Breaking Bad Inspiration

I am a little bit of an Alabama football fan. Back in September, some good friends of mine and I decided to take an RV up to State College, Pennsylvania, for the Alabama-Penn State game. As we made the 14+ hour trip along the Appalachian Mountain range, we needed something to entertain the folks in the back of the RV tumbling down the road at 70 mph. That's how I got hooked on Breaking Bad. If you are unfamiliar with Breaking Bad, the AMC TV show is about a high school chemistry teacher, Walter, who gets diagnosed with terminal cancer and realizes that he will not leave his wife and handicapped kid enough money to cover even the most basic expenses after his death. Walter's obvious solution is to put his chemistry skills to work cooking top-quality meth and selling it at a significant premium. The series progresses with Walt's near-misses with the law and death as he struggles to put away enough money to set his family up comfortably. At the same time, Walter develops from a timid academic into a hard-edged drug dealer.

People do not just like this show, they love it.But why? Here's my thoughts:

Do Whatever It Takes: As the old saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Walt does not sulk, sit around and cry, or occupy a park, he takes action. It may not be the morally "right" action, and certainly not the legal one, but there is something inspiring about someone who takes charge and does something. Walt is a do-er, and that is inspiring.

The Lure of Adventure: Risk is scary. Most people avoid risk and prefer the low-return, predictable route. It typically takes something significant to reset our risk-taking mentality, something that skews our cost-benefit analysis. As Martin Latz, nationally-acclaimed negotiator and founder of the Latz Negotiation Institute says, "Nothing-to-lose is a very valuable negotiating position." For Walt, it is terminal cancer. When you have 6 months to live, playing it safe as a high school teacher seems negligible when the responsibility of providing for your family after you are gone is staring you in the face. People are inspired by the possibility of what you could do if the cost side of your equation was non-existant.

Screw the Rules, Make Your Own: I hear all the time, "I wish I could start my own business," and "Not everyone can do what you do." Everyone dreams of being a do-er and a risk taker, but most people convince themselves that they can't. Everyone thinks the barriers are too high, and it is impossible to live the way they want. While obviously Walter is not living the high life, he is trying to achieve a risky goal using his own set of rules, and that is inspiring.

Ultimately, Walter from Breaking Bad appeals to that take-action side of each of us that is willing to do things his way to get what he wants, and that inspires us all. His life may not be all rainbows and unicorns, but honestly, whose is? We all have fears and hopes, good times and bad, but how much of our lives is dictated by what WE do? We spend most of our lives dependent upon someone else for our money, our careers, and our happiness.

What if I told you that you could live those dreams, dictate your own money, career, and happiness? It is not impossible, the barriers are not too high. Take the risk, take the leap. The risk is not as big as you think it is, and the fall is not that deep. Do not wait to end up in Walter's position and need to resort to crime to get what you want. Life is short enough. And so I will leave you with a quote from the ever quotable Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”