Monday, December 23, 2013

Finding Happiness in the Holidays

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

I’m often asked, “What’s the payoff for integrity?” That’s a topic I touch on in my speeches, and I’ve got several answers. But to me, the most compelling one is that being clear on what you stand for, and living by those beliefs, makes you a happier person – it’s as simple as that. That’s long been my conviction, based on my own observations and experiences. It’s also confirmed by what we hear from those who have articulated their personal set of principles and values in our Standing Tall workshops. They say it’s a good feeling to spend time becoming a better version of yourself.

But my personal belief about what brings true happiness has now been reinforced by science. Summing up 40 years of research by social scientists, a recent New York Times article said happiness derives from three main sources: our genes, which account for about half of our personal happiness quotient; the events in our lives, which have relatively short-lived impact; and finally, our values. 

As the article noted, “It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness.” And, unlike our genes or the things that happen to us, the set of values we choose to embrace is the one happiness factor in our control.  

To me, this is welcome and timely message for the holidays. It’s a great reminder that what enriches our lives isn’t what’s under the tree, but what’s in our hearts. Together with my cherished wife, Stanya, and the entire Cowboy Ethics team, I wish all of you a holiday warmed by love of family, friends, and humanity. And all the best for a joyous New Year!  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Competing with Heart

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

If you’re the kind of person who cultivates Try in your life, you probably find inspiration in the stories of others. And once you start looking, you discover there are stories of Try all around us. Recently I happened on a running blog with a story I found so moving  that I wanted to share it with all of you.
The first-person account of Mike Cassidy, a runner in this year’s New York Marathon, the story starts out on a familiar note. Who among us hasn’t taken on a tough challenge, only to find ourselves with confidence faltering midstream? Although Mike is a seasoned marathoner and has trained hard, he finds himself feeling subpar this time out, and is soon struggling just to keep going against the chill wind.
It’s when he catches up to his hero, legendary runner Meb Keflezighi, that the story becomes truly extraordinary.
Mike realizes that his idol, too, is struggling to keep going after a spate of recent injuries. The vision of himself blazing past one of the best marathoners of all time fleetingly crosses his mind, but the way the race actually played out was even more amazing. Check out the photograph and you’ll see what I mean.       
But this isn’t just a story about never giving up. Meb’s humility and spirit of generosity demonstrate what it means to be a hero. Beyond that, Mike discovers that he’s not only competing for himself. “In striving to be our best,” he realizes, “we could bring out the best in others.”  His story of competing with heart gives added meaning to what Try is all about.