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Success Lessons From Josey Wales By John Watson

The Outlaw Josey Wales is an interesting Western that I have watched many times. It is full of success lessons for the discerning!

A Missouri farmer joins a Confederate guerilla unit to avenge the murder of his wife and son and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who killed his family.

Throughout the film, Josey spits chewing tobacco juice on everything that moves or does not move like the dead bodies of his enemies. He hits insects, dogs and a snake oil salesman who claims that his product can do 'almost anything'. Josey tells him to use it to clean the tobacco juice off his white jacket.

He also uses spit as a distraction before shooting down his foes. Occasionally he spits accurately into a spittoon. Practice makes you competent! Daily practice makes you an expert.

Pursued by the Union redlegs and his former Confederate leader, Josey Wales heads out for Red Indian country to escape capture.

His opponents chase him across a big river on a ferry raft. Josey stays cool enough to take a nap as his pursuers begin to cross the river. He then stays calm enough to shoot through the rope that is pulling the raft laden with horses and men. He gives them a 'Missouri boat ride' as they are swept away downstream.

This incident provides another great success lesson which is to stay calm under pressure. Everyone thinks,shoots and does everything better when they do not panic.

The young guerilla colleague, Jamie, whom Josey rescued from the redlegs, was wounded and is dying. Josey looks after him telling him not to look at the wound:

"Don’t look at it, boy."

Great advice. Don't brood over your problem. Be aware of it but then get enthusiastic about how you will feel when your problem is solved.

Soon after the river escape, two bounty hunters, Abe and Elijah, sneak up on Josey. Both are excited at the thought of the reward for capturing Josey Wales but Elijah (Lije) is also full of doubts and warnings. Elijah reminds me of Shakespeare's great lines in Measure for Measure:

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."

Abe has to keep telling Lije to shut up so that he can concentrate on capturing Josey and getting the reward money. We all need to concentrate without allowing doubts to take over our minds. However in this case Lije is the wise one and Abe loses his life and Lije's by not listening to his warnings.

In the film, Abe pulls his gun on Josey: "I've got him, Lije."

"It's him, Abe. It's him! We've got the Josey Wales, Abe! I've seen him ride side by side with Bloody Bill, Abe. We've got reward money coming. Watch it, Abe. He's mean as a rattler and twice as fast with them pistols."

Abe tells Josey to "Move on back; move on back!"

Lije comes up with more warnings: "Watch him, Abe! I've seen him do some things…"

"Shut up, Lije"

Abe explains why he isn't killing Josey immediately:

"Now, Mr Josey Wales.I'd just as soon shoot you now but it'd be harder to drag your body through the brush to where we can get a pound price for you. "

Lije wisely disagrees: "Shoot him now, Abe. Shoot him, now!"

"Shut up, Lije." Abe is trying hard to concentrate on Josey!

"Move your left hand down and unbuckle that pistol belt. Make it nice and slow so that I can count the hairs on that hand. See, Lije. You pull his teeth and he's harmless as a heel hound. Always wanted to face out one of these big pistol fighters they raise all the fuss about."

Abe is on a roll! Lije is still rightly concerned:

"Watch out! He's probably got another pistol."

"Shut up, Lije."

Josey's young dying friend distracts the bounty hunters with the possibility that there might be stolen gold under his blanket and both of the bounty hunters are soon shot. Lije was right Josey does, in fact, have an extra pistol in a shoulder holster!

Jamie wants to bury them but Josey is as practical and unsentimental as ever:

"Buzzards got to eat; same as worms."

Later in the film there is another example of successful self-defence. Josey is confronted by some Union Soldiers. He again uses the distract them first technique by asking them a question to engage their minds before he shoots them:

"Are you going to pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?"

I won't go any further in the film in case you haven't seen it but already there are some great success lessons in the story so far:

1) If you want to become a successful expert at something (even spitting) practice daily!

2) If you can stay cool under pressure and control the adrenaline surge that usually accompanies stress and danger you are more likely to deal with any problem (like pursuing soldiers) successfully.

3) Don't brood over a problem. Just take note of it and then imagine how you might feel if the problem had been successfully solved.

4) If you need to focus on a difficult task, it usually helps to avoid doubt and to shut up any distracting voices like Lije's. However, occasionally, it is wiser to listen to the distracting or sceptical voices!

5) Defend yourself successfully by distracting your opponent before you strike!

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