Don’t Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It

This essay is from a Patagonia catalog in 2004. This ethos has resonated with me lately as I’ve seen more and more of the inside of the business school classroom. I hope to do a lot more thinking about the future of our economy and consumerism in the next two years and come out with a clear philosophy and model of what could work.



Don’t Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It

by Yvon Chouinard & Nora Gallagher
Late Summer 2004

Near the headquarters of Patagonia, on the central coast of California, the Chumash Nation enjoyed a good life for thousands of years. They lived in small villages and possessed fur blankets, intricate baskets and soapstone pots decorated with shells. They painted elaborate abstracts in mountain caves. In every village were game-playing fields and sacred buildings. Almost every day, most Chumash enjoyed a cleansing sweat in the village temescal. In each village was a granary for stockpiling food that would later be distributed to those in need.

Chumash traded exquisite olivella shells for black pigment, honeydew melons, pine nuts, wild tobacco and various herbs and salt. By the 16th century, theirs was a complex society of hunters and gatherers with a far-reaching, sophisticated trade network.

Other nations along the western coast shared this life. Gerald Amos, a member (and former chief) of the Haisla Nation in Kitamaat, northwest Canada, recalls a friend of his father who would leave home in the dark to paddle to his trapline four miles by water. He would spend the day walking the lines, checking and resetting the traps. “Along the way back to the boat, during the late fall and early winter, the coho salmon would be still in the creeks that they passed, so they would stop at one of these creeks and take a couple of coho, which they would clean and pack home in their backpack together with what-ever animals they had taken in their traps. The fish provided them with their supper later that night.”

Such lives are often called subsistence, which brings to mind the barest, hardscrabble survival. But there is another way to look at them. At Patagonia we choose to call them “economies of abundance.” In an economy of abundance, there is enough. Not too much. Not too little. Enough. Most important, there is enough time for the things that matter: relationships, delicious food, art, games and rest.

Many of us in the United States live in what is thought to be abundance, with plenty all around us, but it is only an illusion, not the real thing. The economy we live in is marked by “not enough.” We once asked the owner of a successful business if he had enough money and he replied, “Don’t you understand? There is never enough.”

We don’t have enough money, and we also don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough energy, solitude or peace. We are the world’s richest country, yet our quality of life ranks 14th in the world. As Eric Hoffer, a mid-20th century philosopher, put it, “You can never get enough of what you don’t really need to make you happy.”

And while we work harder and harder to get more of what we don’t need, we lay waste to the natural world. Dr. Peter Senge, author and MIT lecturer, says, “We are sleepwalking into disaster, going faster and faster to get to where no one wants to be.”

We might call this economy, the one we live in, the economy of scarcity.

Lest you think the economy of abundance is gone with the old Chumash, consider Europe. Europeans still buy only a few well-made clothes and keep them for many years. Their houses and apartments tend to be smaller than ours; they rely on public transportation, and small, efficient home appliances and cars. Europeans enjoy a 25 percent higher quality of life than Americans (while we consume 75 percent more than they do).

Or, look at the people of Bhutan, whose king insists on measuring “gross national happiness.”

Any person or nation can grow fatter and fatter, richer and richer, sleepwalking toward disaster. Or we can choose to remain lean and quick, wealthy in beauty and time and, that word that inspired our forefathers, wealthy in happiness.

In Patagonia’s environmental campaign this year, we looked at the plight of wild salmon and what it might take for us to become what Ecotrust calls “a Salmon Nation,” a nation of people who make choices that contribute to the health of whole watersheds and the economies of the people who live in them. A salmon nation is a nation of abundance, where people live in a way that fish can thrive. If you think this is an impossible dream, check out Seth Zuckerman’s essay “The Gift: Salmon Recovered”and learn how wild salmon rebounded in Alaska after the state employed sophisticated tools like sonar, stream bank counters and airborne spotters to ensure their salmon were not overfished. In the last two decades, commercial catches in Alaska have more than doubled.

At Patagonia, we are dedicated to abundance. We don’t want to grow larger, but want to remain lean and quick. We want to make the best clothes and make them so they will last a long, long time. Our idea is to make the best product so you can consume less and consume better. Every decision we make must include its impact on the environment. We make ski jackets that are the right jackets, with no compromises, yet they are elegant enough to wear over dress clothes in a storm in Paris. (Most ski jackets sit in the closet nine months out of the year.) We want to zero in on quality.

In the economy of abundance, wild salmon are given back rivers in which to run. Trees grow to their natural height. Water is clean. A sense of mystery and enchantment is restored to the world. We humans live within our means and, best of all, we have the time to enjoy what we have.


So run that you may obtain it.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”

(1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ESV)


Icon Ambulance

Found this great story about Steve Jobs from Vic Gundotra on Google+. Enjoy.

One Sunday morning, January 6th, 2008 I was attending religious services when my cell phone vibrated. As discreetly as possible, I checked the phone and noticed that my phone said “Caller ID unknown”. I choose to ignore.

After services, as I was walking to my car with my family, I checked my cell phone messages. The message left was from Steve Jobs. “Vic, can you call me at home? I have something urgent to discuss” it said. 

Before I even reached my car, I called Steve Jobs back. I was responsible for all mobile applications at Google, and in that role, had regular dealings with Steve. It was one of the perks of the job. 

“Hey Steve – this is Vic”, I said. “I’m sorry I didn’t answer your call earlier. I was in religious services, and the caller ID said unknown, so I didn’t pick up”. 

Steve laughed. He said, “Vic, unless the Caller ID said ‘GOD’, you should never pick up during services”. 

I laughed nervously. After all, while it was customary for Steve to call during the week upset about something, it was unusual for him to call me on Sunday and ask me to call his home. I wondered what was so important?

“So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I’ve already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow” said Steve. 

“I’ve been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I’m not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn’t have the right yellow gradient. It’s just wrong and I’m going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”

Of course this was okay with me. A few minutes later on that Sunday I received an email from Steve with the subject “Icon Ambulance”. The email directed me to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon. 

Since I was 11 years old and fell in love with an Apple II, I have dozens of stories to tell about Apple products. They have been a part of my life for decades. Even when I worked for 15 years for Bill Gates at Microsoft, I had a huge admiration for Steve and what Apple had produced. 

But in the end, when I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January. It was a lesson I’ll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.

To one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met, my prayers and hopes are with you Steve.



Startup advice, how to build a $100m business, how to build a world-class network – What I’m Reading (9/17/15)

Earlier this week, my first class essay posted from pre-term. Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks.

How to Build a $100 Million Business – Boris Wertz
The Ten Most Important Books to Expand Your Brain
 – James Altucher
Paul Graham’s Startup Advice for the Lazy – Stelios Constantinides
The Secrets of living to 200 years old – BBC
Ben Horowitz’s Best Startup Advice – Product Hunt
How to Give Advice So That People Will Listen – Ramit Sethi
Want to Design a Mobile App That Feels Like Magic? Start here. –
The Ten Most Important Books to Expand Your Brain – James Altucher
The Education of Airbnb’s Brian Chesky – Fortune
How to Build a World-Class Network in Record Time – Tim Ferriss


Georgetown Class Essay – The Structure of Global Industries, Pt 1

I’m writing class essays while I’m here at Georgetown to ensure I translate everything I’m learning into my own words and assist with deep learning. After orientation, we began a three-week, two-class intensive with 4.5 credits packed into thirteen days of classroom time. The below covers my main learnings from the economics-focused class, Structure of Global Industries.

Credit for good material goes to Georgetown and their faculty. Mistakes or omissions are mine.

The Structure of Global Industries, Pt 1

1. Economic Frameworks

Supply and Demand
Over and over again the concepts in class came down to different applications of supply and demand. The law of supply says that increased price increases quantity produced and that a decrease in price decreases quantity produced. This is coupled with the law of demand that says the a increase in price decreases demand and a decrease in price increases demand. These fundamental laws interact with each other to find a price and quantity equilibrium, where the price entices producers to make this quantity (supply) and the price entices enough consumers to purchase (demand).


Quick examples:
– A finite of supply of gold plus an increased demand for gold has led to an increase in price
– Long lines outside Apple stores when new phones release (price increase here is normal phone cost + hours spent waiting)

If the price changes on a good, what will the response be? Will demand suddenly increase? An example of inelasticity would be a 10% increase in the price of Netflix. For most of us, that wouldn’t change our purchase of that subscription. This means the demand here is inelastic. A counter example could be a $0.50 increase in the price of Orbits gum. Many more people would switch to a different brand of gum if the price increased.

High elasticity often happens at the upper end of the price axis, where price is high and quantity produced is low (think luxury goods). Low elasticity often happens at the upper end of the quantity axis, where price is lower (think commodities).

Production possibility frontier
This was a helpful thought exercise in understanding international trade. Imagine a country that can produce only two things. Let’s keep it paleolithic and say this country is made up of a caveman and a cavewoman who can catch fish and pick berries.

If the caveman picks berries all day he can pick two units of berries. If the cavewoman fishes all day she can catch two units of fish. For the sake of the thought exercise, assume a unit of fish and a unit of berries are equal.

1 caveman day = 2 units of berries
1 cavewoman day = 2 units of fish
2 total days = 4 total units

Let’s say now that the caveman goes to help the cavewoman catch fish. Unfortunately he’s too slow and only can catch one unit of fish per day. The next day, the cavewoman goes to help the caveman pick berries. She’s not very good at picking berries so she can only pick one unit of berries per day.

1 caveman day fishing = 1 unit of fish
1 cavewoman day fishing = 2 units of fish
2 total days = 3 total units


1 caveman day picking berries = 2 units of berries
1 cavewoman day picking berries = 1 units of berries
2 total days = 3 total units

It’s clear that most they can produce is four units. This is the production possibility frontier – the maximum units they can produce.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 11.31.19 PM

Productivity and the two-good model
Now we’ll assume that there are two paleolithic countries, each with one caveman and one cavewoman. Country A has an abundance of rivers and lakes and together they can catch 6 units of fish per day, but they don’t have much fertile land so together they can only pick 2 units of berries per day. Country B has the opposite and can catch only 2 units of fish per day but can pick 6 units of berries.

This is where trade becomes beneficial for both countries. Country A benefits by trading 2 units of fish (1/3 day of work for them) for 2 units of berries (a full day of work for them). They have the same total units of food but with trade they have the berries they would have picked in a full day plus 4 units fish. The reverse is true for Country B. They have 6 total units of food (4 units of berries and 2 units of fish).

Country A’s comparative advantage in catching fish gives them an incentive to produce that and trade it for berries. This advantage can come from a number of things: factor abundance (your country naturally has a lot of something), institutions (school, etc), policy (tax incentive to produce something), and sometimes just luck and chance (discovering the wheel).

Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)
This is an economic theory that says the same basket of goods in one economy should cost the same relative amount in another economy. Relative is typically measured as a percentage of GDP. For example, a gallon of milk costing 1% of your average daily wage in Country A should cost the same 1% of average daily wage in Country B. This is helpful when determining exchange rates.

– – –

Parts two and three covering policy and strategy are coming up soon.


Who to Follow on Twitter in Tech

Since starting business school, I’ve recommended to a number of classmates interested in startups and tech to start using Twitter. The fact that they are ideal Twitter users but somehow aren’t finding value in it is another blog post.

For the first person to whom I made this recommendation, she opened her Twitter app and on her behalf I followed the most interesting and prolific users that I personally followed.

Of course, that’s unsustainable. Below are the people I’ve found most interesting on Twitter.

Side note: Twitter – a good function for new users would be to follow all of the users someone else follows, rather than do this manually. New users would build their feeds with accounts that have already been curated by power users.


Marc Andreessen
Chris Sacca
Jason Calacanis
Kevin Rose
Paul Graham
Gary Vaynerchuk
– Startup L. Jackson
Walt Mossberg
Adam Bain
Peter Diamandis
– Product Hunt
Melissa Barnes
Tracy Chou
Ellen Chisa
Chris Dixon
Launch Ticker
The Verge
Travis Kalanick
Hacker News 20
Hunter Walk
Andy Ellwood
John Doerr
David Heinemeier Hansen
Megan Quinn
Y Combinator
Benedict Evans
Sam Altman
Dharmesh Shah
Ali Mese
Max Levchin
Steve Blank
Nilofer Merchant
Ryan Allis


Elon Musk
– Science Friday
Curiosity Rover
– Phil Plait
Popular Science
Chris Hadfield


Startups, Wanderlust, Life Hacking


Better pitches, unsolved mysteries, how to be an influencer – What I’m Reading (8/22/15)

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to read anything outside of cases and my accounting textbook, so this list is short given the time since I’ve last posted what I’m reading. Lots of good ones in here though. Hopefully I’ll have class essays from pre-term posted soon.

Want a Better Pitch? Watch This. – Andy Raskin
The Economist Science Briefs: A Series of Six Specials on Science’s Unsolved Mysteries  – The Economist
Influencers Aren’t Born, They’re Built – Here’s How – First Round Review
Formula for Entrepreneurial Success – Ev Williams
Accelerators Are The New Business School – TechCrunch
16 Startup Metrics – a16z
Why Design Matters More than Moore – KPCB
Location, Location, Location (Podcast) – a16z
How to go from a nobody to a somebody – Jason Calacanis