Monday, October 09, 2006

Cowboys’ Guide to Life

One of the first books I read about sales was by Harvey Mackay. This is from his website where you can sign up for a regular newsletter like I did.

Maybe Willie Nelson was wrong to sing, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”

Years back, I wrote about Gene Autry’s “Cowboy Code,” and the response it got made me wonder whether the cities would empty out because of the cowboy boom. Just recently, I came across the “Cowboys’ Guide to Life,” taken from a book by Texas Bix Bender, “Don’t Squat with Yer Spurs On!” It’s a little different from Autry’s, but it hits home, whether you’re home on the range, or home in the corner office suite.

Here are a few of my favorite lines from his book with my homespun comments. The list may seem simple, and frankly, it is. But it is so right on. Follow these rules, and in the final roundup, you’ll be one of the good guys:


Don’t squat with yer spurs on. Ouch! But it’s even more painful to find that you’ve self-destructed. Why would you stab yourself in the back(side) on purpose? Aren’t there enough sneaks in the office just looking for the opportunity? If you’re going to sit down on the job, make sure you don’t put a tack on your saddle. Pay attention to your business and no one else will need to.

The easiest way to eat crow is while it’s still warm. The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller. Everyone makes mistakes. What separates the cowhands from the rustlers is how they handle them. Take responsibility for your missteps and get it over with. People will forgive honest mistakes. No one looks kindly on passing the blame or ducking the issues. Did I say it would be easy? Of course not. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. If you find yourself going in the wrong direction, switch directions. Realize that taking a new tack is not conceding defeat; it’s preventing a problem from getting out of control. Take the bull by the horns. And don’t be afraid to ask for help getting yourself out of a hole.

Always drink upstream from the herd. You know what happens downstream where the herd is. Why would you want to be part of that? Whether it’s office gossip or nasty politics or whatever the group mentality may be, take the high road. Rise above the fray and do the best job you can. How others behave is up to them, but only you dictate your deportment.

If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya. There’s a big difference between real leadership and thinking you’re in charge. I’d go one step further and advise you to take not only a look, but also a listen, and make sure you’re still connecting.

Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back. Oh, that we could take back some of those thoughtless remarks and arrogant statements. What were we thinking? The spoken word has been responsible for the demise of many careers. That’s a shame, because while you may not have control over what goes through your mind, you do have control over what comes out of your mouth. Remember, your opinion isn’t always necessary or important. It’s not bad to be the strong silent type.

And never, ever, miss a good chance to shut up. This is more than a continuation of point 6. Every discussion needs an ending. Every comment doesn’t need a retort. Every issue does not need another opinion. Speak up when it’s important, and shut up when it isn’t. What you don’t say is often as important as what you do say. Sometimes it’s better to leave them guessing about what you’re thinking rather than to confirm that you’re not really thinking at all.

Mackay’s Moral: My favorite from Texas Bix Bender – Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

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