'Let My People Go Surfing,' by Yvon Chouinard
Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard

February 16, 2021

'Let My People Go Surfing,' by Yvon Chouinard

Yes America, apparently it is possible to find a job that lets you surf at lunch time. Look no further than Patagonia, the eco-conscious, family-oriented business culture started by Yvon Chouinard in Burbank, California in the early 1970's. This book ('Let My People Go Surfing') about the company's early beginings, how it survived an almost devastatingly tough period in 1991 yet came out a sustainably growing, stable company on the other side, provides some great philosophies all companies should consider weaving into the fabric of their own corporate culture.

We have to take responsibility for what we make, from birth to death and then beyond death, back to re-birth, what the architect, designer, and author Bill McDonough calls “cradle to cradle.”‘Let My People Go Surfing’, by Yvon Chouinard, page 115

7 Thoughts On Sustainable Business

There are alot of great take-aways from this book, but here are seven that resonated with me:

  1. Take what your High School Guidance Counselor tells you with a grain of salt. Kristine McDivitt Tompkins’ parents were told by her guidance counselor that she should not even bother with college. Maybe her Guidance Counselor was right - maybe college is largely a waste of time and money - because Kristine went on to become a hugely successful General Manager and CEO of Patagonia, and ultimately ended-up in charge of over a 2 million acre preserve in South America.

  2. Fast corporate growth can be a problem if growth is outside the realm of sustainable. On page 67: ‘We failed to provide the proper training for the new company leaders…’. On page 68: ‘Organization charts looked like the Sunday crossword puzzle and were issued almost as frequently.’ On page 77: ‘With a controlled growth rate of about 5 percent a year we have not only profited from our work but also received many awards for our business priorities.’

  3. The Iroquois People have a person in their tribe that represents the 7th generation of their people. Any decisions the tribe makes must pass muster with this elder, whose focus is 7 generations down the line! Patagonia now operates with a 100 year business plan. I want to apply this concept to my own family decision making and financial planning.

  4. In Falconry (not in English parlance), there is a term call ‘Yarak’, which refers to the state of a falcon when it is hungry and alert and ready to hunt. Indeed, the author says on page 113: ‘Maintaining a sense of urgency throughout a company is one of the most difficult challenges in business.’

  5. Weigh quality first against on-time delivery and low-cost. If you can’t have all three simultaneousy, which of the three do YOU prioritize?

  6. On page 195: ‘According to the National Geographic, it takes eight barrels of oil to produce one cow.’ Holy cow, what?

  7. On page 246: ‘…as David Brower put it, “there’s no business to be done on a dead planet.”’ Of course, the Iroquois knew this long before we showed up in the Americas.

podcast career goals professional growth continuous learning farming farms cows land management sustainability eco-consciousness biodiversity monoculture surfing climbing backpacking hiking kayaking pitons carabiners patagonia chouinard equipment yvon chouinard dirtbag cradle-to-cradle

Dialogue & Discussion