Because I am a certified cinephile I tend to get highly agitated when movie quotes are misappropriated and misunderstood by unenlightened viewers. There is no greater example of this than one of the most famous quotes from one of the most famous films ever. In “The Godfather” there is a scene (actually several scenes) where some variation of the phrase “it is just business, it’s not personal” serves as the dialogue money shot. I’m calling bullshit on that now and forever. It is certainly a nicely crafted line for a movie but that is why movies are not real life. In real life, I am going to tell you what is going on if somebody says to you “it is just business, not personal.” They are about to power-fuck you, and not in the way that you want it so I strongly suggest that you check to make sure that your pants are still on and fastened nice and tight.
When somebody lays that bullshit line on you, they want to sound deep and philosophical when in fact they are just doing dirt to you and want to mitigate your retaliation reflex. In short, they want to psych your mind into tamping down your own emotions so that they can get away with whatever they are doing to you without having to worry about the hell you may decide to unleash on them. So that phrase is not to comfort you, it is to give some cover to themselves. And if you are the third party in the scenario- i.e. the jive-ass floating that line is explaining what is happening to somebody else- then I maintain you should take a good long look at the person talking. Because they want to get your buy in on the dirt they are doing and establish an understanding with you on how they operate. You may think you are on the inside with this jerk-off but in all likelihood a time will come sooner than later when they are lining up that lie for you.
And let’s clear up a technical point before we land this plane: a person’s living is extremely personal to them. Like many others, I am a man with tremendous responsibilities. Many people’s lives are greatly impacted by what I do in my business and in my professional life. You may very well be in the same boat so you can appreciate the following sentiment:
If you are fucking with my business then you are fucking with the well-being of all of those people and it just doesn’t get anymore personal than that.
Accordingly, if you pull some shit on me in a business context you are going to get dealt with in just the same way as if you made an indiscreet remark about one of my daughters or made anyone who belongs to me feel unsafe. You and me are going to go round-and-round and wherever we land is where we land. In all likelihood, I will have a thorough ass-whipping on tap for you but if you happen to catch me in a particularly pensive mood perhaps a corrective conversation will suffice.
My bet is that most professional men feel that way but in our evolved state we are not inclined to admit that our animal kinship is still strong enough to evoke that type of a response in our white collar wing-tipped world. But we need to embrace that. If a guy like Donald Trump had gotten his ass kicked one good time back in the 80’s he might not have fucked over so many people for so long in business. Sometimes, you just have to enforce your own rules and let the chips fall.
My career has been quite a roller coaster ride and a winding road but the one thing that has been consistent is that I have never been fucked over by anybody who understood that I take everything very personally. Perhaps it has cost me opportunities here or there by people who felt threatened by that posture- but that is ok. It was probably better that we kept our affairs separate anyway. So while I am admonishing my peers out here (because I rarely hear women quote that stupid shit) to stop using that phrase and trying to apply it to their own lives, I’ll make a quick pitch that we just ditch our general fascination with “gangster” movies anyway. Our tendency to romanticize criminality and kneel at the multiplex alter of wealth worship is fucking up our priorities and our capacity to lead and compete in the real world. So to paraphrase the single most popular figure in cinematic history for my peers, Tony Montana from Scarface, “Fuck Michael Corleone, fuck Nino Brown and fuck the fucking Diaz Brothers, fuck’em all! I better than those cock-a-roaches!” Ok, I admit I kinda like that one.