Giving Away the Biz

I was deeply moved by Yvon Chouinard’s announcement that he’s giving Patagonia, the company he founded and grew, away.

While there are detractors waving the tax savings flag, it’s worth noting that from the get-go, Chouinard has been abundantly clear about his (and Patagonia’s) values and mission. He hasn’t wavered in his message and commitment to the planet in five decades, and that says a lot.

This timely article in Fast Company lays out the impact Chouinard’s actions are already having, and makes clear why attempts at labeling this a “woke” business stunt aren’t worth the pixels they’re written in.

It’s hard to argue with a half century of unwavering consistency and integrity.

And therein lies a lesson so many founders, leaders, and organizations can learn a whole lot from.

In case you’re wondering – yes – I enthusiastically include myself as one who has much to learn from Chouinard’s example. I’ll keep y’all updated on what I discover and what gets actualized on this end.

What’s abundantly clear is that Chouinard not only sees the bigger picture of the interconnectedness of systems, people, and the environment, he has taken a bold level of responsibility for what he sees.

He did put his company where his mission and vision are – and where they have been all along.

There’s no shortage of articles on Chouinard and Patagonia. There will be many more. With that in mind, I’ll leave more scholarly pieces to those inclined to create them, and I’ll spend just a few minutes on the impact Chouinard and his action has had on me.

First, I’m inspired. While not even in the neighborhood of giving away my business, I’m taking a closer look at the impact my work has – and the impact it (and I) could be having.

I’m asking serious questions about my message, who it reaches, and who it doesn’t.

I have a clear vision of my personal and work legacies – and the double helix they form. While my ego loves beating the drum of “bigger louder more”, I’m pretty certain there’s little danger of me allowing ego to go on a feeding-frenzy…

At the same time, there are degrees of “bigger louder more” that have little to do with me and everything to do with the more equitable, sustainable world that will be home to future generations. All that stands at odds with being a safe, well-kept secret. After all, the other end of the ego continuum is the quietly violent land of denying my own personal power. There one will find invisibility, irrelevance, and insignificance. None of that will help anyone.

I’m also banging away at questions around “balancing” profitability (the word “balancing” isn’t quite it, but that’s the language coming to me at the moment) with opening the men’s work I offer to a larger audience.

On one hand, there’s nothing wrong with making money. Using Patagonia as an example, they make high-quality products that they aren’t afraid to charge good money for. While I’m clear about the quality of my work, I’ve noticed some internal bouncing back and forth over whether I’m over-, or more likely, under-charging.

Again – I suppose this is the other hand – no one is helped by a helping business that isn’t helping itself.

Last for this moment: I’m curious about the interconnections between systems that I’m ignorant of, if not downright blind to. I think “What am I not seeing?” is a wildly important question.

These are just the first trickle, the early bits flowing from the Chouinard/Patagonia news. I have a sense there’s going to be a formidable stream – if not a veritable deluge – rolling down the mountain soon.

My invitation to y’all is to take some of these questions – and to find your own – about your personal and business legacies. Regardless, by the way, of whether you own your own biz or where you sit on an org chart.

Looking back from a couple hundred years in the future, how will you have contributed to the people and the planet? What’ll your version of Chouinard’s actions look like?