10 Golden Rules for The Godfather's Success

Years ago a friend of mine referred to me as The Godfather. He bestowed this title upon me because of my connections to 'movers and shakers' inside and outside of our industry, as well as my reputation for doing what I say and getting things done. It also didn't hurt that I was 5 years older - and wiser? - than the rest of our little gang.

I've had a lot of fun with this title. Some might say I take it too far. Perhaps I do. But that's good news for you. Being known as The Godfather inspired me to study my namesake, and I've read Mario Puzo's legendary tale of Don Vito Corleone twice this year, identifying The 10 Golden Rules for the Godfather's Success.

In order to benefit from these 10 Golden Rules, you must first imagine for a moment two things about The Godfather:

a) First, let's pretend that Don Vito Corleone was real, and not a fictional character
b) Second, let's say his Family business was legitimate, and not a criminal empire

With these two changes in perspective, and an open mind about The Godfather's approach to building wealth, power, success, and a legacy, you can take great value from one of the most popular characters ever created.

Rule #1 - To the Godfather, friendship is everything.

"Friendship is more than talent. It is more than government," Don Corleone says to his godson, Johnny Fontane. "It is almost the equal of family. Never forget that. If you have built up a wall of friendships you wouldn't have to ask me to help."

These days, business gurus love to use the word 'networking.' But networking is simply building friendships. When you have a vast network of friends, you'll never be alone, you'll want for nothing, and you'll always be able to reach out to give help and get help.

But friendship is not about getting. Friendship begins with giving.

"He believed in friendship and was willing to show his friendship first," Puzo wrote about Don Corleone. Who can forget the opening scene where the wedding guests are lined up to ask a favor of The Godfather. He does not turn them away. He gives his friendship. He "makes offers they can't refuse."

The Godfather was the ultimate Go-Giver. Let us follow in his footsteps in this manner and use friendship to overcome other obstacles in life.

Rule #2 - The Godfather makes people feel valued.

"The Don received Brasi as a king greets a subject who has done him an enormous service, never familiar but with regal respect. With every gestured, with every word, Don Corleone made it clear to Luca Brasi that he was valued."

In today's world, most people have more than enough food, stuff, and room in their homes. But what they are lacking is love, respect, appreciation, and enthusiasm in their lives. They long to be heard. They wish someone would put down the iPhone and pay attention to them during presentations or coffee meetings.

The Godfather knew to be present with people. He showed gratitude and paid respect to all those he met with, even when negotiating. Let us follow this example. Keep your phone off the table at meetings. Put your electronics away when spending time with your loved ones at night. Be present. Show the other person they are valued. You will build enormous respect and appreciation, and a powerful bond, with people this way.

Rule #3 - The Godfather maximizes profit in every opportunity.

"It was part of the Don's greatness that he profited from everything."

Let's not beat around the bush. The Godfather was ruthless in building his empire. But there is nothing wrong with finding an honest way to achieve maximum results for your hard work. Today we call this leverage. How can you get the most out of everything you do and all the projects you have created?

As the author of multiple books in different industries (fitness and success) and the creator of different coaching programs (one for personal trainers, one for business owners), I can squeeze a lot out of a trip to a single city.

For example, when I visit Las Vegas for a business meeting, I can also hold certifications for my personal trainer program, and meet with individual coaching clients. I can, and must, maximize the value of each opportunity. This might mean adding an extra day or two onto my travels, but it leverages my time.

When you attend events, do as The Godfather would. Plan ahead to maximize your profit from everything. Develop a list of strategic objectives for all opportunities, and properly organize and leverage your efforts to maximize your return on your time and energy invested in all your travel and projects.

Rule #4 - The Godfather never gets angry, he never makes a threat; He reasons with people.

Don Corleone's oldest child, Sonny Corleone, had an Achilles heel. It was his ruthless and rash temper that led him into an ambush set up by the Barzini family. But the great Don, Vito Corleone, never made this mistake.

"He is a man of reasonableness," Puzo wrote of The Godfather. "He never uttered a threat. He always used logic that proved to be irresistible."

Like the ancient Stoics, Don Corleone knew there was no value in anger, not even when hidden. It only prevents the clear thinking needed to solve your problems. You must keep your mind free of anger, jealousy, bitterness, and petty disagreement. Focus on finding solutions and fast tracks to success. Don't clutter your brain with vendettas.

"The Don never believed in making a lot of enemies," it was said. This remained true even after Sonny was killed. The Don knew that an all-out war amongst the Five Families of New York would only drain his resources and destroy the Family business.

You must objectively look at the insults that come your way and realize the only reason the words make you angry is because of your interpretation of these events. You can choose to waste your energy and time on anger or revenge, or you can forgive, learn your lessons, and move on to what matters.

Rule #5 - The Godfather created a Strategic Vision.

Don Vito Corleone did his homework.

"Do we know everything necessary for us to know?" he asked his consigliere, Tom Hagen, prior to an important business meeting. Puzo called The Godfather a 'strategic genius.' Nothing escaped the Don's observation.

The Godfather had a "vision of pain staking detail" and "He planned for the future of his empire with foresight and statesmanlike intelligence." This level of clear thinking was only possible because he avoided anger and threats.

If you've read my book, The Perfect Day Formula, you know I agree with the great Don about the power of creating a Vision for your life. Take the time to sit down and think big for your future. Set aside a full morning to create the grand plan and a crystal clear vision for your life. Be a strategic genius and create your empire with foresight and intelligence. Like The Godfather, you must leave nothing to chance.

Rule #6 - The Godfather attacked problems head on and did not procrastinate.

"Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news at once." Hagen said to an adversary. Most people run from problems, difficult decisions, and crucial conversations, but the Don knew he must attack them head on. Problems, when avoided, only get worse. Identify the biggest obstacles in your life and take action on fixing them today before they grow bigger and begin to steal more of your time and energy.

Rule #7 - The Godfather kept his cards close to his chest.

"The Don would give no word to anyone in this world as to how he felt at this moment," Puzo wrote. He did not show emotion, he did not vent anger, he simply observed the situation, identified the problem, and began to think in a rational way about how he could solve the tricky puzzle at hand.

He also protected himself, and his time. "The Don never talked over the phone, to anyone." He knew that words could be twisted and so he protected himself. He stayed out of the limelight and avoided attention on the Family business.

This is difficult to do in this day and age of social media. In fact, many businesses are built upon leveraging the limelight. But if you do this, do so strategically. Dictate to the world how you will be seen and what you will be known for. Protect your time and don't let the competition know your next move.

Rule #8 - The Godfather kept Family first.

Everything you've learned from The Perfect Day Formula, every success tool and secret, is designed to put more structure in your day so that you have more freedom for your family. It is in this approach to life that The Godfather and I share the same values.

The Don had "Infinite sympathy and understanding for his family." He sat down to dinner with them often. He protected them, counseled them, and offered opportunity. He made them feel valued, and late in the book, when passing the Family business down to his son Michael he gave perhaps his most important advice in the entire story:

"You cannot say 'no' to the people you love, not often," Don Vito said. "That's the secret. And then when you do, it has to sound like a 'yes'. Or you have to make them say 'no'. You have to take the time and trouble."

Make Family first in your life. That's what you're doing all of this for.

Rule #9 - The Godfather kept immaculate professional habits.

"One of his many virtues was punctuality." Ah, a man after my own heart. I despise lateness. I'm physically incapable of it. Being late shows disrespect to your friends, family, and business partners. It's not hard to be punctual. If The Godfather can show up on time, then you can too.

Despite running a criminal empire, The Godfather lived a life of virtue and free of vice. He had "the air of a man who commanded absolutely the world in which he lived," and he lived according to this rule: "A friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemy overestimate your faults."

Of course, the book goes a little overboard once in a while. You'd think The Godfather was perfect. The Don controlled the greatest empire in America... Puzo described his speech at a meeting of mafia bosses to be as great as what was said by Churchill... But in his book, Mario Puzo also admits, reluctantly, that Don Corleone is not perfect. "His only fault," Puzo wrote, "was a lack of merciless ruthlessness."

I disagree. The Godfather had a greater flaw revealed in his 10th and final Golden Rule for Success...

This final rule is a double-edged sword, as it simultaneously strengthened his empire and nearly led to its downfall.

10. The Godfather believed each man had but one destiny.

Don Vito Corleone left too much to fate.

In the 1946 war of the Families, The Godfather put the Family's future in the hands of a brash young Sonny Corleone. The Don thought it was Sonny, and not Michael, who would become the future head of the Corleone Empire. He believed it Sonny's fate.

Michael had disappointed the great Don, choosing to go to college and then join the army rather the Family business. In his younger years, Michael appeared disinterested -- and ill suited -- to take over the Family business. It looked to The Godfather that Michael's destiny was outside the Family.

And because of the Don's belief in destiny, rather than personal responsibility, this led to a fatal error. Sonny was too headstrong. His merciless ruthlessness served him well in wartime attacks, but it was his rash decision (due to his anger) to leave the safety of the Corleone compound late at night, without protection, that led him to being ambushed and shot dead on the streets.

The Don may have consoled himself with his 10th Golden Rule, believing that each man has but one destiny, and that it was Sonny's to die young. But make no mistake. This Rule was a flaw in his formula. He put too much faith in it.

And so I must disagree with the great Don. We do not have one destiny. While we are certainly favored, through the situation we were born into, to take certain paths in life, the life we choose to live is ultimately up to us.

Our destiny is our personal responsibility.

I could just have easily chosen the path of least resistance in life and ended up working in a factory or driving a truck like so many of my relatives. But instead I am here, the author of many books, the man known as The Godfather amongst my friends, and successful in life and business.

Michael Corleone could have left the Family business, remained in Sicily after his exile, run away with Kate, his American wife, or done just about anything else in life, but he chose to become Don Michael.

And you... You have a choice. You can get angry. Or you can be reasonable. You can plan ahead. Or you can 'wing it'. You can run from your problems in life. Or you can attack them head on and build the life of your dreams, the one you desire and deserve.

Neither fate nor faith determines our future.

"If it is to be, it's up to me."

Knowing that, let this Godfather leave you with one last piece of advice, one that Don Corleone would certainly approve of...

Make the right decisions, right now, for your right life.