I was fortunate to have spent the formative years of my career working (and playing!) in the outdoor industry. During this time, I had the opportunity, to work both for and with many incredibly bright, talented, passionate, and inspiring people.
In contrast, I never met — nor even caught a glimpse of — Mr. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, though he, his company, and his products, were often the subject of analysis, competitive review, gossip, admiration, and envy. Neither a surfer nor a rock climber (‘no duh’ – as any of my daughters would say), I first read his book, Let My People Go Surfing (LMPGS), soon after leaving Timberland in 2008 (having some new-found spare time without the daily 120-mile commute each day up to Stratham, NH).
my well-traveled copy of ‘Let My People Go Surfing’
During that first read, long before hand-lasted moccasins on anatomic cork bottoms were even a glimmer on my horizon, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to do beyond my then, full-time role as chef, chauffeur, and chaperone to three teenage daughters. So I enjoyed the book as an interesting and insightful peek into a long-admired man and his company.
Of more immediate interest was the last chapter in the book about the 1% for the Planet Alliance, which Mr. Chouinard had established to increase the effectiveness of environmental activism, and which Terry Kellogg, a friend and respected colleague at Timberland, had recently gone to lead.
Fast forward to last week. Now a little over a year since launching Moccatomic, I brought LMPGS to re-read during our family’s Thanksgiving getaway. What was once an enjoyable, interesting read about how one man once envisioned and hand-hammered a better piton, and now enables and inspires environmental activism around the world— all while building a widely respected company that makes highly coveted products (just look into my daughters’ closets) — has become like drinking business-building wisdom from a fire hose.
The mission statement at Patagonia states,
Make the best product possible, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Inspiring?… indeed. Humbling?… yes, that, too. With 260 pages covering philosophies on everything from image to distribution — what’s a start-up to do? where does one begin? As a product guy my entire career, I know my interest and passion will compel me to make the best footwear possible. But as for the other dimensions of becoming the company that I need and dream to be?… yikes.
my Sarah and her starfish.
This picture was taken last week, and it immediately reminded me of my favorite story from the wonderful and dedicated folks at City Year, with whom I had the pleasure to serve on many occasions while at Timberland. The Starfish story goes…
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had washed up during a terrible storm. One-by-one, she picked up each starfish and threw it back into the ocean, while people watched her with amusement. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said,
Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
Well, I made a difference to that one!
The man looked at the girl inquisitively, and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. (Adapted from “The Star Thrower” by Loren C. Eiseley.)
page 250, LMPGS.
So, can I make a difference? I can, and here goes my first starfish.
I’m pleased to announce that Moccatomic is member #2979 of the 1% for the Planet Alliance (click to see their video).
I am humbled and inspired as I join the family of other fine organizations in doing what I can to make positive change and donating 1% of sales each year towards active efforts to help the environment.
Time to pull up the bootstraps… and get going!