There are two groups we get placed into based on how we approach life. We either approach situations with "black & white" decisions or our decision making process is a little more blended; the resulting color is "gray". What happens if our decisions are black & white sometimes and gray other times? Does this mean we are lost or does it mean we created a "charcoal" group?
Recently I've spent a lot of time doing that thinking thing again. Reflection is something that can be very difficult to engage in. I don't blame anyone that chooses not to reflect back on experiences in their life or conversations they have had. It can be one of the most emotionally challenging experiences we may have. That emotion business can be a dangerous territory to enter into! For some reason I choose to attempt to reflect on my experiences. I keep telling myself the big guy above must keep giving me experiences for a reason and I better listen if he's talking. Recently this reflection has been centered on a man very dear to my life and many others, including the cattle industry. The many memories and thoughts I had led me to this box we put ourselves in regarding how to think. The man in my life was a true role model. What made him such a good role model was his code of honor. Three words we don't hear too often these days. I got to thinking about discussions we'd had on how he lived his life. We can always think of experiences and examples of day to day life with someone, but when we combined those daily experiences we had only one result. Our memories were not of actual events or stories, our memories were of the man that he was and he was a man of honor.
Honor might imply perfection; however perfection is the farthest thing from my thoughts. Honor is something much deeper, honor is making tough decisions, where you either face them or run away cowardly. The type of decisions that often result in a person taking the more difficult path because it is the right thing to do rather than taking the easy way out. Those black & white decisions of wrong verses right. A man of honor however, knows that living a life of only black & white might not always be the right thing to do. Sometimes decisions require compassion or more often they require empathy. The world around us likes to put people in a box and it makes them very uncomfortable when someone doesn't quite fit into that box. The world can't wrap its mind around that and tends to make us think that being black & white is wrong or close-minded. Here I had always thought black & white meant sticking to your personal beliefs and ethical code. Other times the world thinks a gray thinker implies wishy-washy, flaky behavior, ready to lean whichever way the wind blows. Once again the world confused me because I thought adding a little gray meant that sometimes not every situation can be handled the same. I guess if we listen to the world around us, we are pretty much sitting on our thumbs waiting to decide how we should think.
I do know that I am thankful for the 25 years I was able to be around a man with honor. His honor gave an example of living life that was far different than what the world tells me every day. My reflection over recent weeks led me to the decision that it is okay to be more of a charcoal thinker. I had been influenced by a strong, self-assured role model that had conviction in every decision. When the world told me it's not "cool" to go after your passions, befriend the person that didn't fit into a mold, or remain ethical no matter the cost; someone else in my life showed me differently. As humans we all struggle doing the right thing all the time and we always will as perfection is out of reach. If we keep people around us that live to a similar code of honor, we should be just fine.
As we in this industry face every day ahead of us, let us remain holding tight to our code of honor. Every day seems to get more and more difficult to live as cattlemen in this world, let alone as cattlemen with honor. Are we going to take to take the easy way, no matter how unethical and deceitful it is? Will we take the more difficult road, remaining true to what we know is right? My hope is our industry remains true to what has been instilled in us as the right thing to do. Do not listen to world's voice inside your head telling you nice guys finish last. Nice guys will always finish first at the very end of the race, their perseverance and endurance of remaining honor able puts them ahead when it matters most. Our industry is up against the grayest of gray thinkers every single day. Many out there do not even have personal beliefs anymore or have their own true opinions. Let us continue thinking outside the box, while bringing black & white values with us every step of the way. If we are able to remain open minded enough to adapt to situations that block our path, yet remain strong enough in ourselves to not get lost along the way, we will be able to finish first when it truly matters.