“If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time” – Chinese Proverb
In my last trip outside the country, I got the opportunity to watch American Gangster. It’s an interesting film for many reasons, it’s also a film that I find a lot of lessons in. I would cronicle a few, in my attempt to share with you what is frontal in my mind this morning.
The story line was that, an American Area Father (Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson)and crime boss died, and his driver turned right hand man Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) took over. Denzel Washington had driven this man for years, been with him for negotiation meetings, been his PA for most of the journey, and had watched and learned. There were quite a number of people in the hierachry ahead of him, but he had been closest to the old man, and had learnt a lot from him. How to handle pressure, how to be patient, how to be decisive, how to negotiate e.t.c. He had learnt the art of business. When the Area Father died, a vacuum was created, the market was going to go unregulated. Leadership became available and there were a number of options.
Denzel decided to step up to leadership, he decided to also add a little more business dynamics to the drug business. He leveraged on his relationships, and secured high quality heroine at extremely cheap prices. With a better product, lower price and product supply, he controlled the market, establishing himself as an organized crime chieftain. He did it so well, without getting noticed that most of this competitors and even the cops believed there was an Italian mafia behind the scenes. In fact for a long time he wasn’t even known by the police.
While that was going on, a low life detective in New Jersy Richie Roberts (acted by Russell Crowe) was positioned as a “different cop”. He turned in a million dollars of unmarked money back to the force. With Russell Crowe in this film, it wasn’t a matter of who would know and what was worth it, he seemed to live under a compulsion to do the right thing at his Job. His life didn’t showcase as much integrity, but with his job as a police officer, he couldn’t be bought.
Things went exceptionally well for this crime boss business tycoon. He made money, he made name, he was out of lime light, he was cool! Denzel Washington played it well, a likeable criminal. Things went well… until… Until the war ended, and his military links were being called off from base in Vietnam. He wanted to make one last run for it, he travelled by himself to Asia to secure his last transaction – 7 Coffins filled with pure heroine. He had a conversation with the Chinese Nationalist general. Who told him what I really want you to learn – “Why don’t you quit now?” Denzel Washington (Frank Lucas in this film) looks at him stunned, quit? The Chinese nationalist general told him again, “Quitting when you are ahead, is not quitting!” He didn’t take this advice, and he hit his waterloo. That was his last transaction, he was caught and he faced the music.
Over to you – What have you been doing that you know is bad, that you ought to quit now? The best time to quit, is after reading an article like this. It’s a sign, a warning, that you are getting past the point of no return. Wrong things have their repercurssions, if you haven’t faced the music yet, it means you are still ahead, quit!
I remember a time when God told the children of Isreal, “You have encamped long enough around this mountain, move now”. That’s saying quit parambulating. The children of Isreal ended up spending 40yrs on an 11 days journey, in the process, everybody older than 20yrs of age at the time of their departure from Egypt died in the wilderness. The repercussions for remaining stiff necked in evil doing are grave, quit when you are ahead. The bible says that because the reward for evil is not speedily executed, men foolishly continue to do evil. Every human has a cup that gets filled when we remain willfully do the wrong things. Nothing happens to you until the cup is filled. If your cup is not filled yet, quit while you are ahead.
Don’t wait until you get AIDS, don’t wait until you have an accident, don’t wait until you die, don’t wait until someone gets hurt, don’t wait until lives are destroyed, don’t wait until your youth is wasted, don’t wait until you enter an irreversible pattern of woes. Quit now, stop today!