I had occasion this morning to give a very good friend a bit of advice for an uncomfortable situation. It's a piece of advice I've given before, and one which I might have stated here before as well.
It is valuable in every situation in life. There is, I believe, not a single circumstance in this world which this advice cannot help with, whether it's problems with friends, or getting ahead at work, or family issues, or...well, anything at all.
The advice is as follows. In every situation in life, no matter what fear or worry or problem you find yourself faced with, before acting you must ask yourself: What would Michael Corleone do?
And dude, if you don't know, because you haven't seen the movie or read the book (which is good, though not as good as the movies), you need to go watch it right now. Seriously. You cannot be a fully grown adult having not seen the Godfather Parts I and II (there is a third, but I have cast it thoroughly from my memory). Much like you cannot be a truly educated American if you have not read Gone With the Wind. We actually showed the sd both Godfather films while she was here for the summer, figuring fourteen was a good age to first be introduced to the movies. While she didn't quite get all of it, especially the second--the appearance of Pentangeli's brother at the Senate hearings confused her a bit, and we had to explain why it was a threat and not merely a nice visit from a relative, and the bit with the Senator and the dead hooker required some explanation as well--we felt confident that we had given her her first steps toward an strong adult education and a system of behavior which would see her well throughout her life (in addition to continuing our commitment to showing her some fucking awesome movies, as the usual fare in her house seems to be reality-show garbage. I will never forget showing her Die Hard for the first time Christmas before last; the kid's mouth literally hung open for half the movie. YES!)
Now, I'm not advocating we deal with life's little troubles and interferences the way, say, Michael dealt with Solozzo and McClusky, or Hyman Roth. Wholesale assassination is clearly wrong. And yes, there are some situations where we might do better to study Vito Corleone, who tempered his toughness with a bit more kindness.
But let's see. Casting aside the whole bloody-violence bit, let's see what we can learn from both Corleones:
1. Never take sides with anyone against the family. "Family" in this instance can be, say, close friends, as we don't all have close families. (This is an adjunct to several valuable pieces of advice given in Goodfellas, the most pertinent and valuable of which--it deserves to be embroidered on a sampler, seriously--is "Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.")
2. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
3. Never let anyone outside the family know what you're thinking. (This comes from Vito; and is truly valuable. Think of what happened to Vito because Sonny spoke up at their meeting with Solozzo!)
4. Your home and your family are sacred responsibilities.
5. Friendship is valuable; doing favors for others is a good thing. Always stick by your friends, and make their enemies your enemies.
6. Generosity is important, and will be rewarded. Whether this is generosity to yourself or to others, if you are capable of being charitable and helping those less fortunate, you should do so (puzzled at this one? Don't be. Remember, Vito got his start by being a helpful and unassuming.) This leads to the next one, which is:
7. Never threaten. Don't get angry, don't get emotional, and don't threaten. If they won't be reasonable, it's a waste of everyone's time to try and reason; just give it up. (The obvious corrollary to this is "Then have them killed and take what you want", but as I said, we're not going that far here. I absolutely do not advocate such behavior! But of course, if you wish to commit some small act of non-lethal revenge, that's for you and your conscience to work out on your own. I don't advocate it; it's rarely worth it, and you end up feeling like you behaved childishly, and thinking of yourself in a bad light.)
8. Loyalty is key. Treat people well, and they will treat you well in return; and if they don't, ignore them. Never go behind a friend's back. Always, always, stand up for your friends--Enzo the baker wasn't family, but he sure as hell knew how to pay back what he owed.
9. It's not personal, it's business. It's not personal, it's business!
10. Life means responsibility; live up to yours. (A man isn't a man if he doesn't take care of his family; that again comes from Vito, but Michael clearly agrees.)
11. Again, this relates to number 10. You need to take care of yourself. Nobody is going to do it for you, nobody. ACT. Don't sit around waiting for someone else to fix your problems; fix them yourself. Think coolly and calmly of what you need, and how to best get them. Then do it. Don't wait for permission, don't wait for the stars to align. You do the best you can, and you take the bull by the horns, and that is that.
I am fully convinced these rules will stand anyone in good stead for life. Let's take, for example, publishing. #11 comes first; you work hard and write the best ms you can, and you go about the process of finding an agent or publisher by doing things the way they should be done, and keeping your own counsel. Don't publish rejection letters or your thoughts on them; see numbers 3 and 9, especially. When you sell your ms, keep the details (aside from the public ones) to yourself. Don't get involved in online dramas. Don't freak out when presented with edits. Don't be mean or rude; let other people get all emotional and freak out and whine and throw fits. You are a professional, and an adult. Turn things in on time. Do what you say you're going to do.
Can you think of any I've missed? How do they relate to your life?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
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