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7 Lessons From The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral

October 21, 2014

cartoon showing Wyatt Earp at O.K. Corral texting message "Kicked Clantons' butt" while Ike Clanton is lying in pile of bodies and texting "We lost"

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The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is the most famous shootout in the history of the Old West. It took place in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, on October 26, 1881.

The Earps won, the Clantons lost.

The real gunfight– not the one you see in the movies– teaches some important lessons. The lessons are the same, no matter what product or service you offer.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

1. Legend (and the movies) say the Earps were the good guys. It’s more muddled than that. Muddled enough that the Earps were tried (and acquitted) for murder after the shootout.

Lesson: Don’t be so quick to judge, to immediately categorize people (clients, customers) as good or bad. Use good sense, judge people by their actions over time. Keep an open mind, and give people a chance. You might just pick up a loyal friend and customer for life.


2. The entire gunfight lasted about 30 seconds.

Lesson: Be prepared for a life- or career-defining moment. Be alert for a window of opportunity, and seize the moment. Such windows may be open for only a very short time.


3. Wyatt Earp was the only “good guy” who wasn’t hit in the shootout. He outlived everyone else in the fight, and died at age 80 in 1929.

Lesson: Sometimes you get lucky. But it’s also true that you make your own luck. You do it largely by being there, being in the arena. You work hard, put in the time, gain experience, sharpen your skills. If and when your big chance arrives, you’re ready– ready to “get lucky.”


4. The gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral. It took place in a narrow lot next to Fly’s Photographic Studio, six doors west of the rear entrance to the corral.

Lesson: Never take “facts” for granted. That includes the specs for a design or any other job. The client may be mistaken, misinformed, using the wrong terms, and/or doing some wishful thinking. Be proactive: do the research, ask questions, fill in client knowledge gaps. In short, bring your expertise to bear. It’s part of the job, and crucial to successful results.


5. Town Marshall Virgil Earp deputized Doc Holliday on the morning of the gunfight. It was Virgil, his brothers Morgan and Wyatt Earp, and Holliday who faced off against the Clantons.

Lesson: Know when to ask for help– and ask for it. You need to make connections, and stay in touch. You’re ready to help them, they’re ready to help you.


6. Two members of the Clanton gang ran from the fight when the shooting started.

Lesson: Speaking somewhat facetiously: they recognized they were not a good match for the job, and turned it down. That’s excellent advice for an artist or anyone else: we all have our specialties. It’s a mistake to try to be all things to all people. Recognize when a job is a bad match for you, and politely decline. If you can, recommend a colleague who is a good match for the job. Perhaps said colleague will return the favor one day.


7. The gunfight did not become famous until 1931, when author Stuart Lake published a largely fictitious biography of Wyatt Earp. Movies and television have since raised the gunfight to the level of myth.

Lesson: You never know when something’s going to go viral. You never know when you and your work might be discovered. Be ready. Practice, put in the time, stay optimistic, and always, always do the best work you possibly can.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

How Honey Ryder And The Prisoner Wound Up In Wyatt Earp’s Mustache

Once Upon A Time At Westminster Cathedral

Street Musician Vs. Firewood: Busker Learns A New Chop

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2014 5:46 PM

    This year, LinkedIn gave members a new perk: they could write posts on the LI platform at no charge.

    Ahhh, now I see why you’re cross-posting. Nice!


    • October 26, 2014 1:44 PM

      Hi, Jak! Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.

      Why did the chicken cross-post? To get to the other readers who didn’t see it on LinkedIn!! : )

      Well, that’s enough riddles for today– good to see you, sir! : )


  2. October 23, 2014 12:14 PM

    OK Mark! What a wonderfully bullet-free way to learn the lessons of the OK Corral! I’m printing this out and putting it up where I can see it everyday. It’s not only educational and fun, it’s quite inspiring! (And I had no idea you could post things on LinkedIn!)


    • October 26, 2014 2:03 PM

      Yes, I’ve always preferred bullet-free learning– that’s why I made my kindergarten teacher check her six-gun at the door… : )

      Thank you for that lovely comment, dear Linda! As you know, I am (quite seriously) a big believer in the power of humor to capture attention and put people in a receptive mood. That makes humor a powerful teaching and marketing tool– and a natural ally for any business.

      You’re one of my favorite humor writers, and I hope you will write some LinkedIn posts. It would be a great way to showcase your writing skills to a business audience. Most businesses these days have a blog. Who knows? Perhaps someone’s looking to add some humor to same. There’s nothing like good exposure, as they say down at the nudist colony… : )


      • October 27, 2014 12:24 PM

        So that’s how you learned to finger paint so well. I knew there was a reason!

        And thank you for your kind words, it’s an honor to be one of your favorite humor writers, truly Mark. You’re an inspiration.

        You had a dream and went after it armed with nothing but your gift for cartooning and your sense of humor and possibly your kindergarten teacher’s six-shooter, but still! The point is you did it!

        Have you ever thought of writing a book on how you did that? I think there are thousands if not millions (maybe even trillions, but probably not) of others out there who would love to know how you did it. And of course you could generously pepper it with your illustrations. Very much like the OK Corral post.

        Anyway I’m going to familiarize myself a little more with LinkedIn. and put my brain, Peanuts to work on a post. Thank you Mark for all your encouragement!! 😀


        • October 31, 2014 12:59 PM

          Ha! You’re too much and too kind at the same time, my dear Linda– as is your custom!! : )

          Well, I’ve been a freelance illustrator for over 20 years, and I’m still at it and enjoying it, but I’m not sure I’ve actually “arrived” yet. Ah, but do any of us actually arrive?, as the centipede mused on his way up Mt. Everest. He’s still on Mile #1, poor dear little chap… : )

          But I shall keep Mark Armstrong: How I Became A Superstar Illustrator in mind. It would make a great Christmas gift for all my friends. Of course, I’ll be embarrassed when I visit them and see it being used as a doorstop or a window-propper-upper… : (

          I shall look forward to your first LinkedIn post. There are few things that make a point as effectively as humor, and that’s where you and Peanuts the Powerhouse really shine! : )

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Lily permalink
    October 25, 2014 12:30 PM

    This was a really clever post! My favourite point was lesson 3 – to work hard and prepare yourself so that you’re ready when your lucky chance comes around. I’ll be keeping that and all the other lessons in mind!

    Thank you, Professor! 🙂


    • October 26, 2014 2:16 PM

      My dear Lily! You are, of course, one of my favorite students here at Armstrong Academy. In all your visits, you’ve never once thrown a spitball– and Professor Armstrong appreciates that!! : )

      Glad you enjoyed the post. “Luck” is an interesting concept to say the least. I can think of quite a few people who ascribe others’ success to some bolt-from-the-blue lucky break. They ignore the fact that most of those people have been perfecting their craft, taking chances, knocking on doors, and making their pitch. If and when that window of opportunity pops open, they’re ready. No guarantees, of course. Maybe they’ll succeed, maybe not– but they’ve worked hard to boost the odds that they will be successful.

      Your cheerful presence here, and your ongoing support mean a lot, Lily– thank you!! : )


  4. October 25, 2014 5:20 PM

    Ciao from Tuscany!!!


    • October 26, 2014 8:22 PM

      Sono felice di sentire da un nuovo amico nella splendida regione Toscana in Italia. Molte grazie per la vostra visita, vi sono sempre i benvenuti. Ciao e auguri da New Hampshire, Stati Uniti d’America! : )

      I’m delighted to hear from a new friend in Italy’s beautiful Tuscany region. Many thanks for your visit, you are always most welcome. Hello and best wishes from New Hampshire, USA! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  5. October 26, 2014 9:34 AM

    “Were you familiar with The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral?

    Can you think of other historical events where the “movie version” is a lot more glamorous than what actually happened?

    Did the seven lessons ring true? Was there one in particular you especially liked?”

    No I’m not familiar with any gunfight. But I learned something here.

    As for movies, I don’t watch them much. So umm…trying to dredge up my memory.

    Yes, those lessons ring true. Wonderful analogy, Mark.

    As for the short window of opportunity…don’t know if this qualifies, but I got hit as a teen pedestrian by a car in the winter. I wasn’t hurt since being knocked down in snow while bundled in my winter clothing, protected me a lot and the car was going slow enough through a red light…

    But it was a short time event, that changed how I viewed my “luck” from not being permanently injured /disabled.

    And not to take life and my good health for granted. Hence, I bike.


    • October 26, 2014 8:50 PM

      Hi, Jean! Many thanks for your kind and thoughtful comment. You’re not familiar with any gunfights?? That’s good– I’d hate to see one of Canada’s preeminent bikers involved in a pedal-by shooting! Just kidding, of course… : )

      Re your being struck by a car as a teen with no harm done: I think “windows of opportunity” come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re opportunities to reflect, a chance to rethink our lifestyles, and perhaps choose a different path. Sounds like you elected to choose gratitude for not being injured, rather than resentment for being hit. That’s impressive. You also chose to become proactive about your health, and bicycling is now a big part of your identity. I would say you definitely took advantage of a rather unorthodox “window of opportunity.”

      Always good to see you, thanks for your visit and reflections! : )


      • October 26, 2014 9:14 PM

        And get this, I was struck in front of life insurance headquarters building.

        Um…actually Jack’s business partner was shot by a cyclist in front of his own bike shop in Vancouver. THis past June. It made national news.

        It was disgruntled ex-employee….who actually tried to escape by bike afterwards. But the police caught up.


        • October 31, 2014 12:11 PM

          Whoa! What a double-zinger, Jean! You were hit by a car in front of an insurance company, and you actually know somebody who was shot by a bicyclist. Incredible! Well, that’s the last time I’ll joke about “pedal-by shootings,” that’s for sure… : (

          Thanks for sharing those remarkable anecdotes.


  6. October 26, 2014 10:45 AM

    Mark … Excellent. The seven lessons you shared from the Gunfight at the OK Corral do ring true for me. Hollywood has fudged the actual events in many of its movies. The real story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid might be a contender. 😉


    • October 31, 2014 12:03 PM

      Judy! Thanks for checking in, ol’ gunslinger! No, wait, you were a crime reporter, which makes you a lead-dodger and an ink-slinger… : )

      Tombstone was a sleepy li’l town compared to Utica, NY, I might add… : )

      I guess one can’t blame Hollywood for fudgin’ the facts when it tells “true” stories. If they didn’t, the stories would be pretty sordid. Come to think of it, they’re pretty sordid even when they do fudge the facts!! : (

      Thanks for moseying into the Armstrong Saloon and leaving a comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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