5 Powerful Lessons from Matt Damon

Today is a special day. Matthew Paige Damon, best known as Matt Damon, was born this day, on October 8, 1970. He’s appeared in numerous blockbusters, most of which you’ve probably seen. Collectively, they’ve earned over three billion dollars at the North American box office alone, making Damon the highest-grossing actor of all time.

Having started his acting career with only a single line of dialog in the romantic comedy Mystic Pizza, Damon quickly rose to stardom with Good Will Hunting, which he wrote and produced with his acting buddy Ben Affleck.

Damon has received numerous awards and nominations since then, including an Academy Award and two Golden Globe Awards. 

Damon, who’s long been associated with A-List Hollywood stardom, has really made a name for himself. And it’s clear that his success hasn’t been a fluke. He’s worked very hard, sometimes losing or gaining dozens of pounds to fit a role. Damon has refused the help of stuntmen, adhered to strict diet plans, and exercised at least twice a day under rigorous supervision.

While following the timeless fundamentals of working hard, Damon has also made sure to be surrounded by good people with whom he cares to build strong, long-lasting relationships.

Moreover, the acting isn’t where Damon’s work ends. He’s committed to making a difference, willing to invest in himself and others to do so. The actor founded a clean water charity (Water.org), was one of the founders of the Not On Our Watch Project, and supports many other NGOs aimed at fighting AIDS and poverty in third world countries.

In real life, Damon is a humble and laid-back person. He has a positive image of someone and doesn’t take himself very seriously. Let’s see what life principles Damon abides by that’s contributed to his success and helped shape the man he is today.

Work Hard and Take Rough With the Smooth

Big shots in the media and sports tend to unanimously answer questions on what contributed to their success with the simple “hard work.” Inarguably, that’s the most powerful strategy that seldom fails.

Damon is no exception. He’s worked hard throughout his career, taking up challenges and tackling problems along the way. When he was first cast for Bourne, he was just 29 years old. He was 45 when he undertook the latest Bourne film. This is what Damon recalls about taking up the challenge of getting himself back in the shape of a 29-year-old:

One Thing About Working As Much As I Have For The Past 20 Years Is That I’ve Got Better, So It Was Easier To Find The Character. But The Physical Part Was Really Tough. It Was Two Workouts A Day And A Very Specific Diet. And There Are No Shortcuts To Getting In Shape Like That. It’s Kind Of A Full-Time Job.

For ten weeks, Damon had to regularly subject himself to two 90-minutes high-intensity gym training sessions and eat nothing but vegetables and protein for “months on end.” Only then did he get the green light to step back on stage.

In his career, Damon had to undergo several body transformations. For example, he lost 40 pounds in 100 days on a self-prescribed diet and fitness regimen for Courage Under Fire back in 1996, which he had to gain back for The Rainmaker in 1997, and lose again for The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1999. If you don’t think that’s impressive, then we don’t know what is.

And it wasn’t all shiny and smooth for Damon. Some of his films flopped and got criticized by the press, leaving the actor with no job offers for more than six months at a time. But as Damon recalls, when he was offered a role in The Bourne Identity back when he was 29, 

It Had All The Hallmarks Of A Failure. It Was Postponed, It Was Delayed, There Were Reshoots And Everybody Went, ‘Oh This One’s Going To Be A Turkey.’ It Finally Got Released And Everybody Discovered It.

Lesson learned: Take rough with the smooth, persevere, work hard, and believe in what you do.

Turn Toward Problems You See

In June 2016, when Damon addressed the graduating class at MIT with his speech, he shared a few valuable lessons interspersed with amusing stories from his life. One of those anecdotes concerned the piece of advice Damon once received from Bill Clinton, who said, “Turn toward the problems you see.” It wasn’t until later in life that Damon understood what Clinton meant at the time.

That’s What I Want To Urge You To Do Today: Turn Toward The Problems You See. And Don’t Just Turn Toward Them. Engage With Them. Walk Right Up To Them, Look Them In The Eye… Then Look Yourself In The Eye And Decide What You’re Going To Do About Them.

Value People and Make the Best Ones Part of Your Life

Damon has been a friend of Ben Affleck for more than 35 years. He’s also incredibly loyal to his wife, whom he met in 2003. He speaks fondly of both, and it’s obvious that Damon values his relationships and surrounds himself with people he loves and trusts.

It’s Not That I Love Marriage In General; It’s That I Love Being Married To Her. And That’s The Difference.

Celebrate Diversity and Bathe in the Difference

Damon’s mother, a teacher, played a pivotal role in his upbringing. She always wanted him to have a broader perspective on life and the world. That’s why she took her kids to see the world outside Cambridge, where Damon was born.

A Big Problem In America Is That We’re Geographically Isolated, Which Gives Rise To The Donald Trump Thing Where People Think It’s Actually A Good Idea To Build A Wall Between Ourselves And Other People. Hopefully, By Taking My Kids Around The World, They’re Going To Be Open To The World. And That’s Going To Do A Lot For Them.

When addressing the graduating class at MIT in 2016, Damon asserted that there’s no substitute for actually experiencing things firsthand:

On That Trip [To Zambia In 2006 As Part Of Damon’s ONE Campaign], In A Small Community, I Met A Girl And Walked With Her To A Nearby Bore Well Where She Could Get Clean Water. I Asked Her If She Wanted To Stay In Her Village When She Grew Up. She Said, “No! I Want To Go To Lusaka And Become A Nurse!” Clean Water — Something As Basic As That — Had Given This Child The Chance To Dream.

Go One Step at a Time and Believe in Miracles

Instead of tackling a huge problem as a whole, try breaking it into small chunks and address each chunk one at a time. In The Martian, Damon’s character (Watney) says, “Eventually, if you solve enough of them, you get to come back home.” By knocking one piece of a problem after another, you can eventually tackle the whole thing and achieve what you want. 

It’s not what only Watney believes in and achieves in the movie, but also what Damon himself believes.

If you haven’t yet watched The Martian, it’s high time you did. It’s a brilliant movie full of life lessons that Damon himself abides by.

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