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  • Sylvester Snipes

Monday Motivation: Success. It has enemies.



The Context

Taken from Ridley Scott’s 2007 film American Gangster, a fictionally and remember the is an operative word as Ridley Scott has taken many liberties with the portrayal of Frank Lucas the movie character as opposed to Frank Lucas the real person. But I digress. As I was saying this movie is based on the criminal career of Frank Lucas played by Denzel Washington, a gangster from La Grange, North Carolina who smuggled heroin into the United States on American service planes returning from the Vietnam War, before being detained by a task force led by detective Richie Roberts played by Russell Crowe.



The Mood

something that the film portrayed were in fact quite close to the truth. He really was one of the biggest suppliers of cocaine to the entire east coast of the United States and when the FBI eventually apprehended him they seized approximately 275 million dollars worth of cash and assets from him. To put that into context when adjusted for inflation that’s worth roughly equivalent to about 1.3 billion dollars in 2019. Not to mention that he managed to achieve all of this completely under the radar.


The Quote

Frank Lucas is seen to be seriously pissed off as he vents his frustrations to fellow drug trafficker and mafioso king pin Dominic Cattano head of the Luccheese crime family played by the late great Armand Assante also known for roles in Judge Dredd and Striptease. This scene is a perfect distillation of the old Italian proverb;"Successo ha nemici" which literally translates to "Success has enemies".




Frank’s frustrations stem from the fact that there was a very recent attempt on his and his wife’s life and that upon his recent distribution partnership with Dominic would not only expand Frank’s operations but would also bring “peace of mind” to Frank. This partnership meant that instead of having to compete with the Sicilian Mafia who were amongst the most powerful, cunning and business savvy crime organisations that America had seen at that time Frank would partner with them ensuring a truce with the Sicilian Mafia.


Understandably Frank is a little more than miffed that pretty soon after the deal someone tried to make his heart beat turn acapella and is now expecting Dominic Cattano to come up with some answers. Cattano calmly yet sternly reminds Lucas that everything comes at a price. Especially success.

On any successful trajectory in life whether it be career, social or each new plateau comes with new challenges and obstacles but most importantly it comes with people or parties you may have slighted, upset or even hurt along the way. Now that’s not to say that all successful people conduct their business with any sort of malice but they must be fully aware of how their success is perceived by others. But more importantly that your life is about choice. As Dominic Cattano implicitly implies that this comes with the territory of success.


Some people choose to look at people’s success and make their minds up to emulate or utilise the principles to manifest their own destiny and dreams. Whereas other people. may look at how far someone has come and that their ‘success’ means their own failure. In this context, it could be seen as the referral to the junkies, dumb kids etc.


The Real World

Put it this way, do you think Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett and George Bezos don’t have enemies? Think of all the people they’ve finessed, bamboozled, broken, even stolen from.


Think about the greatest rivalries of all time whether it be in the movies, sports or even entertainment. The greatness of a protagonist is measured by the antagonist.

Batman isn't as great if he doesn’t have the Joker, Maverick isn’t Maverick without Iceman, James Hunt isn't as fast without Niki Lauda and even Mozart's rivalry with Salieri speaks volumes to Mozart's own character and resolve.



So it seems as though one of the harshest truths about success and ambition is that it is not without it’s foibles, one of the many and most costly is the gang of individuals, groups and even organisations that may look upon what you’ve built with envy, greed, possibly disgus and try and take that from you.


There’s an old saying that goes “may your idols be your rivals” and although it sounds like a blessing it’s also a very thinly veiled curse. Hopefully one day you get to a point in your life where the people that have inspired and motivated you are side by side with you as your peers. But the other side of that blessing is the curse is that now you’ve gotten to this level you have a new level of antagonist to deal with. Frank’s choices have brung him much fortune and power but may have cost him everything else including his family’s safety.


The Real Question

What price are you willing to pay for your success? If in life everything costs something what’s the most your willing to pay?  A great street philosopher Curtis Jackson once said sunshine wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for rain, that joy wouldn’t feel so good if it weren’t for pain. It just turn out that most things in the Universe are held in a state of equilibrium, your success and your choices are all a part of that system so before you make your next move, your next ascent just remind yourself that what will this next stage of my life entail? What might it cost me? What are some of the cons of this next stage of life? What price are you willing to pay for success?

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