Dinosaurs were my thing. Not cowboys. The 6-year-old me thought that dinosaurs, with their many shapes and sizes, their teeth and spikes, their tails, wings, and fins were way cooler than some dude on a horse with a hat and a gun. Luckily Jim Owen, the author of The Try, (Skyhorse Publishing), saw things differently.
Inspired by the cowboy films of his youth, Owen's fascination with the West and the unwritten code of the cowboy did not fade, as my dinosaur obsession did. The myth and the meaning of the cowboy only deepened and Owen began to see, in the relatively simple, and hardworking culture of the cowboy, values and lessons that are missing in much of modern culture.
All the laws, all the regulations, and all the corporate ethics manuals in the world don't begin to address the fundamental problem. The missing ingredient, Jim realized, was the clear, unshakable sense of right and wrong that can only come from within.
In his first two books, Cowboy Ethics and Cowboy Values (Skyhorse Publishing), Owen spells out the principles and values of the code of the West. They include things like "take pride in your work," and "do what has to be done" and "know where to draw the line." There are 10 in all, plus what Owen likes to call, "your personal 11th principle," which is a value or belief that you can add to the cowboy code to make it your own.
Even for someone less enamored of cowboy culture like myself, cowboy cthics can grow on you -- as indeed is has for people around the country. In addition to Cowboy Ethics being a bestseller, the State of Wyoming has adopted the 10 principals as the official state code. Owen has also spent considerable time on the speaking circuit, and has developed a curriculum of 'Values-Based Education" inspired by his books.
Cherry Creek High School, located in Denver, is one school that is utilizing cowboy ethics in its curriculum. Many more schools have founded One-Ten clubs based on Owen's writing in which students pledge to live by core values and give 110 percent to everything they take on.
If Owen's work thus far doesn't make you want to put down your dinosaurs and give the Code of the West a chance, his latest book is, in my opinion, his most inspiring. The Try is made up of 12 stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Owen has built this book for the classroom, with reviews, exercises and opportunities for the reader to apply the lessons to his or her life. and among Owen's 12 people there is only one Cowboy: The seven-time, all round, world rodeo champion, Ty Murry.
The Try includes stories of relentlessness like Ty Murry; instances of vision, like Jessica Jackley, the co-founder of micro-finance site KIVA; accounts of fearlessness, like Carlotta Walls LaNier, one of the nine black students first admitted to Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas; tales of resiliency like Francisco Reveles, who escaped from a youth dominated by gang violence to become a powerful mentor to help many, many more do the same. Each of the stories in The Try is riveting, and inspiring. Owen captures the core principles that helped each ordinary individual to do something extraordinary. The overriding theme of all of them is that they had Try.
In standard English usage, 'try' is a verb that means 'to make an attempt.' But in cowboy culture, the word is a noun invested with profound meaning. When Cowboys say, 'That cow hand, he's got try,' they're talking about the quality of giving something every ounce of effort you can muster. And if a cowboy really, really admires someone, he'll say that person's got The Try -- which means he or she is someone who always gives 110 percent and never, ever quits.
There are many inspiring anecdotes, salient points, and get-in-the-game-and-play-your-heart-out-isms in The Try. It cuts through most of our stories about ourselves - why we don't do what we say and can't achieve our dreams -- with a kind of context shift that lands like a light at the end of the tunnel. We are responsible for our lives. Circumstances happen, and while you can't control them, you can control how you respond to them. With that declaration comes a power that makes anything possible.
Read The Try, and get to work on your deepest, most inspiring goal. As Owen writes at the end if his forward, "I truly believe that if you've got The Try, anything is possible. All it takes, is all you've got."