A Journal of Life Pursued

Yvon Chouinard

In Adventure, Life, Philosophy, The Examined Life, Wisdom on July 7, 2012 at 6:00 am

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If you’re a regular reader of “…the house…” you know of my obsession with the examined life. How to live is the question, and the study of “lives” is one fashion by which I attempt to find answers. That is, how have others answered the question and what does the examined life look like?

Typically this pursuit turns to history, literature, philosophy, and biography. But there are contemporaneous lives I study as well, vibrant lives not yet covered with the dust of history. First among them is Yvon Chouinard.

Chouinard is best known as the founder and CEO of the Patagonia company. He is widely recognized for his unique corporate style and philosophy, and his visionary environmental leadership. As a younger man, he was a world-class rock climber and adventurer. For a quick primer on the man and his philosophy, I recommend the current documentary, 180 Degrees South. (Available as streaming video on Netflix.) When pressed, I cannot think of a life that better wrestles with the question of how to live than Yvon Chouinard.

I leave you a Saturday quote from Chouinard.

“I had always tried to live my life fairly simply and by 1991, knowing what I knew about the state of the environment, I had begun to eat lower on the food chain and reduce my consumption of material goods. Doing risk sports had taught me another important lesson: never exceed your limits. You push the envelope and you live for those moments when you’re right on the edge, but you don’t go over. You have to be true to yourself; you have to know your strengths and limitations and live within your means. The same is true for a business. The sooner a company tries to be what it is not, the sooner it tries to ‘have it all,’ the sooner it will die.”

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.

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  1. I would like to know what you think about the movie Man on Wire, please.

    • K – Thanks for the question. It’s been probably a year since I saw Man on a Wire, so my impression is a bit stale. Funny, I was just talking to someone yesterday about the movie Buck. Wonder if you’ve seen it? My quick take on either movie is the same: man turns obsession into an elegant achievement, archiving status of zen master in the process. That is, such a singular vision, so very well defined, stands out to the rest of us mortals as a thing super extraordinary, beyond the the reach of most of us. Thing is, though, I believe that such achievements are within reach of us all. But an inventory must take place. I could not walk the tight rope across the twin towers. That is not where my vision has delivered me. Nor am I the horse whispherer. But there is, I believe, something I can do that would be my singular achievement, if I could possibly figure out a core expertise. Few of us have a calling and most of us lack the discipline of a Buck or of a Philippe Petit…or a Chouinard. But they are lives worth observing in the search for our individual vision. My two cents. Great question, Kevin. Got me thinking. Thanks for that. And thanks for reading.

  2. Love the quote! I’m trying to learn to trust myself completely and of course…know myself. I already love myself (hehe!)

  3. [...] Yvon Chouainard has a book titled, Let My People Go Surfing. I’m not a surfer, but I concur. Let my people go do something! [...]

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