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August 28, 2014

Live Life: Lessons from Breaking Bad

live life
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Live Life the (Breaking) Bad Way

Well, I was late to the party. I’m rarely late, especially to a party. In fact, I’m usually one of the first to arrive and last to leave a party. But, now that it’s off the air, I’ve finally started to watch Breaking Bad.

The show is climbing up my favorites list which includes 24 and House of Cards. The story line is in intriguing and has held me captive. I’m half way through the third season so I don’t want anyone ruining it for me by telling me what happens. Thus far, how to live life seems to be a major theme of Breaking Bad, at least to me.

What’s intriguing is how Walter White approaches and confronts life after learning that he might not have much time to live. In the face of death he suddenly realizes he has nothing, or little to lose. Walter White heeds Steve Jobs’ words spoken in his famous 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech. Walter begins to live life and breaks away from a traditional mindset.

Steve Jobs’ Words on Death

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help make the big choices in life…. all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure…fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important… Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart

…Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinion drawn out your own inner voice… have the courage to follow your heart and own intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.

Death: the Ultimate Motivator

Life seems to take on new meaning when we know the end is near. Why? We all die. And, we all know we all die. And, we know that as soon we are old enough to understand the concept of death.

Yet, we seem to tip toe through life. We’re afraid to disturb the grass under our feet, or ripple the waters. We’re afraid to say what we want to say, do what we really want to do, become what we want to become, and be what we want to be. We live life, but frequently not the one of our own choosing.

Though he engages in criminal activities (albeit with good intentions) Walter White starts to live life with more intensity, more conviction, and with more purpose once he realizes his own mortality is around the corner. He becomes exhilarted and seems to feel something so right doing the wrong thing, though he seems to be destoying the lives of others in the process.

He becomes bolder as the prospect of death liberates him. He becomes less afraid. Prior to his diagnosis of lung cancer Walter White surely knew someday he would die. But, until the diagnosis he played it safe with life. He didn’t take many chances and settled for less than what he was capable of doing or becoming – a trap many fall into.

Love What You Do

I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going is that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love… And, the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And, the only way to do great work is to love what you do. Those words were also spoken by Steve Jobs.

Walter White is extremely intelligent. He has spent a vast majority of his career teaching high school chemistry for which he is overqualified. He’s a very good teacher, and seems to get satisfaction from it. But, I suspect he doesn’t love it.

His passion is not the classroom. It’s the laboratory. It’s rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty. It’s applying knowledge. It’s producing something outstanding. Those are his passions.

In manufacturing methylamphetamine Walter White becomes a more “complete” person – bringing his brain, hands, desire to support his family, and drive for perfection together to achieve “great” work. He is able to produce a highly desirable product – as pure as humanly possible. And, his desire to produce a great product at times even exceeds his desire to make money.

One Day Will Be Your Last Day

If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you will most certainly be right.

Steve Jobs read that quote when he was 17. Those seem to be wise words. Walter White knows he has more than one day to live, but he’s not sure how many days remain for him even when the prognosis begins to look favorable. He seizes the moment. He doesn’t want to miss opportunity. It’s called Carpe Diem – or the Breaking Bad Guide to life.

Imagine how much better life would become if we lived each day as if it would be our last. We wouldn’t concern ourselves with the minutiae of  life.  We wouldn’t allow the negative actions or words of others dampen our day. We wouldn’t hold grudges. We would be less afraid. We would focus more on people rather than things. We would focus on the immediate moment, and not the past. We wouldn’t waste a moment. We would say what we want to say. We would be more grateful. We would be more generous. We would be more kind. We would be more loving. We would live life, and we would live it more fully.

And, if we lived each day as if it were our last, we would be glad we did. Because one day we would most certainly be right! We all die. We each get one life to live. Live the life you want.

To see Steve Jobs’ entire Stanford Commencement Speech watch the video below.

ADDENDUM: September 21, 2014.  Well, I just finished watching the entire series and finale of Breaking Bad – did it in 42 days! In the final episode Walter says this. “I did it for me. I liked it…. I was good at it… And … I was…really….I was alive.” Though we can question his activities and character, Walter finally found his passion and finally lived life!






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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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