changing the world through your pain

Posted on Wednesday.9.16.2009


Guest posted on Babbleon5


NOTE: spoiler alert

Last weekend, I was able to watch Catch Me If You Can on cable syndication. Though I had watched it before, I had never seen it from beginning to end and realized that I never caught the full essence of the movie. If you don’t know anything about the movie, it’s “a based on a true story” flick, directed by Steven Spielberg, about Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his exceptional con-artistry starting at the age of 16 and eventual amassing of over $2.4 million dollars (in real life).

The beginning of the film is the most powerful part of the film and really sets the backdrop for all the things that Abagnale does and works for in this movie. Abagnale idolizes his father (Abagnale Sr., Christopher Walken) who himself was a smooth talker, but also loses their home due to a series of tax frauds. This creates a downward spiral for the Abagnale family, with a divorce and ending with Frank running away from home at the age of 16.

Frank runs away from the pain of his parents’ divorce and into the illusion of being somebody else and using someone else’s money in order to get his parents back together. He goes on to impersonate a pilot, doctor and lawyer as well as learning how to write and create fake checks. DiCaprio plays each part to the T, where I really believed he could be each persona and bought into how well Abagnale could learn and study the intricacies and details of each profession. He does it perfectly.


He’s eventually caught by Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) the FBI agent who had been tracking him down for years. He goes to jail for a short time, before Hanratty realizes that he can be an asset to the FBI and their check fraud division where Carl and Frank eventually become good friends.

The movie ends with a scene of Frank and Carl together with rolling credits about Frank’s real-life information. After effectively bringing down other check-frauders in the U.S., Frank goes on to create a company that has helped over 14,000 companies with fraud prevention issues.

I loved this movie so much more after seeing the beginning. The greatest part of  the story of Frank Abagnale Jr. is that the initial pain of his parents’ divorce and the relationship he worked so hard to bring back together, was actually the source of his greatest contribution to society. If he never suffered the pain of his parents’ split, there would be no impersonating, no check fraud, none of the check fraud prevention strategies on most of our checks today. Maybe Frank Abagnale wasn’t running away from being caught by the law, but being forced to face his pain and live in reality.

Frank Abagnale paid his debt to society.  By being forced into reality, he went on to change the world by helping prevent the very thing he ran from…being himself.

Posted in: leadership, success