I just finished the part personal bio / part company bio /part corporate philosophy by Patagonia founder and major environmental activist, Yvon Chouinard: Let my People Go Surfing: Education of a Reluctant Businessman.
Y.C., as he is sometimes known, is really an amazing guy who really is proof of the power behind finding and pursuing your passion. Yvon started Chouinard Equipment because he loved climbing but found the limited equipment for sale to be poorly built and expensive. So he went to work creating items he would prefer to use on his climbing trips, and in the process created high quality equipment other climbers happily paid to use. As demand grew for his products, he began hiring other climbers to build and test Chouinard Equipment items. His two top priorities for his business were making the very best equipment in the world, and having enough money to pay for his own personal climbing treks. In fact, this is what he encouraged all his employees to do. Work enough to keep the company going successfully, and make enough money to go off and do their own adventures. Despite growing Chouinard Equipment and eventually starting Patagonia from Chouinard into a $300M a year company, this philosophy of “Let my people go Surfing,” still stands today. Work should be part of life, a means to living and adventure, instead of an inhibitor. So if you are on time with your work and the waves are good at the moment, surf’s up!I love this.
There’s many great lessons in this book on business, entrepreneurship, and life. His passion for great products, great customer service, and environmental responsibility are very clear in his story. I’m amazed at his company’s commitment to be part of the world ecosystem instead of sitting atop it. He takes the notion of “sustainability” to a whole different level. He’s not set on keeping his company around for 100’s of years just by consistently generating profits, but he also intends on creating a Net positive effect on the environment to ensure there will be places natural enough and customers healthy enough to use Patagonia’s products. As part of this mission he consistently pushes environmentally positive innovation throughout the company, reducing waste to 0 in their manufacturing process. Patagonia also pays a self imposed “environmental harm” tax of 1% of Revenue, every year, good or bad. It’s not something he does to be good. It’s something he does because he believes it is necessary.
There are many great lessons in this book about building a happy and extremely productive workplace that provides a higher quality of life for customers and employees alike, but perhaps my favorite lesson was his approach to life in general. Like Richard Branson, it’s clear YC is out for the adventure of life. He often speaks of the “zen of climbing” which is all about enjoying the moment. Take note of how your body feels with the current hold, how this point in the mountain or wall feels, smells, and looks. Soak it all up, and enjoy it. There’s more climbing moments than moments of completion. If you keep looking up to the top for where you’re supposed to go, you may make a mistake and lose it all, or even worse you may miss the very best part: the journey. The point of climbing isn’t just to get to the top, after all the top is where you’ll spend the least amount of your time. The point of the climb is to test your strength, have fun, feel the aliveness of each grip and step along the way.
The “zen of climbing” should apply to everyday living. Sometimes we get too bogged down on the peak we’re climbing and how far to go that we fail to realize the value of the moment we’re in. If you focus on the moment, the fun and challenge of the journey, you make life pretty damn good. You will, after all, spend most of your time in the journey.
Well I never thought I would say this, but apparently the Motorola Q is a more durable device than my once trusty Macbook. Last Friday my macbook’s hard drive crashed complelety, rendering the computer useless and wiping all my data clean in the process. (fortunately I’ve backed up most important items in one way or another) My Motorola Q on the other hand, despite all sorts of crappy design flaws, continues to work properly. Motorola 1, Apple Macbook 0. I guess beauty and good design doesn’t always win.
If you aren’t backing up your important data, do it now. Crashes do happen and they suck.
(image via flickr user stevegarfield)
What’s your “bedtime?” No you didn’t grow out of it, I bet you still have a time you think you “should” get to bed by. We all have these sets of rules we follow day in and day out. Rules are good because they add structure in guidance to your life. They let you run on autopilot a lot of times based on the routines you created within them. But rules also can be dangerous. They can wall you off from a place you are trying to go, or even worse pin you between a rock and a hard place. Sometimes it’s important to really sit down and think, “what are my rules?”
I was recently asked to do this by a friend who has been coaching and encouraging me, and the results were fascinating. I realized that I have strange rules about work, rules that can be helpful to a point but are more often a burden. For example, I’m fortunate to have a very flexible work schedule. I do need to be available during “normal” business hours for phone calls and a few timely emails, but for the most part I can do the majority of my work at anytime since it’s of the digital variety. Yet for some reason I have set in my mind that I “need” to be working from at least 8am to 5pm M-F. This doesn’t make any sense at all. Part of my entrepreneurial drive comes from a belief that there’s so much opportunity in overcoming the “norm” (ie 9-5 workday). In my head I believe that people have different productive schedules, with some preferring to work late nights while others prefer to be early birds, some prefer to take big midday breaks, and some like to leave work at noon. It doesn’t really matter what your schedule is as long as you are able to successfully complete your tasks. Yet here I am following the industrial workday schedule because sometime in the past I equated working to be in “work” mode on certain hours and days. Part of this rule, which I believe I added to in college sometime, is work is defined as sitting at a computer making phone calls and writing emails, with an occasional meeting mixed in. It’s amazing that my body knows and follows these rules, and it’s even more amazing when I “break” them (going to gym midday, taking a day off, etc) I feel “bad.” A rule would be useless, without an enforcer. This is an example of a rule that is good to a certain extent. Afterall, I do have a lot of flexibilty in my schedule and the rule helps keep things in order. No matter what my rules, I could never define “work” as watching TV all day. This keeps me away from that. But the rule does more harm than good. It prevents me from loving and living in the very best of my current situation: freedom.
What sort of rules have you set for yourself? Take some time to write them out, and then really think about them. Are there some holding you back? Why? It might be time to let them go, break your own rules by making new ones and use them to take you where you want to go.
(via creativecommons.org and Chris Campbell on flickr)
There was a great article in Inc this month on defining and refining your “elevator pitch,” or what do you do in as few words as possible (hence the name elevator pitch because you should be able to clearly express your purpose in an elevator ride). I can’t say still to this day I’ve met too many people who really have perfected their pitch. In fact there are a lot of really bad pitches out there (ever been to a web 2.0 or tech meetup in nyc? There are people who can’t describe what their company/site does in 5 minutes much less under 30 seconds) But one of the worst elevator speeches of all time is quoted in the article, and it is a doozy. Even more amazing was this particular pitch was aired on 60 minutes to a national audience. The pitcher? JEFF DACHIS, then owner of big time e-business consultancy Razorfish. The pitch:
[CUT TO: Screen in front of the room, where 60 Minutes correspondent BOB SIMON stands, head cocked skeptically, next to a young guy with a dark suit and spiky hair. It is JEFF DACHIS, who then owned an e-business consultancy called Razorfish.]
BOB SIMON So, what do you do?
JEFF DACHIS We’ve asked our clients to recontextualize their business. We’ve recontextualized what it is to be in the services business.
SIMON There are many people such as myself who have trouble with the word recontextualize. Tell me what you do. In English.
DACHIS We provide services to companies to help them win.
SIMON But so do trucking firms…
DACHIS Absolutely, absolutely, and our talent is to do a certain thing while trucking firms do…
SIMON [interrupting] But what is it you do?
DACHIS We radically transform business to invent and reinvent them.
SIMON That’s still very vague.
Does anyone have any idea what he’s talking about? Also, if anyone has a link to that clip on video I would love to see it. In Dachis’ defense there seems to be a lot of pressure to use business buzzwords, and it even seems that some think the more buzzwords the better the pitch. The truth is buzzwords are useless. If the idea you’re discussing isn’t powerful enough to stand up without buzzwords, why are you even putting yourself behind it? The elevator speech should be so simple and dumbed down anyone can understand it. The point of the pitch isn’t too impress, it’s to inform and encourage the listener to ask for more. Then you can impress them (Note: use of recontextualize will NOT impress).