Breaking Bad’s hidden lesson? Entrepreneurship


If you’ve had a chance to watch Breaking Bad, you know it’s more than a cancerous chemistry teacher turned professional meth cooker. The show is really about the ups and downs of American small business. Walter White is America’s most popular startup founder and CEO.

Inspiration can be found in unexpected places, like in the addictive series Breaking Bad based on the life and work of a man in the business world of crystal meth.  Star-of-the-show Walter White exemplifies the importance of creating a perfect product, the value of loyalty to one’s team and business partner, and how in business, there will be many challenges through competition, work/life balance, and risk-taking.  Of course a few viewings of Locked Up Abroad based on real-life law enforcement should provide sufficient inspiration to not become engaged in the illegal and illicit recreational pharmaceutical industry.  Bottom line: as entrepreneurs, we should look to other industries for inspiration to gain fresh perspectives.

For Focus: 99 Problems? Just fix one.

Investors want to know in simple terms, what one problem our idea will fix, how we will fix it, how much will it cost to fix it and how much is that solution worth.  Our musings might excite clients on the possibilities, but in reality this is harmful, since an entrepreneur cannot deliver these dreams right now.  Preserve sanity and reputation by not over-promising and under-delivering. No matter what the situation, remember to set expectations properly with regards to what we can do right now, and maintain the focus of solving just one problem.

Focus also requires us to clear the clutter in our lives.  Clutter includes: toxic people, time drainers, unnecessary events, and non-crucial product features.  Founders must wear many hats, and choosing the ones that bring the highest value is critical to success (and maintaining sanity).  Ridding our lives of physical clutter and learning to gracefully remove the social clutter will leave more room in our lives for new thoughts, perspectives, positivity and the ability focus on just one problem.

For a dose of reality: “We all hustle to survive.” 

American Hustle is a story of struggling to make it in the world with a theme of self-transformation. Producer Richard Suckle commented, “We all have to figure out ways to get by, because that’s all we can do.”  when referring to the fundamental role of hustling to surviving and thriving in life.

As an entrepreneur, we should be the first one to work and the last one to leave each day. Embody the “American Hustle” for yourself and your business. We set the tone for our teams. Resources for startups are limited and precious. The more an entrepreneur can do personally, the more the entrepreneur is investing in the venture, and can allocate financial resources elsewhere.

At some point founders will be asked after a pitch, “Why can’t Google/Facebook/Apple do this?”  The answer lies in the ability to hustle and in the notion that all frogs started as tadpoles.  A startup is a nimble entity that can pivot, grow, change and ideate more quickly than large companies. Tightly defined budgets, small teams, and offices in “the cloud” may seem like a weakness, but these are also the attributes that can drive us to success through being lean and mean, more efficient and more maneuverable.