Lessons from Narcos on Netflix – Why do they never have enough money?

I love Narcos on Netflix. I am not the only one. It is one of the most-watched series on the platform. This is not a first for me to post about Narcos; a few years ago I wrote about Pablo Escobar’s “plata o plomo” approach. I used it to express an essential negotiation tactic called “contrasting”. Using only the stick plomo (lead) or the carrot plata (money) delivers a clear message. Still, some people may not be interested in the money or fear threats. Either way, you leave them the option to carry on with their status quo situation. And we know how much people like the status quo. However, when you clarify that the status quo is not an option, and the only two options are the carrot or the stick, the carrot becomes a no-brainer.

After watching the 4th season of Narcos, it hit me. No, I am not talking about every drug lord ending up dead or in prison. No, I am not referring to the fact that there will be drug lords as long as there is demand. I want to highlight how they always run out of money. How can you run out of money? The Cali cartel made up to $7B per year at the height of their criminal empire. Despite high revenues, the series shows them in dire need of money. How can that be? It is not like the tax office takes 50% of their profit.

The only way to explain this shortfall is that they did not follow the two golden rules. Instead they:

  • They believed that always more money than the day before would come in.
    • I get it. You start from nothing. And every other day, you see a lot more money than you ever thought was possible. How do you deal with that when you are not used to seeing so much money?
    • You may not live and see tomorrow, for real. Someone may kill you tomorrow. That is a reason to go full carpe diem and spend like there is no tomorrow.
    • When do you know it is time to stop? It takes money to make money. You are in a high-risk business, so gambling BIG, is a daily affair. It made you rich. It is also what will make you broke.
  • They peg their expenses based on the height of their success. 
    • But what happens when your revenue starts to decrease? It would be best if you still bribed people and kept them loyal; you still need the same small army to protect you from everyone who wants to get rid of you.

What’s my point? So many people believe that it will be easier to be rich once they make it big. But if you make it big without financial literacy, all that money will be right back out of your pocket. Unfortunately, we see this type of situation way too much. I am listening to the “Power of Broke,” and some of the stats he gives are scary. 60% of NBA players go broke after retirement. That number is 78% for NFL players. There are some sad examples in music as well. At the peak of his career, MC Hammer was paying his crew six digits. That was easy with the type of money his music was generating. However, when he was no longer at the top, he still had his crew. That is when things start to break apart.  

Ain’t that a b*tch? These industries are luring Black people. And while you have 0.01% of becoming a famous rapper or ball player, you have high odds of ending up broke after making it.