The Code of the West (or 10 pretty good rules to live by)


CodeWestAs I sit in my office and listen to the news about all the challenges and problems we face on the local, state, national and international scene, I keep thinking much of this could be overcome by embracing a simple Code of Behavior to guide our actions. This came to me as I reflected on last week’s visit to the Black Hills and listening to Lakota healer, Gene Thin Elk.  While many did not abide by this code in dealing with our Native American brothers, the Code of the West seems to fit the bill quite nicely.


There have been thousands of business and self help books written in the last 50 years, but the Code offers all the wisdom one needs to live a better life, have a happier marriage, and be a better boss or employee. It is also a pretty good Code of Ethics for elected officials.

I am reminded of a story about Muriel Humphrey chiding Vice President Hubert Humphrey following a very long winded speech, “Dear to be immortal you do not have to be eternal.” Likewise, the Code offers 10 common sense guidelines for personal and professional success. I would love to hear from others about the power and wisdom in this simple book of rules.

1.    Live each day with courage - to me this simply means taking things as the come. Some days life sucks, but the sun comes up each morning…a brand new sun for a brand new day.

2.    Take pride in your work – To paraphrase Martin Luther King, “Even if your job is that of a street sweeper, do the job so that whoever passes can comment, there lives a street sweeper who does his job well.” This alone could revolutionize business in every sector.

3.    Always finish what you start – Whether it is keeping political promises, meeting deadlines, being committed to a marital partner, finishing your homework or whatever, you will be remembered as much by what you did not do as what you accomplished.

4.    Do what has to be done – We should outlaw expressions such as, “That’s not my job” and “That is not in my job description.” If it will help the business, keep peace in the family, help someone out or make them happy – just do it!

5.    Be tough, but fair
– Making employees do what they promised to do, demanding perfection, setting high standards, and dismissing those who don’t comply with policies and procedures do not make you an SOB…it makes you a leader. One of the nicest compliments I ever received as a leader was from a man 30 years my senior was, “The SOB was fair and had a great operation.”

6.    When you make a promise, keep it. Having a job is promising to come to work on time and give 100% while you are there. This is as true for the President as it is for the street sweeper.

7.    Ride for the brand.
My grandfather would not allow me to complain about my employer in his presence. When I did, he simply asked me if I was cashing their checks saying, “If you work for a man, work for him. Do it his way because he earned that right to lead. If you want to bad mouth him, quit and then feel free to say anything you want.”

8.    Talk less and say more.
If you can learn to listen with your heart as well as your ears, you will discover you will understand as well as hear. As Mark Twain said, the difference between using the right or wrong word is like the difference between lightening and the lightning bug. Simply stated, don’t speak unless you have something to say.

9.    Remember that some things are not for sale.
Loyalty is something that one must earn. You cannot buy any of the really important things in life: love, trust, faith, honesty, understanding, serenity or hope…and these are also principles that should never be up for sale.

10.    Know where to draw the line. We need to think win/win; not compromise. Compromise is lose/lose. The solutions that people really love are those that recognize the value of each person and seek to meet everyone’s needs. The solutions can be found if we have patience, understanding and creativity.