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Cowboy Try, Author Jim Owen speaks to Stock Growers

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – “Until I met Ty Murray a while back, I’d never heard the word ‘try.’ To me, ‘try’ meant to make an attempt. What I found out was it’s not just a verb, but it’s also a noun imbued with tremendous meaning,” Cowboy Ethics author and advocator Jim Owen told those in attendance at the Wyoming Cattle Industry 2010 Convention and Trade Show.
“When someone says a cowboy has try, it means he or she is giving it everything they have,” continued Owen. “I asked Ty what was the secret of his success, and he replied that his mother always said he was born with an extra supply of try.”
The Convention and Trade Show was hosted by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and ran June 2-4 in Casper, with the theme “Under the Constitution” and a focus on bringing the United States and its government back to basics, a message addressed by Owen’s work with the Code of the West and cowboy try.
Six years ago Owen authored his first book, Cowboy Ethics, after what he calls an epiphany while viewing the film Open Range, starring Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall.
“The film is about two cowboys on a cattle drive who stand up for what’s right against overwhelming odds,” said Owen. “I realized that all the laws, regulations and corporate ethical mandates in the world don’t begin to solve the real problem behind our country’s troubles. Something essential in our way of live has been eroded – the clear sense of right and wrong that can only come from within.”
Owen said the iconic cowboy, with his code of honor, self-reliance and courage is a larger-than-life symbol of everything that’s made America great. “I want to help keep that spirit alive and in some small way help get our country back on track,” said Owen of the new direction his life took as he began tracking down what’s now known as the Code of the West.
“I started researching the Code of the West, and I watched classic movies and read Western books to find the enduring code of conduct every cowboy knew, even though it was never written down,” said Owen. “I translated what I found to be the unwritten code into 10 principles, and found myself in a new career. Having stumbled on life changing inspiration, I found myself in the business of inspiring others.”
Today Jim Owen and the Code of the West are brought into corporations, high schools and universities across the U.S. to spread the message on the code of conduct.
“If we want to fix our country’s problems, we’ve got to get back to the basics and the fundamental principles of right and wrong, and the core values that built our country, and personal character that resides within rather than ethics manual,” said Owen.
Owen said the power of the Cowboy Code is that it couldn’t be more relevant. “We all need a solid belief system and a moral compass when pervading culture goes against what we know in our hearts to be true,” said Owen. “The freedom to believe what we choose is what America’s all about, but there are absolute truths we all need to recognize and embrace.”
Returning to the concept of try, Owen said he’s learned in the rough, dangerous world that shaped cowboy culture, try was the difference between life and death, and giving up meant you and others would die.
“Today our challenges are different and more complex, and global,” he said, specifically pointing out today’s young people who accumulate massive amounts of debt in getting their degree in the bleakest job market in decades.
“A lot of us seem to have lost our can-do spirit, and that means we’ve lost faith in the country’s future. If America ever needed try, it’s now. To me, try is a core value in itself,” said Owen. “Focus, determination and drive are the qualities all people of great success and accomplishment have in common. In these tough economic times, we all need our own supply of try, and that goes double for young people.”
The “Try Campaign” is a major new initiative launched by Owen that targets schools, youth groups, organizations and businesses, with a new book releasing this September.
“The Try Campaign will inspire especially young people to reach for the best in themselves,” said Owen of the initiative. “A lot of people are content to just get by, and being average is good enough for them. What I’ve learned in the last six years is as Ty Murray told me, if you give it 110 percent in whatever you’re pursuing, you’re a winner already regardless of the outcome. All it takes is all you’ve got.”
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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