He’s an American actor, film producer, and screenwriter. He’s ranked by Forbes magazine, as one of the most bankable Hollywood stars, and is among the highest grossing actors of all time. He’s received numerous accolades, including one Academy Award, from four nominations. He’s Matt Damon, and here’s my take on his Top 10 Rules for Success. Rule number one is our personal favorite, and make sure to stick around all the way to the end for some special bonus clips.
Matt Damon’s Top 10 Entrepreneurship Rules For Business and Success
Rule #1: #Believe
When I was younger everybody told me not to be an actor. To this day, I say that to people, who come up to me, and say, I’m thinking of going into acting, what do you think? I say, absolutely not, it’s a terrible idea, don’t do it. Because, that’s what everyone said to me.
And, I think if you’re going to make it in this business, that is so full of rejection and hardship, you need to believe in yourself, despite what everybody you love and trust tells you. And, it’s a very personal journey. And so, so that was really helpful, I think, you know, the advice to stay away from this career was really helpful in my own understanding, that, it was that important that I pursue it.
Rule #2: Love What You DO
You know, and the first job I got was a real job, besides commercials and things like that. Local radio commercials and things that kind of gave us the money. Ben and I had a joint bank account, and we’d go to, and if you made money acting, it went into the account, and the account was only to be used if you were going to New York for an audition, or if we took $10 out to like, play video games.
And, I got a line in the movie “Mystic Pizza.” And the line was, “Mom, do you want my green stuff?” And literally, but it was a scene that was a big dinner table scene, Julia Roberts.
It was like, a big movie for her, and, it was this whole dinner table scene, and, so it took us three nights to shoot, down in Mystic, Connecticut, and I was a minor, so my mother had to come with me, and, you know, we shot from 5 to 5 every night, and, I just remember being, so in love with the process of film, I just, I was like, this is, the greatest, it was the best time I’d ever had in my life, and it was, you know, I was like, this is amazing, I want this to never ever ever stop. Like, I loved it.
Rule #3: Channel Your Energy
But I mean, we really wrote “Good Will Hunting,” out of necessity, I mean, we just needed a job. And, you know, as you all know, they don’t really give those out here.
So, it was just, you know, two guys who were eager and young, and had a lot of energy, and a lot of creative energy, and, that’s a big, it was always a big problem with, L.A. and New York, was you’d, you know, you’d meet these other actors, and they’d, and it’s like, you’re raring to go, and there’s nowhere to put that energy, and so, you know, it can get put in horrible places, it can get put in, you know, drugs and all that, you know.
Or you can try to somehow channel it into something that feels productive. And even if it doesn’t, nothing comes of it, it’s still productive, in the sense that you’re working. Even if you’re getting together in groups and doing scenes, or taking classes, or, trying to cobble together a screenplay, the energy’s going somewhere.
Rule #4: Be Authentic
Interviewer: You have never seemed, shackled, Matt, over your career by the fear of needing to maintain some sort of particular image, you’ve always been happy to speak out on issues that you are concerned about, or to do whatever projects take your fancy. How have you managed to slip those chains?
I just never thought that you could micro-manage an image, you know, I just didn’t, you know. And the things I’ve spoken about, I’ve just, you know, are things that I believe, and, it doesn’t mean that I’m right, it just, you know, and I’m happy to learn and evolve in my thinking, and, but, if I’m saying something, it’s because it’s what I’m genuinely feeling, and, you know, and that’s, I don’t think I’ve taken too many hits for that.
Rule #5: Just Do Your Work
My high school acting teacher, Gerry Speca, who had a huge influence on me and Ben and Casey, five words, he said, just do your work, kid. And he repeated that so many times to me, just do your work, kid, and that is kind of, what I can always retreat to, you know, that’s my touchstone if, you know, when in doubt, just focus on my work, you know, if everything on the movie’s going wrong, all right, you know, I’ll make sure that my work is tight, and, go from there and it’s a great place to base from, and it’s a good foundation.
Rule #6: Be Fully Committed
I looked at the odds, you know, like how am I even going to break into this business? Right, all the good parts, you know, as an unknown actor, to get a great role, you know, every other actor has to pass on it. Right. Every other actor has to pass on it. And then it gets opened up to you, and thousands of other people like you, right. And you all go. And, you know, there are a few parts, like I was looking at the, you know, a big part when I was, younger, was “Primal Fear,” remember that movie, with Richard Gere, and Edward Norton got the part.
Interviewer: After everyone passed.
Yeah, I mean, so that part became open, every young actor knew it. I mean, we, I paid, with money I did not have, to take dialect lessons, you know, hired a dialect coach, cause the kid was, you know, his alter ego was from Kentucky, and he was from somewhere else, and I had never been to Kentucky, and so, you know, we knew that that was it.
You know that was going to launch somebody. There just weren’t opportunities, you know. And so, “Courage Under Fire,” was one of those roles that was small, it was really only, it was two scenes, right, I had two scenes with Denzel. And then the rest of it was, I’m the medic, and I’m, you know, you know, Tim Guinee, an actor who I love, who’s in “Promised Land,” actually, is like, bleeding out on my lap for, so for six weeks, we’re in El Paso, and he’s like, moaning, and I’m just sitting there, and I’m like, I don’t think the camera’s on us, man.
But, you know, so it was a really thankless job, for both of us. Except for, those two scenes that I had with Denzel. So I had two days of work on that movie, and so I went, well what do I do, you know, it’s, it’s told in flashback, so let me see, how can I change, myself, what can I do? The guy’s supposed to become a heroin addict, okay.
Well, so what do I do to make that seem like it happened, and the only thing I could come up with, was, to lose as much weight as I could. And then put it back on as fast as I could to go do the flashback stuff. And so that’s what I did.
Interviewer: I heard that wasn’t good for you health, like, your doctor was surprised.
No it was terrible. It you know, it was bad because I didn’t, you know, I asked them for a nutritionist, which was probably $1500 or $2500. And they said no, and you know, I don’t think they, in their defense, I don’t think they really knew what I was going to do.
You know, and they probably had requests like this all the time, and they think they’re vanity requests. But it was a serious request, and, and they turned it down, and so, I went to, we had a friend, we knew a guy. Who was also a, he was Austrian.
I mean, funnily enough, he was Austrian, and he was trying to be an actor. But he literally, because he was Austrian, he had Arnold’s accent. And he was a former body builder. So, he was really aiming at a small bullseye, you know. Cause his spot was really taken by somebody.
But he, he put me on his program that he would do for body building shows. But they would do that program three weeks out. You know, they would do this really, kind of reckless thing, when they’re, you know, and so those guys walk onstage, and, like, you could push, they look strong, but you could knock ’em over, they’re really, suffering at that point, to kind of leech every bit of everything out, so that the veins and the muscles pop out.
So, I did it for like, three and a half or four months. Which was just, too much, you know, too much. And it, but, at the same time, you know, it worked. It worked, and you know, when I got “The Rainmaker,” a year or so later, Coppola said that he’d seen “Courage Under Fire.” And that that made a big difference.
And funnily enough, it was Edward Norton and I, who were going against each other again for that. And “Courage Under Fire” pushed me over the edge. And when I met Spielberg later, and he looked at me, and he said, what, you know, and I’d put myself on tape for “Saving Private Ryan.”
I never heard anything, I don’t think the tape ever got to him. The casting director maybe looked at it and chucked it, you know, and, so I thought he’d you know, seen it. And he said, what do I know you from? And I said I put myself on tape for your movie. He goes, no, I didn’t see any tape.
He goes what movies have you been in? I said I was in a movie called “Courage Under Fire.” He goes, You know, I turned to my wife when I saw that movie, and said, “that’s the exact guy I want for Private Ryan, “I just wish he wasn’t so skinny.” So.
Interviewer: I feel like I read a interview, at the time, that said, like, you couldn’t even kiss your girlfriend, cause you could taste potato chips on her lips?
The oil from them, yeah. No, I mean, it went, people who have those disorders, I got it. I totally understood it. Like if you want to be, I just told myself, I can’t allow anything, there’s no, no compromising. None, like, because the second you open that door, you know, it’s a slippery slope. And I just, I wanted to look back on it, and go, I did absolutely everything I could.
Rule #7: Nurture Great Friendships
Interviewer: This relationship between you and Ben. It’s a kind of, he busts you, and you bust him back. There’s a little bit of that, a lot of that. It’s the nature of two guys growing up together. But there’s also this thing that we’re talking about, we just saw in this scene, is that there, is that who the two of you are in terms of, to each other? Kind of grown up together in Boston, part of Cambridge and all that.
Sure, yeah, growing up together, best friends all our lives, we don’t have, I wouldn’t say we have moments that are that, kind of, dramatic, where we’re like, listen, man, you know. But, you know, I’d lay down in traffic for the guy.
I mean, you know, he’s my best pal, you know, I mean. You know, I’d pretty much do anything for him. So, yeah, I mean, it’s a, you know, it’s a great friendship, you know.
I can’t imagine a better way to, make a movie, and do something I love to do that much, than with Ben, and to have this go the way it did, and have, this happen, you know.
Rule #8: Decide Not To Be Nervous
And Tom Hanks said something to me, when we were doing “Saving Private Ryan,” that always stuck with me, which was, I was asking him about, a movie he did with Jackie Gleason, and I said, what was it like to work with Jackie Gleason? And he thought about it for a second and he said, you know, I made a decision to not be nervous.
And I went, what? And he goes, I knew everyone was so nervous around him. And I just said, you know what, I’m not going to be nervous around him, and he, and once he realized I was treating him like, you know, a fellow human being, we really had this great working relationship, and it was really good advice, you know.
Interviewer: And so you try to do that yourself?
I was trying to do it with Tom Hanks at the time. And, yeah, you don’t get anywhere being, you know, genuflecting, to, you know somebody.
Rule #9: Create What You Love
Interviewer: And I know a lot has been said and written about the experience of “Good Will Hunting,” but, could you ever have imagined that it would have such an effect on people? You touched so many lives with that movie, it was amazing.
It’s really great, looking back, I mean, it, Ben and I had this pact that, we just wanted the movie, that, no matter what, we wanted to love it. And, even if nobody saw it, and it was a great early lesson, that, you know, because even if the movie hadn’t been successful, we still would have loved it, and, and it would have meant as much to us.
So I’ve, you know, not to be a horrible name dropper, but, Clint Eastwood said to me, a couple years ago, I was asking him about, just stuff, we were sitting on the set while they were setting up a shot, and, he said, you know, people talk about my movies, and they say, well, this one’s a masterpiece, or, that one’s no good, and he goes, I love all of them. And I know exactly why I made each one of them. And I wouldn’t do anything differently, if I had to do it again.
Rule #10: Have Something To Say
Interviewer: Al Pacino said the secret to success, is.
But what does he know?
Interviewer: Yeah, exactly, well. I was going to say, he said the secret to success is learning his lines, or learning your lines. What do you reckon the secret to success is?
I never heard that, that’s great. That is definitely one of the secrets to success. Yeah, having something to say, and knowing what it is, yeah.
Thank you guys so much, I made this because MrPlaythroughs101 asked me to, so if there’s a famous entrepreneur that you want me to profile next, leave it in the comments below, and I’ll see what I can do.
Finally, want to give a quick shout out to Xavier, from scentlion.com, thank you so much for buying my book, it really means a lot to me. Thank you guys. Continue to believe, or whatever your one word is. And I’ll see you soon.
Scene From Good Will Hunting