Six Life Lessons from Patagonia’s Founder Yvon Chouinard

There are few business mogul’s who care just as much about their impact on the world vs. their profits as Patagonia’s found Yvon Chouinard. Patagonia’s beginnings are rather humble, just like the man who started the company. It all came to fruition in a tin shed on Ventura’s west end in 1973 making climbing equipment. Being a climber and surfer himself, Yvon knew what worked, what did not, and what hardcore climbers and watermen needed. Also being an avid outdoorsman and waterman himself, felt a sense of belonging and responsibility to protect the world in which he thrived and loved. Now it has grown to be a multi-million dollar corporation focusing on not only building the best products, but also being a beacon of light for the environmental crisis in an often too dark and reckless world.

Good sat down with the man himself and gained six life lessons.

1. Optimism is a waste of time

I’m not optimistic at all. I’m a total pessimist. I’ve been around long enough, traveled around enough, and been around a lot of smart people to know that we’re losing. In every single category, we’re losing. In the [United] States, I think saving the planet was number 19 on peoples’ priorities, and now I hear its number four again. Number one is personal security. We have a nation of… scary people. Look at all these conservatives that want to arm the whole country. They want to be able to walk in restaurants with their guns and that’s because they’re cowards.

Every empire collapses. The American empire is probably on its way to collapse now. Nature doesn’t like empires. It doesn’t like accumulation in one place, it doesn’t like monoculture. It’s always trying to make diverse species. It wants to spread everything out. And we’re constantly trying to hold everything in.

I think what’s important is to raise a grandchild so they have a life with nature. You protect what you love. And if you love nature, then you’ll want to protect it. And that’s one of the problems that we have, this nature deficit disorder. We have gang kids in New York City that are afraid to go to Central Park because of the squirrels there. They’re so divorced from nature. So the best thing I can do is make sure she has a life as much in the outdoors as possible.

2. Keep it simple

One of the things I really believed in is the idea of simplicity, that life should always be moving towards more simplicity rather than more complexity. And when I see somebody, you know, riding a finless surfboard and surfing better than 99 percent of the surfers out there, I think, “This is fantastic. This is the way to go.” We’ve gone from tow-in surfing to now paddling into those same waves. And that’s the direction we should be going, rather than more toward technology. In the ’70s there was a thing around that “he who dies with the most toys wins.” That’s wrong—it’s the opposite. You want to replace all that gear with knowledge and experience. And so in sports I’d love to see the people who are simplifying their sport. I’ve done like six routes on El Capitan and Yosemite—and some of those routes that took us 10 days to climb are now being soloed with no rope by guys in their gym shorts. And they’re back down before lunch. I think that’s absolutely fantastic. Glad they’re not my kids, but that’s the direction we should always go.

3. Climb every mountain

There are climbs I’ve never attempted that I wish I had done, particularly in the Alps. I used to climb in the Alps a lot. You know, like the north face of the Eiger? I wish I had done that climb. To me it’s kind of personified everything that I really like about climbing. I have regrets about that, but as far as the failure, I don’t look back very much.


Head over to Good for the final three life lessons here

Photo courtesy of AZ Quotes.

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