I’ve made funny comments from time to time that if you mixed “Roseanne,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” in a used Maple Syrup jug you would have something that resembles my life.
Which one do I really most identify with? Today it’s “Breaking Bad” because of the tree male leads that remind me of myself in different times of my life.
First there’s Jessie who reminds me of my youth who couldn’t get anything done right, everything turns to crap and I relied on the wrong people to help me.
Then there’s Hank, the older and wiser guy who’s still rough around the edges. He’s successful and faced a lot of his demons but there is one last big score that eludes him. When he finds out the truth he can’t believe he’s been lied to all this time and feels vulnerable and alone. While he’s been proven right in the past because of his diligence in the past, he’s been questioned and mocked for what he believed was true in the beginning. He’s had to work all this time to prove he knows his stuff while hiding his insecurities under false bravado.
Then there’s Walter White, AKA “Heisenberg” who took his fate into his own hands after he learned about his cancer and he might die in the near future. He needed money and he needed it fast and took what he thought was his best opportunity to make it by using his talents in chemistry to make it. Because of that, he got mixed up in a world he didn’t belong in… until he mastered it a little bit at a time.
The things Walter White has done to get to the top of the food chain isn’t for the faint of heart and hopefully none of us will have to go to his extremes, but let’s face it – we are all a little jealous of him (and the actor who plays him) because he’s able to change the rules to suit his needs.
I’ll admit it, there are aspects of Walter White’s life that I’m jealous of and here’s a short list of unconventional reasons why…
The Stripped Down RV
Let’s face facts, even as a graphic designer you’ve wanted nothing more than to get in a camper and go somewhere quiet where there are no cell phones, no internet, and hardly any electricity. The only electricity you have is the electricity you brought either through batteries or a portable generator. There have been times that I’ve wanted to get a bare-bones camper of my own, strip it out of everything besides the bare necessities, and outfit it with a desk large enough for my computer and a couple of monitors. Let’s not forget all the media I need and tutorial/How-To books in case I need help figuring out how to do something.
Call it a work vacation or a “workacation” – something I could really use right now.
The Underground “SuperLab” under the industrial laundry
Admittedly, maybe the Tricked Out RV for Graphic Designers (or meth cookers) might get boring after a while and there’s just not enough resources to get the high level work done. Imagine your own “Gus Fring” and “Gale Boetticher” getting together to build this incredible lab that would suit your profession or industry.
What would a Multi-Million dollar “Superlab” look like for Graphic Designers? I personally have no idea, but if I had the money to spend we would all soon find out. An underground lab might be a bit of over-kill but fact is, it’s always cool in the winter and warm in the winter because after a couple of feet the ground is a constant 55°.
A “Superlab” is ever man’s fantasy for the simple fact that everyone of us have encountered a situation where we can’t finish our work because we don’t have something that we need at that very moment. We either have to stop what we’re doing to get it or find a work-around if we can’t afford it. Imagine how much we could do if we didn’t have problems like that and everything we could ever need is only a few steps away.
Being “The BEST” at something…
Few of us have ever experienced that feeling of being the best at something. If we have, it’s been temporary; like that feeling we get from our boss or client giving us an “Attaboy” or if one of our pieces of work wins an award.
There’s nothing like knowing that you’re the best at something, and everyone else that matters knows it, too. It’s an addicting feeling and it’s not something anyone could give up easily. Imagine your girlfriend was jealous of you and your success and she was just like an earlier girlfriend of mine and she said something stupid like “If you loved me you would give it up…” What would you do?
Granted, cooking meth isn’t the same as graphic design – nor as dangerous. But it would be pretty hard to walk away from something knowing that you’re really the best. It’s why professional athletes stay too long, why actors keep making movies that are crap long after they win an Oscar, and other professionals refuse to retire at the end of their careers.
One of the reasons why so many fictional heroes or anti-heroes appeal to us is because our inner desire to be the best at something and we want to emulate those characters. We are preoccupied with competing and perfecting our “game” from business, art, to sports. If we could master this “one thing” all the other pieces of our lives would fall into place.
… And our product is in demand
This dove tails perfectly into being the best at something – imagine if your product was in demand. Doesn’t have to be graphic design – it can be anything. What would your life look like if everyone wanted what you could deliver? Would your concerns about money be a thing in of the past?
Would a lot of your other problems be in your rear view mirror, too?
A Man Driven With A Singular Purpose.
The most important aspect of Walter White’s/Heisenberg’s persona is his singular drive to do something. Unfortunately it’s cooking an illegal drug which involves killing a lot of other criminals and some innocent people along the way. What would Walt’s life look like if he had stayed with the company he cofounded with his friend or friends from college before he sold out for “A couple months worth of rent payments and grocery money?” What if he put the drive to become “Heisenberg” into a company on the leading edge of chemical science?
We wouldn’t have a great story, but this fictional character could have enjoyed a pretty sweet life.
Instead we have a man possessed with the singular ambition to make enough money to take care of his family and eventually driven to create a pretty powerful empire and he wasn’t willing to compromise or back down. He was more than willing to do what he needed to do.
Blowing up an adversary looks good on paper and it might be something a few of us sicko’s might fantasize while we’re stuck in traffic but we don’t ever stop and think about the collateral damage or the serious repercussions. There are always unforeseen circumstances. The lesson to learn from Walter White/Heisenberg is to find a way to be that driven to become a success while at the same time not ruin our lives at home and hurt countless of other people. That’s obvious; the real trick for me is to explain how.
The best advice I can give a graphic designer on how to be your own “Heisenberg” of our industry and in your own region is to actually do the work. If your work isn’t your hobby when you’re not getting paid to do it and you’re not spending your “entertainment” money on new how-to books and tutorials then you’re doing something wrong. Hunt down new opportunities and don’t take “no” for an answer. Throughout the entire series, Walter White never let a problem get in the way of getting the work done. He didn’t use a problem as an excuse to quit or take an unexpected vacation. Bryan Cranston and the writers of the show found ways for this character to power through the problems and find a way out. Many times the solution to his problems was the vast knowledge of science in general and chemistry specifically.
What if you could know everything there is to know about the elements of design, graphic design history, and the tools of the trade? And when I’m talking about tools, I’m not just talking about The Adobe Creative Suite, I’m also talking about rendering tools to create visual effects like aurora’s and fractals. THAT is how you become the ‘Heisenberg’ of graphic design!
Knowledge is power – and it’s a sure way to get ahead without whacking people who get in the way!