A Life Lesson From The Godfather You can’t Refuse

To me, The Godfather is probably the perfect movie. From its fantastic dialogue and dramatic plot to its cast of deep, round characters, The Godfather represents the kind of masterpiece that can emerge when you pay attention to every detail.

(And cast Marlon Brando, James Caan, and Al Pacino in the same movie)

Believe it or not, a movie that involves mafia families trying to whack each other can actually teach you quite a bit about people and life in general.

Plenty of life lessons exist within the movie’s 175 minutes or so, but one in particular stood out to me as I watched Coppola’s classic the other day. It’s an especially powerful lesson since all of the conflict in the movie exists because someone violates this one, simple rule:

“Never tell anybody outside The Family what you’re thinking again.”—Vito Corleone.

Vito Corleone (aka the Godfather) meets with a Turk named Sollozzo. Sollozzo seeks money and political protection from the Corleone family to start and maintain his drug business in New York City. In return, he offers 30% of his profits (about 3-4 million dollars the first year alone. This was in 1945 mind you).

He tells the Corleones that one of its rival families guarantees police protection, and Sonny, Vito’s son, blurts out his enthusiasm and delightful disbelief over the deal.

Vito corrects his son for speaking instead of listening and refuses Sollozzo’s request for money and protection.

The unforeseen result of Sonny’s big mouth? The Turk tries to murder the Godfather in order to deal directly with Sonny, who was more willing to negotiate and who The Turk knows will be next in line as head of the family.

A single sentence from Sonny leads to conflict, tragedy, death, and vengeance.

Honesty is a great virtue to follow. However, there are times when it’s best to censor your thoughts or keep them silent, especially around people who aren’t close to you because you never know the consequences of sharing too much.

Vito isn’t saying we shouldn’t trust anybody or lie; he’s trying to teach Sonny that you need to have discretion when the people around you aren’t your family or your close friends, who you know (or hope) won’t use that information to hurt you.

It seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Yet I’ve tripped over myself a couple of times when enthusiastically speaking to someone, and I’ve also witnessed friends and family share a bit too much information with strangers.

It seemed harmless at the time, but we eventually learned that people can either treat you differently based on what you tell them, or they may use that information to their advantage.

If you’ve ever worked in an office or other workplace, you know what I mean. ;)

9 comments on “A Life Lesson From The Godfather You can’t Refuse

  1. Believe it or not, I have never seen the Godfather. Didn’t want to experience the terror or watch the violence. But my kids, one of them a film student, coaxed me into watching The Road to Perdition, another crime family movie. It too has ugly violence and lots of suspense, but was so well written that it was worth it. I might even have to go back and watch the Godfather now. Great post.

    • You. Must. Watch. It.

      It’s a bit deeper than The Road to Perdition (another movie that I enjoy).

      The Godfather is such a fantastic movie if only for an analysis of how to create characters, pace your plot, develop conflict. It just has it all.

      Did your son see it? As a film student, I would hope so!

      • My son is coming home for spring break–I might wait to watch them with him, so I’ll have a hand to hold when things get tense. I really do enjoy analyzing the writing to figure out what makes this movie shine, and that one flop. One of my favorite movies is “Master and Commander.” Have you seen it?

      • I’m embaressed to say that I’ve had the dvd for about 4 or so years now, yet I never opened the case. I hear it’s a great film though. Is that your impression of it?

      • It is a masterpiece, one of the very few movies I have watched more than once. (Probably four or five times, each time gleaning more meaning from it.) It is beautiful to look at, and it faithfully depicts the history and the times, right down to the gold buttons on the uniforms. The character arcs and relationships in this story are complex, touching, and intriguing. There is also plenty of action–storms and battle scenes. I am a history geek, and have read most of the Patrick O’Brian books, but I would love this movie even had I not read the books. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but now you HAVE to open up that case and watch it. Then let me know what you think.

  2. I have never seen the movie, thinking all this time, that it’s a typical “guy” movie. Your post has motivated me to indulge in this classic. Thanks for your insight.

    • Ah, they say that everytime someone watches The Godfather, an angel gets it’s wings. I think that’s how it goes, anyway. :)

      I’m glad that you’re giving the movie a chance. It really is a classic.

      Thanks for sharing, and let me know what you think of the movie!

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