Business Lessons From Pop Culture: Being persistent and other pieces of wisdom from The Irishman

The Oscar-nominated film has some advice for keen observers.

The Oscar-nominated film has some advice for keen observers

It would be nice if instead of getting old, we could just hire Martin Scorsese to de-age us. But because that doesn’t seem like a realistic option, and to continue our series on lessons from the 2020 Academy Award nominees for Best Feature Film, here are some business-related tidbits to be found in The Irishman.

(Light spoilers ahead.)

Hire experts to do things you can’t

The movie presents two notable examples of this lesson—one intended and one not. The former is an obvious takeaway: Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) hires Second World War vet Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) to be his bodyguard and “paint houses” (you can probably guess) for him. Sheeran is good at it—too good, one could argue. But it serves our main idea.

So do the many memes passed around the Internet of a very old-seeming De Niro (playing a 30-something Sheeran) beating up a grocer. Maybe a stuntperson would have been the better option?

Persistence can be key

Scorsese begged Joe Pesci to come out of retirement to play crime boss Russell Bufalino. The actor eventually agreed and delivered one of the finest performances of his career, garnering an Oscar nomination for his understated portrayal.

The 76-year-old thespian reportedly turned down the role 50 times. But hey, if you really want something and know that your endeavour needs it, you might as well ask a 51st time.

Do everything with an eye toward the future

This is probably the biggest lesson from the film, which is essentially a meditation on growing older and living with regret. Not every enterprise is worth taking, no matter the windfall.

Hopefully you, as an upstanding B.C. business professional, aren’t painting any houses. (OK, Vanguard Painting, you get a pass.)

But the point remains: don’t do anything you’ll regret about when you’re old and grey.

Other instalments in our Business Lessons From Pop Culture series:

Ford v Ferrari