There I was, minding my own business, watching the 2014 Academy Awards, when Matthew McConaughey wins the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role. This was the icing on the cake for a guy who truly had himself a year. His ambitious turn in Dallas Buyer’s Club scored him nearly every major acting award in the motion picture industry and catapulted him into the elite ranks of Hollywood’s leading men.
McConaughey’s win came as no surprise. Dallas Buyers Club is an important film and his was an important role. He nailed it. It is also the type of performance that gets recognized by the awarding entities, one that is preferred to portrayals of scandalous and despicable characters. That is not to say that psychopaths in cinema don’t get their fair share of hardware. I certainly don’t want to piss off the very deserving Anthony Hopkins, whose Dr. Hannibal Lechter may very well top that list.
The Matthew McConaughey Brand
With his hypnotic Southern drawl and six-pack abs, the Texas-born McConaughey is one of those guys that oozes cool out of every pore. His career arc is a study of how a personal brand begins and stays strong. He is polished, articulate, handsome (there, I said it!), and eminently watchable. Put a cowboy hat on him and he seems to ramp up his performance. Then there is his lilting incantation, “Alright, alright, alright,” which gives us one of the great verbal memes in popular culture.
Throughout the years, McConaughey has made some, shall I say, interesting choices regarding film roles. I did not care for the mainstream romantic comedies in which he was cast. Eye candy for the ladies; I get it. For me, two films that showcased his undeniable talent were Lone Star (1996), directed by John Sayles, and Frailty (2001), directed by Bill Paxton. In both pictures, he plays outwardly the same character, a sheriff compromised by a a dark past and a shifting morality.
These days, he is more selective in taking roles. He can play well on both sides of the law. He was riveting as the disturbed Rustin Cohle in the HBO original series, True Detective, for which he received a Prime Time Emmy Award nomination. In addition to his 2014 Best Actor nomination, he could easily have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as corporate rowdy Mark Hanna in The Wolf of Wall Street. And if you want to see him in all his twisted, redneck glory—with Southern drawl and cowboy hat in full force—check out Killer Joe (2012).
The takeaway here is that McConaughey has been doing some serious growing between and outside the lines. His maturity as an actor stems from continually reinventing himself (both on and off the screen) and an unquestionable commitment to excellence. He is an actor who takes his craft seriously and chooses not to be mediocre.
The Best Acceptance Speech in the History of the Oscars
There have been some memorable acceptance speeches at award programs throughout the years, and the Academy Awards certainly has had its share. As the winner ascends to the podium, you never know what you are going to get. Most speeches seem to drone on forever—or, at least until the orchestra casts the musical hook, cuing he winner to pick up the pace and get the heck off the stage.
Not so with McConaughey. He bounced up the steps to the podium, grabbed his statuette, composed himself, and delivered what I believe was a speech for the ages:
The third piece is someone to chase. For McConaughey, it is his hero, who is himself in 10 years. He confesses that since he was 15, he has been chasing that better version of himself, an image or idea that he admits will be forever elusive. Yet it is the chase that keeps him sharp, striving, and living with purpose.
“Every day, every week, every month, every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m never going to attain that. I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me because it keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
♦ Anybody on the journey of professional and personal development would be well-served by universally applying the content of McConaughey’s speech. As a brand storyteller, I am constantly challenging my clients, my students, and myself to dig deep and find that best version. Once we see it in our minds, and take psychological ownership of it, we can begin to live up to it in the world.
♦ Reinvention is adaptation, something we do in the face of complacency or when things are not working. There are those that are never satisfied, constantly challenging their personal status quo. McConaughey reinforces the notion that we ought to maintain a high level of accountability yet raise the bar every day.
♦ I, too, feel that I am chasing a version of myself that I will never fully realize. I know he is out there. I’ve seen glimpses of him. Feeling that one day he will become my hero, I will embrace the chase, continuously reinventing myself along the way, knowing that I will only reach him asymptotically.
And to that, I say “Alright, alright, alright!”
Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His ability to spark others to action has earned him the moniker of “The LinkedIn Catalyst.” JD is considered one of the world’s top thought leaders on LinkedIn, and a pioneer in the design and delivery of LinkedIn education. He is also a globally acclaimed social business psychologist, keynote speaker, and frequent broadcast media expert on LinkedIn for business. Additionally, JD is adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an academic discipline. In addition to his blog, The Wisdom Zone, JD is a featured blogger for the Huffington Post and Forbes.
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