Yvon Chouinard’s donation of Patagonia to an environmental charity was as stunning as it was not unexpected from him. But it created a moment of doubt for me. And having spoken to a handful of purpose-minded owner-CEOs since, I know I’m not alone.
Because there’s “all in”. And there’s “ALL IN“.
His action was almost universally and rightly applauded. But it set so high a bar that it created a bit of imposter syndrome for those of us who are leading with purpose and values, but haven’t gone so far as to grow a $Bn company and place it into a charitable trust!
Not the first time I have felt wholly inadequate in something I believed in. Nor I suspect for many of the owner-CEOs who I spoke to in the last couple of days.
Outside of work, I am very active in a human rights capacity. Specifically, I’m heavily engaged in fighting against state apartheid as it exists today. The giant for me, as for so many of us, was always Nelson Mandela. But often the more I look up to what he did, the less significant I feel in what I do.
Because what I and many of my fellow activists are doing is smaller than the tip of a pin in comparison to what he went through and subsequently did.
But let’s get real for a minute. It’s not as if the only way to fight systematic state-sponsored discrimination is to go to prison for 27 years, spend much of it with torture and isolation, come out bearing no malice to your jailers and then go on to dismantle the state apparatus of injustice and lead your country to a relatively peaceful transition!
In the days of South African apartheid, there was only one Mandela. But that didn’t mean that what everyone else did was therefore of no consequence. Far from it. And our fight against apartheid where it exists today is even more important precisely because we don’t have today’s Mandela.
Likewise, in the business and environmental world, there is one Chouinard. But we all have our roles, our impacts and our journeys. Very few of us will build multi $Bn companies to even be in a position to give them to a charity.
But we can still lead with purpose. We can still make sure that what we do makes a positive impact. We can still look to grow that impact.
I had to sleep on it to get over the inferiority complex! But it’s OK. I know that I, and every purpose-minded owner-CEO I spoke to yesterday is making a difference.
We just need to choose not to feel futility at the level at which we operate, but rather see Chouinard’s commitment and generosity of spirit as an inspiration of what success looks like, draw lessons from it, and remember that it isn’t about us, but rather about the outcomes we’re striving for.
And keep on adding at every level to the increasing movement of positivity that WILL change the world for better.
Have a great weekend.
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