Monday, November 25, 2013

Cowboy Gratitude: Giving Thanks for Our Partners

by Jim Owen, Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer, Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership

In this season of giving thanks, the cowboy is, as always, a source of inspiration.  Throughout their history and right up to the present day, cowboys have rarely possessed much in the way of material goods.   Yet they know they are rich in their love of the earth and the sky above, their simple, rugged way of life, and their strong sense of community.  In short, cowboys remind us that the best things in life aren’t things. 

As the Thanksgiving holiday draws near, I’d like to share what I’m especially grateful for this year—that is, all the people and partnering organizations that work every day to help us get out the word that “everyone needs a code…a creed to live by,” and spread the message that character and personal principle still matter above all. 

While we at The Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership have big aspirations, we are a small foundation.  On our own, we have limited reach and resources.  So all along, our approach has been to share our ideas freely and let others take it from there.  

The results have been nothing short of astonishing! So many people have not only been inspired by the concepts of Cowboy Ethics, the Ten Principles to Live By, and The Try, but have also been moved to put these ideas into action in their businesses, schools, youth groups, public agencies, and community organizations.  And a few, like the extraordinary team at The Daniels Fund, have provided financial support to those groups, helping them to advance and scale their work.  

Some of our partners—like the University of Wyoming College of Business, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Boy Scouts of America, and Colorado Boys Ranch—I’ve come to know well through years of collaboration.  I’m still amazed that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming managed to raise the funds to build a $1 million Cowboy Ethics Club facility for teens in Casper!  And almost every week, I hear from someone who has called or emailed to let me know they are using the principles of Cowboy Ethics or The Try in programs of their own.  But we can only guess how many more are out there, living their codes and letting others know how the cowboy has inspired them, too.  I would love to hear from any and all!

So this is what I will be thinking of as we bow our heads over the Thanksgiving table. Being able to count on your “pards” is a big part of the cowboy tradition.  I’m humbled and immensely grateful to have so many I can count as mine.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Living the Cowboy Code - It's Also about Community

by Jim Owen, Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer, Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership

For anyone who wants to be someone of character and live an ethical life, knowing what you stand for is essential.  But cowboys remind us that having a code to live by isn’t enough.  What matters is living your code, and how it shapes the decisions and choices you make each day.  As cowboys say, it’s about actions…not words. 

So I was very much struck by a recent op-ed piece in the Casper Star Tribune, forwarded by Mark Zaback, CEO of Jonah Bank, one of the first companies to embrace the Code of the West as the foundation of its business practices.  Called "Living up to our Cowboy Code of Ethics," it was written by Kim Summerall-Wright, Executive Director of the Casper Housing Authority.  With sobering statistics, it makes a strong case that homelessness is a worsening crisis in our communities. 

Beyond that, the op-ed reminds us that the principles of the Code of the West—adopted by the State of Wyoming as its official state code—call upon on us to help work toward solutions for people in need of shelter.  If we truly believe it’s our obligation to “Do what has to be done,” we can’t dismiss rising rates of homelessness as someone else’s problem.  

Of course, in these challenging times, our communities face a host of unmet needs, and we can’t each be directly involved on every front.  But the point of the op-ed still holds.  As we think about principles like “do what has to be done,” “live each day with courage,” and “know where to draw the line,” we need to look beyond the orbits of our own daily lives.   In the days of open range, a cowboy was someone you could count on to lend a helping hand when needed, and that hasn’t changed.  The Cowboy Code has always been about how we live, not just as individuals, but also as part of our community.