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Let My People Go Surfing

October 2019

Everything I underlined while reading Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

  • I learned at an early age that it's better to invent your own game; then you can always be a winner.
  • You climb the mountains or visit the wilderness but leave no trace of having been there.
  • We took special pride in the fact that climbing rocks and icefalls had no economic value in society.
  • In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • To simplify yields a richer result.
  • Where other designers would work to improve a tool's performance by adding on ... I would achieve the same ends by taking away.
  • One of my favourite sayings about entrepreneurship is: If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, "This sucks. I'm going to do my own thing." Since I had never wanted to be a businessman, I needed a few good reasons to be one. One thing I did not want to change, even if we got serious: Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis.
  • I've always thought of myself as an 80 percent. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach about an 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession and degree of specialisation that doesn't appeal to me.
  • A grassroots effort could make a difference, and degraded habitat could, with effort, be restored. We began to make regular donations to small groups working to save or restore natural habitat, rather than give the money to large NGOs with big staffs, overheads, and corporate connections.
  • The reason we hadn't sold out and retired was that we were pessimistic about the fate of the world and felt a responsibility to use our resources to do something about it.
  • "Ecology" of values. Jerry Mander
  • We must strive to do no harm. Wherever possible, our acts should serve to decrease the problem. Jerry Mander
  • We seek to profit on our activities. However, growth and expansion are values not basic to this corporation. Jerry Mander
  • We encourage maximum simplicity, while we simultaneously seek dynamism and innovation. Jerry Mander
  • We had to look to the Iroquois and their seven-generation planning, and not to corporate America, as models of stewardship and sustainability.
  • There's nothing keeping us from having fun at work and giving fun its due, we remember how to do it. But I'll bet you anything it's a new kind of fun, one mixed with a bit of a squint in one eye with our heads cocked to the ground. Kris McDivitt
  • We have controlled our growth to what we call organic growth.
  • "Make the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."
  • To carry as little as possible in the mountains is a spiritual tenet of many outdoor enthusiasts.
  • The more you know, the less you need.
  • I never forget Thoreau's advice: "I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes..."
  • Buy less; buy better. Make fewer styles; design better.
  • As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer.
  • Complexity is often a sure sign that the functional needs have not been solved.
  • The best restaurants in the world have set menus, and the best ski shops have already decided which skis are best for your skill or price level. The Dalai Lama says too much choice brings unhappiness.
  • The best performing firm make a narrow range of products very well. The best firms' products also use up to 50 percent fewer parts than those made by their less successful rivals.
  • Remember, I'm the kid who couldn't play competitive games. I'd much rather design and sell products so good and unique that they have no competition.
  • When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. Richard Buckminster Fuller
  • At our present rate of consumption we can no longer clothe the world with natural fibres.
  • We can never assume that the way we have done things in the past is adequate for the future.
  • The drive for quality in production in any organisation has to go beyond the products themselves. It extends to how we organise ourselves to get a body of work done, how we beg, borrow, and steal good ideas from other companies and cultures, and how we approach the question of the way things are and how they should be.
  • Shipping goods by rail or by boat uses 400 BTUs per ton for each mile shipped. Truck freight uses more than 3,300 BTUs per ton, and air cargo uses 21,670 BTUs, to move a ton of goods per mile.
  • Our model for customer service is the old-fashioned hardware store owner who knows his tools and what they're made for.
  • Our branding efforts are simple: tell people who we are.
  • Patagonia's image is a human voice. It expresses the joy of people who love the world, who are passionate about their beliefs, and who want to influence the future. It is not processed; it won't compromise its humanity. This means that it will offend, and it will inspire.
  • Just as Patagonia makes products for a deeper, less distracted experience of the world and its wild paces, our image has to convey refuge from, and offer an alternative to, a virtual world of fast-moving, mind-skimming (and -numbing) pictures and sound.
  • Less is more (in design and consumption).
  • Since we've always been different, it's been even more important that we tell our own story clearly.
  • Deepen and simplify.
  • Our mission statement says nothing about making a profit. In fact, our family considers our bottom line to be the amount of good that the business has accomplished over the year. However, a company needs to be profitable in order to stay in business and to accomplish all its other goals.
  • At Patagonia, making a profit is not the goal, because the Zen master would say profits happen "when you do everything else right."
  • Quality, not price, has the highest correlation with business success.
  • Whenever we are faced with a serious business decision, the answer almost always is to increase quality.
  • We want customers who need our clothing, not just desire it.
  • We never wanted to be a big company. We want to be the best company.
  • Slow growth or no growth means the profits have come from our being more efficient every year.
  • Because of our pessimism about the future of a world economy based on limited resources and on endlessly consuming and discarding goods we often don't need, not only don't we want to be financially leveraged, but our goal is to have no debt, which we have achieved.
  • Our intent is to remain a closely held private company, so we can continue to focus on our bottom line: doing good.
  • Patagonia Works is dedicated to a single cause, using business to help solve our environmental crisis.
  • 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 peruses his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he aways appears to be doing both. J.P. Jacks
  • Our aversion to unnecessary hierarchy, unconscious material consumption, and a passive approach to life.
  • Our best efforts are collaborative and the Patagonia culture rewards the ensemble player while it barely tolerates those who need the limelight.
  • Why on earth would anyone run a company that was hard to work for?
  • Subscribing to the concept of natural growth of the company helps keep us small enough to be manageable. I believe that for the best communication and to avoid bureaucracy, you should ideally have no more than a hundred people working in one location.
  • The most efficient size for a city is supposed to be about 250,000 to 350,000 people, large enough to have all the culture and amenities of a city and still be governable.
  • A study done of the most successful CEOs in America (not the celebrity CEOs, but those who, without fanfare and jumping jobs every few years, get the work done) found one factor they all have in common: They enjoy working with their hands.
  • The owners and managers of a business that they want to be around for the next hundred years had better love change.
  • In pleasant peace and security, how quickly the soul in a man begins to die. Teddy Roosevelt
  • There's no difference between a pessimist who says, "It's all over, don't bother trying to do anything, forget about voting, it won't make a difference," and an optimist who says, "Relax, everything is doing to turn out fine." Either way the results are the same. Nothing gets done.
  • I've accepted the fact that there's a beginning and an end to everything.
  • Beneath all forms of denial is the hope that someone else will figure it out of that technology will save humankind in the nick of time.
  • I've found the cure for depression is action.
  • Much of what I know about achieving any measure of sustainability in an economic activity, I learned in trying to grow my own garden.
  • Modern agriculture wastes topsoil at the rate of one inch a year, while it takes nature a thousand years to produce that inch of productive soil.
  • Biologically intensive agriculture has the potential, among other things, to grow food with as little as 33 parent of the water per pound of grain produced and 12 percent of the water per pound for vegetables and soft fruits.
  • Diversity and sustainability are vital to natural systems of living things, but it's not always clear how these traits translate into good business practice.
  • While Patagonia's other philosophies evolved out of our successes and failures in trying to be the "best" company, for the most part they apply directly to running the business. In a sense, they grew outward from our experiences inside the company. Our environmental philosophy evolved differently, coming to us from being outside nature; it was the extent of the world's environmental crisis that compelled us to make changes at Patagonia.
  • Unfortunately, most of the environmental damage being done by business is the result of large corporations that aren't operating under the philosophy of sustainability, either for themselves of for the environment. They're applying their own short-term business principles to a natural system that can operate only in the long term.
  • The root of the problem is that neither government nor business uses fullest accounting in its use of resources.
  • We are the last generation that can experience true wilderness.
  • The idea of wilderness, after all, is the most radical in human thought – more radical than Paine, than Marx, than Mao. Wilderness says: Human beings are not paramount, Earth is not for Homo sapiens alone, human life is but one life form on the plant and has no right to take exclusive possession. Yes, wilderness for its own sake, without any need to justify it for human benefit. Wilderness for wilderness. For bears and whales and titmice and rattlesnakes and stink bugs. Dave Forman
  • We've been cooking the books for a long time by leaving out the worth of nature. Robert Costanza
  • Patagonia's environmental philosophy: 1. Lead an examined life. 2. Clean up our own act. 3. Do our penance. 4. Support civil democracy. 5. Do good. 6. Influence other companies.
  • Uncurious people do not lead examined lives.
  • Uncovering problems – and ultimately finding solutions – requires not only allowing facts to influence your faith but also requires asking lots of questions, hard questions.
  • You're going to have to educate yourself.
  • Sustainable manufacturing is an oxymoron.
  • Above all, admitting that I caused the mess and therefore I should clean it up is the best way to start living responsibly.
  • We are the people we have been waiting for. Navajo Medicine Man
  • When we act positively on solving problems instead of ignoring them or trying to find a way around them, we are future along the path toward sustainability. Every time we've elected to do the right thing, it's turned out to be more profitable. This strengthens my confidence that it was the right thing to do.
  • We can no longer afford to use natural resources only one time.
  • We have to dig deeper and try to make products that close the loop, clothing that can be recycled infinitely into similar or equal products.
  • Any company environmental philosophy should also include the encouragement of employee participation at home.
  • When a government is breaking or refusing to enforce its own laws, then I believe civil disobedience is the rightful course of action.
  • If oil weren't so heavily subsidised and we had to pay the true cost of gasoline, then SUVs wouldn't be in demand and wouldn't be manufactured.
  • You are what you do, not what you say you are.
  • Here's the best part – these programs do more than save wild places; they profoundly affect communities and people's lives. In this case, environmentalism was social activism at its best.
    -Many of these grassroots organisations are far more capable of solving problems than are self-serving multinational corporations or governmental agencies. Most of them are local groups working long hours with minimal resources, and they are hanging on to existence by the thinnest thread, depending on small donations and fund-raising events life benefit auctions and bake sales.
  • The major thrust of the Patagonia donations goes to individuals and organisations that are actively trying to save endangered rivers and forests, oceans and deserts.
  • Democracy works best in small, homogenous societies where everyone has to take responsibility for his or her actions. You can't hide. Peer pressure obviates the need for police, lawyers, judges, and prisons. You are responsible for your own and your parents' "social security". Decisions are made by consensus and not by compromise.
  • Creating Yosemite National Park was not Teddy Roosevelt's idea; it was the activist John Muir who talked Roosevelt into ditching his Secret Service men and camping under the redwoods.
  • If you read a newspaper on any given day, you will see that most of the gains we are making as a society are still being done by activist citizens' organisations.
  • I've learned from a lifetime of being outdoors that nature loves diversity. It hates monoculture and centralisation. A thousand activist groups, each working on a specific problem that the members are passionate about, can accomplish much more than a bloated organisation.
  • Doing less harm doesn't mean the same thing as doing good.
  • There is no business to be done on a dead planet. David Brower
  • The traditional assumption has been that once land is degraded, it is degraded forever. Some farmers have found, however, that not only is restoration possible, but it can happen very quickly.
  • Estimates vary, but even the low end of the spectrum suggests that a global switch to regenerative land husbandry would sequester our total annual emissions back underground. Which means we could reverse the trends of global waring simply by changing the way we farm and ranch.
  • ... methods that actually do good, rather than doing less harm, which, as we might have guessed, frequently end up being the old ways... these ancient techniques create a minimal carbon footprint.
  • When the Industrial Revolution came, it brought big changes in how we grow our food. Instead of plants and animals being raised the way nature intended, we started manufacturing them, pretty much life we manufacture cars. Feedlots replaced grasslands. Chemical fertilisers replaced naturally occurring ones.
  • I believe [the] revolution starts, to paraphrase David Brower, by "turning around and taking a step forward." In other words, we need to go back to the old ways of farming, with organic practices, biodynamics, and crop rotation leading the way.
  • If we go back to these old ways, we win on three levels: First, we produce food that actually tastes better and is better for us. Second, we reduce unemployment – a lot of the conflict around the world had, as its source, the lack of meaningful work for generations of people displaced by technology. And finally, organic agriculture and responsible harvest and husbandry represent our best shot at saving the planet.
  • It is really the small private businesses we hope to influence. It is the tens of thousands of young people who dream of owning their small farm someday. All of us working together can create the change that we need.
  • The turning point of our conversation came when we realised that both our businesses had actually own because of our "radical" stands.
  • For me, the solution to the world's problems is easy: We have to take action, and if we can't do it ourselves, we've got to dig into our pockets.
  • Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer. He has draped the American outdoors man with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them. Gadgets fill the pockets, they dangle from neck and belt. The overflow fills the auto-trunk, and also the trailer. Each item of outdoor equipment grows lighter and often better, but the aggregate poundage becomes tonnage. Aldo Leopold
  • Ninety percent of what we but in the mall ends up in the dump within sixty to ninety days.
  • We yearn for a simpler life based not on refusing all technology but on going back to appropriate technology.
  • I don't have the courage to be a front-line activist myself. There are too many good causes that I support, and I get dangerously frustrated being on the front lines. But I believe in activism enough that I dig deep into my pockets and support those people with the courage to work in the trenches.
  • Evil doesn't have to be an overt act: it can be merely the absence of good. If you have the ability, the resources, and the opportunity to do good and you do nothing, that can be evil.
  • A certain void exists now with the decline of so many good institutions that used to guide our lives, such as social clubs, religions, athletic teams, neighbourhoods, and nuclear families, all of which had a unifying effect They have us a sense of belonging to a group, working toward a common goal. People still need an ethical centre, a sense of their role in society. A company can help fill that void id if shows its employees and its customers that it understands its own ethical responsibilities and then can help them respond to their own.
  • The true problem: ever-expanding growth on a finite planet.
  • 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.
  • Consider the "green revolution" farmer in his air-conditioned tractor producing inferior and even toxic food. Contrast that with the small organic farmer of gardener finding contentment and pleasure in using his hand tools or walking blind this perfectly trained plow horses or oxen.
  • I believe the way toward mastery of an endeavour is to work toward simplicity; replace complex technology with knowledge. The more you know, the less you need. From my feeble attempts at simplifying my own life I've learned enough to know that should we have to, or choose to, live more simply, it won't be an impoverished life but one richer in all the ways that really matter.