How Walter White Made $80 Million: Business Lessons From Breaking Bad
Judging by my social media feeds this morning, everyone in the free world watched the series finale of Breaking Bad last night. Along with their mothers and their parole agents.
Best line: “Dear Dexter, this is how you finish off a series.”
There was plenty of gore and violence; Heisenberg went out swinging.
But for business minded viewers, only one question needed answering: “How did Walt make that giant stack of cash?”
For five seasons, he had been spouting that Pollyana crap about wanting to leave something behind for his family, money to provide for them.
Last night, at long last he revealed the real reason for his descent into crime. And his stunning success.
“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it,” he said. “And I was really, I was alive.”
No one was ever truly great at a job they just kinda liked.
Dale Carnegie said “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”
Walt was having fun. He got to use his mad chemistry skills in the lab and he got to explore his gangsta business skills on the street which he didn’t even know he had, but found out he loved.
To me that was always the storyline of Breaking Bad. The story of personal transformation. How one man turned his life around. From mild mannered chemistry teacher to crime boss.
Who we are is never written in stone.
The motivation posters say that life begins just outside your comfort zone and no one ever exemplified that more than Walter White.
While alone, in the quiet moments before showtime, he never appeared entirely comfortable with his new role, going so far as to invent Heisenberg as a character to bury himself in, the mask he had to wear to get the job done.
We are legion. We all contain infinite personality twists and turns that we can call on to reach our objectives, as long as we’re willing “to go there.” Ramp it up a notch. Never fake being something you’re not, but always be willing to be more of something that you thought you barely were.
Be Yourself Only Louder.
Don’t be afraid to showboat and dramatize your ideas. From hiring meth addicts with laser pointers to frighten the yuppies to showing up unannounced at cartel headquarters with a pocketful of plastic explosives Walt was never bashful about emphasizing and dramatizing his ideas.
Bashful salespeople have skinny children.
And finally, we can learn as much from Walt’s failure as from his success.
Walt once said that he wasn’t in the meth business, he was in the empire business.
Yes, we wanted to leave money behind to provide for his family, but deep, deep down he wanted a legacy. He wanted them to remember his name. He wanted to prove that we wasn’t just some high school chemistry teacher. He wanted to prove that he was just as good, just as smart, just as successful as his former partners.
But legacies all fade. Statues all crumble. And Empires all fall.
His family despises him and he had to hide the money so that no one ever knew it came from him.
So Walt’s final lesson:
Don’t shoot for success as a legacy. Don’t build your business as an empire.
If it’s worth doing. Do it for Now.
Terry Lancaster is the VP of Making S#!% Happen at Instant Events Automotive Advertising, father of 3 teenage daughters and a Beer League Hockey All Star, as if there could ever be such a thing.
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