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Learning from Don Carlo

For Business

Yesterday eve I went to the Opera to see Verdi's Don Carlo.

And I'm still processing that.

I also logged into LinkedIn for the first time in a while. It made me think of the viral screenshot of the guy posting what he learned from proposing to his girlfriend about B2B sales.

So, I figured I'd try to give it a go at relating my Opera visit to useful business lessons.

Lessons from Opera Visit in general

  • An Overture makes all the difference. You can play one to set the tone for your video meetings. It takes time for people to figure out how to unmute, anyway. There's plenty to choose from. If you're going for the "kill," Wagner's Valkyrie is a solid choice. For something more light-hearted, Mozart.

  • When someone says something really smart, you should clap and shout, "Bravo!"

  • Reduce breaks to a time that allows 2 cigarettes or one glass of wine, but not more. You want people to be loose but not too loose.


Don Carlos, originally a play by Schiller, is about an infant king (Carlo) who is in love with Elisabetta, a French princess. It's mutual.

Unfortunately, the king of Spain (his dad) also likes her and marries her to restore peace. She puts duty before love and accepts her fate.

Eventually, Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, appears to find his friend Don Carlo, grieving the loss of his love. Then follows the most beautiful declaration of bromance in classical music. Rodrigo suggests that Carlo go and govern Flandern to forget about his lost love.

When Rodrigo tells the king about the dire situation in Flandern (death and devastation), the king ends by warning him about the Inquisition. Yet, he also makes Rodrigo his closest advisor.

The story unfolds until everyone but the king is eventually dead.

What can we learn from this?

  • If you want to succeed in business or restore peace between war-torn nations), you might have to go all in and marry the biggest prospect.

  • Keep your enemies close, and then shoot them in the back if you have evidence of them being traitors.

  • You can't trust anyone, not even your son—especially not your son, who might be in love with your wife.

  • Before committing an atrocity, at least ask for forgiveness from a higher authority. In the case of Don Carlo, the king asked the head inquisitor if it was forgivable to kill one's son. It turns out that if it's for the greater Good, it's fine. For a company, probably just ask HR.

  • Only the monopoly (king) survives. Best to accumulate power as fast as possible and defeat the competition. Even if it means using regulatory arbitrage (the inquisition).

  • The Goal justifies the mean. If you have to burn books (DDoS their website to make it unusable, spam their blockchain, whatever), so be it.

    Of course, it's lonely at the top.

  • But with all the money you make, at least you can afford to take singing classes, and then try and sing the aria of the king lamenting she never loved him.


I'm not becoming a LinkedIn influencer anytime soon.

I'll, however, definitely go to the Opera again. Not to learn things about business but to be amazed and not over-analyze. After all, it's about the drama and the raw emotions.

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