Lessons from American Gangster

My thoughts and lessons from American Gangster. These are not in any order and are more reflections than lessons for myself and my team.

I saw American Gangster the other day. The film is on Amazon Prime Video in case someone is interested. Here are the ideas and lessons that I could take away from the film. These are not in any order and are more reflections than lessons for others. And no, this is not a review.

Oh, here’s the trailer…

So here are my lessons. These are not in any order.

A/ The loudest voice in the room is often the weakest.

This is very very common and oft-used. If you are in a conflict, the person that raises their volume first would often be the weakest one. And you can find a way to exploit the weakness.

Oh, please don’t mistake this for the loudest kid getting fed the first.

B/ In business, the basics are often the most important and yet the most ignored

These are trust, loyalty, long-term thinking, brand, honour, partnerships, conduct etc. While these are very very common words and are often thrown around in conversations, you rarely meet people that live by these.

With C4E, I want each person to follow these. Lemme write a line about each.

Trust. If you trust others, and others trust you, the cost and time needed to conduct business are reduced drastically. Even if you lose money, you shouldn’t stop trusting people.

Loyalty. Nothing worth building gets built if you don’t have a set of people loyal to you (or you are loyal to). And loyalty is used very very frivolously but at a deeper level, true loyalty, the kind you can die for, is very very rare. Even though I am not loyal to anyone or anything at that level, I am close. And that is enough!

Oh, and loyalty takes you far. Really far. In the film (and I have seen it in real life with numerous people), Frank had a meteoric rise because he was loyal to Bumpy for 17 years. Over the 17 years, Bumpy taught Frank things he knew and Frank would do things that Bumpy did. I can see this happening in my life as well. I am doing things that Suvi would do, Raj would do, Rajesh Sir would do.

Long-Term Thinking. I have spilt enough pixels on this one.

Partnerships. You need to know what you ought to work on and let the other person do what they are good at. There is no way you can do everything. For 39 years of my life, I thought I could do everything but I got nothing done. In the last two years, I have started to cede control and I have got done an insane amount of work!

Conduct. You may be rich, you may be poor. You may be privileged, you may not be. You may be smart, you may not be. But at no point does your conduct ought to be of an asshole’s. When you are about to lose your shit, it’s ok to take a deep breath. If someone on purpose does things that will fuck your head up, train yourself to not give a fuck. Operate from empathy. Be polite. If you are angry, either you will get killed or you will draw a wedge in between your relationship that will never ever heal.

C/ Your wealth should never be overtly visible.

Not that I am wealthy. Not that I have a lot going for me. But I know that I am now at a place where I am responsible for a tiny contribution to 10 homes. And that means I have this really heavy responsibility on my shoulders. And I need to ensure that I provide for those. And this means that I need to keep finding avenues of making money. And these would be created if the world sees me as a person they like and who can deliver. And often people are not really kind or ambivalent towards people who are flashy, overtly obnoxious, and all that. Plus, I am not the kind to anyway flaunt what I have. Yes, I like to eat at nice places (for service and not for the food), and travel in comfort (stay at star hotels and not motels) but none of that requires me to show off.

I will not hide it per se but I will not make overt claims about easy access and availability of money. And I definitely don’t need Chinchilla coats, Rolex watches, Birkenstock, Tumi, Ray Bans, Mercedes, Prada, et al (btw apart from the first two, I have wanted to buy EACH of the things listed here).

Oh from today on, I am dumping brands. Especially luxury or mass luxury. I will buy comfortable, long-lasting, value-for-money brands like Zudio, Decathlon, Ikea et al. The only exception would be computers and gadgets (these are the things that I use on a day-to-day basis to get things done and work). Actually, anything I need to spend on to make my work better, faster, more effective, easier etc etc, I will put in the money. But that’s that. And anything that I need for health (I recently bought a refrigerator, I will buy comfortable shoes, I will get a meal subscription etc).

So, the low profile may not be a bad idea. And yes, I know there are people that want fame and all that. Good for them. I hope they get it. But low profile it is for me!

D/ Brand

I don’t understand people who don’t understand the power of brands.

In one of the scenes, Frank says something like, I sell a product that’s twice as better than the competition and at half the price as the competition. And he has a distinct brand for the product he sells. At a point, he even gets into a tiff with one of the “distributors” when he fucks with Blue Magic.

If a gangster in America in the 70s could understand the power of the brand name, in the day and age we live in, we better do!

E/ Operating under the influence fucks you up!

One of the key reasons for Frank’s fall is the drug-induced actions of one of the flunkies. He makes a mistake that the cops capitalize on. And then all hell breaks loose. I am all for people needing intoxicants to “let loose” but it’s not for me. I am not much of a drinker anyway and starting today, I will quit whatever social consumption I engage in. Mgo-toto beverage from now on is Sparkling Water.

Oh, I am not trying to preach here. I would love to own a business that has alcohol, intoxicants, and parties at the core. But I would not engage in those. I would not partner with people that enjoy a drink or two. The ones that I am a partner with, I would try to get them to quit. And the ones I enter into new agreements with, I would ensure that they don’t give in.

The point is, like Frank believed, we don’t want to be swayed by the vices when we work.

Yeah, I am your regular uncle next door who likes to preach the importance of virtue. Sue me.

Guess this is it.

Of course, a lot of what they’ve shown in the film is fictionalized and things may not work like that in real life. But then it does not stop us from acquiring lessons. No?

So that!

If you’ve seen the film, lemme know what you think of it. What do you think are the lessons that you may share with people that work?

Over and out!