Best Books to Read: Let My People Go Surfing (Yvon Chouinard)

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Let My People Go Surfing is a must read book for every person on the planet, in my opinion. The book is written by Yvon Chouinard, who is the founder of Patagonia. Patagonia is known as one of the most forward-thinking and environmentally friendly companies in the world, and it all starts from the leadership that Chouinard provides.

Let My People Go Surfing will change the way you think about many topics, and it significantly changed my view on cities, big companies, and the challenges that we face as humans.

In the current day, we have been accustomed to judging companies and countries based on typical measures of success. For companies, these metrics include profit, growth, and creating shareholder value. For countries, we typically look at metrics such as GDP. However, Chouinard makes it clear that while these are the metrics we currently use, they are no where near the best measures of the impact a company is really having.

As a business major, I have been taught to build businesses that can grow quickly and get a huge exit for shareholders; or, if I am working for a company, I have been taught how to try and increase metrics that shareholders look upon favorably. However, while growth is great for an individual company, it is terrible for the environment and sustainability of the world. For companies to keep up high growth rates, they often have to market their products to people who do not truly need them, or create products that are unnecessary. After reading Let My People Go Surfing, I have become a bit disillusioned by capitalism and large companies, and I would love to be part of the solution to change the way they operate.

As consumers, we NEED to truly evaluate whether we need certain products or not. Although I would not consider myself a big shopper, I am still guilty of buying things I do not need. Whether this be buying a shirt simply because it is cheap, or a trinket that I will care nothing about in 10 minutes, I have done it before. After reading Let My People Go Surfing though, I have begun to truly consider the impact that I have on the environment. In the book, Chouinard says (I do not know if it is completely factual or not) that it takes 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton tee-shirt; this is a ridiculous amount of water, all for something that most of us likely already have enough of. The next time you see a shirt for under $5 (or anything that seems too good to be true), know that the total impact (COGS+impact on the environment) is actually much higher. Even if you choose not to read Let My People Go Surfing, I ask you to at least consider every purchase you make and whether it is something you truly need or want (I am not saying not to buy anything, but at least consider the far-reaching effect each purchase has).

There are so many valuable lessons throughout the book, and I just gave an example of one thing I learned. Although some of us are fortunate to have more opportunity to impact the world than others, everyone can make a difference in some way. By living a little more like Yvon Chouinard and operating a company more like Patagonia, the world would benefit greatly.

Let My People Go Surfing Recommendation Rating: 5

This post has now been updated to reflect a new ratings system that I have implemented, which is scored as follows:

1: Something worth checking out if you have time

2: Something that is a hit for some people, but not a must for everyone

3: Something worth prioritizing if interested

4: Something worth making time to check out

5: An absolute home run, worth going out of your way for


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