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“Let my people go surfing” – Part 1: Do it your way, have fun

February 27, 2011

Let my people surf

It’s not often I write about books that I have read on this blog, but this time I thought I would make an exception. Over the last week I have been reading the book “Let my people go surfing” by Yvon Chouinard the founder of Patagonia, a highly successful outdoor clothing and equipment company.

I was attracted to the book by seeing a video of Yvon giving a talk at some business school or other, his great stories, lessons and a generally healthy dislike for typical “business” conventions boded well.

I’ll split this up into a few section, so first up is…

Do it your own way. Have fun.

Yvon admits that he never had any great to become a “businessman”, he was a hardcore outdoor enthusiast – what he would call a dirtbag – who saw himself as someone more accustomed to a life scaling mountains rather than compiling accounts. He had never liked the concept of business in general, thinking businessmen to be “greaseballs”. As the years went on it dawned on him more and more that to support his lifestyle he would have to start making some money. He had enjoyed commercial success on a small scale in the past with some mountaineering equipment he had produced, but at the time had had no great desire to make a business of it, rather he saw the commercial side of it as a necessary evil to be endured to sustain his outdoor activities.

When he finally decided he was ready and willing to make a real go of the business he resolved to do things his own way.

“I wanted to distance myself from those pasty faced corpses in suits I saw in airline magazine ads. If I was going to become a businessman, I was going to do it on my own terms.”

And that is exactly what he did.

He also decided early on that the whole thing had to be fun. If it wasn’t enjoyable then there was no point in doing it:

“One thing I did not want to change, even if we got serious, work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two at a time.”

This reminded me of what Steve Jobs once said in a speech to a graduating college class, he said:

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

I remember when I first heard Steve Jobs say that – in my pre-self-employed days – it really struck a deep chord within me. I think Yvon and Steve have it right. In order for a business to be truly satisfying you must be able to do it your way, it must be fun and it must be something you really want to do for more than financial reasons on a daily basis.

I have also created a little presentation with some of the better quotes from the book, check it out and let me know what you think!


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