Phil Knight, creator of Nike, penned his memoir. And what a memoir – the humor, the writing, the description, the people & Nike of course.

ShoeDog This memoir describes his journey from 1962 to 1980 & then his realization sitting in 2007. There are certain learnings (quotes) which stick with us throughout our lives and somewhere become our guiding principles, our values. The parallels he draws with such “guiding principles” with instances in his life – of course with the benefit of Hindsight, are the highlight of this memoir. I’ll be using sentences right from the book and then put my interpretation of the same. Here it goes – 
  • Why is it always most difficult to get started? – Phil starts this book with description of his morning jog. Just like jogging, most things we’ve done, are already a part of, or aspire for seem the most difficult before we just begin. 
  • Play. 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 midair, when both boxers sense the approach of the bell, when the runners near the finish line and the crowd rises as one. There’s a kind of exuberant clarity in that pulsing half second before winning and losing are decided. I wanted that, whatever that was, to be my life, my daily life – Ah! No comments here.
  • Best advice to myself – just don’t stop –  Just like a runner where the act of running is the destination. You set the goals within
  • Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that – Lewis Carroll 
  • I hated war, but loved warrior spirit. I hated the sword, but loved the samurai – This is something which most of us live through. Our conditioning defines us to love the warrior spirit, but lifting the sword is deemed bad. It always has been only this spirit that has defined everything we have as human race. Put to destructive use – we had 2 world wars. Put to constructive use – We have the Apple, Google, Tesla, Adidas, Nike, Virgin etc of the world (the brands that are much bigger than their founders)
  • I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, slightly better at selling mutual funds. So why was selling shoes so different? Coz it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed if people got out and ran a few miles everyday, the world would be a better place. Belief – is irresistible. No products are sold in this world. It is the belief which sells!
  • Competition often brings out the best in people. The art of competing is the art of forgetting. Forget your limits, doubts, pain, past. Forget that internal voice saying no!
  • There were many ways down Mount Fuji, but only one way up. Life lesson – All of us who believe in the ultimate summit, must endure the path. Loving what you do is the only key to perseverance. But truly, There is only one way up. Indeed!
  • Leadership, or lack thereof, under extreme conditions like war. And business is war without bullets. Look at all the stalwarts – Coke vs Pepsi, Virgin vs BA, Apple vs Samsung – They are in war!
  • Wisdom seemed an intangible asset, but an asset all the same, one that justified the risk. Fail fast was the chant – If you have to fail, fail fast. Coz the wisdom that comes after that can be implemented in your next battle in the war. That, my friends, is how you grow.
  • Probably Adidas wasn’t arrogant at all, that to motivate myself I needed to see them as a monster. Being second irritated me to no end. It also drove me. Hard – We all need that Goliath, that bully, that one enemy – we just NEED to beat.
  • The single easiest way to find out how you feel about someone. Say goodbye! – For all the low EQ (emotionally challenged) people out there. No wonder Airports have the most intense feelings & not places of worship!
  • Life is growth. You grow or you die – On handling life challenges along with trying to stabilize a startup 
  • Confidence. More than equity, more than liquidity, that’s what a man needs – Ever wondered how you just clinched that deal, when you knew your homework wasn’t enough? It is the belief that we have, which translates into confidence & then transcends beyond to make the other person join you in the belief.
  • No matter the sport – no matter the human endeavour, really – total effort will win people’s hearts
  • Supply and demand is always the root problem in business. It’s been true since Phoenician traders raced to bring Rome the coveted purple dye that coloured the clothing of royals and rich people; there was never enough purple to go around. It’s hard enough to invent and manufacture and market a product, but then logistics, the mechanics, the hydraulics of getting it to the people who want it, when they want it – this is how companies die, how ulcers are born
  • Nike was a haven for the sedentary. Ironically. That was all we seemed to hire those days – That’s irony at its best. A company trying to make an identity in fitness was forced to be a haven for the “unfit”. Probably that’s what happens when you are trying to make an identity for yourself. 
  • I still didn’t believe in the power of advertising. At all. Can you definitively say that people are buying Nikes because of your ad? Can you show it to me in black and white numbers? Silence. 
  • When you hired an accountant, you knew he or she could count. When you hired a lawyer, you knew he or she could talk. When you hired a marketing expert, or a product developer, what do you know? Nothing. And the typical business school graduate? He or she didn’t want to start out with a bag selling shoes. Plus they all had zero experience, so you were simply rolling the dice based on how they did in an interview. We didn’t have enough margins for error to roll a dice on anyone
  • Maybe the cure for any burnout, I thought, is to just work harder – If our desire is strong enough, the fatigue does not end till we reach our goal!
  • The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us – This is the history of Oregon, where Phil Knight was born (Google the trail of Oregon). But this is no less than the theory of evolution in Mankind, Industry, Sports, Science. And it will hold true – forever! 
  • Not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. Fatigue will be easier to beat, disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be nothing you’ve ever felt – The final advice for everyone in their twenties from Phil Knight. 
This is the one story which makes you believe that even “Normal” can do! Just Do it!! Do share your views/ feedback in the comments section

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