Frank Abagnale, (of “Catch me if you Can” fame) is one of the most infamous con artists in history.
Between the ages of 15 and 21, he forged thousands of checks, impersonated 8 different identities–including a pilot, doctor, and lawyer– flew over a million miles on Pan Am airlines and stayed in hotels all for free, passed the bar exam in Alabama, and even bluffed his way out of prison.
Eventually he was caught and sent back to prison, but the federal government released him early on the condition that he work undercover, for free, helping them prevent and uncover fraud, forgery, and identity theft.
Later, on assignment in Texas, Abagnale met the woman who would later become his wife. Abagnale claims it was her love, and nothing else, that turned his life around. They went on to have 3 children, and Abagnale started his own company, offering security consulting to banks, financial institutions, and government agencies, including the FBI, where he has been a trusted advisor for over 40 years.
Most people consider Frank Abagnale to be an absolute genius, but he insists that he is not. In his words…
“I was never a genius. I was a just a scared kid trying to survive. If I had really been a genius, I would have found a way to do that without having to resort to forgery and theft.”
His “genius” was ability to achieve his goals at whatever cost. But his goals at the time were nothing more than to earn money illegally, and avoid arrest.
It wasn’t until he changed his goals–to support his family and serve his country–that his life started to transform, and his real genius came to light.
Smarts matter, but our goals matter more.