11 Lessons I've learned from The Godfather movie

"Behind every great fortune there is a crime."
- Balzac

Three of the quintessential Mafia movies that were ever made were the Francis Ford Coppola-helmed The Godfather trilogy.

Based on the highly successful novel by Mario Puzo. The movies starred Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert de Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire --- to name a few.

Marlon Brando is The Godfather

If you haven't seen the trilogy, this post is full of spoilers. Read at your risk but I guarantee that you'll be able to get a nugget or two out of it.

I never get tired of watching The Godfather. Even though it depicts violence and murder, there are lessons to be learned. And here are some of the things that resonate with me the most.

1. It's not personal, it's strictly business. - Don't take things personally, it would cloud your judgment. Focus on the task at hand. You won't get great results if you take things personally. Yes, it will hurt but dwell on it too long.

2. Loyalty is the key to any lasting relationship - Caporegime Salvatore Tessio got his comeuppance when he betrayed the Corleone family to Barzini. 

Trust is important in business and you have to earn the trust and loyalty of your employees. Without it, you can't accomplish anything.

3. Family above all else - Fredo learned this the hard way. Never take sides against the family. Kay got separated from her children when she aborted their third child. Michael lost his own family as well because of the things that he had done. He killed his enemies, he murdered his brother, he separated Kay from their children. 

“Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.”

4. Nepotism works, sometimes - for a family business to endure and continue, a little nepotism works provided that there is proper succession planning and training. Who else can you trust but your own family? 

Another important aspect to be considered is, are they right for the job? As what Don Vito said to Tom Hagen, “I never thought you were a bad consigliere. I thought Santino was a bad don, rest in peace.” 

5. Crime does not pay - At first, it would seem that the Corleone family had everything --- power, wealth, connections ---but in the end, it cost them everything. 
  • Sonny Corleone was killed.
  • Michael executed people, got exiled and joined the family business.
  • Carlo Rizzi, Connie's husband, was murdered because of his betrayal.
  • Vito Corleone never wanted his youngest son, Michael, to be part of his business but in the end he couldn't control things.
  • Michael had his own brother killed. His daughter was killed in the crossfire. And he died alone.

6. Don't let your rivals know what you're thinking - This was good advice coming from Don Vito Corleone to his son, Sonny. Never say anything that your enemies or rivals can use against you. Don't think out loud when you're negotiating, don't let people outside your family or core group know what you're planning or thinking. It's not good business practice.

Don Vito to Sonny:

“Never let people out of the family know what you are thinking again.”

7. Be Cool. Don't lose your temper - Look what happened to Sonny Corleone, he was ambushed and killed because he let his emotions take the best of him. He was not good Don material because he couldn't think straight because he let his temper do the thinking. He succumbs to his impulses easily. He didn't use his rational mind a lot; he was in his limbic system all the time.

Don Vito's advice to Michael:

“Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people.”

8. Revenge is never sweet - The end does not justify the means. Righting a wrong with another wrong does not work.

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you or my boy to me?

9. Don't mix business with pleasure - When you want to be taken seriously and get things right, there should be no dancing girls, no band playing in the background. Business is business. Too many distractions will take you off course.

Michael to his brother, Fredo:

“I'm here on business, I leave tomorrow. Now get rid of them. Come on, I'm tired. Get rid of the band, too.”

10. You have to give respect, to earn respect - Moe Green is proof of this. He belittled and slapped Fredo around, he confronted Michael, and he threatened to go to Barzini. He showed so much disrespect towards the Corleone family, that he didn't get any at the end.

11. Favors are never free - When you ask for a favor, expect to return that favor. It might take years but you’ll always have an opportunity to return the favor. 

Don Vito to Amerigo Bonasera:

“Someday and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. Until that day accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day.”