Let My People Go Surfing
The education of a reluctant businessman
BY YVON CHOUINARD
First of all, I can’t surf in-fact I can hardly swim. So this was a strange book title for me to pick-up. However, the story behind Patagonia. A company that I have a tremendous amount of admiration for was enough for me to move past my fear of the waves. A personal shift for me over the last decade has been a move away from trends and fashion towards an embracing of functionality, cratsmanship, quality, utility and longevity. A change that supports my values and is much better for the planet on which I live.
Patagonia is the gold standard for many when it comes to this ethos so I was excited and interested to hear more about them and the founder Yvon Chouinard.
Thrive Notes from Let My People Go Surfing
Stand for something. I am a small business coach in the Cotswolds (although I operate a digital practice so I have clients from across the world) The one thing I always ask a new client is WHY? What is it that you do and why do you do it. What is the one thing that your company stands for? For me at Thrive Through Life, it is the knowledge that I can help people create the business and lifestyle they crave without them having to sacrifice themselves to the grind! For Patagonia, it has been about having a deep respect for nature and the impact they have on it when producing their products. Yvon used this quote in his book “Anyone who thinks you can have infinite growth on a finite planet is either a madman or an economist.” – Kenneth Boulding
Is this purchase necessary? Yvon talks early on in the book about being a conscious customer and only buying things you REALLY need. Strange for a clothing brand but this is where the ethos of the company really shines and it is why they have such a hardcore group of fans. So before you run to Primark for the sales ask yourself: Do I need this? Will this purchase fulfil more than one role? Does this product fit with my values? Will this product bring me joy for more than a day, week, month or year?
Become a conscious owner of things, not a consumer of things. Owners take responsibility for every purchase they make. They repair, reuse and share the things they have invested in. Often they have a product for life and even pass it on. Consumers take, use, dispose and repeat. A pattern that is taking us towards ecological bankruptcy. Patagonia not only offer a repair service for their clothing but they will also buy their clothing back from you and resell it on their pre-loved site. (Sadly America only right now.)
Living the good life. “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing.” I have nothing to add to this. I love it!
Change and grow. A wise leader knows that you change and grow even when things are going well. I have fallen into this trap. When life is going well and my calendar is booked it’s easy for me to sit back and think that I can coast for a bit. It’s not that this has a hugely detrimental effect on my business I have set that up to take care of itself. It’s much more personal than that. If I coast I tend to lose my sense of motivation, passion and creativity. For me, that is a place I have been and never want to go back to. Everyone has a taste of this when they get comfortable and as Tony Robbins says in Unleash the Power Within “The worst place to live is to not be HAPPY but to not be UNHAPPY enough to do anything about it.”
Look at improving yourself first. When it comes to the environment Patagonia has worked on itself first and even donates 1% of ALL sales to environmental projects. Now READ THAT AGAIN… 1% of all sales, not profit! That means they have committed to contributing in the bad times as well as the good. This has led me to consider how I contribute more consistently to the things I care deeply about.
There is no pocket on that last shirt! When you die you cannot take it with you. So, make sure you are having a good time, giving back, investing in yourself, improving what you can and impacting where you can in a positive way. As Marcus Aurelius wrote “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” This was a reminder to himself that he should continue living a life of virtue NOW, and not wait.
Compete where you’re strong. Small businesses cannot compete with big businesses in the same game BUT small businesses can play their own game. They are agile, not burdened my corporate hierarchy or shareholders. In my business coaching, I often hear from my clients that they struggle to compete with the bigger names in their industry and my answer is always the same. Don’t try! Concentrate on what you do better than anyone else and leverage that!
And Finally… My Favourite Excerpt from Let My People Go Surfing.
“It seems to me if there is an answer, it lies in these words: restraint, quality, and simplicity. We have to get away from thinking that all growth is good. There’s a big difference between growing fatter and growing stronger”.