Cowboy Values

A Retreat Surprise

Cowboy Values Book CoverWithout looking at the title, there are certain books and writings that by reading just the first few words you know immediately what the subject is:

  • “We the People…” the Declaration of Independence
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Tale of Two Cities
  • “Call me Ishmael.” Moby-Dick
  • “In the beginning…” the Bible

What is the opening line of the book of “YOU”?

Let me take a step back and provide some context.

Recently I attended a retreat and had time to do some reflection, reflection that focused my attention inward, blocking out the external thoughts of the day and week to focus on what really mattered to me. This retreat enabled me to “lean into” myself. I used this time to learn, discover, reinforce, and adjust what I knew about life, relationships, and what matters to me.

Isn’t that what a retreat is all about?

I heard an analogy that dealt with this exact behavior: External forces (friends, significant others, workshop, and spiritual leaders) can provide us with an amazing spark, yet it is up to the individual to sprinkle it with an accelerant in order to turn the spark into a raging fire of size and significance. When we receive a spark we must intentionally commit to do something with it—to provide it with fuel to continue burning and create change.I have learned that the value in having this knowledge is doing something with it. Having intellectual knowledge without applying it to change a behavior or action, is a total waste of God-given talents and respect for your own time. 

Have you ever found yourself learning great things and then later finding you never applied what you learned? Think about it. If the answer is “yes” then STOP IT!

Memo to Self: Good information often comes from a source you least expect, keep your eyes open! This seems to occur more often when you have opened your mind and heart to be graciously receptive to outside input, influence, suggestions, criticism, and assistance—this retreat was no different. Here’s what I mean:

While on a break during that retreat, there was a book sitting on the table, Cowboy Values, Recapturing What America Once Stood For by James P. Owen. It caught my attention as I had read his first book, Cowboy Ethics, What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West. I knew I had to read Cowboy Values before I left the retreat.

Here are some thoughts from Cowboy Values that resonated with me:

Have you ever sat down and contemplated how society has changed since your childhood? For many of us, we have had perhaps 40 to 50 plus years of observation, opportunity, and now reflection. One thing that clearly stands out: Society has changed. We all are far more self-absorbed: “It’s all about me!” and “What’s in it for me?” or “Yes, I understand, but let me tell you about me!” have become common place in our culture. This self-absorption has permeated our nation. And it is not just one generation—it crosses all boundaries of age, race, religion, and nationality.

Am I wrong? Is it only me (and James P. Owen) that feels this way? What long-term impact does this have for how we relate to those around us? Does it challenge a person’s authenticity?

According to James P. Owen in Cowboy Ethics, there are 10 principles to live by. However, there are three that particularly resonate with me:

  1. Live each day with courage – Do not be afraid to take risks; courage is not bravery. It takes inner strength to live our lives as they were intended, with authenticity, honor, and truth. As researcher Brené Brown has so effectively described, vulnerability is the key to intimacy and to great joy and belonging.
  2. Always finish what you start – Do as you say and say as you do!
  3. Talk less, say more – Close your mouth and listen to the words.
It is who we are that overshadows by a thousand-fold what we may have.

I’d also like to share two of the seven Core Values discussed by Owen’s in his second book that I am intentionally making a part of my daily life:

  1. Authenticity – Are you the “real deal”? Do you carry that touch of confidence that goes along with knowing what you are all about mixed with the proper level of humility that is direct, obvious, and resonates through your actions and behavior?

Authenticity grows from:

  • Understanding one’s self as a whole person, something that takes deliberate time to discover and embrace.
  • Satisfaction in being who we are (and not trying to be anyone else)
  • Actions guided by a coherent set of core beliefs
  • Recognizing our own strengths and weaknesses (and acknowledging them as part of who you are as we are all sinners and to not believe this is deceiving yourself and others) and graciously accepting input from others as we work on our weaknesses
  • Saying what you mean
Honor is the personal integrity and character of a person.
  1. Honor – This is an inward belief and behavior that allows a person to know that they will be honorable in their behavior and decision making. It means doing the right thing especially when no one is looking. It is a moral compass that guides us. In Bill George’s book, Discover Your True North, he talks specifically about how this trait is so critical in corporate leadership, personal growth, and relationships.

I would be remiss if I did not reference an added third core value of my own —having a deep intimate faith and relationship with God. I have come to believe that these are three of the critical core values that define a person and me personally. By incorporating these principles and values into our lives we have the foundation for living out the gifts and talents given to us (as they were intended) and to have a meaningful life and relationships.

Now, back to the opening of this “rambling”: How might your core values and principles influence the first few words of the book of YOU?  

Cowboy Values, Recapturing What America Once Stood For, James P. Owen; Lyons Press
Cowboy Ethics, What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, James P. Owen; Stoecklein Publishing

Discover Your True North, Bill George; Jossey-Bass


3 thoughts on “Cowboy Values

  1. thank you for your ramblings..i am realisig how you have grown in your perpetive of life and the place that belief in our God places in our lives, keep it up Bob

    I am proud of you and all you do. I am so happy you are in my life every day




  2. Bob,

    I encourage you to keep writing!! You have a gift of sharing your inner most thoughts on pen & paper and it is awesome to see how you are growing in your faith while doing it!


    • Why thank you Van, a very kind, thoughtful and encouraging note. I am enjoying the writing and sharing dimensions of myself on paper and in a personal way that in the past has been less than transparent. I am pleased you have notice the growth and change. You are so right, my faith has grown dramatically in a very intimate way.

      Thank you again for taking the time to make a comment.



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