaughey alone does not produce Killer Joe, True Detective season one, Lone Star, or even How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. McConaughey alone produces rambling social media posts, which, to be fair, I have always adored, mainly because they were joyful—and free.
Roadtrip is something else. Roadtrip costs money, real money, supposedly valued at sixty times more than a copy of Greenlights, and an indication that McConaughey, who hasn’t starred in a live-action film since 2019, is fully making the pivot to lifestyle spiritual guru. This next evolution of his personal brand is Matthew’s version of Goop; I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that he’s not trying to sell us vagina-scented candles.
Matthew told us early in the live stream that we wouldn’t necessarily get answers that day, but we would learn how to ask the right questions. I certainly left with more questions than I had when I logged on, chief among them being, “Who told him this was a good idea?”