20 Life Lessons Breaking Bad’s Walter White Taught Us


Even though Breaking Bad inevitably ended, fans and critics alike cannot stop talking about the AMC drama. Cast members Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, and Aaron Paul all took home well deserved awards and the show is constantly being examined.   You may not think a show about producing and selling drugs could teach us anything, but you would be wrong. Here are twenty things that we have learned from Walter White, the ultimate anti-hero of the 21st Century.

1. Chemistry can be used outside of the classroom too.

Walter White (Cranston) was able to take what he learned in school and taught to his students and apply it to everyday life.  Instead of trying to dissolve a dead body in a bathtub using hydrofluoric acid, it is better to use a plastic container to get rid of the evidence.  Lab assistant Jesse Pinkman (Paul) did not take the advice of Walter and as a result had quite a big mess.  The acid dissolved through the bathtub and the body ended up in a bloody clutter in the downstairs hallway.

2. Befriend a lawyer and keep them on call.

If you plan on living a life of crime and doing unlawful things, you should try to find a lawyer that that is going to be able to win cases for you in the courtroom. It is also recommended that you find a scummy lawyer that will be okay with all the bad life decisions you make, such as murder and drug dealing.  Walter White found a “good lawyer” in Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk).  It also helps if you can find a lawyer with a sarcastic sense of humor like Goodman, who is worth every penny he has charged Walter over the years.

3. Studying hard can pay off.

The average salary for a high school Chemistry teacher is $55,000, which is a decent salary.  This proves that if you study hard in college, you can live comfortably.  Heisenberg proved that a background in Chemistry could make him even more money by producing crystal meth.  If his students had paid better attention in class they could be some of the wealthiest people in the United States. After all, look at all the money Walter had in his storage shed.  I guess I should have taken Chemistry class instead of Human Anatomy when I was in high school.

4. Family is the most important thing in life.

When Walter was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer on Breaking Bad, he knew he needed to make sure that his family was taken care once he passed away.  This is why he decided to produce and sell methamphetamine.  It was a way to make cash so his family would be able to support themselves in the future.  But a life of a drug dealer can have its consequences.  It caused Walter’s wife and son to hate him and lead to the brutal murder of his brother-in-law.

5. Make a product that is better than your competitor that everyone will want to buy.

With Walter’s background in Chemistry, he was able to produce crystal meth that was more potent and purer than that of his competitors. As a result, there was a high demand for his product.  Instead of collecting the pseudoephedrine that is necessary to make the product, Walter created a different process that utilized methylamine.  This process gave the drug a blue color and the street name “Sky Blue.”  This ingenious idea is similar to Steve Jobs with the apple products of the 21st century.

6. Change up your image.

If you are going through a midlife crisis, or have recently been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, give yourself a makeover.  This can be anything from buying an entirely new wardrobe or getting a little bit of plastic surgery. Walt decided to shave his head and grow a beard that completely transformed him from boring high school teacher to bad guy drug lord on Breaking Bad.  To complete the look, he would often wear a black pork pie hat.

7. Be sure to take your car in for frequent tune ups.

Not only should someone take care of themselves by eating right and exercising daily, they should make sure their vehicle is in tip top shape.  One should be sure to get their oil changed every 7,500 miles. If your car is an older model, it may need a change every 3,000 miles.  Also, make sure the tires are balanced and rotated regularly and have a mechanic look at it if you think something may be wrong under the hood.  If Walt would have done this with his vehicle, it may have kept him and Jesse out danger and also not have inconvenienced them so much.

8. Winning is the most important thing in the world.

Some people say that winning is not everything, but Walter White is not one of those people. He believes the only way to succeed in life is to win at everything you do.  Maybe that is why our culture gives out medals and ribbons to children no matter what place they come in.  Walter was definitely the winner when he talked a drug runner into attaching a bomb to himself and killing another drug runner.

9. Don’t forget to gloat.

The last point showed that Walter White loves to win and will even go as far as murdering someone to accomplish this feat.  Walt likes to take it one step further and tell everyone around him that he has won.  He has even been known to call others, like his wife (Gunn), when he has had a victory. I am sure if he utilized social media, all of his posts would be about getting another “win”. He would have to leave out the illegal things he did to get the win, but he would still get the satisfaction of everyone knowing his accomplishments.

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10. Car washes are for more than getting a wash and wax.

Most people would assume that a car wash would not be the place most drug lords would utilize to hide their financial dealings.  Those people must have never watched an episode of Breaking Bad.  Walter thought utilizing a carwash was the perfect spot to launder all the money he earned during his meth operations.  His customers could buy drugs and then make sure their cars were looking fresh and clean afterwards (though they’d never know it was Heisenberg’s carwash).

11. It is the man that makes the car.

Walter White spent four seasons of Breaking Bad driving around New Mexico in a Pontiac Aztec.  Now most people would classify this type of vehicle as a family car, which makes it an even better reason for a drug lord to drive it around every day.  No one would suspect he was making and selling drugs driving around this crossover vehicle.  Not only was it missing a rim but it was painted an awful hue of green.

12. Lying is a must.

I am sure your parents told you never to lie. Walter White’s parents probably told him the same thing. That never stopped the ex-high school Chemistry teacher from lying to everyone close to him about his dirty deeds.  Once you begin to lie, it is hard to stop.   It gets even more difficult to start telling the truth after you have been making and selling drugs for several years and murdering anyone that crosses your path and trying to expose you.

13. To be successful, you need a strong team.

Walter White realized early on in Breaking Bad, that in order to become the best drug dealer of all time he needed to have a key partner in crime.  That is why he recruited past student Jesse to help him build a drug empire.  It is also a good idea to find a partner that you get along with for extended period of time.  Walter and Jesse make the perfect team because they could divide up the work and be able to hold one another accountable for his actions.

14. In order to succeed, you need to work hard at it.

Remember those inspirational posters that say things such as “Success does not come to you. You go to it,” or “Good work takes hard work.”  Walter White is living fictional proof that these saying are very accurate if you want to succeed in life.  Walter and Jesse worked extremely hard to make sure they had a successful drug business and were able to produce a product that kept their customers happy.  They would even work for hours on end to keep the success coming.

15. It is all about networking, networking, and more networking.

We all know in order to climb the corporate ladder, you need to network and build relationships with some of the top people in your industry.  Walter White did the same thing in the drug world on Breaking Bad.  Walter sought out the help of Jesse to push his product and his ability to build strong connections is what made their business a huge success.  You can’t just sell two pounds of meth to anyone walking down the street.

16. Set goals high enough to inspire yourself.

One should set a goal and work as hard as possible to achieve it.  Walter’s number one priority was to make sure his family could support themselves after he died.  He knew he would need a quick way to make extra cash in order for that goal to be achieved.  From the very beginning, Walter and Jesse knew how much money they needed to make their goals possible. Remember no one is able to get what they want without first knowing what it exactly is they want.

17. Don’t judge others.

Having to deal with people you do not like or even relate to occurs every day.  This is especially true when you are a Chemistry teacher who becomes a drug dealer like Walter White did on Breaking Bad.  Drug dealers probably get annoyed with their customers a lot.  Walter and Jesse showed us that if your customers are paying on time and are return buyers, you need to put you own personal beliefs aside.  And does someone who is making and producing drugs have a right to judge anyone in the first place?

18. You are going to need luck.

Every affluent person would like to take credit for all their success alone, but that is just not true.  Luck has played a part in everyone’s success whether we realize it or not. Luck can even be something so mundane we did not realize it actually lead to us becoming wealthy.  Over five seasons of Breaking Bad, Walt and Jesse were involved in many dangerous situations and if it had not been for a little bit of luck, they may not have been able to get out of those predicaments.

19. Make sure you are irreplaceable.

Walter White was able to escape death several times during Breaking Bad’s run and the reason for that was because he was irreplaceable.  Tuco (Raymond Cruz), Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), and Mike (Jonathan Banks) all wanted to kill Walter but they were unable to do so because they needed to keep him around.  Since Walter was the best drug producer in the area, these three guys all knew it was better to not kill him. They would not have been able to replace him with someone just as good.

20. Never make the same mistake twice.

Remember when Walt was eating dinner at Gus’ house and the Los Pollos Hermanos owner told him he should never repeat the same mistake twice?  This makes a lot of sense, especially in the world of making and dealing meth.  One mistake in the production or distribution of meth to dangerous clientele could cause you your life.  Walter made sure he was always careful and made if he ever did screw up, he took care of it and going forward would never let it happen again.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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