3 Business Lessons from Vince Vaughn’s Character from True Detective


From the moment the first episode aired, HBO’s True Detective took the world by storm. It was basically everything everyone was talking about. Online and offline.

With a chilling Southern gothic setting, inviting spiral narrative structure, amazing dialogs, and outstanding performances by Matthew McCounaghey and Woody Harrelson – Nick Pizzolato’s show left no room for anyone to deny its greatness.

The very second the first season ended, all sorts of different rumors started to emerge about its successor. Knowing that the “True Detective” was from the very start imagined as an anthology series, meaning that every season would be a new standalone story in itself, with all new cases, twists and characters, people started to go bonkers. They began spreading all sorts of ridiculous gossip about the show’s next season. From casting, filming locations to production and possible storyline – people really let their imagination run free. At one point, even Brad Pitt was added to the mix.

During the final stages of production, Pizzolato released a lot of details about the upcoming season of the show. After reading who was in it and where the story is taking place, a lot of fans felt that Pizzolato made a lot of poor casting choices for this season. The fans weren’t shy of showing their discontent and writing all sorts of awful comments about the chosen actors.

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Personally, I thought the casting was interesting, and I couldn’t wait to see Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams together on screen.

Finally, on the 21st of June, True Detective returned into our lives and the results – well, the results weren’t as good as expected. The fans didn’t shy away from showing their discontent.

Now that Season 2 of True Detective is over, and the vast majority of reviews is basically awful, there a lot of things that Pizzolato needs to put into consideration before even thinking about filming Season 3, if he want to win the public’s trust again.

Although most people are disappointed with its outcome, I think that Season 2 had some pretty interesting parts in it. There’s a lot of backstory, and there’s a lot of plot that makes the first couple of episodes a bit difficult to ease into, but at the end of the second episode, Pizzolato’s penchant for abrupt violence with a side of freakiness was proved to definitely be something that will leave you panting for more.

I think that a lot of people who felt that this season was a huge letdown are not even real fans of True Detective as a concept. I think they just liked Rust Cohle far too much to even think about the show on a higher level.

Same as before, the real mysteries lie within these detectives themselves. We are once again presented with interesting character studies, tortured souls, flawed people, mystery and drama, the only difference is that in this instalment is that Pizzolato upped the body count and gave a lot more details to think about. No, I won’t bore you with this. If you are interested in reading more about this season, what it stands for, and just how important it really was for the show – then you should go on and read Jay Dyer’s post about all the hidden meanings behind this year’s effort. 

The reason why I’m writing this post is directly related to the characters from this show.

As you know, if you watched the show, Vince Vaughn plays a character named Frank Semyon, a shady ex-gangster, obsessed with having kids, who is forced to go back to his old ways after he gets screwed out of a lucrative land deal and most of his money.

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Although I instantly got pretty interested in this character, after watching the whole season for the second time, I’ve noticed that there were a lot of things to learn about business from this gangster. So, without further to do, here are a few lessons I learned from watching this Frank Semyon interact with others on the show:

1. Risk Management: Always Have a Backup Plan

Frank Semyon has been reasonably successful as a crime boss, but he wanted to go legit. He was planning a family, and he wanted to start fresh. He found his big chance in California’s high speed rail project. His ticket into this was a waste management company that he purchased. His company poisoned the land where the rail was supposed to go, making it available for cheap. Then he sold the waste management company to a mysterious company called Catalyst. And then he gave Ben Caspere, a corrupt city manager in the corrupt Los Angeles suburb of Vinci, $5 million to invest in the land deal. He also lined up a Russian mobster named Osip to back it all up (all inspired by true events).

Everything was going smoothly for Frank, until one night – Caspere got killed. None of the people involved in the deal wanted him dead, especially Frank, because Caspere had his $5 million. Naturally, Frank went broke and started looking under every rock and stone for someone to pin this on.

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Although knowing that he’s doing business with shady people who were into all sorts of messy things, Frank went into this venture head on, without even considering the fact that he was taking part in a pretty complicated deal with such high risk players as Ben Caspere and Osip.

Next to this, Frank Semyon made other bad judgments during this eight-episode season as well. On top of my head, he misjudged the Mexicans, and also a couple of his direct associates.

If you go back and rewatch the third episode from this season, you’ll see that in every frame in which Frank appears, there’s at least one tiny detail that suggest that he’s in an unsafe situation, although his behavior might suggest otherwise.

Understanding the risks and risk management is probably the most important factor in doing any type of business activity. Apparently, Frank didn’t know that, and that’s why he lost all his money.

Apropos that, a good businessman knows the importance of judging a certain business partner, venture, client or lead, based on all elements that are at his disposal. He knows how to audit and set business line self-assessments. He knows how to review current activities, capabilities and limitations, usually through various metrics, and then, only then, form his opinion based on solid data. With that information in mind, he also has the ability to develop and apply an approach to manage risk so as to achieve a desired future (strategy and goals) and avoid and mitigate potential pitfalls (both catastrophic failures and missed opportunities).   


2. Find Your Competitive Advantage and Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

As I already wrote on this blog, before coming up with a new business idea, have a long, honest and detailed look at yourself. We are all products of our past experiences and we all have unique sets of skill that could come in handy if put into right use. Apropos to that, when thinking about what to do, it is highly advisable that you focus on what you already know and start a business where you have an unfair advantage. No one is going to welcome you with open hands into his business world, especially if you’re seen as a direct competitor. Creating companies is difficult so you need an unfair edge to win.

Vaughn’s character stepped out of his comfort zone into a new world without even considering the fact that no one wants him there. He was like a big fish out of water – flapping and jumping around in a unknown world that’s not really meant for him.

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Talking to the guys from Melty, Vaughn opened up a bit more about where Frank Semyon comes from and what we can expect from the moral development of his character going forward. “Frank has his own understanding of why he invests his time and energy into things that he does, and I think his conscience is pretty clear about it,” Vince reflects about his character’s motivations. According to him, he doesn’t think Frank is “a person that is looking to exploit the weak. He’s looking more to play the dice game of life with people who also want to try to play the dice game of life.

We’re all in this game to win big, get rich and form a company whose name will be well-known even in the darkest parts of the world, but we cannot do that if we don’t really understand how and where to apply our skills and talents. Some markets, competitors are just too big for you. That’s ok. Never go head to head with leaders of a certain industry you basically know nothing about. Think smaller, review your skills and resources,  find your niche and conquer it.

3. “Never Do Anything Out of Hunger, Not Even Eating


Although this quote got a lot more weight behind it once Frank Semyon told the story about a kid whose father used to lock him in a dark room, with nothing to eat but dead rats, I think it still has some philosophical meaning behind it.

When I was watching this episode for the first time, a lot of situation replayed in my head. Mostly business ones. Maybe I have a twisted imagination, but hey, a lot of people look at same things from an entirely new perspective.  

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So, going back to the story: While watching Vaughn share some advice with his colleague in this particular scene, I remember every moment where I jumped the gun in business and fell short just because I had no patience and confidence to wait for the camera to turn back to me. Afraid of losing business, I sold my services for less than they’re actually worth.

Over the years, I have read a lot of articles about the art of negotiating. Some of them claim that negotiating is an art form, that there’s no standard rule book for it, while others claim it’s nothing more than a trick.  During my career, I came to an understanding that if you want to negotiate with someone for something, you first must have a firm grip on:

1. What’s your bargaining range
2. What the other party wants from this deal, and where he or she draws the line
3. Who has the upper hand and why
4. Your other options if the deal goes sour

So, apropos that, this quote basically tells us to never give in to lesser urges. Never act out of desperation. Always analyze the situation, find the benefits that work for you, wait for your moment, then, when it finally comes, when it’s good and ready – seize it.

That’s it. These are some of the business lessons I think that we can learn from Vaughn’s character from True Detective. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions or anything to add, feel free to write your thoughts in the comments sections below.

That’s it for now,
See you soon again,
Kindest regards,
Goran @ AltusHost

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