Lessons From A Con-Artist – Frank Abagnale

You will probably not be very familiar with the name Frank Abagnale, however, you probably will be familiar with his life. He’s the guy Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed in the movie Catch Me If You Can. One of the greatest con artists in history who at the age of 16 posed as a PanAm pilot and flew over 1 million miles for free. He also posed as a doctor, a teacher and an attorney. He also forged cheques, which led to his arrest at the age of 21, but not before he scared the banks for several million dollars.

After he was arrested he spent 5 years in jail, his sentence was 12 years, however, the FBI needed his help to catch other con artists so they cut him a deal and he went to work for them. To this day he still works in close contact with the FBI. I recently listened to a talk he gave at Google, and although I was blown away by how articulate this man is, I also took away some important lessons.

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When asked about how he dealt with being an impostor he simply replied that he didn’t think about it, he just did it. He said he never intended on posing as an actual pilot, he just wanted the uniform so that he could cash cheques, as the bank wouldn’t take cheques from a schoolboy. And one thing led to another and before he knew it he was deadheading on flights all around the country. But the important thing to remember that he had irrational confidence, and as a result, no one doubted him for a second. Not only because he acted the part but because he also looked the part. He was dressed like a pilot and talked like a pilot and he carried himself like a pilot.

I just finished reading Jordan Belfort’s book, The Way Of The Wolf, and in it, he recounts telling his ‘Stratonites’ something very similar. He would tell them; “Act as if you’re a wealthy man, rich already, and you will become rich. Act as if you have unmatched confidence, and you will become confident. Act as if you have all the answers and the answers will come to you.”

To me, it seems like humans need to be pushed in a certain direction, and this can be seen everywhere. People are attracted to things that have social proof. On social media, people are more likely to like a photo if other people like it. People are more likely to like someone if lots of other people like that person. Even look at consumerism. The consumers don’t tell the designers what they want, the designers just design shit and tell consumers that they want it, and as a result, they do want it. In Frank Abagnale’s case, he told people he was a pilot with such confidence and ease that no one dared question him. He stood in front of a class with such confidence that the students believed he was a teacher. Jordan Belfort would carry himself like a wealthy man and as such people didn’t doubt otherwise, needless to say, that he was quite a wealthy man.

People need to be told what they want, so it seems that as long as you sell yourself with unmatched confidence than you can become anyone. Of course it goes with saying that having unmatched confidence is probably not the easiest thing to have in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information and lights and distractions and weird people and more weird people and a narcissistic world leader who is so obviously manipulated by anyone who gives him praise and who keeps taunting an unstable psychopath.

I met up with a good friend of mine yesterday, and we went to a sushi place that allows you to bring your own bottle, but we realised that it was only wine that was allowed only as we were walking in. We went in, however, with a bottle of something that defiantly wasn’t wine and was a helluva lot stronger than wine too. We walked right in and placed the bottle on the table and no one said otherwise. We smiled to ourselves as we gracefully operated the chopsticks and savoured the California and snow crab roll, which washing it down with our ‘wine’.

Frank and Jordan had it right, be irrationally self-confident and no one will dare question you.

Cormac

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