Before the budget process swings into high gear and Sacramento becomes consumed by the back and forth haggling between the Governor and the Legislature, Big 5 meetings and press conferences decrying the coming catastrophe if we cut too much and the competing ones saying we need to cut more, I want to take a moment to talk about something that in my mind is every bit as important.
It is something that has been sticking in my craw for years, and I just have to spit it out. It has to do with not just "what" we are doing in politics, business and government, but "how" we are doing it. Because the "how" is every bit as important as the" what".
Now stay with me on this one and I hope it will make sense.
The other day I heard yet another jack-legged East Coast political pundit talk about President Bush and his "cowboy diplomacy" symbolized by his "reckless" foreign policy. What this person knows about real cowboys you could fit in a thimble. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also have this phrase in embedded into their political lexicon.
The thing that makes my blood boil is that this misinformed and cavalier description demonstrates a complete lack of understanding or knowledge of an American icon, the working cowboy. In fact it is a dad blasted insult to those who still to this day ride the range and work the land. And there are a lot of them right here in California.
Unlike some politicians, a cowboy still makes a deal with a handshake and his word is his bond. A cowboy does not make rash decisions because the wrong decision can be the difference between life and death for him, his horse and those he works with. And a cowboy lives by a code-a set of unwritten principles that no one has to teach him because it is instilled in him at birth. It is instinctive because it is the example set by those that surround him.
Cowboys don’t whine and stomp their feet like spoiled children as some people seem to do when things don’t go their way. They know that crying and wringing your hands don’t get the job done.
Which brings me to a couple of books that I think should be required reading for politicians, business leaders and should be taught in our schools. It wouldn’t hurt the rest of us to read them either.
Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street can Learn from the Code of the West was written by James Owen, an investment consultant who after ENRON and the other Wall Street scandals of a few years ago, decided it was time to take a good look at what we had become. Like myself, he is not a genuine cowboy but he has a great deal of respect and admiration for the cowboy and the cowboy way of life. He came up with his Code of the West which states some simple principles that not just cowboys, but all of us should try to live by. I remember learning these principles from my late mother who spent a good portion of her childhood living and working with cowboys on a ranch in Colorado. Here is the Code.
- Live each day with courage
- Take pride in your work
- Always finish what you start
- Do what has to be done
- Be tough, but fair
- When you make a promise, keep it
- Ride for the brand
- Talk less and say more
- Remember that some things aren’t for sale
- Know where to draw the line
Recently he published the second volume called Cowboy Values: Recapturing What America Has Lost, which talks about the basic values America has lost in a celebrity obsessed culture that glorifies materialism and instant gratification. He lists the basic values that America needs to recapture. Here is Jim’s list of core values.
Somewhere along the line we forgot these basic values and replaced them with a self-centered "grab all you can and forget the consequences" attitude. Many of our political and business leaders need a crash course in the principles and ideals of these two books and none too soon.
This is not rocket science. We have politicians who cheat on their wives. If a man will cheat on his wife what do you think he will do to the voters? We have politicians who walk away from their financial obligations. If they can’t handle their own money what do you think they will do with yours? We have politicians who preach ethics and values only to fall from grace themselves for not practicing them. And we have business leaders who have been convicted of using the stockholder’s money as a personal piggy bank then say with a straight face they were business expenses.
To be fair, we also have politicians on both sides of the aisle who, while passionate in their positions, will work collaboratively for the common good.
My whole point is that with all the advances we have made of as a society, we seem to have left behind those things that we should treasure most-the basic truths that right is right and wrong is wrong. That there is no free ride and either we pull together or we will pull ourselves apart. That we all need to face up to our problems because if we face up to them and meet them head-on, they won’t seem half as bad then if we ignore them. And finally that when we make a mistake, we own up to it without blaming others, claiming victimhood and going into rehab. You’ll never see a cowboy on a psychiatrist’s couch.
As things heat up with the budget over the next few months, I would encourage all the Legislators to remember that they are the hired hands in this outfit and not the bosses, we are.
And the bosses want the people’s business taken care of and really aren’t interested in their political agendas whether from the left or the right. Just get it done.
Someday the cowboy might disappear from the American West. I hope not because that would be a sad day indeed. But we should never forget the principles they live by and we should teach them to our children.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I want you, the readers of this blog to understand where I stand.