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Matthew McConaughey on doing what you don't love

Actor Matthew McConaughey has some advice for those who, to borrow his dad's phrase, haven't "gotten their 'lick' yet."

McConaughey in his new movie, "Gold," plays a geologist-cum-millionaire who he says reminds him of his own Texas oilman father.

"My dad had some [of this character] in him — every day waking up, throwing his legs off the bed, going, 'Today's gonna be the day!' — his line was, 'I'm gonna hit a lick! Oh, if I could just hit a lick,'" McConaughey told CNBC's "Closing Bell."

(A "lick," he said, "means make a really big sale.")

"There's millions of Americans out there like that," said McConaughey.

So what advice does the movie star and married father of three — the man who pulled off his own comeback dubbed the "McConaissance" to win an Oscar, whose just keep livin Foundation is now running a string of after-school youth programs — have for those who haven't gotten their lick yet?

"Well, there's a bit of a fib that we like to believe in sometimes, where they say 'Well, if you just do what you love!' ... We don't always get to do what we love," McConaughey said. "Can we figure out how to love what we do?"

Kelly Evans | CNBC

A similar saying has been attributed to the German literary giant Goethe:

"Cease endlessly striving for what you want to do and learn to love what must be done."

"There was a wise young kid who had that T-shirt on, on a Brazilian farm three hours away from electricity," McConaughey said.

"So, if you can learn to like what you do."

It's another way of saying to embrace or take responsibility for what you have to do in life. In fact, it leads right into the "self-reliance" that McConaughey also emphasized.

"We're talking about what the government can do for us ... I don't know. I'm not trying to make it political. I'm going back to self-preservation, and the only one that can change any of us is ourselves," he said.

"Take some inventory in the mirror, daily," he said.

That brings up another work, of which McConaughey is a fan: Dale Wimbrow's 1934 poem, "The Guy in the Glass."

"But the man in the glass says you're only a bum / If you can't look him straight in the eye."

"I'm not talking taking sides," he said. "We've all got to look in the mirror. We've all got work to do."

"We gotta go to work. Let's work. Everybody," said McConaughey.