Something to look up to, something to look forward to, and someone to chase.
“There’s a few things, about three things, by my count, that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase.”
Matthew McConaughey shared this perspective Sunday evening in his Oscar acceptance speech for his role as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. His simple message contains important life lessons for all men, but the message is especially relevant for our Guyhood audience.
Something To Look Up To
“Look up to” implies admiration of another human being. Young men look up to their family members, mentors, Lebron James. McConaughey—he looks up to God. God is not human. For those who believe, God is a higher power. McConaughey shifts our traditional perspective.
Consider this. Various cultures speak of the third eye. It is where the individual must look to in order to find center. As McConaughey looks up to God, he actually looks inward to his faith—his center. Faith has conceptual permanence and sustainability, unlike unpredictable human behavior.
Yes, young men need role models, but what must guide your life is your center. You can control your center. You can’t control others’ behavior.
Guyhood constantly challenges your center. Your brain is maturing rapidly, vacillating between instant gratification and future-oriented reflection. Transitions—high school to college, high school to work, college to work, job to job—are the norm. Social pressures and identity seeking influence certain decisions. With all this movement and external pressure, what you look up to each day must come from within.
- Are you a young soldier? Do you look up to duty, honor, or service?
- Are you a college student? Do you look up to integrity, persistence, or lifelong learning?
- Are you a young volunteer? Do you look up to service, community, or philanthropy?
Explore your core values. Find your center. Look up to it daily.
Something To Look Forward To
“Look forward to” implies anticipation of an attainable goal. Young men look forward to greater independence, a fulfilling career, Spring Break. McConaughey—he looks forward to his family. During his speech, he recognized his wife, his children, his mother, and his deceased father. Looking forward to his deceased father makes little sense if he was only anticipating. After all, he cannot look forward to seeing his father each day in the traditional interpretation of the phrase. Again, McConaughey’s shifts our traditional perspective.
Consider this. When you look forward, you see your surroundings. You see society—mankind. Your life is not only built upon what centers you but also upon those with whom you share your experiences. Healthy relationships you consciously build throughout life affirm your existence and connect you with mankind. McConaughey can look forward to his father, to making him proud, because their relationship transcends physicality.
Guyhood can feel lonely. For some young men, it is the first time they truly experience solitude. Childhood friends are now working, studying, marrying, even fathering. All the more reason you must nurture important relationships—the ones you look forward to.
A good friend, Mo Bunnell of Bunnell Idea Group, taught me about a Protemoi list. Protemoi is a Greek word meaning “first among equals.” Your Protemoi relationships are the ones of which McConaughey speaks.
- Who are those individuals in your life that are first among all those you know?
- Which relationships will provide you the most value?
- Which relationships will allow you to give as well as receive?
Create your Protemoi list. Nurture those relationships daily. Look forward to them.
Someone To Chase
“Someone to chase” implies finite pursuit. After all, chasing seems futile if there is no chance you will catch what you pursue. Young men chase romantic partners, the co-worker in line for that same promotion, the bartender. McConaughey—he chases himself, ten years from now. During his speech, he said that at twenty-five, he chased his thirty-five year old self. He still chases that self ten years ahead. Will he ever catch him? McConaughey knows he won’t. It is an infinite chase. For a third time, McConaughey shifts our traditional perspective.
Consider this. According to the ancient Greeks, humanity was a verb; an action. It was an ongoing, evolving pursuit of personal excellence. Whatever his calling, a man pursued that calling with integrity and passion. The frustration inherent in the neverending chase was an essential part of the experience.
McConaughey doesn’t chase himself narcissistically; he chases himself to remain excellent in his calling. To stop chasing himself would mean to stop growing as an actor, which would mean his career’s end. An infinite chase, although frustrating at times, means infinite growth potential.
Guyhood can feel frustrating because it seems everyone but you defines success. Societal measures are supposed excellence indicators. The excellent athlete comes in first place. The excellent career earns the largest paycheck. The excellent man is the chiseled specimen in advertisements. But when you define excellence, you stop chasing other’s expectations and begin chasing your own. Your life becomes measured not by how others see you but by how you see you.
- How do you define excellence?
- What version of yourself do you chase?
- What motivates and inspires that chase?
Define your excellence. Chase it relentlessly.
Something to look up to, something to look forward to, and someone to chase. Find your center, nurture healthy relationships, and pursue excellence.
At least that’s what I heard.
And if you agree with Matt, well then, “Alright, alright, alright!”
Image credit: WDPG share/flickr
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