Matthew McConaughey gave his first commencement speech on Friday. By his own account, he was nervous before speaking—a feeling he said in the speech that he chases whenever possible—but the number of lessons that he imparted while addressing the graduating class of 2015 extend well beyond merely celebrating the creative power of fear. Here are fifteen other things we learned from McConaughey’s speech:
- He finds the overuse of the word “unbelievable” to be annoying.
Some of the advice that McConaughey offered was practical; some of it was specific; some of it was likely to be of limited utility to the graduates who received it; and some of it was simply about informing them of ways to not annoy Matthew McConaughey. “‘Unbelievable’ is the stupidest word in the dictionary,” McConaughey explained, pointing out that when people say “unbelievable,” they usually mean “spectacular, phenomenal, most excellent, and outstanding.” So if you find yourself watching a football game with Matthew McConaughey, and Dez makes a mind-blowing catch, definitely describe it as “most excellent” unless you want to trigger this particular linguistic pecadillo.
- He sees a difference between “joy” and “happiness.”
Some of McConaughey’s advice was philosophical. For instance: He considers “happiness” to be an unattainable, meaningless ideal—something that people chase endlessly without even knowing what it looks like in its final form. But “joy,” to McConaughey, refers to “the feeling we have from doing what we are fashioned to do”—something he finds through the process, not through the result.
- For a very rich man, he finds money to be overrated.
Matthew McConaughey is not the first person with a net worth rumored to be at or above $65 million to suggest that money is overrated, and he won’t be the last. And while he says that he has “nothing against money,” he derides the cultural obsession with it: “‘Money’ is king today, makes the world go round. Money is success, the more we have, the more ‘successful’ we are, right?” He has his own five-part definition of “success” (fatherhood, being a good husband, health, career, and friendships), and money ain’t in it.
- He hangs out in voodoo shops in the bayou.
He chose to illustrate his story about how much people overvalue money by describing a stack of magic potions he encountered in a voodoo shop south of New Orleans, and he noted that the shelves were full—except for the stack offering money. Granted, Orleans Parish has a median household income roughly one third lower than that of the rest of the U.S. (and good for 0.1 percent of McConaughey’s own net worth), so he may be a bit disconnected from the reality of life down in Cajun country.
- He thinks he’s in too much of Dazed and Confused.
McConaughey cites no regrets in his speech. Indeed, he declares that “guilt and regret kill many a man before their time.” But he did express something not far off from that lethal emotion when talking about how his role in Dazed and Confused evolved from a walk-on with three lines to the part that he ended up playing. “A few years ago I was watching the film again and I noticed two scenes that I really shouldn’t have been in,” he notes. He goes on to make some sort of point about how it’s just as important to figure out when you shouldn’t be somewhere as when you should, but given how well popping up in additional scenes in Dazed and Confused seems to have worked out for him, he might urge recent grads to ignore McConaughey’s advice here.
- He made $325 a day for Dazed and Confused. (And $150,000 for Boys on the Side.)
Just in case you’re interested in what actors get paid.
- He reads his own reviews.
He ain’t some shrinking coward unable to handle criticism: Matthew McConaughey reads all of his bad reviews, and finds that the ones written by more-talented critics help him improve his craft. Congratulations, critics, part of that Oscar is yours. Who’s your hero five years from now?
- He doesn’t like his jeans starched.
A section of the speech devoted to explaining that just because you can have something doesn’t mean you actually want that thing is centered on an anecdote about having a maid while on the set of Boys on the Side. The maid took good care of the house that he was put up in, and one of her responsibilities included pressing his jeans. He was thrilled about this, until a killjoy friend pointed out to him that pressed jeans aren’t a great look. So if you find yourself doing Matthew McConaughey’s laundry, leave the starch at home.
- The Bills’ comeback against the Oilers in the 1993 AFC Championship Game still haunts him.
Like many Texans, “The Comeback” in 1993—in which the Buffalo Bills were down 35-3 in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Houston Oilers and went on to win the game and a Super Bowl appearance—haunts McConaughey, who talked about it as part of a lesson in how a person should never get complacent. Good advice, even if it may have been too soon for some of the parents in attendance.
- He calls cocaine “the white stuff.”
When relating an anecdote involving Darrell K. Royal and a pseudonymous country singer with a coke habit called “Larry,” McConaughey used the nickname “the white stuff” for cocaine. Update your drug lingo accordingly.
- He still thinks about “No Fear” T-shirts.
The nineties were an era in which a popular clothing line was built around the slogan “No Fear.” While it’s been some time since “No Fear” clothing was fashionable—most University of Houston graduates would have been in onesies at the time—McConaughey brought it up in his commencement speech anyway, explaining that “no fear” is not a motto he endorses. He likes fear, because it makes him work harder.
- He likes to go on three-week-long walkabouts.
Who doesn’t, really?
- He’s his own best friend.
McConaughey does a fine job of coming off as self-effacing and charming, which obscures the fact that the dude is seriously into himself. Famously, while accepting his Academy Award for Best Actor at the 2014 Oscars ceremony, he explained that his hero is himself at some point in the future. (Time called it “confounding,” a sentiment echoed by many.) He didn’t talk heroes during the commencement speech, but he did describe himself as his own best friend.
- He doesn’t believe anybody is a victim.
The very first bit of advice McConaughey offered to grads was that “life’s not fair,” urging them not to “fall into the entitlement trap of feeling you are a victim, you are not.” That is often true, of course, but it seems kinda judgmental. Sometimes people are victims, you know?
- There is no situation he will not drop an “alright alright alright” into.
And the Fonz would have started every graduation commencement he gave with “Ayyy!”
(Photograph by Louis Dollagaray/MediaPunch/IPX)