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Cowboy Wisdom to Survive the Wild West of the Business World

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Prime Time TV and Radio Show Host, Author, Speaker
4 min read
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There’s a lot to be said about the life of a cowboy. From the no-nonsense attitude to a tougher-than-nails work ethic, a cowboy can teach everyone a lot, personally and professionally.

Cowboys may not work on Wall Street, but they are some of the most business-savvy entrepreneurs out there.

One of my favorite cowboys of all time was John Wayne. This man had it all, from Midwestern roots to Hollywood stardom. He was a force to reckon with. He knew what it took to get things done -- something business owners and entrepreneurs can appreciate and relate to.

Here are five lessons from the celebrated actor that have stayed with me over time -- and that college graduates, budding entrepreneurs and seasoned leaders can learn from:

Related: The Cowboy CEO's 8 Business Rules Learned Roping Cattle

1. “A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by.” -- John Wayne

Set up goals and steps so you can meet your conditions of satisfaction. If what I’m about to do doesn’t meet my three conditions (grow professionally, become wealthy and have fun), I won’t do it. Have I turned down great opportunities? Yes, but I’ve also vetted many more bad opportunities in the process, picking only the absolute best to devote my time and resources to. This is the mind-set that entrepreneurs need to have. Otherwise everything becomes a distraction.

2. “Don’t pick a fight, but if you find yourself in one I suggest you make damn sure you win.” -- John Wayne

Business moves too fast to be caught up in squabbles, so unless I know I am going to win, I don’t entertain fighting. It’s a waste of time, energy, and resources. My enemies and opponents know that when I step up to ride that rodeo, there’s only one outcome. With that attitude, it’s rare that things escalate to that point because everyone involved wants to avoid it. 

3. “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” -- John Wayne

Don’t let fear get in the way! Whether you are starting your own business or have been in the industry for years, opportunities are always appearing. What matters is whether you rise to the challenge and take those risky moves. Step outside your comfort zone, expand into new markets or try a new marketing strategy.  

Related: Are You a Risk-Taker or Just Reckless?

4. “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” -- John Wayne

You don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s OK. Everyone who starts something commences as a beginner. Even this cowboy had to buy Horses for Dummies when purchasing his first horse. The key is to be in a constant state of awareness, so that you're continually looking for ways to expand your knowledge, develop new ideas or tweak things that aren’t working right. 

5. “Hurry it up. We’re burnin’ daylight.” -- John Wayne

John Wayne makes a great point: There's only 24 hours in a day, so use them right. Think with the end goal in mind, so that every step is calculated and your time is efficiently used. Use the time you’re given wisely, whether it’s 118 seconds on an elevator or during the greatest sales presentation of your life. Time doesn’t stop for anyone. So if something doesn’t meet your conditions for satisfaction, hurry it up because you’re burnin’ daylight. 

Related: Alright, Alright, Alright': What Matthew McConaughey Can Teach Entrepreneurs

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