My interpretation of Matthew McConaughey’s Infamous Line: All right, all right, all right!

Leslie Ferry, Founder of Brize

When three adults known for their chitty chattiness are in a car for almost 6-hours together and hardly speak to one another, they either don’t want to be together or are captivated.

Fortunately, for my husband, a good friend, and me, it was the latter. We were driving home from our first post-COVID out-of-town celebration, and we were listening to Matthew McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights – he prefers to spell it as one word.

I’m sure I would have been drawn in if I had opted to read his book. Still, hearing Matthew narrate it in his distinctive voice, with his inflections and impersonations, takes you to another level of understanding and visualization.

When those of us close in age to Matthew hear the words all right, all right, all right. They conjure up different imagines, some of which can be shared, and I do here. And some that probably shouldn’t.

For those of you who may not know Matthew, he is an acclaimed actor whose career breakthrough role was in a coming-of-age comedy, leading to starring roles in dramas and becoming the go-to male actor for rom-coms. This box office draw stereotype offered Matthew new challenges for a time, but like everyone, we can reach a point in our career where we want a change, to seek new challenges, or to stretch ourselves.

To break out of the rom-com stereotype, Matthew needed to take control of his career and steer it down a different path. He knew what he wanted and also knew he was taking a considerable risk to get it.

Matthew calls Greenlights a memoir but not a self-help or advice book. Instead, he said he wanted to write it to show how much effort it has taken to get to where he is. It is a hard work and self-awareness story, which is why I was so drawn to it.

Let’s start with why he decided to call it Greenlights. And by the way, I don’t give too much away here. I share a minute fraction of what Matthew reveals in Greenlights.

In Matthew’s words, greenlights mean to go, advance, carry on, continue. They give the flow of traffic the right of way to proceed. For humans, they provide affirmation of our way, approval, support, gifts. Matthew believes they can also help us identify where red lights are in our life, so we can then change course to catch fewer. And finally, he believes we can earn and engineer greenlights in our life……..through force of will, hard work, and the choices we make.

It is this belief that drew me in to hear more.

I had a strong, relatable reaction to the story about how his now infamous line came about. This is my interpretation of the story and might be entirely off base. But isn’t that why storytellers tell stories? So we can interpret them?

The first words Matthew McConaughey spoke in the first film he made, which were not in a script, they came to him at the moment, were all right, all right, all right!

For me, what I immediately thought after hearing that story and then the words themselves was:

All right: “Let’s see?” He thought deeply about the character he was about to play, to understand him entirely as a human. What he likes, how he wants his behaviors to be perceived, what motivates him.

All right: “I’ve got this!” The first scene Matthew shot in his career was completely unscripted. The director handed him a challenge without telling him what to do or say. He left the scene’s content and outcome in Matthew’s hands.

All right: “Let’s do this!” Matthew was ready to bring this character to life on screen and to execute his work plan.

The scene, or at least that opening line, not only made the cut but became Matthew’s signature phrase.

An equally as likely outcome could have been the director didn’t like the scene. Then the cast and crew would work together to make something better. Had that been the outcome, I suspect Matthew McCaughey would have still gone on to be a successful movie star, just without a defining line.

Matthew drew on his prior experiences, values, motivations, and life lessons to seemingly effortlessly crush that scene. He knew himself, got to know the character, and knew what the director and castmates (his boss and co-workers) needed from him to make the scene work.

My reaction to Matthew’s story is a fitting analogy to the purpose of Brize.

Brize debunks the myth that natural intelligence and our technical skill knowledge are what determines career success. Of course, we are all subject matter experts in our chosen fields of study, psychology, journalism, finance, science, law, engineering, marketing, healthcare, etc.

Soft Skills are the Key to Career Success

But over 100-years ago, a productivity research study found that emotional intelligence is the most significant contributor to career success. But how do you think you can go about strengthening them?

At Brize, we believe that at the heart of emotional intelligence is awareness, awareness of ourselves and others. That’s why we further dissect EQ into specific skills we can relate to and strengthen.

Working effectively and achieving our personal, team, and company goals require uber-teamwork. But humans are unique with unique thoughts and ideas and influences on our thoughts and ideas. The views, opinions, and approaches to work by individuals in a company can be as varied as the number of employees. To effectively collaborate, we need to be keenly aware of our characteristics and behaviors and those of our co-workers.

That’s why we have defined a set of skills for how workers think, act, and mindsets.

These characteristics and skills are sometimes referred to as soft skills or human skills. But we believe a more accurate description is “awareness” skills. We help individuals uncover these jewels of knowledge about themselves and others to be productive at work.

Why these skill types?

Think: The instant answer and fragmented attention world we live in today can cause us to rush our thinking, making snap assumptions or decisions versus taking a moment to really understand a topic or consider the long-term, domino effect of our actions. It can also cause us to tune out of conversations quickly, leading us to miss information.

Act: We don’t always appear to others the way we intend. We might smirk unknowingly or grimace when processing information. This smirk or grimace can be interpreted as disagreeing, disrespect, untrusting, etc. Or our work style may be interpreted as not caring when in reality, we hate conflict and attempt to avoid it at all costs.

Mindset: Fear can paralyze us; fear of making a mistake, fear of being wrong, fear of being misunderstood. Anxiety and other emotions can cloud our thinking and stall progress. When we approach work with an optimistic, confident mindset, we eliminate these barriers to achieving our goals.

With a focus on these actionable, cognitive skills, we help individuals:

  • Understand how they think and process information.
  • Understand how they behave at work and, even more importantly, how their teammates interpret their behaviors.
  • Build positive mindsets to overcome adversity, which is inevitable at work.

Let’s circle back to why Matthew McConaughey said he wrote Greenlights — to show how much effort it has taken to get to where he is.

The Misunderstood Meaning of Hard Work

Working hard doesn’t mean putting in long hours every day of the week to do a lot of stuff. The hard work is in obtaining awareness, so to be productive: We need to know:

  • What we do well and what we don’t, what we enjoy doing at work and what we don’t, even though we may be good at it. And where we get our energy.
  • Our work styles, approaches to evaluating information, communication approaches, motivations, behaviors, and mindsets.
  • Our co-workers’ work styles and how their differences may frustrate us, preferred communication approaches, their job responsibilities and stressors, their motivations, values, personal situation, and more.
  • The goal or what we are to accomplish through our responsibilities, what is asked of us, project, or task, and then setting a plan to achieve it.

This knowledge powers a path to success. It is a clarity that eliminates frustration due to a lack of understanding of what is to be accomplished, how to best interact with our co-workers, why our co-workers react in a certain way, and more.

Brize is designed to help professionals navigate today’s human-interaction-powered knowledge economy to experience higher job satisfaction, reduce stress and anxiety, and achieve career success.

Greenlights.