Recently, per my friends suggestion year's ago, I read the book Shoe Dog: A Memoir of the creator of Nike by Phil Knight.
Then, a few weeks later, I watched the movie AIR, directed by Ben Affleck, that details Sonny Vacarro's pursuit to sign then rookie Michael Jordan which forever changed the company. These two separate stories paint a very different picture than what we 'thought' we new about Nike.
My first memories of Nike are basically of black, red, and white sneakers that were everywhere, and I HATED them because I was (and still am) a massive Charles Barkley fan and the Bulls gave the Sixers fits. I had no clue how one man, his mother, and one decision would forever change the landscape for an entire generation of future athletes and their families, nor did I know what the creator of Nike had to do in order to place the company in a position to even have a chance.
Shoe Dog is one of the greatest entrepreneurial stories of our time. If you love the underdog, or love stories that are driven by nothing more than unbridled passion for what one believes they can accomplish, then this is your story, this is our story too.
There are so many moments that remind me of things I have done in my small little world of triathlon which Shoe Dog triggered in an instant.
Here are my top 4:
- Phil Knight was a legit runner in his day for the University of Oregon under legendary coach Bill Bowerman. It was his love of running that fueled his passion for running sneakers, not money. This is why Nike made certain decisions that other companies would not, could not make. Now, I wasn't really a legit anything, but for a 'hot minute' I did really, really well in triathlon at the age group level and always considered myself an athlete first which is why we too made decisions that may not have been made the most financial sense, but we didn't care, we just wanted to do right by the athlete.
- Phil walking into a sneaker manufacturer and requesting to be the official importer of "Tiger" shoes in the USA. The company asked for the name of his company, of which he didn't have, and made it up on the spot. Yes, Nike was first called Blue Ribbon Sports. This reminds me of walking into a meeting in Atlantic City and sitting around a big conference room table convincing the 15+ person I had the know-how and expertise to use the Atlantic City Expressway as a bike course. Or, convincing the DRBA I could execute a boat start triathlon like they do for the Escape From Alcatraz. Both entities said yes...and I had to figure it out.
- Phil bounced every employee paycheck in the US at one point. Wait, what? Yup, Nike had a liquidity issue and every single employee paycheck bounced on one Friday. Yes, they figured it out (of course) and everyone got paid, but it was a watershed moment for Nike. Now, I've never bounced a check, but I have gone DEEP into the well of reserves and then some to keep DelMo afloat through really tough, tough times. I've gone weeks without a paycheck from time to time to make certain that never happened to our team. I know the feeling of "How are we going to survive this?"
- Ridiculous amounts of regret. Phil lost one of his sons to a diving accident years ago. His son Mathew was eternally a puzzle to Phil. He is haunted by the thought that if he was around more and not traveling the world promoting Nike could he have solved the mystery of his son and possibly saved his life. I always wonder what the toll is any type of success/commitment will take on that person because that is what no one ever sees. You cannot do it all. When you say YES to one thing, you say NO to another. You're not trying to be selfish; you're simply trying to do what you think is best for all. It doesn't always work out the way you expect, but being cognizant of those choices is a step in the right direction.
Never did I expect the story of Nike to move me the way it did. A friend of mine has a company called MIOGA, he's brilliant in every way, a dedicated husband/father with a passion for life experiences. MIOGA stands for Made It On Guts Alone. This really is a great truth in life. You have to have the courage to go after what you want regardless of what the odds may be. Apple, Nike, Amazon, all of them were a shot in the dark. You don't have to want to start a billion-dollar company, simply start with your own life and from that, all dreams can become a reality.