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Catch me if you can: Creative Problem Solving

James Huang | 2021.01.09

When you hear Catch Me If You Can, you picture the successful con artist Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) deceptively charming just about anyone with his skill mastery. Based on a true story, Catch me if You Can is a classic film that exemplifies the entrepreneurial journey. It touches upon important themes like creative problem solving, turning something good out of a bad situation, and the good ol' hustle to reach success.

No, this is not an article about how to scam people.

Catch Me If You Can has some great business advice, if you know where to look. Past all the hefty scams Frank Abagnale pulled off as a teenager lies the key to success in the financial and entrepreneurial world. 

Fake it ‘till you make it

I’m not saying that you should fake credentials to become a faux Pan Am pilot, but proceeding in the business world with a level of false confidence will get you everywhere. The key strategy behind the saying “fake it ‘till you make it” is simply to go about life with a strong confidence, acting as though everything in your life has always been successful no matter what.

A great example is Microsoft: Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Steve Ballmer at Microsoft -- When IBM came knocking, Gates negotiated a terrific deal which retained the rights to an operating system that he didn't have. 

Entrepreneurial “fake it ‘till you make it” includes the main strategies of dressing for the job you want, faking confidence around higher-ups, and even faking wealth or skill as needed.

I had evoked confidence in my client and he trusted that I could deliver what I was promising.

I had to fake it, until I didn’t need to.  The key is DELIVER WHAT YOU PROMISE

One of Abagnale’s first scams, faking his credentials as a Pan Am pilot, wasn’t necessarily born out of malice. It wasn’t even designed to get him an actual job. Even though he easily scammed money because of his fake status, he chose and enjoyed the job because of the celebrity status it got him. People naturally trusted and believed him. Despite the fact that his entire job was a scam, they automatically liked him more just because he was a pilot.

There wasn’t really any big difference between him attempting to scam people as a regular person and him scamming people as a pilot: there was no emotional growth or additional scam experience. The people he scammed saw his uniform, the Pan Am checks, and trusted him to get away with bouncing checks to the millions.

This is something you can replicate in your own life with immense benefits. Hopefully, your morals will prevent you from actively lying and taking advantage of people, but presenting yourself as a “different” version of yourself will give you the confidence and style you need to get further in life. Dress, manner, and attitude can all do the same thing as Abagnale’s pilot scam: they create a version of yourself that everyone wants to trust.

Don’t bust your bank

This is actually a big “don’t” of Catch Me If You Can: if you come into a lot of money at once, you may be inclined to spend most of it. Don’t do it.

Abagnale’s check bounces were so atrocious that it got him on the FBI watchlist almost immediately. But what would have happened if he had lived a little less vicariously? Obviously, there’s no way of knowing, but the best advice for you is to lay low with your funds, even though you’re not doing anything illegal.

Obviously, Catch Me If You Can isn’t exactly your guide to how to save money, but there are plenty of places to start learning. Whatever you do, confidence and style from lesson one are more important than actual wealth: you can remain as stingy as you want while you continue growing your line of work. (That being said, it’s never a bad idea to donate to charities and nonprofit organizations.)

Putting yourself out there

Not only do you need to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves to you, but you must also seek out new opportunities for yourself. There’s always a new area in which you can find success, but not every one of them will come up naturally.

When Abagnale is eventually caught by the FBI, he receives a job offer from them and begins working for them in a twelve-year contract. In exchange, he is released from his prison sentence.

Is this an opportunity Abagnale sought out specifically? Not exactly. But it was a very small opportunity that he took advantage of. The entire reason he got the job at all was because an agent showed him a forged check, from which Abagnale identified that a bank teller was behind the forgeries. He had no obligation to make such a remark, and also had no idea that doing so would get him a job opportunity. But it did.

Abagnale working under Carl Hanratty, the agent who caught him, at his new job

After he finished the remainder of his sentence working for the FBI, new opportunities continued opening up for Abagnale. He found work as a bank security expert, earning millions per year designing secure banks.

While Catch Me If You Can isn’t exactly a guide on how to be a model citizen, its (legal) business tactics can certainly help you in the professional world. Confidence, class, some financial literacy, and a whole lot of determination will get you everything you want.

Catch me if you can: Creative Problem Solving
MERCURY TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION, James Huang 9 January, 2021
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