Life lessons can be valuable once learned, but the acquisition process is usually painful. Absorbing life lessons vicariously? Much better -- especially when the process is also entertaining.
Questionable ethics, murders, and trips to the "train station," aside, here are a few life and leadership lessons from Yellowstone.
"The brand isn't something you earn. It's something you live up to."
The brand John Dutton refers to is an actual "Y" seared onto ranch hands' chests to show their loyalty to the ranch and, by extension, the Dutton family.
To Dutton, the brand doesn't signify a destination.
The brand is the start of a journey, one whose steps must be earned every day.
The same is true for "paying your dues." Dues aren't paid (past tense.) Dues get paid, each and every day. The only real measure of your value is the tangible contribution you make on a daily basis.
No matter what you've done or accomplished in the past, you're never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do the grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring.
Success means never feel entitled -- except to the fruits of your labor.
"Living day to day isn't living. It's surviving, with no regard for tomorrow."
Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go there think, "Wait ... no one else is here ... why am I doing this?" and leave, never to return.
That's why the extra mile is such a lonely place.
And is why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities, especially when you have a plan for where you want to go.
So be early. Or stay late. Or make the extra phone call. Or send the extra email. Or do the extra research. Or help a customer unload a shipment. Don't wait to be asked; offer. Don't just tell employees what to do; show them what to do, and work beside them.
Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do, especially if other people aren't doing that one thing.
Sure, it's hard.
But that's what will make you different.
We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support ...
Say you're sorry.
But never follow an apology with a disclaimer like, "But I was really mad, because ... " or "But I did think you were ... " or any statement that in any way places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.
Say you're sorry, say why you're sorry, and take all the blame. No less. No more.
That's what Dutton does when he apologizes to Beth after finding out she had an abortion when she was a teenager that left her unable to have children.
"I'm sorry, Beth," Dutton says. "That you thought you couldn't come to me. That you thought I'd be ashamed, or you'd be in trouble for it or whatever you thought. I am the one safe person in the world that you can come to for anything. And it breaks my heart I didn't make you know that."
"I know it now," Beth replies. "And now is all that matters."
Because a sincere, heartfelt apology is the best way to earn the opportunity to create a fresh start.
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but everything you know and everyone you see everywhere is gonna die."
Beth answers Rip by saying, "I should embroider that on a pillow."
Possibly she should, but not for the reason you might think. Thinking about death can be depressing, and even make life seem meaningless.
But thoughts of death can also be liberating. Those thoughts could inspire you to make the best of every day: not in a heedless pursuit of instant gratification, but to live your life as purposefully and meaningfully as possible.
Today could be the last day you get to make a difference in another person's life. Today could be the last day you get to tell the people close to you that you love them.
And of course it goes beyond that. Want to start a business? Do it now; don't wait five years. After all: You may not have five years. Want to change careers? Wait too long and you may never get the chance.
Want to learn something, accomplish something, become something? Start doing it now.
Time is the most precious asset you possess. Don't waste yours.
"If ranching is so hard, how come you do it?" "Because it's one hell of a life."
The same is true if you're an entrepreneur. The effort, sacrifice, risk -- all with no guarantee of return -- are high.
Even so, entrepreneurs would rather fail on their terms than succeed on someone else's. They would rather reach for their own future than have their future lie in someone else's hands.
They don't want to live someone else's life; they want to live the life they want to live.
And so should you.