Start Your Week with Wisdom from AAPN member Patagonia


As most of you know, Yvon Chouinard is a rock climber, environmentalist, and outdoor industry billionaire businessman. His company, AAPN member Patagonia, is known for its environmental focus. Chouinard is also a surfer, kayaker, and falconer and is particularly fond of tenkara fly-fishing. He wrote the book “Let My People Go Surfing” in 2006, and these are some of my favorite quotes from it. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

“Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive, and certainly not as the same person.”

“Looking back now, I see that we made all the classic mistakes of a growing company.”

“We want customers who need our clothing, not just desire it.”

“…the worst thing said about him is that he was “uncurious.”

“Good design is as little design as possible.”

“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.”

“The more you know, the less you need.”

“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

“It’s okay to be eccentric if you’re rich; otherwise you’re just crazy.”

“Everything we personally own that’s made, sold, shipped, stored, cleaned, and ultimately thrown away does some environmental harm every step of the way, harm that we’re either directly responsible for or is done on our behalf.”

“I’ve always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. 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 that doesn’t appeal to me. Once I reach 80 percent level I like to go off and do something totally different; that probably explains the diversity of the Patagonia product like – and why our versatile, multifaceted clothes are the most successful.”

“We are the last generation that can experience true wilderness. Already the world has shrunk dramatically. To a Frenchman, the Pyrenees are “wild.” To a kid living in a New York City ghetto, Central Park is “wilderness,” the way Griffith Park in Burbank was to me when I was a kid. Even travelers in Patagonia forget that its giant, wild-looking estancias are really just overgrazed sheep farms. New Zealand and Scotland were once forested and populated with long-forgotten animals. The place in the lower forty-eight states that is farthest away from a road or habitation is at the headwaters of the Snake River in Wyoming, and it’s still only twenty-five miles. So if you define wilderness as a place that is more than a day’s walk from civilization, there is no true wilderness left in North America, except in parts of Alaska and Canada. In a true Earth-radical group, concern for wilderness preservation must be the keystone. 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 planet 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. And…wilderness for human beings…. Because it is home. —Dave Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior We need to protect these areas of unaltered wildness and diversity to have a baseline, so we never forget what the real world is like—in perfect balance, the way nature intended the earth to be. This is the model we need to keep in mind on our way toward sustainability.”

“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 going to turn out fine.’ Either way the results are the same. Nothing gets done.”

“I don’t really believe that humans are evil; it is just that we are not very intelligent animals. No animal is so stupid as to foul its only nest, except humans.”

“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, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness. Studying”

“After we had pondered our responsibilities and financial liabilities, one day it dawned on me that I was a businessman and would probably be one for a long time. It was also clear that in order to survive at this game, we had to get serious. I also knew that I would never be happy playing by the normal rules of business; I wanted to distance myself as far as possible from those pasty-faced corpses in suits I saw in airline magazine ads. If I had to be a businessman, I was going to do it on my own terms.”

“To re-create the entrepreneurial atmosphere of the sort we’d had at Chouinard Equipment, we broke the line into eight categories and hired eight product czars to manage them. Each was responsible for his or her own product development, marketing, inventory, quality control, and coordination with the three sales channels—wholesale, mail order, and retail.”

“Even if he or she isn’t aware of it, every individual spends an entire lifetime creating and evolving a personal image that others perceive.”

“Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis.”

“Sometimes good ideas spring from having a sense of where you want to go, of having a vision of the next level of products.”

“Patagonia brings to mind, as we once wrote in a catalog introduction, “romantic visions of glaciers tumbling into fjords, jagged windswept peaks, gauchos and condors.” Our intent was to make clothing for those rugged southern Andes/Cape Horn conditions. It’s been a good name for us, and it can be pronounced in every language.”

“When there is no crisis, the wise leader or CEO will invent one. Not by crying wolf but by challenging the employees with change.”

“Anyone who thinks you can have infinite growth on a finite planet is either a madman or an economist.

“Buy less; buy better. Make fewer styles; design better.”


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