Cowboy Ethics and Success

Interpersonal competence is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to do three things.  1) Get to know yourself.  Use this self knowledge to better understand others.  2) Build and maintain strong, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the important people in your life.  3) Learn how resolve conflict in a positive manner.

Each year in January, the National Western Stock Show comes to Denver and takes over the town.  The Stock Show is a Denver tradition.  It features the highest paying indoor rodeo in the world.  Farmers and ranchers from all over the Midwest and West come to view the exhibits and see the latest in farm machinery and veterinary technology.  Kids exhibit the animals they’ve raised.  McDonald’s purchases the prize steer.  The young man who raised this year’s winner won $50,000 for his efforts.  It will pay for his college education.  Cowboys flock to the local bars and restaurants.  All in all, it’s a pretty cool thing – an event that has been going on for over 100 years and something that defines Denver in January.

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all of this.  There is a reason.  On Sunday, January 25, "The Denver Post" got into the Stock Show tradition and did a feature on a book called Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.  It’s written by James P. Owen, a retired Wall Street exec who is now a professional speaker on investments.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that these days Wall Street could use a dose of ethics – cowboy or otherwise.  Think Bernie Maddoff who defrauded investors of over $50 billion, or John Thain, the Merril Lynch CEO who paid bonuses to executives who ran a company that lost $15 billion dollars in the last three months of 2008, and spent $1.2 million redecorating his office.

James lists 10 principles for finance professionals that he says are part of an implicit code of the old west and “borne from both the need for rugged individualism and a sense of how a community can take care of itself.”  I think these ten principles provide a great guide for how to build and maintain strong relationships.  See for yourself…

1. Live each day with courage.
2. Take pride in your work.
3. Always finish what you start.
4. Do what has to be done.
5. Be tough, but fair.
6. When you make a promise, keep it.
7. Ride for the brand.
8. Talk less, say more.
9. Remember that some things are not for sale.
10. Know where to draw the line.

James autographs Cowboy Ethics with the words “Ride tall.  Shoot straight.”  This is great common sense advice for building the types of relationships that will help you create personal and professional success. 

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are interpersonally competent.  Interpersonally competent people build strong, lasting relationships with the people in their lives.  Cowboy Ethics provides some excellent advice on how to build and maintain high quality relationships.  There are ten points in the Cowboy Ethics code, but they can be summed up quite well in four words: Ride tall.  Shoot Straight.  Ride tall.  Be proud of who you are, what you do, and how you do it.  Shoot straight.  Be honest and straightforward.  Keep your promises, don’t sell your soul for a few (or a few billion) dollars.

That’s my take on the National Western Stock Show, Cowboy Ethics and building high quality relationships.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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