“I think I must have learned to climb before I could walk; Father Simard, who lived upstairs in a house we were renting, encouraged me to crawl up the stairs where I was rewarded with a spoonful of honey.  When I was about six, my brother, Gerald, took me out fishing and sneaked a ten-inch pickerel onto the end of the line and made believe I caught it.  I’ve been hooked on fishing ever since.”  Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing, p 8.
Kids form their passions early in life.  And some say that a child’s core values are pretty well installed by age 6.  Age 6.
If that’s true, then what experience, what passions, what values do you want your young nieces and nephews to have?
You can be deliberate about selecting their passions and values.
Imagine that.  One experience with fishing, and bam! Yvon Chouinard is a lifelong fisherman.
If these early experiences are so powerful, so life-shaping, let’s use that to our advantage.  Explore life-shaping experiences with your young nieces and nephews.  Go find a bird’s nest.  Hike in the woods.  Swim.  Take them fishing.  Let them clamber over rocks.  Take them to an art museum.
The main thing is to have them have fun, and to see you having fun with that same fun thing.  They take their cues about what’s good or bad by watching you, to see how you sum it up.  Go to an art museum, yawn, look at your watch every seven minutes, roll your eyes in your head, and make some choice comments about how boring this is, (“Hell, anybody could paint that thing.) and you have put an indelible pall over art and museums.
On the other hand…
Show interest.  Demonstrate curiosity.  “I wonder why the painter put this little ray of light coming through this window?” you ask your niece. “Why do you think he did that?”
Once, while hiking in Yosemite Valley with a group of high school students, I spied an uplifted clod of leaf litter, about the size of a pie plate on a two-inch pedestal on the forest floor.  I stopped, pointed and said, “Hey, wait a minute.  What’s this?” and asked a student to lift up that round chunk of forest floor.  Underneath is a giant, red-capped mushroom.  After that, everybody in the group is forever searching for more of these big, beautiful mushrooms.  Not to eat, of course, but just to find and look at.  Like an Easter egg hunt.
On purpose, with great deliberation, you can help shape very positive passions and values in your siblings’ kids.
Do fun things and demonstrably have fun doing them.  And do worthwhile things, too.  Back to young Yvon Chouinard:  “Somewhere along Route 66 we stopped at an Indian Hogan, and my mother took out the preserved corn she had put up for the trip and gave it all to a Hopi woman and her hungry children.  That incident was probably my first lesson in philanthropy.”  Let My People Go Surfing, p 8.
Now young Yvon, early in life, is a climber, fisherman and philanthropist.
While this is especially true that young kids are shaped early, reinforcement of valuable values in later years is also important.
“When I was seventeen, I saw Glenn Exum teaching his son, Eddie, how to fly cast over by the climbing school shack (in the Grand Teton mountains of Wyoming).  Glenn was a mountain guide and a climbing legend in the valley.  He was also and elegant caster and a superb dry fly fisherman.  When he saw me watching he yelled, “Come on over here, son!” and proceeded to teach me to cast with a fly.  I put away my spinning rod and superduper lures and have fished exclusively with flies ever since.”  Let My People Go Surfing, p 13.
The kindness of a stranger, one simple act, changed Yvon’s life in a positive way.
Yvon Chouinard is founder and Owner of Patagonia, one of the most innovative and forward-looking companies in the world.  Makers of climbing and outdoor equipment and clothing, Patagonia is based on a strong set of enviable core principles around fair dealing, elegance of design, functionality and sustainability.  They have a 100-year business plan.  Yvon co-founded 1% for the Planet, an association of more than 400 business donating 1% of profits to environmental sustainability.
Chouinard is a climber, fisherman, and philanthropist.  All started at an early age, but a few seminal imprints.
Do you have the chance to help nurture another Yvon Chouinard with your nieces and nephews?

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