Perhaps the fundamental difference in the way that Vito Corleone operated as the Godfather and the way that Michael ran the family business is by this principle alone: how they interpreted what was business and what was personal.
The downfall of Michael, which resulted in him dying alone with no family by his side (the ultimate failure of a man who came from such a large Italian family), is that he took everything personal. He had a vendetta out for anyone who crossed the family – whereas his father seemed more strategic in his undertakings and who he ordered hits on.
In business, it’s important to keep your cool – because that’s when your judgment is the clearest. But, not taking things “too” personally is an art craft and one that requires skill and practice.
“Don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business.”
In a less than stable economy, tensions are high – and that means so are people’s emotions.
In a 2009 Forbes article, Jane Maloney, New York consultant to human resources executives, said that her clients have been increasingly telling her that employees are jumping to conclusions when they get constructive criticism.
Interestingly, the article explored taking things too personally at work only if you are a woman. But, as we’re talking about this in the context of The Godfather, where there were no women in power, you have to consider this personal versus business debate from both sex’s point of view.
As a Huffington Post article puts it, we have as much control over the actions of others as we do over a rainstorm or getting hit by a bumper car. Therefore, you need to protect yourself.
“If you take things personally, you make yourself a victim of anything that others say or do. This is like riding bumper cars and feeling outraged that others are colliding into you! Some may hit you because they are being careless or they have no control over their car. Others may crash into you deliberately. It would be quite silly to feel upset about this because we know that when we ride bumper cars, we are going to get hit,” reads the article.
Taking things personally is not gender-specific. One’s susceptibility to others knows no sex. It’s as random as a rainstorm. My conclusion: not all women are emotional basket cases and not all men are strong and unimpressionable.
Pick your battles
So how do you draw the line and recognize when you’re being overly sensitive? It’s not easy, but the outcome will leave you feeling less vulnerable and more empowered.
- You can stand under my umbrella. (Ella, ella, eh eh eh – sorry, I had to. Besides, Rihanna’s hit ties in nicely to our earlier rainstorm metaphor.) When you find yourself taking things personally, remember, you hold your own umbrella. Shield your reactions to the actions of others.
- Don’t be a conspiracist. Give people the benefit of the doubt. They’re not out to get you. Unless of course you’re running a huge Italian mafia, then, well you might want to reconsider this.
- Good work doesn’t mean I think you’re pretty. In the spirit of not taking things too personally at work, it’s important not to take compliments too seriously either. Let your work speak for itself and leave your personal self out of it. Be self-righteous in this regard and leave the opinion of you up to you and only you.
This all goes back to being powerful in your own right – because when you are, there’s no one who can stop you.
The Godfather was the Godfather because he was regarded as such. He didn’t require authentication from anybody before he did anything. The most powerful and influential are those who aren’t waiting for approval somewhere. They find it within themselves and build a world around them that’s exactly what they wanted.