The 16 Best Quotes from Let My People Go Surfing

I would argue that Patagonia is one of the greatest businesses of our time. From the founding of the company, the intentions were simple: create high quality products while doing minimal harm.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s memoir, “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman,” takes every orthodox business practice and throws it out the window. Chouinard proves that business can do immense good while becoming a $160 billion company.

Patagonia is one of B Lab’s Best for the World recipients and has a B Corp certification score of 152 (the median score is 55)! Clearly, there is a lot to learn from this company and I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the better business movement.

Here are my favorite passages:

1. “You can’t wait until you have all the answers before you act.”

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3. “The more you know, the less you need. The experienced fly fisherman with only one rod, one type of fly, and one type of line will always outfish the duffer with an entire quiver of gear and flies, I never forget Thoreau’s advice: ‘I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.…’”

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5. “I think of Patagonia as an ecosystem, with its vendors and customers as an integral part of that system. A problem anywhere in the system eventually affects the whole, and this gives everyone an overriding responsibility of the health of the whole organism. It also means that anyone, low on the totem pole or high, inside the company or out, can contribute significantly to the health of the company and to the integrity and value of our products.”

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7. “Our mission statement says nothing about making a profit. In fact Malinda and I consider our bottom line to be the amount of good that the business has accomplished over the year. However, a company needs to be profitable in order to stay in business and to accomplish all its other goals, and we do consider profit to be a vote of confidence that our customers approve of what we are doing.”

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9. “Our policy has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others. A serious surfer doesn’t plan to go surfing next tuesday at two o’clock. You go surfing when there are waves and the tide and wind are right…. This has led to our Let My People Go Surfing flextime policy. Employees take advantage of this policy to catch a good swell, or go bouldering for an afternoon, pursue an education, or get home in time to greet the kids when they climb down from the school bus.”

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11. “I’ve always believed that the key to the government’s doing the right things is to base its planning on the premise that the society will be around for a hundred years.”

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13. “Ninety percent of what we buy in a mall ends up in the dump within sixty to ninety days. It’s no wonder we are no longer called citizens but consumers. A consumer is a good name for us, and our politicians and corporate leaders are reflections of whom we have become. With the average American reading at only an eighth-grade level and nearly 50% of Americans not believing in evolution, we have the government we deserve.”

*This book was written in 2005 and these numbers have changed. However, the sediment seems to be vitally important in our current political situation.

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15. “Most of the damage we cause to the planet is a result of our own ignorance. We go about blindly doing unnecessary damage because we are uncurious.”

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