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2015 Resolution: Leave the Gun. Take the Cannoli.

You need a code.

You need a mission statement for your personal and professional life. Your code is a framework for your strategies and behaviors; your reason for waking up each day.

Your code is also a brand statement and, as such, should include guidelines for honor, conduct, language and wardrobe.

Although absolute in its moment, it can be a work in process and evolve over time.

If you don’t have your own unique code you can borrow one. 

Here are some classic examples:

The Golden Rule.

Also known as the ethic of reciprocity, it describes a bi-lateral and equal relationship between yourself and others.
  1. One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
  2. One should also not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated – the “Silver Rule.”

Gangsters in search of a code.

Examples of great codes can be found anywhere, if you know where to look for them. 

According to testimony and recordings from the FBI, Anthony Fiato and Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, actual New Jersey gangsters in search of a “code” of conduct adopted the famous line, “I’m gonna make make him an offer he can't refuse” from the film, “The Godfather.” They also adopted the concept of “hitting the mattresses” and even the chief executive officer title,The Godfather, from the film.

The “Godfather” was the most popular book found in the homes of arrested mob bosses; it was their reference manual.

Dress code: chalk-stripe suits, slick hair.

The character Peter Clemenza in “The Godfather” said, "Leave the Gun. Take the Cannoli.” Clemenza's code included obedience to his wife who, earlier in the film, told him not to forget the pastries. Richard Castellano, playing Clemenza, improvised the line during filming.

Honor, Code & Loyalty.

In many contexts the choice to follow a code, or not, can have serious implications.

Colonel Jessup, as written by Aaron Sorkin in "A Few Good Men."

"We follow orders son. We follow orders or people die. It's that simple. Am I clear?" “You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post…”

Jack Nicholson had a code, and a uniform.

Serial Killers need a code; and shrink-wrap.

Do you have natural impulses that impede your success? Most of us do. If so, you need a code to help channel those impulses in a more positive direction.

Dexter Morgan is a serial killer. He’s been a killer since childhood. His parents developed a fairly simple two-part code for him to follow.
  1. Don’t get caught.
  2. Only kill other serial killers.
Like many codes; the rules are easier to articulate than to follow.

Wardrobe: tight short-sleeved sport shirts.

10 Biblical codes of conduct (aka “Commandments”)

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make (false) idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10.  You shall not covet thy… (Depending upon the version - “neighbor’s house,” “neighbor’s wife,” “neighbor’s servants, animals, or other property.”)

King Arthur's Top Ten.

These are associated with the medieval institutions of knighthood and chivalry developed in England during the twelfth century. 

  1. Loyalty to King, Country and God.
  2. Forbearance and self-control.
  3. Hardiness: health and physical strength.
  4. Generosity.
  5. Protection of the weak.
  6. Never recoil from the enemy.
  7. Opposition to that which is cruel or unjust.
  8. Never lie.
  9. Be the champion of good against evil.
  10. To thy own love, be true.

Honor is achieved by living up to the qualities listed above. The loss of Honor is worse than death.

Armor is optional, but highly recommended.

My personal code updates for 2015:

  1. Be humble.
  2. Listen more, learn more - double my “questions to answers” ratio.
  3. Consult more often with my personal “board of advisors.” If you don’t have a personal board, create one.
  4. Step further away from my comfort zone.
  5. Be more generous with resources and information.
  6. Wear cufflinks – three times each week.

Perhaps, the simplest and truest code is from Melissa Mathison, the screenwriter of “E.T.”  She wrote, “Be good.”

Please share your code, and resolutions, for 2015.

(c) David J. Katz – Detroit, December 27, 2014

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Post Script

Physician’s Code (The Updated Hippocratic Oath).

    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures required, avoiding traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

    I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.

    Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter.

    May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

—Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University.

Signature look: a white lab jacket and a stethoscope.

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Image Credits:
The Godfather, Paramount Pictures, 1972
Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, based on Puzo's book
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Dexter, Showtime Networks, 2006 - 2013
Based upon the books by Jeff Lindsay; adapted for TV by James Manos, Jr.
A Few Good Men, Columbia Pictures, 1992
Written by Aaron Sorkin; Directed by Rob Reiner
The Ten Commandments, Paramount Pictures, 1956
Written by MacKenzie, Lasky, Gariss and Frank; Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Universal Pictures, 1982
Written by Melissa Mathison; directed by Steven Spielberg

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