Reclamation: What Sort Of Story Are You Telling?

The goal of climbing big, dangerous mountains should be to attain some sort of spiritual and personal growth, but this won’t happen if you compromise away the entire process.
— Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard, surfer, conch diver, rock climber, and self proclaimed “dirt bag,” wanted to replicate the pitons he saw some European climbers using in Yosemite Valley.  He bought a second-hand coal-fired forge, learned blacksmithing, and founded the Chouinard Equipment Company.  His book, "Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman" is a fascinating read on the journey from passion to financial and business success.

Chouinard was also able to quickly resell some rugby shirts he bought in Europe and realized that there was a real need for much more durable clothing for he and his rock-climbing friends.  He bought some industrial canvas and sewed what became known as the “stand up short” that his clothing company, Patagonia, still sells today.  He uses the brand as an activist platform for many of the environmental issues he is passionate about.

He and his good friend Doug Tomkins, founder of North Face Company, have played a crucial role in claiming over 2 million acres of wilderness in Chile and Argentina, by both funding and lobbying to protect the land.  While they are both activists in many forms, both consider this the most significant life work of their efforts.  Their initial journey to Patagonia is beautifully retold through the eyes of young adventurers, seeking to retrace their steps, in the film "180 South."

Recently Chouinard started a movement called “Worn Wear”.  It was launched via a short documentary film, “Worn Wear: A Film About the Stories We Wear.”  They have a website where people post stories about the decades long and sometimes multi-generational relationship with items of Patagonia clothing.  Ironically, the CEO of a clothing company, Patagonia, suggests that your next best clothing purchase might need to be a piece of well made used clothing.

Since the launch of “Worn Wear” over a year ago, Patagonia’s financial success and brand recognition has climbed to even greater heights.  Rather than destroy the company by encouraging the reuse of their clothing (as I am sure many suggested) they are more successful than ever.

They have (I believe unwittingly) tapped into something beyond their comprehension; we were all created for restoration.  We were all meant for a journey…

…from things not as they should be to things as they were intended.

…from worn and discarded to specifically and uniquely reused.

They have powerfully connected with a generation that the Church seems to be losing and most businesses I am associated with are terribly frustrated with.  There is a whole generation behind most of us in leadership, that wants their lives to count.  They are searching for purpose and meaning, but in their absence will accept and demand monetary gain and worldly success.  Tapping into that great desire is the key to:

  • Mobilizing our work forces
  • Engaging our client bases
  • Wooing our families to the gospel
  • Restocking the rows of our emptying churches.

My son recently called me from a visit to his in-laws out of state.  He is forming plans for a business with a carpenter that he is apprenticing under.  They will continue to do high-end finish out of homes and also build furniture, largely from reclaimed lumber.  He excitedly talked about how his generation is interested in the reclamation of things discarded, artisan craftsmanship, and even ancient practice of faith.  He believes that telling a compelling story about restoration through the work, will make for great business and the expansion of the Kingdom.

So far he’s used the time-lapse and super slow motion features on his camera phone to produce three videos:

  • His Weimaraner running through the grass
  • The building and staining of a coffee table
  • Reclaiming the wood from a fallen oak tree

He posted the video of the tree coming down on Instagram.  His caption read:

“This live oak, killed off by disease, will become timber to provide security, a bench to rest your feet and a table to fill your belly at.  Talk about restoration…”

If we are going to be the good Kings of the Kingdom that lead our businesses, families, and organizations well, we are going to have to do a better job of telling a compelling story.  Ironically, the story we have to tell is written on the heart of every human being and it is the one they are all desperate to hear.

  • What sort of story are you telling with your life?
  • What sort of story are you telling through your business, organization, or family?
  • Are you clear on your unique vision, values, and purpose that guys like Chouinard and my son seem to so clearly understand?