Thursday, October 23, 2008

Valuable life advice

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?


writtenwyrdd said...

I cannot stand the Godfather. I think I saw most of it in the 70s, but I am just not into it. I didn't like Goodfellas either and left the theatre before it was over. I just don't care for that sort of drama.

I don't like Gone With The Wind, either.

Sometimes things just won't ring the bell for everyone despite how good they are. But the advice is sound based on your take!

Charles Gramlich said...

I agree that it's great advice. I've picked most of these up at some point, even though I've never seen the Godfather. The family thing just came naturally.

and uh oh, I've never read Gone with the Wind either. Or seen that movie.

BernardL said...

You covered it pretty well. I told my kids many times when they were growing up, friends are what you have in good times; but when life takes a downturn, ‘blood’ has your back.

kirsten saell said...

Much better than some other advice I heard yesterday in regard to me subsititute teaching at my kids' highschool today (oh please, don't ask, just pray for me).

She said: "Just ask yourself, what would Hunter S Thompson do?"

Heading off to blow myself away with a cannon now. No wait. I am Michael Corleone. I am Michael Corleone....

Seeley deBorn said...

This just makes me think of something I dealt with a little while ago. I decided to go with 5 and pulled a 7, which also related to 11.

Pissed off a few people, bit I don't give a damn. I'm mean, but I'm not that mean.

Words to live by.

kirsten saell said...

Hehe. I just checked that thread at RD. (You'll realize how high you are in my list of priorities that I checked here first, lol.) Now I can only ask you: "D? Will you marry me?"


I am Michael Corleone...

December/Stacia said...

I'm sorry, Written, I don't wrote a comment but the words seem jumbled. Perhaps I'm high? Lol.

Well, I'm sorry you didn't like it; you're the first person I've ever met who didn't, which is pretty cool. :-) And as for didn't like the book, or the movie? I don't think liking it is a necessity, but the line about how you have to read it to be a truly educated American isn't mine, although I do somewhat agree with it. It is, IMO, the Great American Novel. But again, JMO. :-)

Charles, you've never seen it? OMG, you have to! I would love to hear what you think!

That's right, Bernard. Although not all of us are lucky enough to have that, there is something to be said for the people who will ALWAYS stick by you. :-)

Lol, kis, I have to admit, I could not make heads nor tails of that. Hunter S. Thompson? WTF? How is that valuable in any situation? "Get fucked up, write a self-aggrandizing story about it, be rude and nasty to people who were kind and accomodating to you" seems to be just about all the man ever did, so...and yes, of course I will. :-)

Good for you Seeley! Who gives a fuck what they think? I've never in my life understood people who worried about that sort of thing.

Robyn said...

I've had the kind of day that leads me to ask, "Why the hell isn't FLY TO CUBA AND GO CLUBBING on that list?"

I'll just say that GWTW was a better book. Scarlett was spoiled in the movie, in the book she was an outright bitch. And I had to laugh when Brits got their knickers in a twist because an American played Bridget Jones. Hello! Vivian Leigh stole the two best female roles in America- Scarlett O'Hara AND Blanche DuBois. Shut up, you whiners!

laughingwolf said...

good advice, as far as it goes... some things seem to be missing, tho

December/Stacia said...

Well, yes. I had a whole score of other ones--some courtesy of the hubs--things like "If you are close enough to smell the cordite and 'get the blood down your Ivy League suit' then you know you have done your job correctly, or "If you plotted with Johnny Ola to kill your brother, don't let the fact you knew him slip out when you're drunk at the live sex show". But I went for more general life advice, really, so there you go. :-)

And "Fly to Cuba and go clubbing" isn't on the list because, y'know, oppressive Communist regime and all that. I'd LOVE to go to Cuba though. C'mon, I lived in Miami for twelve years; I'd LOOOVE to go to Cuba. But alas. I lived in Miami for twelve years, so the idea is unthinkable.

Marian said...

I love the list. I haven't read or watched The Godfather, but you've made me decide to do so if I get the chance.

The one about not threatening is especially true. The most dangerous people are the ones who don't bluster and swear retaliation - they know exactly what they can and will do to achieve their aims, so they don't feel any need to hint at revenge or show their hands in advance.

laughingwolf said...

tho the us guvvamint frowns on it, we allow vacationers to go to cuba :O lol

writtenwyrdd said...

I will put my eyes out with a nail and a hammer before I read GWTW. I hate all books based on the the Civil War. It's a form of prejudice, I confess, but I've always loathed that period of history and that's all there is to it. Don't care if GWTW is the greatest American novel ever written. I won't read it.

Sometimes people are just wierd. And I know cuz I are one.