October 2, 2013

6 Lessons from Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad AMC

For the last several years, the only television I have really watched is Breaking Bad.

I can’t really say why. After each episode I feel like I need a shower. Maybe it is our modern tragedy, like Shakespeare, in that there are only anti-heroes and everyone is wrestling with inner shadows. After watching the the final episode, I don’t feel like I need to ever watch TV again. It was a great end to the series.

There is something to be learned from the story of mild-mannered school teacher Walter White becoming a drug lord. In a narcissistic and sociopathic way, he justifies everything he does by providing for the greater good of his family.

Here are a few lessons from breaking bad.

1. Justifying any dishonesty is a slippery slope.

When you start lying or acting out of alignment, even a little bit, it is easier to justify the next action and the next, until you are so burdened by your lies you collapse to the bathroom floor in your tight white underwear from heat stroke, after walking all day through the desert and rolling a barrel of drug money over the grave of your brother-in-law who was recently killed by red-neck Nazis.

And that’s just one day.

“He was naked, naked in a supermarket? It wasn’t Whole Foods, was it?”

2. We want to love people.

But in relationships, if someone shows you who they are, believe them. If someone acts like a self absorbed narcissist, they probably are. Trying to constantly see their highest potential could lead to everything you care about being taken from you. And then you find yourself beat up and chained to a zip line cooking meth.

“I’m not in the meth business. I’m in the empire business.”

3. Have a plan for life, or at least more than a few months in advance.

The number one difference between failure and success is the ability to plan.

“Sitting around, smoking marijuana, and eating Cheetos does not constitute a ‘plan’.”

4. We need each other.

And our commitments to each other are one of the most important things we can have. Walter couldn’t create his empire alone. He needed the resources and commitment of other people. This becomes more difficult if you are ashamed of what you are doing. Things would have probably gone much better for Walter if he had done more outsourcing. That said, at least he had a good lawyer—Saul.

Have a good lawyer.

“If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work. I once told a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked because I believed it.”

Breaking Bad AMC

5. Do what you love.

Say what you want about Walter White, but he did what he loved. He created a small empire using the things he was good at, to the best of his ability. The fact that for many people their skills are best supported by illegitimate ventures might say more about our society than about them.

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really—I was alive.”

Breaking Bad AMC

6. Attachments are the root of suffering.

Whether you are attached to the idea of having more fun, more money and comfort, a better relationship or career or the idea of having a drug empire, it always ends the same. On the ground of a red-neck nazi meth lab with bullets flying through the air, while you wonder what happened.

“What good is it being an outlaw if you have responsibilities?”


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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