Five Positive Life Lessons From Breaking Bad


He’s a middle-aged man who has spent a good portion of his life as an educator. He’s long held back feelings of insufficiency, or at least the notion that he hasn't done much with his life. Heck, he’s probably a lot like the rest of us.

His life changes suddenly when he’s diagnosed with cancer. Feeling like his time is short, he makes some awful life choices. The older, criminal version of “YOLO,” if you will. Within a short time, he’s being hunted by the police for a number of drug-related charges.

Sound familiar?

No, it isn’t Walter White, the central character of Breaking Bad.

Well, that is Walt’s story, but this particular instance isn't a piece of fiction. The man is Stephen Doran, a Massachusetts tutor who was arrested earlier this year on charges of trafficking meth. And like Walter, he’s suffering from cancer.

Doran’s story, like White’s, is a fascinating glimpse at what desperate people will do to make something of their lives. Breaking Bad is one of the most popular shows on TV for a reason - all of the primary characters are people just like us, with many of the same frustrations and empty feelings. It’s a dark show though, and the deeper viewers get into it, the more heinous things the characters do to get what they want.

But what if we were to claim that there are positives you can take from Breaking Bad? In the middle of all that darkness are some realizations that can help you navigate the seasons of your own life. Some are learned by seeing what not to do, but others can be learned and applied, even if you never breaking bad and decide to pursue a life as a drug kingpin.

1) A “mundane” life is okay

It’s easy to question your place in the world and what kind of impact you’re having as you trudge through everyday life. Walt did that, and it came at a great cost to his family and the people he loved. By focusing on living the best life you can and impacting your environment in a positive way, every day, you’ll find that life has rewards far greater than loads of ill-gotten money or power could ever give you.

2) Even the best people will make bad decisions
Walt, Jesse, and Skyler are all good people at their core who made consistent unfortunate decisions. Hank, Walt’s DEA agent brother in law, is really the only consistently decent character on the show, but even he begins making bad choices as his desperation to bring Walt down grows. Learn from them - you’re going to make mistakes, and sometimes you’ll hurt other people. First, learn from every mistake you make. Second, make restitution with anyone you’ve hurt. And third, learn to forgive yourself.

3) Telling the truth is always easier
Much of the trouble Walt and company find themselves in is to cover up for lies. Lies that they concocted to cover other lies, which were concocted to hide original misdeeds, which in the end didn’t seem too bad. This is a lesson you learn in elementary school: telling the truth is always easier, even though it may lead to short term pain.

4) Make yourself irreplaceable
Walt had unique abilities that were able to make him a ton of money. Even better for him, his ability to create a drug unlike any other on the market saved he and Jesse repeatedly. It’s a reminder to find your strengths and turn them into superpowers. Find opportunities to contribute your ability (though not in meth making; try non-profits or even corporate America) and perfect it like no one else can.

5) Keep learning
Yes, Walt made a good batch of meth, it seems. But he also was able to apply his scientific education in other ways, from rigging up a battery to get an RV out of the desert to dissolving bodies in acid. Okay, those are all horrible examples of science, but it shows the capabilities you can have if you’re learning and applying your brain to new things. We’ve blogged before about exercising your brain - learning new things is just as important as eating healthy or exercising.

**Bonus Point!**

Since we’re making a list of positives you can apply from Breaking Bad, we may as well mention one we were reminded of while writing this post:

6) Find positives in everything
Always focus on the positives, and look for the good in all things. Even in the middle of one of the darkest, most disturbing pieces of television to enter pop culture in a long time.

In all reality, if Walter White or Stephen Doran had followed these bits of wisdom, especially any of the first three, their lives would’ve played out differently. Who knows, they may have gone on to do extraordinary good things that would merit them a TV show based on their lives?

Alas, we can only watch and learn from their mistakes.

Do you watch the show? Have you taken anything positive from the heinous adventures of Walt, Jesse, Skyler, Hank and company? We’d love to hear your own theories in the comments!

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