A Lesson in Breaking Brand Stereotypes – Compliments of R.J. Mitte

You are most likely familiar with the television series Breaking Bad. 

Whether you loved the show, hated the premise, or have never heard of it, this post is for you. My intent is not to endorse or criticize Breaking Bad. I’m simply providing 5 observations with the hope of helping you to elevate your personal brand.

The award winning show tells the story of Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher turned Methamphetamine producer, distributer, and out-right – yet somewhat sympathetic – villain.

From the pilot episode’s opening scene through the Season 6 finale, viewers watch White’s life spin out of control. Facing inoperable lung cancer and limited finances, the show’s main character makes a series of horrific decisions. Along the way, he drags his family into the dark underbelly of the New Mexico drug world.

Walter White’s son, Walt Jr. (aka Flynn), portrayed by RJ Mitte, is brought along for the horrific ride.

I heard a BBC interview with Mitte.  Admittedly, I expected the all too common Hollywood star – famous at a young age and suffering from a sense of entitlement.

I was pleasantly surprised. The 23-year-old actor, model, and cerebral palsy sufferer appeared far from ordinary. As I listened to the interview and subsequently read about the actor, I identified 5 Brand Breaking Behaviors that Mitte has embraced that differentiate him from many in Hollywood.

As you read each observation, consider if you are Breaking BrAnD too:

1.  Grateful People Are Uplifting and Attractive to Others

Many actors, who achieve success at a young age, appear to distance themselves from what brought about their initial fame. They seem embarrassed of the television shows, movies, or songs that they performed as children. Some even express feelings of frustration that their adult roles don’t bring a similar level of success.

Mitte first appeared on Breaking Bad at the age of 13. He spent his teenage years on what is likely the most popular show of his career. Despite this realization, he expresses nothing but gratitude to the show, his fellow actors, and those who gave him a chance to perform.

He doesn’t come across entitled. He appears grateful.

Consider yourself:

  • Do you look for things to be grateful about with your job and your colleagues?
  • Do you express gratitude or anger?
  • What could you do tomorrow to share your appreciation and lift your spirits along the way?

2.  Effective People Don’t Let Shortcomings Hold Them Back

Born with cerebral palsy, Mitte has experienced difficulty both walking and talking. As he explained to BBC, “This industry is very negative and harsh to people with disabilities. Because of the idea of perfection… which technically doesn’t exist.”

I think most of us would agree that faced with some of his challenges, we might focus on what we don’t have and allow the expectations of others to stop us. Mitte didn’t. Building on his Breaking Bad success, he became the face for GAP’s 2014 marketing campaign. His face appeared on buses and billboards around the world.

Consider yourself:

  • Do you focus too much on what you don’t have and use limitations as an excuse?
  • When was the last time you ‘beat the odds’ or won in the face of adversity?
  • What should you do tomorrow to overcome an obstacle that is in your way?

3.  Respected People Stand for Something and Someone

Mitte was bullied as a child. “I had my hand broken, my foot broken, I was slammed on the ground.” He explains that each time he was knocked down, he stood back up.

Today, he not only stands up for himself; he stands up for others. He has been active in PACER’s Anti Bullying Campaigns and is an outspoken supporter of  Inclusion of Arts and Media of People with Disabilities (I AM PWD)

Consider yourself:

  • Do you allow yourself to be run over, put down, or disrespected?
  • Do you do these things to others? Or, allow people to behave this way in your presence?
  • What might you do tomorrow to stand up for something or someone?

4. Successful People Know What They Provide to Their Customers

When asked about his experience on Breaking Bad, Mitte is quick to explain why the show exists. He said that the show isn’t about him, the other actors, or anyone else involved in its production. Sure, he enjoyed the experience, but the show exists for the audience. Their satisfaction is why Breaking Bad exists.

Consider yourself:

  • Are you clear about what you, your team, and your organization provide to your customers?
  • Are you too internally focused (e.g, company jargon, corporate politics, etc.) and losing sight of those you serve?
  • What can you do tomorrow to better focus on your customers?

5. Focused People Put Their Energies Into the Right Things

Since the age of 13, Mitte has been financially responsible for his mom and sister. Listening to him talk, it is clear that he takes that responsibility seriously and brings the majority of his comments back to what truly matters most to him – family.

In a world where it is easy for a successful model and actor to get his priorities out of whack, Mitte keeps the main thing the main thing.

Consider yourself:

  • Do you truly know what matters most to you, your team, and your organization?
  • Are you behaving in ways that align your efforts to what matters most?
  • What should you do tomorrow to clarify your priorities and align your behaviors?