Having grown up in western Wyoming, I was surrounded by cowboys, my favorite of all time being my dad, Ken Bigler. He grew up in the very small coal mining town of Kemmerer, Wyoming, and, from a young age, worked on several different local ranches. As he worked the ranches, and later owned his own horses, he learned a certain code of life, which he passed on to me and my brother as we grew up. I admit I didn’t pay much attention to the meaning of the code until I grew up and would rely on it for living my life. The code was actually crystallized in my mind when I later read Cowboy Ethics (What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West) by James P. Owen. And then 10 years ago the Wyoming State Legislature adopted the Code of the West as the state’s official code of ethics. In today’s world of pandemics and political tensions, I believe we could all benefit by following the Code of the West.
- Live each day with courage and pride: Cowboys endured hostile enemies, stampedes, and raging rivers but faced each day with grit and perseverance. Today we, too, have shown that we can survive the worst that can be thrown at us –a deadly virus, political upheaval, gasoline shortages, etc. – with resilience and strength.
- Take pride in your work: My dad instilled in us to do a job, whether big or little, the best you can. All work has value, whether it be cleaning the horse corral, washing the truck, or brushing the horse down. As he would say, “Don’t do it half-____d”
- Always finish what you start: I suppose any article about cowboys must mention John Wayne at least once. In the classic Western film, Red River, John Wayne, playing Thomas Dunson, makes this statement while on a cattle drive: “But remember this: Every man who signs on for the drive agrees to finish it. There’ll be no quitting along the way—not by me, not by you.”
- Do what has to be done: This last year is a good example of this principle: If we have to wear a mask, wear it. If we need to get a shot, get it.
- Be tough, but fair: Sometimes we have to be firm with those we interact with in life and business. Saying no to my granddaughter’s request for more candy is not going to hurt her.
- When you make a promise, keep it: The old saying goes: “People are only as good as their word ”. The Financial Planning profession has its own Code of Ethics that Advisors follow so that our clients can trust us and count on our guidance. This Code of Ethics was not new to me when I became a financial planner. It had been instilled in me at an early age: When you promise to do something, do it. No excuses.
- Ride for the brand: You ride for yourself, your family, or your company. Everyone at LongView has a belief system that is client-centered. We do what is in the best interest of the client. That is our brand.
- Talk less and say more: I have been around a few silent cowboy types (not my dad), but when they did say something, it was profound. It could be as simple as, “Good ride.” You don’t have to constantly text, call, post, or praise, but when you do, make it count.
- Some things aren’t for sale: Our reputation, our character, our dignity—these are not for sale. Keep them close to your heart and protect them fiercely.
- Know where to draw the line: Decide what is important for yourself, your family, your company.
Thank you for reading my ramblings about Wyoming and the Code of the West. The Code is near and dear to my heart and shaped my value system throughout my blessed life. I think adhering to these principles will make everyone’s life better. May y’all continue to ride out your sunsets.