Reading: “Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard

Here’s another library book that has been dog-eared, annotated and watermarked so much, I really should just start buying books again. Well, maybe once I’m running back on an income.

Yvon Chouinard serves as an example of someone who truly lives and breathes the philosophies and lessons he has learned throughout the years. Pledging to only create high-quality multifunctional products, “Let My People Go Surfing” is a versatile bible: it’s his autobiography, Patagonia’s success story and a blueprint for hope all in one.

Less is more  

During my current job searching phase, this book has served as a great reminder that good companies that support causes amazing causes do exist and is something we, as individuals and organizations, should all strive for. Despite his utmost hatred for capitalism, Chouinard dismantles all complacent notions of traditional business for restraint, quality and simplicity. From his feeble attempts at living a simple life, he has learned that living a simple life does not mean an impoverished one, but one richer in all the ways that really matter.

Leaders don’t manage, they embrace change

Chouinard breaks down Patagonia’s philosophies in each of its department. Most notably, in management philosophy, he uses an ant metaphor to support a leader, leading by example. “There is no specific ant in charge in a colony, no central control. Yet each ant knows that its job is, and ants communicate with one another by way of very simple interactions; altogether they produce a very effective social network.” It may not reflect most organizations, but making that case against top-down centralized leadership is one that favors nature.

Activism is necessary and inspire change

“The zen master would say if you want to change government, you have to aim at changing corporations, and if you want to change corporation, you first have to change the consumers. Whoa, wait a minute! The consumer? That’s me. You mean I’m the one who has to change?”

Now more than ever we need to encourage civil democracy by speaking out, joining up, volunteering, or supporting these groups financially so we can still have a voice in democracy. Activists are the key citizens who have an infectious passion about the issues they support. “These are the people on the front lines, trying either to make the government obey its own laws or to recognize the need for a new law.”

This also means that it’s important for activists to obtain the necessary tools as they prepare to confront big business or big government. This means, learning organizational, business and marketing skills in order to compete with the media environment.

Nature loves diversity. So should we.

“Nature is not only evolving, and ecosystems support species that adapt either through catastrophic events or through natural selection. A healthy environment operates the same need for diversity and variety evident in a successful business, and that diversity evolve out of a commitment to constant change.”

There is nothing more human that centralization and complacency. We must use all our resources to combat them by embracing and instigating change. However, continuous change and innovation require maintaining a sense of urgency in order to be sustainable. Chouinard considered this as a mandate despite the laid-back atmosphere in Patagonia. “Only on businesses operating with a sense of urgency, dancing on the fringe, constantly evolving, open to diversity and new ways of doing things, are going to be here one hundred years from now.”
And lastly, “do well by doing good.”

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