The Let My People Go Surfing book cover. Credit: Penguin Books.
The book in three words?
Honest - Relevant - Pioneering
What is it about?
Let My People Go Surfing is a powerful call to action and a love letter to breaking the rules.
We are in a climate crisis that is at war with our tendency for high consumption. Let My People Go Surfing explores this battle and shows a love for the natural world, featuring a charming autobiography of Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, the story of an unconventional company, and practices you can apply to the business world.
Alongside breathtaking images of nature, Chouinard takes you on a journey through the peaks and lows of his own life and the groundbreaking clothing business, Patagonia. Refreshing honesty and lessons of learning from mistakes seep through the pages and inspires. Let My People Go Surfing provides an example of business done differently - business that enriches lives and implements solutions to the environmental crisis.
As set out in the book, the ongoing vision of Patagonia is to make business a thing of good, where profit is made but it isn't the highest priority. Chouinard explains that often when they have made the right decision for the planet though - profit often has come as a result of it. Patagonia wants to lead corporate America by example. A reluctant businessman, Chouinard invented his own game and made it work. A clear takeaway from Let My People Go Surfing is that just like Patagonia, a business should have clear values that are communicated and taught to everyone in the business. Highlights of Patagonia’s values include: making the best product, causing no unnecessary harm, and using the business to put solutions for the environmental crisis into action.
Springing off these values, helpful detail is provided on the guidelines used by the company for different areas of the business such as marketing, production, environmental policy, and product design. As Chouinard explains, these guidelines are mouldable; therefore, you can use them for your own business or workplace.
How do you let your people go surfing?
Patagonia aims for work to be enjoyable every day for every employee. The company focuses on employing people with values that align with the beliefs of Patagonia, such as a love for the natural world over being driven by the sole purpose of profit. Ultimately Patagonia embraces freedom by allowing people to wear what they want, providing child care, and having a flextime policy. The Let My People Go Surfing policy gives people the opportunity to work flextime - meaning that if the waves are looking perfect for surfing - they can go and do just that! As shown in the book and the success of Patagonia, implementing employee benefits like this is a sure way to get valuable and happy employees.
Who is this book for?
This book is ideal for business owners, as it is rich with lessons and philosophies that can be applied to the workplace and across a company. It is also a great read for those that want to resist profit being the primary goal that overshadows making positive changes to lives and the environment. If you are into outdoor activities and adventures, it is likely you’ll enjoy and learns something from Let My People Go Surfing too. Ultimately, we are all in this climate crisis and could definitely learn a thing or two and be inspired by this book.
What do members of The Camelot Network think?
“Whilst the book is almost 17 years old, it feels very much of the time. A book that operates on many levels, be that as a non-traditional leadership guide, as a primer for organisations that want to consider their impact and responsibilities from an environmental, social, and governance perspective, and, probably most significantly as being a connected human being, that understands how they not only shape today but also influence tomorrow.
Reading this book, it’s no coincidence that Patagonia as a brand, as an organisation, and as a collective of people behaves in the way that it does. An organisation that is fuelled by purpose, that is as much action orientated as it is intentional, one that has great humility, is prepared to look outside itself as well as within itself to improve what it does and the way it does it. For sure it is not a perfect organisation (who is), but it is well worth reading this book to get a glimpse of what leads it to behave in the ways that it does. This is an authentic organisation, if you have ever met an employee, you will know what I mean.”
Mark Simpson, Founder and Director of Resilient Changing
To sum it up:
Let My People Go Surfing teaches through example that in business we should, always question how we can do better, own up and take responsibility for our mistakes, and create positive change. This book, through humour, honesty and humility teaches you to break the rules and the norm. Let My People Go Surfing offers knowledgeable guidelines and values that you can use to shape your own business, while not only being mindful of the earth but putting actions in place to protect it.
Want to know more?
Learn more about Let My People Go Surfing here.
Written by Chloe Allison