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!

210821 – Morning Pages

A longish post on things at the top of my head. While writing this, I ended up stumbling upon an idea that could define who I am and help me leave a legacy!

6:51 AM.
Woke up with a mild headache. At the lower back of my head. Where you have the medulla oblongata. I get this one when I am either catching a cold. Or I am stressed. Let’s see which one of the two it is. Plus I am not been sleeping properly. In the sense that even though I haven’t had coffee in a few days, I am still wide-eyed till late in the night. I dont know what is causing this state. This phase of life, I really want it to pass by fast!

So in terms of yesterday, I started by thinking that I would eat once and that too food cooked for me, at a friend’s place. Went there. Ate that. And then cooked myself some Maggi. And then ordered some kachra. You know chips and all that. And ended the day with rice and roti and I dont know what all. I am literally dumping things in my stomach and I am hoping to lose weight and go walk up to EBC. The Fuck. I have just about 3 weeks before I am up there. I need to get my act together if I want to come back in one piece.

Am gonna fast today. Come what may. Let’s see what I am made up of. If required, I will spend a fortune at Starbucks and stay parked there. But I will not eat.

Been thinking that should I give it up. You know, the dreams and hopes and aspirations and all that and find some easy gig and retire. I am almost at the retirement age anyway.

Ok. Moving on. So over the last 2-3 days, I have seen two films. The Taking of Pelham 123 and Gone Baby Gone. Both are in the right zone that I like – some action, some adventure, a puzzle, a human thrown into a moral dilemma. And some slick work with the camera, music, and acting. Both have amazing performances – the kinds that move you and make you think and give you ideas and want you to stop those thoughts about quitting!

The desire to be in the middle of things for making films is getting stronger by the day. I can feel it. Sense it. You know how those killer dogs sniff their prey?

But then this is nothing new. I have sniffed multiple such things multiple times for multiple things. I remember, when I was in Goa last year, I was thinking of making a fortune in Goa. Before that, last year itself, I was trying to do a startup that would given me a billion dollars. More recently, I started with Long Haul Ventures thinking I would revolutionize how startups raise money. There are more examples. I mean the list of these opportunities that are just-around-the-corner is a mile long. I hope one of those comes true. Soon. Or else, you would see me as a teacher or something at some third-rate college that won’t even pay me enough money to make my ends meet and live the fancy lifestyle. You know, the one where I can fund people around me.

Anyhow. The larger lesson from these films happened when I read more about how those films came into being. Specifically when I was reading about Gone Baby Gone. The film stars Casey Affleck. And is directed by his brother Ben Affleck. Ben happens to be a childhood friend of Matt Damon, another accomplished actor, and more. While each of those people has gone onto do great things, it’s unreal how they help each other, support each other and ensure that they see success together. If I could leave a lesson to the young kids, I would say, they need to find collaborators, friends, and bouncing boards early in life. #teamSG

Oh, there’s a similar story about Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt being buddies for a long time and collaborating. Those salons in Europe when it was the intellectual and artistic capital of the world is famous for spawning friendships and collaborations and supporting each other, even if these friends were not in the same industry. I mean you could be a painter that knows a writer and in case someone asks for a writer, you would recommend the friend you know and give whatever inputs you can give.

I must re-create these salons. I must seed opportunities for young people to meet each other. You know, a curated list of young kids that I have met and I throw them in a room with other young kids that I feel has the potential. Come to think of it, this could be an idea. You know, to reinvent success. Can I do this at a commercial scale? Run a structured business where I identify talent, take that person thru the things I feel are important to become long-term thinkers and then let them “graduate” once they have a friend or two that they can work with together for a long long time to come. Fuck, interesting! #parkedideas. Must think about this on the upcoming road trip and the trek. #sgP1

Oh, btw, these friendships that I am talking about, are not like Bollywood where entire dynasties are engaged in the business of films. Where your merit may or may not count as long as you share the same last name.

So that. I am excited!

Ok, need to move on. It’s almost 7:45. Starbucks awaits. The packing and all that shall happen once I am back. Two things are the mantra for the day. Dont while time on things that dont add up. Fast.

And here’s streaks…

  • OMAD – 0. I am attempting a fast today. Let’s see.
  • #book2 – 0
  • #noCoke – 163
  • #noCoffee – 6
  • #aPicADay – 0
  • Money spent – 886
  • Killer Boogie – 0
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • Surya Namaskar – 0
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0
  • Minimaslism Counter – -2
  • Morning Pages / Meditations – 253

280321 – Meditations

A straight from heart post about how I spent yesterday. And the epiphany about life I had after I saw a film!

7:42. Worli. I am at a friend’s place. Yesterday I thugged it out. I ate more yesterday than what I ate in the whole of the week gone by. I hardly did any work. Apart from the meditations, I did not do anything. I ate and ate and ate. Had almost a litre of ice-cream. Drove for a bit. Saw three films (in parts) yesterday – The Equalizer, The Fellowship of the Rings and Andaz Apna Apna. Lol. What choice! Met MG. Did everything I would do if I wanted to be a vegetable. And that’s not cool at all!

There’s a lot that needs to get done on the work front. There’s a lot that needs to get done on life front. There’s a lot that needs get on health front. On every front. I have some 90 tabs open at things that are mandatory reads. I have a few writing projects that need to be done. These writing projects are the ones that I need to get the izzat, money, independence and what not. And here I am thugging it. Damn, Mr. Garg! Need to course correct. This thugging will not get you close to any of your goals.

Anyhow. Enough of being harsh on self for taking it easy for a day.

So mumbai is breaking all the records that you can imagine and there are some 6000 fresh cases everyday. They are testing about 48K people everyday. So one in 8 is testing positive. And even though this is WAAAAAY off the mark, I am assuming that each day I meet 8 or more people, I am at risk. By that metric, I have been at risk for quite some time. I need to get into containment. I am not doing anyone any service by being this person that’s out and about! So, once I am back to Andheri today or tomorrow, I am locking myself into the house. Starbucks and work be damned. I need to find a way to adapt to learn in the pigeon hole of the house I have.

I don’t talk about it much I really think that one of the core things important to the sanity of people is access to personal space. In India, we don’t talk about it much – all of us grow with limited means, even more limited space and almost non-existent idea of personal space. We fill our houses with things that we need less than once a year and unknowingly become hoarders. One of my recent Instagram posts made me realise that I am an hoarder as well and that needs to change.

More about this someday.

So lemme talk about The Equalizer, the film. It stars Denzel Washington and in all its simplicity, its the story of a retired operative that is now working a menial job at a box store by the day and thanks to his insomnia, reads at a diner by the night. Something happens that brings back the killer in him and he goes on a rampage. While I can talk about the story, the acting, the plot, the arcs and I don’t know what all, I would refrain from that. I would rather talk about the impression that it left on me and what it made me pine for. After all that’s what films are supposed to do. Or all stories for that matter.

For starters, I want to have a secret superpower that allows me to bash a hundred people at the drop of the hat if they wrong me or others that I care for. Then I like the idea of me knowing a lot about a lot of things. I also thought it was a cool thing to be able to tap in to the reserves and outplay the nemesis.

The thing that I related to the most was Denzel’s role as a mentor that is always in the shadows. Each person that he interacts with in the film, he tries to get them to see a better version of themselves. The entire story is hinged on his attempts at helping people he has no emotional attachment with. The young sex worker, the middle-aged lady at the till, the aspiring security guard and his mother. Even when he is avenging the wrongs, he gives an option to the perps (did I just used the work perp? Too much Brooklyn 99) to admit the mistake, promise to not make the mistake again and walk away.

I AM EXACTLY THAT! I want to live my life like that! Help people. Make money

I want to be a mentor to a million people and let them bask in the glory. Right now, I am far from it. Right now, I am too human and I seek validation (only to get access to more opportunities). Right now, I am nowhere and leave no impression on anyone and I definitely dont have the resources to do anything specific. I need to think more about how I live my life and how I try to make that impact.

Only if I don’t thug it out 😀

Ok, on other operational things, I am told that the new theme on this website sucks. Will probably play around with it a bit over the next few days. And I will try and get some sense in my head.

Ok enough. Time to publish.

Here’s the streak.

  • Morning Pages – 107. If there was one day when I was going to miss the morning pages meditations was today. But here I am with the post. Yay!
  • #aPicADay – 87
  • 10K steps a day – 0
  • OMAD – 0
  • #noCoffee – 18
  • #noCoke – 18
  • 10 mins of meditation – 0
  • #book2 – 0