I do it also; when I read a new book, I want to know if the author has anything worth knowing. For business books, I do cringe when I read the “about the author” portion because usually, it lists the colleges, the MBAs, and the basic resume of the writer, and that often doesn’t say why the writer is unique. It just tells me that the author followed all the rules which everyone in the world already knows. So what’s unique about following the rules? As I went through this process for The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business, I felt it didn’t come close to telling the story a reader would need to understand why they should read the book. Yes, I could talk about my years at the University of Cincinnati and my studies in economics and philosophy. I could also talk about my early work at Cincinnati Milacron, where I was first taught Lean manufacturing techniques that I would continue to utilize to significantly affect the next three decades for some of the biggest companies in the world. But to be honest, I wouldn’t say I like name-dropping to justify my personal history, which contains the experiences that make The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business such a unique book on strategy. I’d want to know why this concept is different from everything else with a name like that.
The scope of this book is significant; I wrote it to offer a counterpoint to well-known books on eastern philosophy and strategy like The Art of War and The Book of Five Rings. I have often felt that America needed its own book on strategy from a uniquely western perspective. If they are out there, I haven’t read them, and I’ve read many books. Most books have a decisively progressive slant and adopt in some way elements of eastern philosophy. I felt that needed to change, so I set out to take my experiences in business, especially with Lean manufacturing, and separate the eastern elements from it and apply a perspective that is specifically American. After all, America has the most outstanding economy globally that everyone else in the world is chasing after. China, for instance, has 1.4 billion people to the 328 million people in North America, yet still, there is more GDP produced in the minority population. It never made sense to me why Americans were following after eastern philosophies in India, China, and Japan when there were plenty of examples of a path to success for organizations large and small in America. Why would you follow after all the second-place countries?
That is why just talking about the college experiences, the formal education paths for me doesn’t come close to explaining why this book is worth reading or is different in any way from anything else. Yet it is because the experiences that did form the book’s contents came from all the other experiences I’ve had in life, outside of the 10-to-12-hour business day. Since I was 12, I’ve been working professionally, from mowing grass for clients to mobsters who owned various restaurants as fronts for money laundering. I’ve been a repo-man. A bodyguard. I’ve sold everything from credit cards to cars for a living. I’ve been part of many business upstarts. It took me until age 45 to have more years on my life than times I’ve been to court. In some of those appearances, I acted as my own lawyer. I’ve also served as my own engineer when there was trouble with public officials and their lock on employees critical to those approvals at times. I’ve been so broke that I had to work two and three jobs at a time to keep food on the table for my family. I’ve been in trouble with many people, and sometimes they never returned home at night; some of those engagements were quite violent. I’ve associated with some of the wealthiest people that society creates; I’ve been in big squabbles with mayors of cities and learned the hard way how politics can destroy entrepreneurial enterprises. I’ve had enough disputes with politicians over the years to write several books on the subject. It started with Ross Perot; I was with his family on election day 1992. I was with Rob Portman, the current outgoing senator for Ohio when he did his first interview on WLW radio in Cincinnati, which I set up and filmed for him as some of his first campaign material. And there has been a mountain of them from those guys to the present. To entwine all those experiences into a business career that has been quite full is a challenge. Some of my employments have been for decades. Some involved only a few years, and I was attracted to them under their desperate circumstances. Such as one who was suffering a labor strike as they were building conveyors for Amazon before anybody knew who Amazon was. I was hired to create product and was put quickly into management because I was willing to cross the picket line and fight in the parking lots with angry union workers. It was never easy, and I sometimes felt it was all hopeless.
Much of this would never fit the back of a book to describe why an author of a new book wrote about some new revolutionary thing. Yet as hard as it was. Sometimes things felt so hard, and the air was so thick that getting up the next day seemed impossible. I could have traditionally played the game. I could have bent the knee and been promoted to a wonderful middle-class life and enjoyed golf courses on bright Saturdays through the summer. I was invited many times over, but it essentially took me three decades to get the game figured out, then to report it in some unique way. I didn’t know why at the time, but I couldn’t play it safe for anything to save my life. Saying all that, somehow, I’ve managed to stay married for over three decades. Its always been a strange dance for me between political entanglements and the need to make a living. It was never a question of having the background or the pedigree. It was always about taking wild chances and fighting hard to make them come true and crawl over many bodies in the process. Never on my end were the conflicts malicious for the sake of success, but for the sport and purity of the game of business itself and the flow of economic activity that fueled the world. I have always been in love with capitalism. When it comes down to it through lots of trauma, blood, extremely long days, tragedy, and pressure from the top of political circles unwilling to acknowledge capitalism in all its purity, I have as a result, quite a lot to say and share in this culmination of this book on strategy, The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business. It can be used to save your company. Or it can be used to save your country. It can also be used to save you, your family, and your community. Because the same tools that make anything better can be used to solve everything, whether on the micro or the macro level.
But along the way, I have spent several decades with some dear old friends in the Wild West arts community. Back in the old days when I was riding bicycles 12 miles a day to three different jobs for years and years so my wife could drive our kids to school because we could only afford one car, I practiced with bullwhips so that I could compete in the competitions they had at the Annie Oakley Festival in Greenville, Ohio. They also did Cowboy Fast Draw events at the Annie Oakley event, but I could never afford to get a gun rig to play that sport. So, I became very proficient with bullwhips and did very well with it, eventually giving me opportunities in Hollywood to develop a new 3D camera system for RealD 3D. They wanted to use my whip abilities with fire whips to paint camera images in a 3D space for computer graphics which ended up in movies like The Immortals and Iron Man 2. But upon taking on a challenging project shortly after that, I had managed to scrape together enough money to buy a fast draw rig. And a good Vaquero pistol so I could learn Cowboy Fast Draw, something I had wanted to do for at least two decades. As I practiced that sport to maintain myself during this very stressful project with international implications, I took my experiences described, all the things I had seen and learned about people, politics, and business and applied these new skills for this book.
It took me a few years to practice and work out the skills to feel good about where I was, and I applied those skills directly to the manuscript. Once I completed the manuscript, I celebrated by traveling over 10,000 miles all over the Wild West, from New Mexico, where I finished the book up through South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah—and many places in between. I used my experiences on that trip to shape the editing process and take the book to the next level. Additionally, the decision for this step came after the election of 2020. Of course, being politically involved, I had a more intimate connection to the results, so those elements needed to be entwined into the manuscript as well. We were, after all, living in monumental historical circumstances, and a lot of people were looking for answers. I write a lot on my blog, I always have, and I give away a lot of free advice to help people any way I can. But a book is something else, is something special. People buy a book to create a change state for themselves, and buying it sets it apart from other kinds of media. The purchase and reading of a book form an intimate relationship that carries an underestimated value in any civilized society. So my intentions for the book were not to help people make money in business. It will certainly do that. But what I wanted to make was a warrior for capitalism, giving people the psychological ability to fight for Natural Law and apply it to the world in ways that have never been taught.
I could write several books about the things I have mentioned here, and maybe someday enough people might show interest in doing it. Maybe I will. I would need some time and distance for that. When you crawl through so much opposition to get somewhere in life, you tend to want to spike the football, and that wouldn’t make a very good book. But taking the pain and triumph and applying it to real characters from our American west period historically, before the progressive era came along intending to sink capitalism, that was just enough emotional distance for me to work with, and I am very happy with the result. It took a long time to flush out the concepts. And I do hope that you enjoy it. I’ve read so many books over the years that I consider to this day to be great gifts shared by authors with hard-fought experiences. As I look back on my own experiences, the question always comes up, would you do anything differently? Would you take a more leisurely route? The answer is no because, ultimately, who you are is what you do along the way. So I mean to share those experiences with people willing to do things in their lives, to gain reputations that are worth building. But instead of losing in life, I intend for all I speak to in writing or in-person to win.
To make your children proud of you. To make your spouse love you over many decades of marriage and serve your community with honor as any good warrior would, those are the goals of The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business, to be a Ghost, to be a Legend, to be Succesful! The intention of this book is not to make it easy or to follow some get-rich-quick scheme. But to help win more than you lose and to become a legend in your lifetime, whether in significant ways or small ways. Sometimes the best legend in the world is the person who has the family dog come up to your chair looking for a snack and a pat on the head. Sometimes it’s a mob of fans. But whatever it is, I want more people to feel it, to relish it, and to live good lives the way we were all meant to.