12 Things I Learned From The Creator Of Nike
Posted by Michael Vacanti
Shoe Dog was the best book I have read in years.
It is the origin story of Nike, written by Nike’s creator Phil Knight.
I didn’t love the book because I love Nike, or because it’s well-written, or because it’s the first page-turner I’ve ever experienced in the audio-book format; though, those are all true.
What I loved is that Nike is an against-all-odds story. That this brand, this legendary brand whose commercials give me goosebumps, was created by an insecure kid from no-where Oregon.
Phil “Buck” Knight trusted a barely audible voice in his mind, his intuition, as he struggled through his twenties to create the life he desired. During which time, every sign pointed doing toward realistic, conventional, respectable thing.
Instead, where the voice led him… was Nike.
Commercial example 1 of many:
I mean, seriously, goosebumps every single time.
Lessons From Shoe Dog
One: If You Just Graduated College And Have No Idea What The Hell You Are Doing, You Are In Good Company
“It was strange being home again. Strange being lashed again by the daily rains. Stranger still living at home with my parents and twin sisters. Sleeping in my childhood bed.
Late at night I’d lie in my bed staring at my college textbooks, my high school trophies and blue ribbons, thinking, ‘this is me… still??’
On paper, I thought, I am an adult. Graduated from a good college. Earned a master’s from a top business school … my resume said I was [qualified]. A 24 year-old man in full. But why, I wondered, why do I still feel like a kid. Worse, the same shy, pale, thin kid I’d always been.”
Two: Tried & True Principles Never Change
Like, influencer marketing for example.
Have you ever seen a C-list celeb pose awkwardly in an Instagram photo with an out of place bottle of cancer?
Yeah, that’s not new.
It’s just a rag tag version of what Nike did. On Tiger. And before him, on MJ. And before him, on Pre. RIP brother.
Technology changes, but principles stay the same.
Three: Offense > Defense
This is a lesson that has been beaten into my head by many great achievers, but I still struggle to absorb it.
Playing cautious benefits no one.
Phil Knight was barely drawing salary for years, while taking on as much leverage as the bank would allow (and then some). Growth growth growth.
“If you aren’t growing, you are dying.”
It was all about getting Nike shoes everywhere. It was all about top line. It was always about being the best.
Top Line vs Margin, oh how I wish to one day have the balls to be on the right side of this one.
Four: Nike Was Originally Called Blue Ribbon
That’s, just, something I learned reading Shoe Dog.
Five: On Burn-Out
“Maybe the cure for any burn out, I thought, is just to work harder.”
Now, I’m not sure I agree with this. But I do believe that what you believe, is. So, if you attack problems with this mindset, you will probably get the result you want.
Six: Merge Work and Life
I never really understood what I was doing when I quit my accounting job. I knew I hated it. And I needed to do something else. Anything else.
But Buck’s story shed light on what it was I wanted: to make the term work/life balance irrelevant.
To merge the two. To love what I did so much that work and life flowed in and out of one another.
Play! Yes, I thought. That’s it. That’s the word. The secret of happiness, I’d always suspected. The essence of beauty or truth. Or all we ever need to know of either. Lay somewhere in that moment when the ball is in mid-air. When both boxers sense the approach of the bell. When runners near the finish line, and the crowd rises as one. There’s a kind of exuberance. And clarity. And central meaning in the pulsing half second before winning and losing are decided. I wanted that. Whatever that was. To be my life.
Seven: On Using Life’s Finity As Motivation:
“Deep down, I was searching for something more. I had an aching sense that our time is short. Shorter than we ever know. Shorter than a morning run. And I wanted mine to be meaningful. And purposeful. And creative. And important. Above all, different. I wanted to leave a mark on the world. I wanted to win. No, that’s not right. I simply didn’t want to lose.”
Eight: A Mindset Shift To Avoid Being A Micromanager:
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
Nine: As A Strength Coach, I Disrespect Running Too Much
In my content, I turn a nose up to running.
There is a specific reason for this: misinformation is best defeated with hyperbole. And such a high percentage of the general population believe cardio is the secret to fat loss progress.
So, focusing on high ROI activities like strength training and nutrition tracking is a good way to focus attention on actions that drive results.
However, I am overlooking an important benefit of distance running: mental gains.
Solitude combined with runner’s high is where I and many others have found our greatest clarity when it comes to life’s most pressing issues.
In fact, so much so, that I am considering a stint of running as my #1 fitness focus. Sacrificing progress on my physique (because putting in dozens of miles per week is not conducive with aesthetics) for whatever zen upside I can grab.
We’ll see if I pull the trigger 😉
Ten: Don’t Let Degree Of “Crazy” Stop You From Pursuing An Idea
“History is one long procession of crazy ideas. Books, sports, democracy, free enterprise, all started as crazy ideas.”
Eleven: Take Inter-Generational Advice With A Hefty Grain Of Salt
Buck’s grandmother vehemently opposed his decision to travel, fearing “the japs will take you prisoner and gouge out your eyeballs.”
Remember, peoples’ views are shaped by their life experiences. So, those views are not always based in reality. Trust yourself more than you trust anyone else.
Twelve: The Best Advice, The Only Advice
“So that morning in 1962 I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy. Just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”
Important Concluding Words
As I look back on this post, something I threw together for this week’s reverse bet, I am realizing how incomplete a list I made while retroactively, and maybe half-heartedly, searching my brain for lessons.
Which is why I implore you to buy this book for yourself.
I took great comfort in Buck rehashing the struggles of his twenties. It would have comforted me even more five years ago.
So, whether you grab the book for yourself or for someone in your life, I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
PS: If you want a free copy of the book, I am giving some away click here.