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Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?

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What do you think of when you hear the word ‘cowboy’? A western warrior? An athlete? Perhaps a dedicated soldier or shepherd? A hero? Most likely lots of thoughts come to mind, but for the purpose of this post, I’ll share with you my vision of the legendary figure.

A cowboy is someone who braves all elements of life, even when the going gets tough; a driven and intelligent individual who sees and thinks outside of the box and always one step ahead. A cowboy works hard from sun up to sun down, without complaining. A cowboy is reliable, sees the value in his or her word, and loves a challenge yet learns from mistakes. A cowboy takes responsibility for his or her actions.

I titled this post the way I did, not because I’m a Paula Cole fan (even though I am a big fan of nineties music) but because these days it seems individuals, “cowboys”, no longer exist in the work place. Most young professionals expect a seasoned salary plus nights and weekends off-fresh out of college- without paying their dues. There’s no challenge or learning from mistakes, solely the mindset of me, Me, ME! Why is it society now believes-mediocracy is ok and that I should have everything my neighbor has? I should always get an award, even if I did nothing to earn it?

Recently I read an article stating that a certain school system in North Carolina is thinking of doing away with valedictorian and salutatorian positions. Instead the system plans to adopt a college practice of recognizing all students with a certain GPA level and tagging a fancy Latin title to the end of their name. Why not award, or better yet honor these individuals for their success in the classroom? Don’t hide their achievements only to make others feel better. Life is about ups and downs. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It doesn’t mean you are a loser, but it can determine whether or not you are winner down the road.

This morning I had the privilege of speaking with students studying Communication at the University of Vaasa in Finland via Skype. They asked me excellent questions about being an American journalist, and my thoughts on the future of broadcast. In one of the final questions, a student asked what advice would I give to aspiring journalists? I responded with several things- write your own stuff, check your sources, work hard- but the point I hope I hit home the most, was to be respectful of others; even if that means sometimes you miss out. Realize that the old-timers in your field actually know what they’re talking about. Learn from them, instead of just complaining about their ancient ways. Overlook the fact that they prefer pen/ paper to your iPad, and listen to their rules of thumb. I promise it will make you a better employee;but if for nothing else, keep in mind that one day- you’ll be in their shoes. Also I tried to communicate, do a good job and your work will speak for itself. You won’t have to look hard for jobs because they’ll come to you in due time. On the same token, if you do a bad job, it’ll be hard to lose that reputation as well.

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