A Cowboy’s Guide to Life: Humor and Some Damn-Good Advice

I came across these nuggets of gold during my undergraduate work. I found them humorous and filled with very good advice for living a fulfilling and successful life. The Cowboy’s Guide to Life (at least the version I copied down in my journal many years ago) is reproduced below with our interpretations beneath each. We hope you like!

“Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.”

Worrying too much about the future is often pointless, as many of the things we worry about never actually happen. It can be better to focus on the present moment and take action to address any real problems as they arise.

“Life ain’t about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.”

Resilience and adaptability in life are paramount to living a fulfilling life. It’s not always about achieving great success or reaching the top, but about being able to handle setbacks in a constructive way.

“Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.”

Effective communication is more more about how you say something than what you say. Speaking calmly and respectfully can be remarkably persuasive.

“Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.”

A practical, problem-solving approach to life will get you much further than trying to tackle every single problem that arises. Instead of trying to remove every obstacle or challenge that comes our way, sometimes it’s easier and more effective to simply work around it.

“Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.”

Forgiveness can be a powerful tool for both the forgiver and the forgiven. It can be difficult to let go of anger and resentment, but doing will almost invariably lead to greater peace and happiness.


“Don’t sell your mule to buy a plow.”

Avoid impulsive decisions that sacrifice long-term stability for short-term gain. It’s important to consider the consequences of our actions and make decisions that will benefit us in the long run.

“If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya.”

Remember to stay connected to others and not become too focused on our own goals and desires. As a leader it is important to ensure that the people following you have bought into your vision of how to accomplish the task at hand. Additionally, being aware of how your actions impact others is important to becoming respected and loved.

“Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you. You cannot unsay a cruel word.”

In other words, choose our battles wisely and be mindful of our words and actions. Once something hurtful is said or done, it cannot be taken back, so it’s important to act with a healthy dose of caution and kindness.

“Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.”

The power of restraint and choosing not to engage in unnecessary conflict or drama is a very useful skill. Sometimes the best way to handle a situation is simply to stay quiet and let things play out. Another humorous way to approach this is: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.” (I believe it was Jefferson who said this, but I could be wrong…).

“Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none.”

Don’t go searching for a fight! The most elite special forces in the world know this; it is better to walk away from a fight than to actively encourage it, especially when there is nothing to gain.

“Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.”

Circumstances can play a big role in whether or not someone is successful. It’s important to be aware of the factors that may impact our success and to be strategic in our actions. Often times, we cannot control these factors, but nonetheless we whould still do our best! Food-for-though: would Bill Gates have been Bill Gates if he was born in the year 1200???

“The easiest way to eat crow is while it’s still warm. The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller.”

This quotation encourages us to take responsibility for our mistakes and apologize as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the harder it can be to make things right. Taking responsibility for our actions is always appropriate!

“If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.”

Pretty good advice! In other words, if things are not going the way you were hoping, it is probably better to stop doing what you are doing and re-think your strategy.

“The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with looks at you in the mirror every mornin’.”

It usually isn’t the world that gets in the way, it is our own short-comings. Get out of your own way!

“Don’t worry about bitin’ off more ‘n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger’n you think.”

Take risks and push yourself outside of comfort zones, even if it feels daunting. It’s important to remember that we are often capable of much more than we realize.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.”

You will make mistakes in life! This is unavoidable. Fortunately, mistakes serve as valuable learning experience. It’s important to approach failures or setbacks with a growth mindset and use them as an opportunity to gain wisdom and improve in the future.

“Remember: Don’t squat with your spurs on.”

This humorous quotation serves as a reminder to be mindful and intentional in our actions, rather than rushing into things without proper preparation or forethought.

“Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.”

This quotation encourages us to prioritize living a life of integrity and purpose, rather than simply pursuing wealth or fame. By living in a way that aligns with our values, we can find deeper meaning and satisfaction in life.

“If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.”

Ain’t this the truth! Stay humble and don’t let success go to your head. It’s important to treat others with kindness and respect, regardless of your “status” or accomplishments.

“Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.”

This quotation encourages us to be mindful of the potential consequences of our words and actions. It’s important to think before we speak or act, because once something is said or done, it can be difficult or impossible to take back.

“The best sermons are lived, not preached.”

This saying emphasizes the importance of leading by example. Our actions speak louder than our words, so it’s important to strive to be a positive role model for others.

“Keep skunks and politicians and lawyers at a distance.”

Treat everyone with respect, but reminder to be cautious and discerning in your relationships and interactions with others. A corollary to this is that it is important to surround ourselves with people who uplift and support us, rather than those who may bring negativity or drama into our lives.

“It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.”

Let go of anger and resentment towards others; holding onto grudges only harms ourselves in the long run. It takes strength to forgive and move on, but doing so can bring greater peace and happiness into our lives.

“If it don’t seem like it’s worth the effort, it probably ain’t.”

It is important to be mindful of where we invest our time and energy, and to focus on pursuits that truly matter to us. If we don’t follow this rule it is easy to get distracted and flounder in life.

“It’s better to be a has-been than a never-was.”

This quotation encourages us to take risks and pursue our dreams, rather than letting fear hold us back. Just by trying at something you are already proving your worth in life.