Perhaps this post should more properly be entitled "Thoughts on self-improvement, inspired by Frank Abagnale's story"
In my previous post, written after reading "Catch me if you can", I started to think aloud about how to try and develop the skills that made Abagnale so effective as a con-artist and (what I think of as a) social engineer. He displayed an extraordiary chameleon-like ability, also an ease of conversation and using it to get information he needed without arousing suspicion. He also was very observant, and something of a fantasist (or liar, you might call it)
One of the reasons he was so good at being a con-man, at an age when I wouldn't have been able to do anything of the sort, is because of the way he lived his life. He was hugely social, became good at interacting wittily (but on a shallow level) with almost anyone. He turned the problem-solving part of his brain to how he could employ his people skills and intellect to the problem of making enough money for the lifestyle (read respect, trust, and women) he wanted.
When I was in my teens, I had plenty of problem solving ability - I just confined it to Mathematical problems and study, and reading too much philosophy. I thought about everything in a different way, was a hell of a lot more cautious, and less worldly-wise. The way you approach problems, and the attitude with which you face them, are often rather unique to you. A people person will be good at thinking of people-solutions to everything, a logician will try and work everything out from solid principles. An artist will try to imagine the solution.
We all have our own style of thinking, and when we try to approach, for example, a people problem with mathematical formulae, or a legal problem with emotional thinking, then we're at our weakest. Another reason why it is good to learn different approaches to life, and get inside the head of someone who thinks at a tangent to the way we do. So yes, I'm now trying to think with the same initiative and imagination as the young Mr Abagnale, if for more legal ends and means!
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I'd like to write a lot more on how Abagnale became the man he did. It is well worth looking into, inasmuch as a teenager making fools of airlines and banks worldwide, hospitals and universities is quite simply amazing
How did he do it? You can't explain his 'achievements' by saying it was his remarkable mix of social skills, intellect, and cheek. You have to look at his story. He lived with his father when his parents divorced, and came into contact with perhaps a rather seedy, bar-room society. This made him cagey, streetwise, and perhaps rather unscrupulous too. He discovered girls - and by the sounds of it went almost temporarily insane in his pursuit of them.
It didn't occur to him that a few dollars cleverly stolen from a big company constituted much of a moral wrongdoing, and with the thrill of success, and more women, his schemes became more daring. He conceived the crazy scheme of pretending to be a pilot - he could cash bad cheques all over America/the world that way and not be caught (so he reasoned) - and began to plan a deception of such cheek that people didn't see it for what it was.