3 Critical Lessons “Scarface” Can Teach You About Career Success

Jeff Cuellar



Why do we love tales about some scrappy underdog who rises from the depths of poverty to become a hugely successful individual? Simple, it’s because 99% of us are underdogs. In one way or another, we all know what it’s like to suffer at the bottom of the food chain while our so-called “betters” order us around like personal servants.

That’s why we love Scarface, aka Tony Montana, because his story shows us that underdogs CAN succeed. His iconic rise from being a poor immigrant working as a dishwasher, to becoming the head of an international (drug) business has inspired millions of people (especially hip-hop stars) to succeed.

Here are three critical career lessons you can learn from Scarface:


1. Being Sincere and Truthful Will Benefit You In the Long Run

Chances are you’ve probably heard career advice from someone who advocates the Machiavellian approach to dealing with colleagues and bosses – which is to do whatever is necessary to get to the top. People like that are dangerous in the work place because they wouldn’t think twice about throwing you under the bus whenever a project is behind schedule, sales are down, important clients are lost, etc.

But you don’t have to lie, cheat, and steal to become successful. In fact, if you’re sincere and truthful in your dealings with colleagues and business associates, you’ll build up something that’s essential to any business relationship (or relationship in general for that matter) – trust.

As for the office vipers that use deception and dishonesty to rise – they may climb up to a certain level, but they always end up being their own hangmen once they are discovered for what they really are.

Case in point, this scene from Scarface where he turns a potentially dangerous career situation into a fruitful business opportunity:


2. Don’t Be Afraid to Accept New Opportunities and Responsibilities

Does your current workplace have someone who’s been working at the same job, at the same position, and (probably) at the same pay for years? Yeah, you don’t want to be that guy. There’s a big difference between being an underdog and being someone who’s apathetic or worse – scared of success.

Tony Montana never gave up the opportunity to do more than was expected of him because he knew that there would be a bigger payoff in the end. Taking on more responsibilities will increase your work output, your employer’s expectations of you, and endanger your job security (if you’re not performing).

But the payoff involved with seizing new opportunities and succeeding in whatever is asked of you is what makes the risk worth it. The guy who plays it safe will continue to remain static in his career. The guy who does more than what’s required is not only valued MORE than his “fearful” co-workers – he’s the guy that gets the promotion.

Case in point, this scene from Scarface where he takes the first step in his rise to success by seizing the opportunity to gain more responsibility and rewards:


3. Take the High Road, Because Every Dog Has His Day

Workplace treachery is something most of us have to live with. In larger companies the number of co-workers looking to put a dagger in your back to gain favor (at your expense) can make you feel like a minnow swimming with a school of piranhas.

Unfortunately, nothing attracts the office piranhas to you faster than being the underdog who has the courage and commitment to rise above your “station” by asking for more responsibility, and outshining your colleagues. In situations like this, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up taking a dagger or two from some of your Machiavellian colleagues.

What you should NEVER do is either “stab” a potential “betrayer” first, or seek revenge too quickly. First, because you’ll create a vengeful enemy that’ll always have you “looking over your shoulder.” Second, because not everyone

As the old saying goes, “revenge is a dish best served cold.”And the best revenge is success, otherwise known as “promotion.” Once you’re the boss, well, you can choose whether to take the “Tony Montana” approach to revenge (drive them out!), or forgive them – just keep in mind that if they can betray you once, they can do it again (ever hear of Julius Caesar?).

Case in point, this scene from Scarface where he exacts revenge on those (and only those) who betrayed him, while showing benevolence to a guy who didn’t (and ended up serving him loyally):


Final Note: Even though Tony Montana’s business “empire” was destroyed because of his insatiable lust for money, power, and err… cocaine – his rise to the top of his profession is something to be admired nonetheless. And even when the proverbial “castle” was crumbling down all around him, he went out with the same tenacity that took him to peak of success.

Oh, here’s one more bonus tip you should also take away from Scarface – NEVER use your own product!


What other important career lessons do you think Tony Montana has taught us? Share your views with us on Facebook! And to find even more useful information on everything personal finance, visit MoneySmart today!

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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.