Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The New Year’s resolution I didn’t see coming

By Jim Owen

For years, “Make a difference” has been one of my guideposts for life. Through my books and speeches, as well as the activities of the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership, I‘ve hoped to inspire others in ways that meaningfully change their lives. 

Now I’ve got a new mantra. Last month I was honored to be presented with an ethical leadership award from the NASBA Center for the Public Trust, a group that promotes ethical behavior within the business and professional communities. It was immensely gratifying to be recognized for the work that has been my passion and my career for more than a decade. The award itself is a handsome piece I’ll display proudly.

But what struck me most of all was the power of the words emblazoned on the award: Being a Difference, which is the name NASBA has given its program. That phrase made me realize that “making a difference” sets the bar way too low. Striving to “make a difference” puts the accent on isolated acts that may or may not be characteristic. Even someone who is profoundly unethical can make a difference simply by writing a check, perhaps salving a guilty conscience in the process.

“Being a difference” is something else again. It speaks to who you are as a person. It’s about your life, what you stand for, and the kind of example you set each day. In short, it lines up perfectly with the core message of Cowboy Ethics: everyone needs a code…a creed to live by. What’s inspiring about cowboys isn’t just that they embrace the Code of the West; it’s the way they live their code each day. This is why striving to be a difference, rather than just make a difference, is my number one New Year’s resolution.

Thank you, NASBA. Beyond giving me an award I truly prize, you’ve given me a new way to think about how I live my life.

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