Being vulnerable allows for change

Carson Ting | BCBusiness

David Labistour. CEO, MEC

As the CEO of MEC, it’s not surprising that David Labistour lists backcountry skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and even kite boarding as some of his outdoor activities. What you won’t see listed is windsurfing—a sport Labistour was so good at it in his early 20s that he won international competitions for his native South Africa. Labistour, now 55, won’t ever windsurf again, he pledges. His reasoning? If he ever steps on a windsurfing board again, it will take time away from him learning something new. It’s a big idea that has driven him personally, and the idea driving his 44-year-old company now.

My Big Idea

“Being vulnerable allows for change, and vulnerability only comes from doing something new.”

When you’re very good at something and you have to learn something new, you’re vulnerable again. I was always okay with stepping into that vulnerable place and being surrounded by people who knew more than I did. It doesn’t mean you should always be vulnerable, but if you want to grow, you have to be willing to get to that stage. You are more susceptible to change if you move into a new space rather than stay in a place of comfort. I grew up in an environment where there were military conscriptions and this was at the time of the Angolan War. I was conscripted, and because I had a certain level of education, I was a second lieutenant put into a combat situation and some of the people reporting to me were mature permanent military people. All I had was training and no real experience—and I had to lead. So you have to be willing to learn and that’s where curiosity comes in. How do you foster curiosity? People see change and they’re more open to it. The more they become curious about the future, the more they want to be part of making that change happen.