I first met Gordon Seabury while eating daily lunch at the South Coast Deli a few years back, and an instant friendship developed. Gordon is the CEO of the Santa Barbara–based apparel company Horny Toad, but he’s totally unpretentious and oh so friendly. Hanging out with him is like wearing your favorite sweatshirt. We don’t get together as often as we should because our schedules are so busy, but he’s the type of friend who is so present. Once we’re reunited, we always pick up right where we left off.
Gordon conceived of Horny Toad from a design studio deep inside a Telluride, Colorado, basement back in 1996. Now a Santa Barbara company, with a brand-new headquarters inside the Riviera complex, Horny Toad makes clothing with eco-friendly fabrics that’s designed to meet the needs of both outdoor and city life. Gordon and the Horny Toad team see every day as a chance to be social leaders and good environmental citizens, and they practice a triple-bottom-line approach to business, blending people, planet, and profit.
Gordon took time away from running his successful company to answer the Proust Questionnaire.
What is it you like most about your job?
It is a wonderful life when you get up most mornings excited about the work day in front of you both because you can make a difference and you know you will learn something new. No two days are the same, which keeps things very interesting. Building a company that’s mission is to inspire people to live their fullest lives and working toward that end alongside our amazing and dedicated team of Toads make for a pretty spectacular “job.”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I have always shared my vision of passing the “Rocking Chair Test” as my ultimate life’s goal and I guess what I would consider my perfect happiness. When I am settling in on my porch and looking back on my life in those winter years, I can be proud of my personal relationships, my professional accomplishments, and the meaningful impact I left in the world. I really try to pack the most into life and make choices that hopefully limit regrets in the end. I am fortunate so far to have a wonderful wife, two amazing daughters, and the opportunity to build a company I love and has meaning and with many incredible experiences and so few regrets.
What is your greatest fear?
To have flinched and compromised my values or missed the opportunity to make the most of this one shot we all have in life to make it matter. Living life on the edge can be scary to some but living life predictably and safe is far scarier for me.
Who do you most admire and why?
The list is long. I get inspiration from so many different and great people. My wife, Karen, for trusting me implicitly through the many times I could have flinched and got a real job that could pay the bills more predictably. Ben & Jerry for being one of a very few early examples of building a successful business that had a greater purpose and proving the triple bottom line could work, and Warren Buffet for demonstrating how being successful does not have to mean abandoning your basic values and your person.
What is your greatest extravagance?
A toss-up between room service and the airport lounge to make my business travel a bit less painful. I know: really exciting.
What is your current state of mind?
Optimistic, although that state of mind has been what gets me in trouble. I am very excited about the coming years and watching my two daughters experience college and grow into interesting adults, my wife and I getting to spend more time focused on each other, traveling and surfing, and the company becoming a true leader in the 21st century of outdoor lifestyle, modern travel, and socially responsible business.
What is the quality you most like in people?
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
Sincerity and being grounded.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I have been told I am dangerously persuasive, and I think that may come from the unflinching optimism.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
My daughters would probably say, “Nobody thinks about you more than you.” I know it sounds harsh, but I am trying to teach them to not sweat the little stuff and focus on what really matters. Another favorite is: “Really?”
At Horny Toad, the list of “G”isms is probably longer than I know, but here are few favorites: “Don’t flinch.” “Do the right thing.” “Good is the enemy of Great.”
Which talent would you most like to have?
Being a film director or writer would be a special talent and a singer/songwriter wouldn’t be so bad either.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My wisdom and perspective of how the world works. I wish I had more knowledge earlier to inform and focus my optimism and thus effectiveness.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Balancing my personal and professional lives in a way that I have not compromised the success of either.
Where would you most like to live?
Santa Barbara is amazing, and we also love our cabin in June Lake, so it doesn’t get too much better than that for me but a little international adventure mixed in would be perfect.
What is your most treasured possession?
That is a hard one as I am not really a “stuff” guy. My surfboard is pretty important to daily life, but beyond that I would probably need to start to get personal and embarrass my daughters.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My daughters make me smile quite a bit, but I have to say my monthly poker game with good friends for the last eight years experiences my loudest and most frequent laughter session of each month. Coincidentally, my lovely wife threw a surprise poker party for me for my 39th birthday, and we have been playing ever since.
What is your motto?
At home: Live life to the fullest. At work: Don’t flinch.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I don’t think about a question like this ever, so off the top of my head, I am feeling more like Teddy Roosevelt with every trip I take to D.C. to influence the protection of our outdoor recreation infrastructure and remind our politicians how important the beautiful places Mr. Roosevelt was so visionary to protect are to our future generations.
On what occasion do you lie?
I can exaggerate a story with the best of them, but unless it is both harmless and for a greater good (i.e., avoiding unnecessarily hurting someone’s feelings), I try to avoid it.