I remember when I was 15 years old, I had a breakdown because of Maths. As I am a nerd, the night before my final exam I was crying like crazy and could not understand anything, not a single problem. My dad came to my room, threw all the books away, and took me down to the living room. Then, he put “The Godfather” on and told me to learn some wisdom that will help me in life more than algebra would ever do.
From that moment on, I’ve been in love with this movie and it became one of the Icons I always go back to when I need some enlightenment. I will try to explain why using some quotes and ideas from the movie.
“Good health is the most important thing. More than success, more than money, more than power.”
This advice might be the most relatable fact nowadays with the Covid-19 crisis we are living in. We’ve seen presidents, celebrities, businessmen, ordinary people infected and suffering families. No matter who you are or how powerful you can be, health is the most important asset anyone can have. Be good to yourself. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, and do your best to live a long and happy life.
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
Don Corleone is offering this advice to his grandson Johnny Fontane (by the way the smack Vito gave Johnny was real and unscripted – Brando improvised it and Al Martino’s confused reaction was quite natural, too). He is telling him that it is a man’s duty to be there for his family, no matter what. To guide them and protect them as long as he’s alive and also to set a good role model and to leave a meaningful legacy after he’s gone.
“The richest man is the one with the most powerful friends.”
Don Altobello offers this prudent advice to Vincent Mancini. This tip highlights the importance of having good friends and connections in life. This was also the main reason for the war to start between the families in part I. Don Corleone sets a perfect example of how building strong friendships with a healthy network will always result in a powerful position in life and business. And obviously, we can see that with Luca Brasi, the guy who is so nervous to meet the Don out of respect and admiration. And in that scene Lenny Montana, the guy who was playing (Luca Brasi) was so nervous about working with Marlon Brando – he was revising his lines many times and Francis Ford Coppola liked the genuine nervousness and used it in the final cut. Also another fun fact about Brasi: Lenny Montana is a real mafia member who was sent by one of the crime families to make sure that in the movie the word “mafia” is not used, but after that, he was found to be the perfect candidate to personify Luca Brasi.
“Never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking again.”
Don Corleone says that line when he is scolding his son Sonny for interrupting him during a meeting with Sollozzo about joining his narcotics trade. When Sonny interrupts the talk, he tries to say why it wouldn’t be a good deal for The Corleone’s to accept their offer. The Godfather tells Sonny to shut up and later explains to him that he should never tell anyone outside the family what he is thinking. This is so true in real life and especially in business. We should be careful about whom we are sharing our thoughts with. In addition to that, to be successful in life you need to be a good listener and to listen more than you speak. That will improve a person’s negotiating and analyzing skills. And I believe that’s why we have two ears and one mouth – so we can listen more than we speak. Don’t you think?
“Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.”
This might be the golden tip for everybody in any situation. It is not only in dealing with your enemies, this tip basically says that you should not act on when emotions are involved. Anger and impulsiveness are the real enemies of strategic successful decision-making. Emotion can be a good motive to take action, but can also affect your decisions which steers you away from your goals. Emotional reactions can highlight weaknesses and we can see what happens to Sonny when he reacts driven by his temper and emotions. He becomes predictable and his opponents use that against him and manipulate the situation in a way that leads to his death.
“Sonny, don’t get involved.”
When Connie and Carlo are arguing at the dinner table, Sonny tries to intervene, and then he is directly hushed by Mrs. Corleone. This scene has two main morals. Firstly, privacy is a weapon. Always keep your issues private so that others can’t invite themselves and take part in them. Secondly, don’t involve yourself in other people’s personal lives. We all should learn how to set our boundaries and respect other people’s privacy.
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”
This might be the most famous line from the movie. Despite the fact that Don Corleone’s offer was brutal, it was made based on confidence. This is a perfect example of great leadership skills. When people chase something they want, they tend to lower their standards and come up with weak offers, while strong and confident leaders negotiate from the perspective of strength. They base their offer on deep research and human insight, they put themselves in their rivals’ shoes and know what they are looking for and make their shot based on what is it difficult for the other side to refuse.
“A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns.”
This quote is from the novel ‘The Godfather which the movie is based on. The line is said when Tom is explaining to Sonny why finesse is sometimes more important than muscle. We all can agree that Don Corleone can be described as a fountain of wisdom in terms of family and business, and namely, because he is so wise, he knows that there are gaps in his knowledge. So, he seeks advice and opinions from his consigliere Tom Hagen, the adopted son who is a lawyer. Since Tom is not a Corleone, he is a good advisor with unbiased opinions and he can share difficult truths with the Godfather and at times give advice to each family member. The Godfather chose him wisely because being a good leader is not only about seeking counseling. It is also about what kind of counseling one would choose.
Love him or hate him, there is one thing that is undebatable: Don Corleone is a great leader. When you strip the story of the bloodshed and drama you are left with life lessons that will always be fruitful, meaningful, and helpful for us and the generations to come. This masterpiece has proven its authenticity by staying on the top of the charts for the best 100 movies in the world ever for years now, and it will be there for years to come.
-By Marianne Wolf
More on “The Godfather” in Diamonds Production Magazine MARCH 2021
Also read: Eyes Wide Shut