Code of the West

"meat's not meat until it's in the pan" . Charles M. Russell

Code of the West

Live each day with courage

Take pride in your work

Always finish what you start

Do what has to be done

Be tough but fair

When you make a promise, keep it

Ride for the brand

Talk less, and say more

Remember that some things aren’t for sale

Know where to draw the line

I saw this in the Denver Post a couple weeks ago. It sparks ideas and memories of so many influences in my own life. Like that old storytelling cowboy that came to my elementary school, who may or may not have been Robert Duvall. Or the camping trips with my dad, who used the time to teach life lessons on golden rules and the art of making scrambled egg potato bacon awesomeness.

The article, written by Marcel Dumestre, said this particular list comes from a book about business integrity called Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.  My favorite line up there is “ride for the brand.” It’s poetic and genuine and puts just enough emphasis on loyalty without going overboard. We often find ourselves on the same team with our competitors one day, and then on the opposite side of the rope the next. That happens within companies as well as between them. But this year, especially, we’re all a little nervous and also a little proud that we’re able to dig in, work together, succeed, fail, rally, and try again. What makes us scramble, makes us stronger. It forces us to define ourselves a little better and live up to our own “brands”.

Nobody says it better than Charles Russell, whose exhibit at The Denver Art Museum runs until January 10th. His life’s work was to shine a light on the beauty, danger and humor of the frontier when codes were more than metaphors and missteps had stark results. Spend a couple hours there if you get a chance. As we head into the new year questioning the economy, it’s a reminder that living with integrity gives us a softer place to land – it is just as important now as it was back then. As Dumestre points out perfectly, “A principled approach to business is what we need for a secure future. Anything less creates nothing but enormously expensive cow pies.”


  1. This makes for a great New Year’s resolution that we should all be able to keep.

  2. A beautiful contribution, Karen. One of my favorite of the year to reflect upon. A simple code to remind us that goodness isn’t complicated.

Submit a comment