Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

I don’t know about you, but I have found various people throughout my life to be inspirational.

This inspiration has lead me to investigate and research all sorts of unexpected turns and paths, most of which were interesting, but not applicable to my current situation at the time. Others have been beneficial and helped my thinking grow in the long term. Without a doubt, all those unexpected pathways, whether applicable or not, some even seldom travelled, have been helpful in opening my mind to other possibilities.

When I think about these paths and possibilities I am reminded of this quote attributed to Issac Newton “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

What I believe is meant by “seeing further by standing on the shoulders of giants”, is that you are acknowledging the work and thinking of other people who have helped you go further than what you may have otherwise.

What I don’t think it means is that you have developed some sort of hero worship.

Here Are Three People (amongst many) That Have Helped Inform My Thoughts

Seth Godin

One of the earlier marketing books I read, and for me still the most influential, was Seth Godin’s “Permission Marketing.”

In this book Seth Godin outlines the idea that we should treasure and look after the people who relate to what we do, our offer and our story. That marketing to these people should not be about sell, sell, rather it should be about how we can add value to their lives, and how we grow that relationship. That marketing should be about these potential or past customers giving us permission to communicate with them, a permission that at anytime can be revoked.

For me this offered a more moral and focused way forward than the distastefulness of most advertising. Mass marketing and advertising seems to be more about being intrusive and bombarding potential customers with increasingly loud and in your face messages.

Messages that you neither asked for, nor wanted, all in the drive to get you to consume more stuff that you don’t need.

In what we are doing with our marketing, I sometimes have to step back and ask myself – Would I welcome a certain message from River Valley? If I would not, then it should not be sent.

Seth writes a daily blog which is both an inspiration and sometimes challenging, but almost always worth the read.

Here is the link to Seth’s website –

Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of clothing company Patagonia, surfer, mountain climber, fisherman, author, environmentalist and a reluctant businessman, who just so happens to own a very successful business.

I first became exposed to him when I read his book titled “Let My People Go Surfing”.

I could go on and on about how Chouinard has grappled with his reluctance and general unease for much of what constitutes normal business, about his strong personal feelings regarding environmental and social issues, and all mixed in with a very successful clothing company. A company that has been successful in some ways in spite of him. Or is it because this level of activism has drawn people to Patagonia precisely because of the stand they have taken?

If you want to know more about this history, follow this link.

Patagonia is presently suing the US Government over the Trump administration’s plans to decrease the size of several National Monuments.

To me Yvon Chouinard offers an example and an inspiration of how a business can be used for good, as well as for profit.

Martin Litton

No history of running the Grand Canyon, wooden river dories, and dams on the Colorado River can be complete without mentioning Martin Litton.

Martin Litton was larger than life. Perfect he was not, passionate he was. He started a business that became Grand Canyon Dories. This business pioneered the use of beautiful individualised river dories through the Canyon. The same craft we use on the Whanganui River.

Throughout much of his life he threw himself into environmental and conservation causes, sometimes on the winning side, sometimes not. One of those causes that he did help win, was halting the construction of further dams through the Grand Canyon. In later life his passion was saving old  growth Redwood forests in California.

This quote sums up what I know of him –  “People often tell me not to be extreme. Be reasonable! they say. But I’ve never felt it did any good to be reasonable about anything in conservation, because what you give away will never come back – ever! When it comes to saving wilderness we can never be extreme enough!”

Unfortunately, the lesson from this is that each generation has to refight some of those battles, and many new ones.

Martin Litton set an example that you cannot give up or step back from that responsibility.

Here a couple of links that you might like to check out.

Martin’s Boat, the film –

His legacy –

These three are amongst the many I could have chosen. All three of them are ordinary men who through passion and perseverance are helping or have helped to make the world a better place. I am happy to say that yes, I stand on their shoulders.

Whose shoulders do you stand on?

Brian Megaw

"Martin Litton's boats now at home on the Whanganui River, New Zealand"