The cowboy’s job was rough and dangerous, and therefore relied heavily on the integrity and character of other cowboys working with him. No man would ride with another that could not be trusted. One of their core values was honor. To earn respect and be known as a man of honor, you must prove yourself as being worthy of trust. You must be someone that can be counted on and one that keeps their word. If a cowboy said he would do something, there was no doubt he would. Failure to keep their word was as bad as lying or cheating.
In the movie Lonesome Dove, Woodrow Call must keep a promise to his friend Gus. After driving their herd of cattle from Texas to Montana, where they planned on setting up a ranch, Gus is shot in the leg and later dies from the injury. Knowing he was dying, Gus asks Woodrow to take his body back to Texas and bury him. Though this sounded foolish, Woodrow agreed to do so and found himself making the long trip back to Texas. His friends told him he was crazy, Gus would never know. Yet Woodrow knew a promise was a promise. A cowboy’s word was his sacred bond.
When we keep a promise, it communicates to that person that we value him or her. When leaders keep promises to their teams, employees gain trust and respect for management. And when we keep the promises made to our children, they gain certainty, security and trust.
“Remember that if you break your word; you will be breaking something that cannot be repaired.” Aristotle
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