ENTREPRENEUR and poker ace PHIL HELLMUTH is the author of #POSITIVITY, an inspirational book that has given advice to millions of people around the world. In his brilliant column exclusively for The Business Influencer, Phil asks a series of positive questions to a celebrity from the world of business, entertainment or sport.
Here he puts the #POSITIVITY questions to MICHAEL FRANZESE, the former Mafia mobster who left the organisation and turned his life around when he found Christianity and now mentors young people away from a life of crime. Michael, 71, lives in California. His latest projects include an upcoming TV series on his life and his own wine label, Franzese Wines, from in his own vineyards in Armenia.
In his mob days, Michael helped the Colombo crime family and four other families to oversee rackets and extortion that bled up to 35 million dollars a month from New York City’s coffers. By the time he was in his late twenties, Franzese had his own jet plane, a Bell helicopter, a 7,000sq ft house on two acres of land in Long Island, a house in Florida, and a beach house in California. But his luck ran out and he served several years in federal prison. He was later portrayed in the iconic Goodfellas movie.
After meeting the woman he wanted to marry he decided to walk away for the sake of their relationship – the first high-ranking Mobster to survive after cutting a deal with the FBI. Amazingly, he has managed to stay alive without protective custody and a new identity despite having several “hits” put out on him, including one condoned by his own father!
Once a “made man”, now a happy man, Michael, 71, lives in California, where his latest projects include an upcoming TV series on his life and his own wine label, Franzese Wines (FranzeseWines.com), from in his own vineyards in Armenia. He is currently on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom.
For details visit: www.michaelfranzesetour.com
In your business life why is positivity as opposed to negativity so important to you?
I always viewed what other people think as failure as a learning experience. I don’t do negativity. I deal exclusively in positivity and determination. It is important to convince negative people that they must take an upbeat approach. Negative people tend to focus on one particular aspect that may not be going right for them instead of counting the blessings in their life.
Next to positivity, what is the most important factor that leads to success in business?
Determination. It is the one characteristic that every successful person needs.
What is your earliest memory of an act of positivity?
It would go back to my father, Sonny, who overcame some very difficult legal situations when he got into trouble, and which he fought to overcome. He was always so positive in his outlook and very determined.
Who or what has had the most positive influence on your life and why?
I believe early on it was my father. He believed in me and everything I did. Whether it was school or sport. His unwavering encouragement spurred me on and he always told me I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. At one stage in my life, I was on course to be a doctor and he was very proud of that. I was also an athlete, playing baseball and American football in school and he would never miss a game.
Which positive person from history would you like to meet?
My historical hero would be Jesus Christ. He was a man’s man in the true sense. It would be an endless conversation. I would ask him about all the mysteries of life. He absolutely sums up positivity.
What is the most positive piece of advice you have been given – where, when and by whom?
A lot goes back to my father. He told me to always be positive but also realistic in my desires and goals. When I started going in to high schools to talk to students, I would see on the walls sayings on how you can be anything you want to be. But I would have to tell them that wasn’t quite true for me. I would have wanted to have been centre field for the New York Yankees. I was good in the sport but I wasn’t that good! Your dreams are at times limited by your abilities to achieve them. So, you have to be realistic in your goals. But that doesn’t stop you finding your way. Everyone has a gift or a talent. You have just got to find it.
What is the most positive piece of advice you could pass on to people?
In business, do what you do best and delegate the rest.
How do you deal with negative people?
I don’t let them make me negative. I don’t bring negativity into my life. I feel for those sort of people. It is a tough way to go in life. It could be a beautiful sunny day and negative people are the ones waiting for it to rain…
What are the most positive songs on your playlist?
I love Frank Sinatra. My Way is one of my favourites. I think it applies to me. I have done things my way. Some have worked; some haven’t.
If you could sit down with five positive people, who would they be, and what qualities would they bring to the table?
Jesus of Nazareth, would lead the discussion. King Solomon for his great wisdom – the wisest man that ever lived. Lee Iacocca, the man who saved the Chrysler Corporation. His was the first business book I ever read. It was brilliant. President John Kennedy for his worldly experience. Mother Teresa, to know what motived her and to find out how you can dedicate your whole life to a cause and stay with it.
What is the most positive film you have watched?
When I was 14, my mother, Tina, made me take my younger brothers and sisters to see The Sound of Music. I didn’t want to go. It was a musical and didn’t appeal to me at all, but I came out of the cinema loving it and have done so all my life.
Who is the most positive person in your life – apart from yourself?
My young business partner in the wine business, Sam, who is still only 23. He has great qualities and is very positive as to what he can accomplish. He reminds me of myself when I was his age. From the age of ten he would follow me online and he reached out to me on my mentoring group, The Inner Circle. He proposed the business idea and I accepted. I just love his work ethic.
Do you have an inspirational catchphrase?
Focus on what you do best and pursue it. The most attractive quality in successful people is humility. When successful, powerful people are humble it is very attractive to me. Don’t mistake arrogance for confidence. I respect confidence but hate arrogance.
Where in the world are you in your happiest state of mind?
In my home surrounded by the people I love. My wife, Camille, my children, and six grandchildren.
If you could be known for just one positive achievement in your life, what would it be?
My marriage. Thirty-seven years. It was my life-changing experience. It put me on the path that took me to where I am today.
When you were a Mafia boss with 300 men working for you what did you learn about loyalty?
In business when people are earning money with you, they are loyal and happy. True loyalty comes when things go wrong. When I went to prison there weren’t too many people around who worked for me or were my so-called friends.
For more information, visit: MichaelFranzese.com