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#186 Phil Knight (Nike)
June 16th, 2021 | E186

What I learned from rereading Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight. 


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[2:02] I had an aching sense that our time is short, shorter than we ever know, short as a morning run, and I wanted mine to be meaningful. And purposeful. And creative. And important. Above all...different.

[6:18] 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. That's the precocious, prescient, urgent advice I managed to give myself, out of the blue, and somehow managed to take. Half a century later, I believe it's the best advice-maybe the only advice-any of us should ever give.

[10:32] They greeted my passion and intensity with labored sighs and vacant stares.

[16:48] Carter never did mess around. See an open shot, take it. I told myself there was much to learn from a guy like that.

[20:25] If I didn't, if I muffed this, I'd be doomed to spend the rest of my days selling encyclopedias, or mutual funds, or some other junk I didn't really care about.

[27:45] Bowerman was a genius coach, a master motivator, a natural leader of young men, and there was one piece of gear he deemed crucial to their development. Shoes. He was obsessed with how human beings are shod.

[32:30] Bowerman didn’t give a damn about respectability. He possessed a prehistoric strain of maleness. Today it’s all but extinct. He was a war hero, too. Of course he was.

[32:49] The most famous track coach in America, Bowerman never considered himself a track coach. He detested being called coach. He called himself a “Professor of Competitive Responses,” and his job, as he saw it, and often described it, was to get you ready for the struggles and competitions that lay ahead.

[35:40] In my mind he was Patton with a stopwatch. That is, when he wasn't a god.

[38:17] "Buck," he said, "how long do you think you're going to keep jackassing around with these shoes?" I shrugged. "I don't know, Dad."

[40:00] So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn't selling. I believed in running.

[1:00:57] My life was out of balance, sure, but I didn't care. In fact, I wanted even more imbalance. Or a different kind of imbalance. I wanted to dedicate every minute of every day to Blue Ribbon. I'd never been a multitasker, and I didn't see any reason to start now. I wanted to be present, always. I wanted to focus constantly on the one task that really mattered.

[1:05:40] I spent a fair portion of each day lost in my own thoughts, tumbling down mental wormholes, to solve some problem or construct some plan.

[1:10:40] More than once, over my first cup of coffee in the morning, or while trying to fall asleep at night, I'd tell myself: Maybe I'm a fool? Maybe this whole damn shoe thing is a fool's errand? Maybe, I thought. Maybe.

[1:23:10] I told myself, Don’t forget this. Do not forget. I told myself there was much to be learned from such a display of passion, whether you were running a mile or a company.

[1:36:50] When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is-you're participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you're helping others to live more fully, and if that's business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me.

[1:38:10] I asked myself: What are you feeling? It wasn't joy. It wasn't relief. If I felt anything, it was... regret? Good God, I thought. Yes. Regret. Because I honestly wished I could do it all over again.

[1:40:32] Of course, above all, I regret not spending more time with my sons. And yet I know that this regret clashes with my secret regret that I can't do it all over again. God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing.

[1:40:50] I'd like to share the experience, the ups and downs, so that some young man or woman, somewhere, going through the same trials and ordeals, might be inspired or comforted. Or warned. Some young entrepreneur, maybe, some athlete or painter or novelist, might press on. It's all the same drive. The same dream. It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements. I'd tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I'd tell men and women in their midtwenties 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. If you're following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you've ever felt.

[1:42:22] Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn't mean stopping. Don't ever stop.


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