Day 294


Given the parents that I have, the way that they need to vacation this weekend, recuperate this weekend from the horrors of my brother, from the stresses of my family, from the breaking down.  Given all of those things, I want to make this weekend easy for them, or as easy as I can without making it obvious.  So this has merit:

“What does it take to be a don?” It’s a question I get all the time. I could launch into a three-day rant about why you don’t even want to know: the responsibility, the dangers, the hours. When you’re young and ambitious, you regard men with power as having it all. You only see the good, barely acknowledge the bad and don’t even think about the ugly. It’s there though. Then again, there are rewards, and there’s honor. But you can’t teach some average stunad from the street corner how to be a don. There are certain innate characteristics you need to possess — but I know you’ve got them. Here are some of the top-line traits it takes to get to the top, and stay there.

So, without further delay, here’s what it takes to be the don.

Nothing can be more detrimental to a don than a lack of conviction. If you start getting into the process of second-guessing yourself, it’ll only toss you into a downward spiral toward chronic uncertainty. I knew a guy who ran the second-largest family in Chicago: He spent three weeks deliberating over one lousy hit. Before he made his decision, the hit was on him. Conviction can be a dangerous trait when misguided; Mussolini had conviction, but he was also one sadistic baccala. So, as conviction is a key component in what it takes to be the don, it’s only beneficial when accompanied by a few other attributes. If your head is pointed in the right direction, make your decisions with confidence, and in the words of Satchel Paige: “Don’t look back!”

As much as a don relies on his soldiers, capos and consigliere, there are even more who rely on him. You need good workers to run a profitable business, but if you’re trying to learn what it takes to be the don, know that it’s important to understand what’s expected from your end and whatyour dues are. Reliability, reliability, reliability! I can’t drill this in hard enough. If you say you’re going to do something, you better do it. The men take their cues from you, and if you set the standard, they’ll follow suit. It’s hard for a soldier to understand the importance of something like punctuality if the don shows up 40 minutes late for a sit down. Reliable men are few and far between these days. From the cable guy to the politician to the contractor, none of them keep their word and look at the reputation they have. Be a dependable don and have your men be the same. That’s a lot to ask for these days, but it goes a long way.

Everyone thinks they’re rational, but a strong sense of reason is less common than you’d think. I’m not talking about differentiating the basic rights from wrongs, such as “Thou shall not kill,” yada, yada, yada. I’m talking about being able to rationally weigh the risks and rewards of a situation that seems to have no right answer. I’m not saying every don has to be a modern-day Plato, but it doesn’t hurt to apply some reason when looking to reach an answer. I had to let go of a longtime employee the other day; I know his family — his two sons and his darling wife — but once I took my heart out of the situation and rationally evaluated my position, I knew it had to be done. I should give him a call, or at least some spare change next time I pass him on the corner.

A don has to constantly be aware of his surroundings, down to the minutest detail. You have to know what’s going on, where it’s going on and who’s doing it. The most dangerous position for a don to be in is in an uninformed position. The Medici, the former ruling family of Florence, built a huge compound with enclosed walkways throughout the city. The ruling Medici would stroll through these walkways and look down on all the Florentines conducting their daily lives because they knew that in order to rule, you have to keep a close eye on everything around you. I know Tony likes his coffee with cream and sugar, I know Vinny pisses sitting down and I know Angelo wants my job — and he’s never going to get it.

This isn’t the blueprint for running a successful family or business. These are, however, essential characteristics, and if you can’t achieve these, Marone, you better not leave the lunch counter. Being the boss isn’t a job that can be handed out to some cafone on this season’s Top Don. You have to make the tough decisions without batting an eyelash, and you better understand the ramifications if you do. Regardless of whether you’re looking to run your own family or not, the qualifications for a don could be applied to any position of power. So, if you think you have what it takes, go for it.

I am who I say I am.  Rocket-powered, I am the Don, at least for now.


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