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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Step One: Believe in Yourself

That’s what I’ve been working on right now. After a successful first week transitioning to Austin (finding an amazing apartment, landing couple of interviews, exploring the trail and going to great tech meetups), I found myself going into a job interview for the same job that I had prior. Long story short, it made me very discouraged as I considered a job with a higher pay but lower spirits.  I was reasoning to myself that “I can finally afford that woven chair that would look good in the patio.

But I realize, I wasn’t listening in my goals and desires nor did I believe in myself.

What does it even mean to believe in yourself?! Right after the interview, I called my friend/mentor to calibrate my spirits. A simple reminder than I am inspiring and I am worth it is enough. But to be reminded that I belong in the same room as much as everyone else is necessary. I can be part of the conversation! I don’t have to be a fly on the wall. I may be just a beginner, outsider, minority, or whatever, but those are just labels created to put me down. I believe in myself.

Self-doubt has a way of rippling outwards, perpetuating the closed-loop of more doubt. That paralyzing and greedy inner voice will do what ever it takes to devour confidence and leave no room for logic nor reason. ending the happiness that we worked so hard to realize and achieve.

When we fall outside of our comfort zone or strive to do something great, we fall out of invincibility. We stop believing in our worth.

I’ve been learning how to tame this beast called self-doubt. It starts by being present. Take time to pay attention and listen to how we feel and how we react to things. With a little understanding, self-knowledge and confidence, we start to understand the root causes of our insecurities and take the necessary and active steps to address our fear.

As a consultant in my old job, I learned that there are always ways to do something better. Everything has an opportunity for growth, even in ourselves. Especially in ourselves.

Unemployment aka this darn thing I once called gainful sabbatical, in all it’s beauty, has its ups and downs. I’m learning how to be patient with myself, really listening to the reasons why I quit my job. Yes, that means not returning back to my old job. Give myself some time to breathe. Realize that everything in life comes because our believe that they are possible. I’ve come this far. We’ve all come this far!

So make that necessary trip in front of the mirror and repeat after me: I believe in myself and I am a strong independent woman who belongs in spaces and conversation that I put myself in as much as anyone else. I believe in myself, therefore I make things possible.

Climb that mountain, but keep going!

There’s a lot of be learned from Alex Honnold’s successful free-soloing attempt of Yosemite’s El Capitan in 4 hours. This guy really sees the world differently and certainly has no fear.

In his interview with Nat Geo, he described most of the things during his climb as “ultra-chill”, “super chill” or just overall chill. “I didn’t feel that stressed because in a way I had already committed to autopilot and just put everything aside,” he noted on the base of El Cap. His strategy was to treat it like “a super normal day”. He was not phased by how much of a big deal it was. He didn’t even tell his mom (because “She’s really bad at differentiating between free climbing and free soloing.”)

The biggest thing I took away from following his journey was his humility.He had been working on this dream for 4 years, training and familiarizing himself with every pitch and every hold. Although knowing him, everything he’s done so far probably contributed to his accomplishment.  Summiting El Cap was not the end and certainly was not a reason to retire for rock climbing. 

During his climb, he was already thinking about his next goal (sport climbing 9a) and the importance of the US staying in the Paris Accord. He focused on things that was beyond his current limits, as though his current goal is a stepping stone to the next. And it is. You’ve got to keep going. Remind yourself of the bigger issues out there. Focus on achieving the best version of yourself. One day at a time, you can work to anything you set your mind to. See where life takes you on the other side of fear. And maybe, try not to die along the way.

For now, I’m just happy his next project involves ropes. Thanks for being a true inspiration, Alex Honnold. 

“The whole pursuit of this dream has allowed me to live my best life, that makes me hopefully the best version of me. Just because I’ve achieved a dream doesn’t mean that I just give up on the best version of me. I want to be the guy that trains and stays fit and motivated. Just because you finish a big route doesn’t mean that you just quit.”