November 12, 2020 | By tj

A Letter to Parents, Mentors and Role Models

I have been reading Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey’s new memoir. It is filled with classic McConaughey one liners and anecdotes about life, but there is one story that has stuck with me. McConaughey grew up his whole life thinking that he wanted to be a lawyer, he had prepared and was set on that path through his sophomore year in college. Matthew had a shift in his thinking and decided that instead of law school, he wanted to go to film school a big change. He was beyond nervous to tell his father, and even more afraid of how he would respond to the idea of going to film school. He called his father up and nervously uttered that he did not want to go to law school anymore, but rather would be enrolling in film school. His father took his time responding, but simply responded with few words. Below is an excerpt from the story:


“Of all the things my dad could have said, of all the reactions he could have had, Don’t half-ass it were the last words I expected to hear and the best words he could have ever said to me. With those words he not only gave me his blessing and consent, he gave me his approval and validation. It’s what he said and how he said it. He not only gave me privilege, he gave me honor, freedom and responsibility.”


Most of us have had a moment like this with either a parent, mentor or someone that we look up to. A choice that we made for ourselves, that we were unsure of how it would be received by our person. Let’s think about if Matthews’ father had responded with, “there’s no money in that” or “I’m not paying for you to waste your time in film school”. How differently would Matthew had left that situation than how it originally played out. As parents, mentors, and role models our words carry more weight in the lives of the young person we are caring for. The reason McConaughey’s father wasn’t worried about his choice was because he had raised him that if he was going to do something he was going to give it his all, there was no quitting, or only as he says “half-ass[ing] it”. Failure was acceptable as long as you had given your all. We have gotten away from this in society today, now earlier and earlier in life kids are having to figure out what they want to be for the rest of their lives. We teach kids that they need to earn x amount of dollars for their job to be valuable, we show them that the more money you have the happier you are, we have made it so that the paycheck you get at the end of the week means more than your happiness.


Do you remember what you wanted to be as a kid when you grew up? I wanted to be a trash man, riding on the back of a trash truck, flinging trash into the back and pressing the button to crush it. What would society have told me about my job if I was a trashman today? What would you have said to me? But if I loved it like I did when I was a kid, who cares? I am happy and fulfilled by my job and at the end of the day I am the only person that should matter to. We should be encouraging our kids to try new things, to go to film school, to learn a trade, and to invest in their future. We can’t be afraid for them to take a chance on something, if we have been a good example of work ethic, and believing in ourselves no matter what they do, failure or success they will have gained something in their life.


As parents, mentors, and role models we should be the biggest champions of our kids that anyone could be. Our words should be a “blessing and consent…[giving] approval and validation.”




p.s. if you are a young person reading this, follow your dreams. But know a few things, your dream might change and that is okay. You might experience failure/setbacks along the way and that is okay. Know that it is not going to be easy, you will face resistance and ridicule, people will question your choices. But believe that you are making the best choice for yourself and find a mentor/role model to walk alongside you. “Anything worth having is worth working for” -Susan Elizabeth Phillips