Lessons From: The Godfather

How Corleone earned respect and loyalty

The Godfather is thought by many to be the best movie, and if you haven't read the books, do yourself a favor. It's a pretty good story all in all about a family that came from Sicily to the United States, especially about Vito and Michael, the two main patriarchs or Dons, and the situations that they had to deal with concerning other families.

What interests me most about the story, though, is how Vito Andolini, born in Corleone, rose from being a simple as a clerk, having been sent to New York because his family had been killed by the local chieftain, Don Ciccio. Had he stayed, he would've been murdered as well, because he would've eventually sworn revenge.

His life of crime began when his foster father hired him. The neighborhood's padrone demanded that Mr. Abbandando hire his nephew, so he had to comply, so Vito became friends with Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio, who taught him the basics of being a criminal and exchanged favors for loyalty. When Fanuccio, the padrone, asked for a cut of their profits, Corleone hatched a plan to kill him. He took advantage of the distraction a street festival had to offer and sneaked into Fanuccio's house by the rooftop, and murdered him. Then, he took over the district, treating it with respect.

He then started an olive importing operation with his foster brother Genco, and they named it Genco Pura. Between that business and his illicit activities, he became a rich man, and returned to Sicily. There he met his partner Don Tomassino, and together, they systematically took out Don Ciccio's men involved in the murder, and arranged a meeting with the man himself, in which Vito carved open his stomach and let his partner take over Corleone.

Eventually, through various exploits, gang wars, and takeovers, the Corleone crime family is the most powerful one in the United States. His oldest son then becomes a capo and even fights a war with an Irish family, but his youngest son, Michael, wants nothing to do with the business. Then, his home and base of operations is moved to Staten Island.

Friendship was very important to Corleone, to the point that people would make lines to ask for favors and he would give them, with only the condition of eventually asking for another favor back. He also made sure that his friends felt valued, and always showed gratitude, with this he would build respect and appreciation.

Of course, he always knew how to profit, and was generally a master at having leverage in almost any situation. He always made sure he was informed, and in part was thanks to his clear head. He would never get angry and would try to reason with people to get the best results.

How can we apply this?

They always say that you should despise the free lunch. This is because there never really is a free lunch, and you can take advantage of that yourself. It's the reason they tell you to make friends and network when you're in college, after all, that leverage you have with other people can be of great help, either in your personal or professional life. The ability to actually profit and have an entrepreneurial mindset can be a subject for a few other posts, but it's always important to see what you can get from a situation in your mind.

The most important thing is probably to be as best informed as possible; you can't just waltz into anything head-on and think that you'll come out a winner. Always assume that there's somebody who's better prepared than you, in any situation, and act accordingly.

Of course, Corleone also believed that every man had a destiny, but I'm no fatalist. Forge it yourself.

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