Thought Catalog
January 5, 2014

15 Life Lessons From The Godfather

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The Godfather Collection (The Godfather / The Godfather: Part II / The Godfather: Part III)
The Godfather Collection (The Godfather / The Godfather: Part II / The Godfather: Part III)

The Godfather (Parts I, II, and III) are classic movies (adapted from a bestselling novel) that have all stood the test of time. Not only is The Godfather an entertaining gangster saga, but it is also a story about power, family, and capitalism. It has so much substance, and it offers some very important life lessons. That’s certainly an offer you can’t refuse.

1. Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Your word is the most important thing that you have to offer. Don’t take it lightly. Always deliberate whether you can or cannot fulfil a promise. It’s also okay to say no to a request (unless it’s on your daughter’s wedding day).

2. Don’t involve yourself in other people’s personal lives. Especially, do not involve yourself in the life of a married couple. Gossiping or giving advice on personal matters is and should always remain frowned upon. Someone’s personal life is exactly that – it’s personal and privacy must be respected. When Connie and Carlo have a fight at the dinner table, Sonny tries to intervene only to be hushed by Mrs. Corleone, “Sonny, don’t get involved.” – Carmela Corleone

3. Family is the most important thing in life.
Blood is thicker than water. “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man” and “the only wealth in this world is children, more than all the money, power on earth.” – Don Vito Corleone

4. Don’t go against your family.
Don’t be like Fredo Corleone. No matter how much you might dislike your family, they’re still your family. Out of respect, do not go against your own blood, unless you’re prepared to suffer the consequences of alienation (or death). “Fredo you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t you ever go against the family again. Ever.” – Michael Corleone.

5. Don’t act on emotion.
Act only after you have mulled over all of the possible outcomes that will commence after your action. Think wisely and diplomatically. Emotional outbursts, like those of Santino “Sonny” Corleone, eventually lead to his downfall. Why? Because he became predictable. Don’t ever become predictable. “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.” Michael Corleone.

6. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Always keep a watchful eye on your enemies and play life’s “game of chess” with precision, dedication, and tact. Always hold your ground and never burn bridges, no matter how much you might dislike someone. Especially in public. When Michael Corleone was bullied by Senator Pat Geary he simply replied “My offer is this…nothing.” He kept Mr. Geary in his circle, and played his cards right, eventually landing the politician in his pocket.

7. Establish friendships out of respect, business, and trust. Family you cannot chose, but friends you can. Consider the benefits that a certain friendship can bring. Likewise, consider the disadvantages. Weigh the pros and cons and choose carefully. “Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family.” Don Vito Corleone.

8. White-collar criminals are the most powerful criminals. From Wall Street to Bay Street, to international investors and politicians, people in high places of power can create more chaos and impact your family in a much more negative way than your average criminal. Thus, education and working your way up into the upper echelons of society is a life lesson that you must adhere to if you want to become successful and powerful. The average street criminal is not glorified in the grand scheme of things. “The lawyer with the briefcase can steal more money than the man with the gun.” Mario Puzo, The Godfather
Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
Michael: Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?

9. Keep your business private; only discuss it amongst family members. Michael Corleone: “Don’t ask me about my business!” Don’t discuss your personal or family business to strangers. You never know who will use this information in their own favor, for their own personal gains. It’s best you keep business private to outsiders.

10. Violence is the last option. Throughout The Godfather, the theme of diplomacy over violence cannot go undetected. Once a war begins, lives are lost, business slows down or completely halts and it’s financially deflating. “I don’t like violence, Tom. I’m a businessman. Blood is a big expense.” – Solozzo.

11. Don’t sell drugs. There exists a hierarchy of crime, and drugs rank at the top. Selling drugs taints one’s public image. “It’s true I have a lot of friends in politics, but they wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew my business was drugs instead of gambling which they consider a harmless vice. But drugs, that’s a dirty business.” – Don Vito Corleone.

12. Never make a request without offering your respect and friendship in return. Making a formal request to someone be made with respect and your offer of friendship and loyalty. Otherwise, you will be considered weak, unreliable, and untrustworthy. “Now you come to me, and you say: ‘Don Corleone, give me justice.’ But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you ask me to do murder for money.” Don Vito Corleone.

13. Build a powerful community. By helping others, you will receive help as well. You will also receive respect. Don Vito Corleone built a powerful empire by building a strong community. He helped his local neighbours and friends and established a strong reputation. “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.” – Don Vito Corleone.

14. Be prepared ahead of time. Never make a move or judgement without careful planning ahead of time. Patience is also key. “Hey, listen, I want somebody good – and I mean very good – to plant that gun. I don’t want my brother coming out of that toilet with just his dick in his hands, alright?” – Santino “Sonny” Corleone.

15. Don’t take things too personal. Sometimes, you simply need to remember that, “it’s not personal, it’s business.” – Michael Corleone. TC Mark

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