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#153 Bill Bowerman (Nike)
November 12th, 2020 | E153

What I learned from reading Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon's Legendary Coach and Nike's Cofounder by Kenny Moore. 


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[0:01] Take a primitive organism, any weak, pitiful organism. Say a freshman. Make it lift, or jump or run. Let it rest. What happens? A little miracle. It gets a little better. It gets a little stronger or faster or more enduring. That's all training is. Stress. Recover. Improve. You would think any damn fool could do it, but you won't.

[0:25] You work too hard and you rest too little and get hurt. 

[1:38] You cannot just tell somebody what’s good for him. He won’t listen. He will not listen. First, you have to get his attention.  

[4:14] From the book Shoe Dog. Phil Knight on Bowerman: I look back over the decades and see him toiling in his workshop, Mrs. Bowerman carefully helping, and I get goosebumps. He was Edison in Menlo Park, Da Vinci in Florence, Tesla in Wardenclyffe. Divinely inspired. I wonder if he knew, if he had any clue, that he was the Daedalus of sneakers, that he was making history, remaking an industry, transforming the way athletes would run and stop and jump for generations. I wonder if he could conceive at that moment all that he'd done. All that would follow. I know I couldn't. 

[8:02] Are you in this simply to do mindless labor or do you want to improve? You can’t improve if you’re always sick or injured. 

[9:17] Bowerman was decades ahead of putting just as much of an importance on your recovery as you do on your training.  

[12:11] In theory, as a coach, he should have been as interested in motivating the lazy as in mellowing the mad, but he wasn’t. “I’m sorry I can’t make them switch brains,” he said. But I can’t.” That left him free to be absorbed by the eager. 

[17:00] One of the things that makes him so interesting is that he was willing to think from first principles. If he arrived at different collusion he thought was right it didn't matter if 90% of the people in his field were doing it another way. 

[17:21] Bowerman understood that paradox—the need for both abandoned effort and ironclad control

[18:47] He spent long hours in contented silence, solving a huge range of problems, and he was brutally eloquent when dissecting others’ psyches. Yet he kept the process of himself to himself. 

[20:42] In his approach to the world, he would take stock, give nothing away, circle to different vantage points, and keep an eye out for a sign of something he might exploit. 

[28:27] “Because of what he taught,” Bowerman would say, “I went from one of the slowest players to the second fastest. . . I learned from the master.”  

[30:40] Bill Hayward was Bill Bowerman’s blueprint: He took from his scrapbook a photograph of Hayward. He had it framed behind glass, to preserve what Hayward had written on it: “Live each day so you can look a man square in the eye and tell him to go to hell!” 

[32:29] Celebrate optimum rather than maximum.

[33:23] He killed a 7-foot rattlesnake with a clipboard. 

[38:12] If you ask where Nike came from, I would say it came from a kid who had that world-class shock administered at age seventeen by Bill Bowerman. Not simply the shock, but the way to respond. He attached such honor to not giving up, to doing my utmost. Most kids didn’t have that adjustment of standards, that introduction to true reality.  

[47:05] They shook hands on a partnership. Bill would test and design the shoes. Buck [Phil Knight] would run the company. 

[47:40] Bowerman knew Knight would give the new venture the ceaselessness of a runner. 

[49:45]  Bowerman’s response to other coaches: “As a coach, my heart is always divided between pity for the men they wreck and scorn for how easy they are to beat.” 

[53:13] “I don’t believe in chewing on athletes,” he once said. “People are out there to do their best. If you growl at them and they’re not tigers, they’ll collapse. Or they’ll try to make like a tiger. But the tigers are tigers. All you have to do is cool them down a little bit so they don’t make some dumb mistake.” His view was that intelligent men will be taught more by the vicissitudes of life than by a host of artificial training rules. 


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