Dallas and J.R. Ewing, thank you. Everything that I needed to know about business, I learned from you. Dallas is one of my favorite shows of all time, and not just because I had the privilege of working on the original series during its latter years. The thirteen years I spent with you both as a viewer and/or a participant gave me an invaluable education in avoiding some potholes in business.
I attended more than one university for undergrad and post-graduate education, but never did I obtain the practical, “real world” business education that I learned by watching the Ewings of Dallas. There, in the midst of the centers of “higher learning” , I was better able to prepare myself for the real work force by watching ol’ J.R. wheel and deal.
In no MBA class did I learn the Ewing pearls of wisdom that apply in actual business. Yes, Graduates, there are a lot of people in business who use these rules. Learn them and prepare to encounter people like this in the workforce. (You even may become/or are one of them.) And, definitely review “the rules” as “homework” for watching Dallas, Wednesday nights on TNT. The rules are just an taste of the wheeling and dealing of Dallas.
The Tenets of “The J.R. Ewing School of Business”
1) “Don’t forgive and never forget. Do unto others before they do unto you. Third and most importantly, keep your eye on your friends, because your enemies will take care of themselves!” (J.R. Ewing as portrayed by the fabulously acerbic Larry Hagman whose “evil smile” I have enjoyed on the TNT promos for the series reboot)
2) “Any man can win when things go his way. It’s the man who overcomes adversity that is the true champion.” (Jock Ewing, [the late, incredible actor, Jim Davis], J.R.’s beloved daddy and founder of Ewing Oil)
3) “Nobody gives you power. Real power is something that you take.” (Jock Ewing)
4) “I have meetings all day with people who don’t know what a shark I am.” (J.R. Ewing)
5) “It’s only slander if it’s not true.” (J.R. Ewing)
6) “There are few things that J.R. Ewing can’t afford, but patience is one of them.” (J.R. Ewing)
7) “Remember who you’re working for, keep a civil tongue in your head, and try to answer questions with a bit of civility.” (J.R. Ewing)
8) “The world is littered with the bodies of the men who tried to stick it to ol’ J.R. Ewing.” (J.R.)
9) “If it comes to it, I’m gonna squish you like the bug you are. (Bobby Ewing [the forever-sexy, Patrick Duffy, who stars in the upcoming TNT reboot])
10) “You wouldn’t be trying to blackmail ol’ J.R., would you?” (J.R. Ewing… can feel Hagman’s evil smile in those words)
11) “If you’re going to climb into bed with J.R. Ewing, you’d better not get cold feet.” (J.R. Ewing)
12) “A conscience is like a boat or a car. If you feel you need one, rent it.” (J.R. Ewing)
13) “Contracts were made to be broken, honey, but a handshake is the law of God.” (J.R. Ewing)
14) “Never tell the truth when a good lie’ll do.” (J.R.)
15) “Revenge is the single most satisfying feeling in the world.” (J.R. Ewing)
16) “Like my daddy alway’s said: if you can’t get in the front door, just go around to the back.” (J.R. quoting Jock Ewing)
17) “Honey, if you wanna hear your answer, you gotta ask the question at the right time. That’s from J.R. Ewing’s handbook.” (J.R. Ewing and a former boss of mine)
18) “Being married to J.R. is like a Hitchcock movie. You start out laughing but soon find yourself screaming in terror.” (Sue Ellen Ewing, portrayed by the beautiful Linda Gray, also returning to the TNT reboot)
19) “J.R. Ewing doesn’t get ulcers… he gives ’em!” (Although I think this quote originally came from Louis B. Mayer, both J.R. and a former boss of mine have used it frequently and proudly.)
20) “Thank you for reminding me of how ethical my brother is. It’s a flaw that will lead to his downfall in the oil business.” (J.R. about his brother, Bobby)
21) “I don’t know how you live with yourself. (Edgar Randolph, portrayed by Martin Brooks). Reply by J.R. Oh, it’s not hard. Once you give up integrity, the rest is a piece of cake. “
22) “I figure I’m learning more from you than I could ever learn in school… How would you feel about me coming to work at Ewing Oil full time? (J.R. laughs) What’s so funny? (son John Ross, then-Omri Katz, now Josh Henderson) “Oh, I’m not laughing at you, son, it’s just that, well… I said the same thing to my daddy when I was your age.” (J.R.)
23) “I heard you love playing cat and mouse.” (Don Lockwood, played by the incredibly versatile, Ian McShane). “Only when I’m the cat. ” (J.R.)
24) “Make it a short lunch, will ya? I hate to answer my own phone.” Cliff Barnes (the underrated, Ken Kerchival).
25) “It [the opera] ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” (J.R. Ewing)
That last quote has gotten me through several jobs. The other twenty-four prepared me for successful interaction with (and occasional suspicion of) the motivation of colleagues, bosses and business associates.
As the mind-meld of Larry Hagman, Executive Producer Lenny Katzman, and a cadre of talented actors, producers, writers and directors, J.R. Ewing has provided me (and others) a roadmap of business survival. Hagman’s ability to survive in the real world through a liver transplant, the loss of his wife of over 55 years, Maj, who struggled through Alzheimer’s, and his current battle with throat cancer, is a tribute to Hagman’s work ethic and loving heart. He has inspired me both professionally and personally.
For those of you not old enough to remember the original Dallas series, I encourage you to watch the new Dallas series on TNT on Tuesday and repeats of the original series on CMT on Thursday, June 14. I doubt that I am the only person influenced by this juggernaut series. Supernatural creator, Eric Kripke’s episode “The Magnificent Seven” has a Dallas episode on the television when Sam and Dean enter a house affected by Sloth in 2008. Auctions have supplied fans with Dallas memorabilia as recently as 2011 when Hagman downsized his home.
Regardless of what leading MBA programs are offering you, you will encounter people who operate business according to the above rules. Beware. These quotes may help you avoid pitfalls and disappointments in business and your personal life.
This landmark show was seen in over 90 countries and for many years in syndication following its last CBS airdate. I glance over as my “stock certificate” from “Ewing Oil”, a gift from the original series (plus earrings from The Oil Barons’ Ball and Miss Ellie’s bedroom chair, a remnant of the fire on Stage 3), I smile my non-evil smile of gratitude that the best business teacher I ever had is making a return to my life in TNT’s new Dallas. I am sure there are lessons left for me to learn.
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