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  • Kate Barker

Cowboy Ethics and The Last Lecture

The book and the letter from the court came in the same week.

Cowboy Ethics, a western “picture book”, written by James P. Owen, makes a case for what Wall Street could learn from the “Code of the West”. In the forward, David Stoecklein, (also the photographer), says, ” The West is a place where the fence is always tight, but the gate is always open to friends and neighbors. It is a place where a man can make tough decisions without looking over his shoulder or worrying what someone else will think. A cowboy get his strength from knowing what is right and what is wrong and being true to his beliefs”.

The Code is summarized in ten principles:

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 and say more

9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale

10. Know where to draw the line

At first, I viewed the book as entertaining, full of gorgeous photographs and good stories. People I know and love have always abided by similar tenets; it didn’t seem necessarily relevant to our personal lives. I decided this gem would be added to my ” Great Gift Ideas” list.

A few days later, the letter arrived from the court stating that our “friends” were filing bankruptcy . We had loaned them a great deal of money to buy equipment to start a business.

A contract had been drawn up and signed with an agreed upon repayment schedule. For the last six months we had been trying to communicate with them. All of our calls and letters were ignored.

Bewildered, we wondered why they hadn’t at least called or written to us to let us know they might be considering bankruptcy. Perhaps we could have recovered some of our loss with the sale of the equipment.

Smack !

Suddenly the book on ethics and a code of behavior became relevant. Realistically, I understand there is no way to legislate ethical behavior. Even in countries where punishment is severe, there are those who push the line and break “the rules”.

I don’t think we, us, the American people, have lost our commitment to honor principles. I do think we have to be diligent in remembering and teaching (especially by example) a code of ethics, values, what we stand for !

July 25th will be the one year anniversary of the death of Professor Randy Pausch, the author of The Last Lecture. He said in an interview with Diane Sawyer, that he wanted to leave his children memories of values, of what he stood for, not just memories of himself. The following interview is heart-rendering !

He was Dr. Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at a prestigious college in the east, but his values, his code of ethics closely resemble the “Code of the West”.

May we always remember however we describe our behavior, whether it is a “Code of the West” or “values” or “what we stand for”, the choices we make concerning our “manner of conducting ourselves” do matter !!

Happy Blessed Infusions,


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