Main what you can learn from the cowboy code

Some great wisdom came out of the Wild West: Don’t squat with your spurs on. Don’t dig for water under the outhouse. Don’t be an unethical asshole.

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Actually, that last one is the basic philosophy—if not the exact phraseology—of the just re-released Cowboy Ethics: What It Takes to Win at Life, a book so spot-on that, since it came out a decade ago, its “Code of the West” has been adopted by the state of Wyoming as its official code of ethics.

“Following the Code would shift the corporate world’s focus from ‘Is it legal?’ to ‘Is it right?’” says author Jim Owen, an aficionado of cowboy history, literature, and films. “If you live with integrity, you’ll be happier and live a more satisfying life.”

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The Code is more important today than ever, says Owen, a 35-year investment pro and cofounder of the Investment Management Consultants Association: “More and more, the trust factor is very fragile—it’s tough to get back [to honest principles].”

Bosses, especially, could use some cowboy sense: “Anyone with a business has two types of candidates,” Owen says. “One’s really smart, but has an ‘It’s not my job’ attitude; the other’s grades weren’t as high, but he says, ‘Hire me and you’ll get my best.’ That’s the one to choose—attitude trumps ability every time.”


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