Book Reviews

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

31. Shoe Dog - Phil Knight

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Rating: 6/10

Date of reading: 8th – 17th of August, 2017

Description: Autobiography of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike and the way he created Blue Ribbon Sports (Nike later on) to the way he played on the edge of failure for years. 

 

My notes:

 

DAWN

 

“Earned a master’s from a top business school—Stanford. Survived a yearlong hitch in the U.S. Army—Fort Lewis and Fort Eustis. My résumé said I was a learned, accomplished soldier, a twenty-four-year-old man in full . . . So why, I wondered, why do I still feel like a kid?” ( :7)

“At twenty-four I did have a Crazy Idea, and somehow, despite being dizzy with existential angst, and fears about the future, and doubts about myself, as all young men and women in their midtwenties are, I did decide that the world is made up of crazy ideas. History is one long processional of crazy ideas. The things I loved most—books, sports, democracy, free ​nterprise—started as crazy ideas.” ( :8)

 

PART ONE

 

“I really craved was connection with a capital C. I wanted to experience what the Chinese call Tao, the Greeks call Logos, the Hindus call Jñāna, the Buddhists call Dharma. What the Christians call Spirit.” ( :12)

“The last thing I wanted was to pack up and return to Oregon. But I couldn’t see traveling around the world alone, either. Go home, a faint inner voice told me. Get a normal job. Be a normal person. Then I heard another faint voice, equally emphatic. No, don’t go home. Keep going. Don’t stop.” ( :18)

“Driving to my hotel, however, I saw only darkness. Vast sections of the city were total liquid black. “War,” the cabdriver said. “Many building still bomb.” American B-29s. Superfortresses. Over a span of several nights in the summer of 1944, waves of them dropped 750,000 pounds of bombs, most filled with gasoline and flammable jelly. One of the world’s oldest cities, Tokyo was made largely of wood, so the bombs set off a hurricane of fire. Some three hundred thousand people were burned alive, instantly, four times the number who died in Hiroshima. More than a million were gruesomely injured. And nearly 80 percent of the buildings were vaporized. For long, solemn stretches the cabdriver and I said nothing. There was nothing to say.” ( :19)

“uddhism and Shinto. I marveled at the concept of kensho, or satori—enlightenment that comes in a flash, a blinding pop. Sort of like the bulb on my Minolta. I liked that. I wanted that.” ( :20)

“Zen poets. You cannot travel the path until you have become the path yourself, said the Buddha,” ( :21)

“The war situation hasn’t developed to Japan’s advantage.’ It’s a culture of indirection.” ( :22)

“I presented myself at the Onitsuka showroom, when in fact I was expected at the Onitsuka factory—across town. I hailed a taxi and raced there, frantic, arriving half an hour late. Unfazed, a group of four executives met me in the lobby. They bowed. I bowed. One stepped forward. He said his name was Ken Miyazaki, and he wished to give me a tour.” ( :23)

“I’d read that “tycoon” came from taikun, Japanese for “warlord.” I didn’t know how to acknowledge their kei.” ( :23)

“I’d read the analects of Confucius—The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones—” ( :26)

“Everyone knew that war was coming, and that it would be very ugly, very different. It would be a Lewis Carroll war, the kind in which a U.S. officer would declare: We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” ( :27)

“of Varanasi temple. The steps led directly into the hot seething Ganges.” ( :27)

“Every time the driver stopped, in the middle of nowhere, to pick up a few Masai warriors, a baboon or two would try to board. The driver and warriors would then chase the baboons off with machetes. Before stepping off the bus, the baboons would always glance over their shoulders and give me a look of wounded pride. Sorry, old man, I thought. If it were up to me.” ( :27)

“All is vanity, says the Bible. All is now, says Zen. All is dust, says the desert.” ( :28)

“Dante, reading Dante, the angry, exiled misanthrope. Did the misanthropy come first—or after? Was it the cause or the effect of his anger and exile? I stood before the David, shocked at the anger in his eyes. Goliath never had a chance.” ( :28)

“Pantheon, put my hand lightly on the crypts of Rousseau—and Voltaire. Love truth, but pardon error.” ( :29)

“Patton. Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” ( :29)

“But the guards waved me through. I walked a little ways and stopped at the corner of MarxEngels-Platz. I looked around, all directions. Nothing. No trees, no stores, no life. I thought of all the poverty I’d seen in every corner of Asia. This was a different kind of poverty, more willful, somehow, more preventable. I saw three children playing in the street. I walked over, took their picture. Two boys and a girl, eight years old. The girl—red wool hat, pink coat— smiled directly at me. Will I ever forget her? Or her shoes? They were made of cardboard.” ( :29)

“I went to Vienna, that momentous, coffee-scented crossroads, where Stalin and Trotsky and Tito and Hitler and Jung and Freud all lived, at the same historical moment, and all loitered” ( :29)

“in the same steamy cafés, plotting how to save (or end) the world.” ( :30)

“goddess Athena, thought to be the bringer of “nike,” or victory.” ( :30)

“Temple of Nike,” ( :30)

“Nike, in which the warrior gives the king a gift—a pair of new shoes. I don’t know when I figured out that the play was called Knights.” ( :30)

“before the little mirror on my bureau in the servants’ quarters and told myself, “It’s official. You’re back.” And yet I wasn’t. There was something about me that would never return. My mother noticed it before anyone else. Over dinner one night she gave me a long, searching look. “You seem more . . . worldly.”” ( :32)

“One partner, three junior accountants. Suits me, I thought. Smallness meant the firm would be intimate, conducive to learning.” ( :33)

“like Walter Mitty before the posters in the window. Switzerland. Tahiti. Moscow. Bali.” ( :34)

“Are the best moments of my life behind me? Was my trip around the world . . . my peak? The pigeons were less responsive than the statue at Wat Phra Kaew.” ( :34)

“”Be TIGERS out there!” (If you weren’t a tiger, he’d often call you a “hamburger.”) Now and then, when we complained about our skimpy prerace meal, he’d growl: “A tiger hunts best when he’s hungry.”” ( :36)

“Bowerman might say: “Nice race.” (In fact, that’s precisely what he said to one of his milers after the young man became one of the very first to crack the mythical four-minute mark in the United States.)” ( :36)

“Apparently there was a truck driver who often dared to disturb the peace on Bowerman Mountain. He took turns too fast, and frequently knocked over Bowerman’s mailbox. Bowerman scolded the trucker, threatened to punch him in the nose, and so forth, but the trucker paid no heed. He drove as he pleased, day after day. So Bowerman rigged the mailbox with explosives. Next time the trucker knocked it over—boom. When the smoke cleared, the trucker found his truck in pieces, its tires reduced to ribbons. He never again touched Bowerman’s mailbox.” ( :38)

“I was close to tears. But I held it together, channeled all my emotion into my run, and posted one of my best times of the year. As I walked off the track I glowered at Bowerman. Happy now, you son of a—? He looked at me, checked his stopwatch, looked at me again, nodded. He’d tested me. He’d broken me down and remade me, just like a pair of shoes. And I’d held up. Thereafter, I was truly one of his Men of Oregon. From that day on, I was a tiger.” ( :38)

“I put out my hand. But then I pulled it back. “What kind of partnership did you have in mind?” I asked. I was daring to negotiate with God. I couldn’t believe my nerve. Nor could Bowerman. He looked bemused. “Fifty-fifty,” he said. “Well, you’ll have to put up half the money.” “Of course.” “I figure the first order will be for a thousand dollars. Your half will be five hundred.” “I’m good for that.” When the waitress dropped off the check for the two hamburgers, we split that, too. Fiftyfifty.” ( :39)

“Set a fast pace for the first two laps, run the third as hard as you can, then triple your speed on the fourth.” ( :40)

“then triple your speed on the fourth. There was a Zen-like quality to this strategy, because it was impossible. And yet it worked. Bowerman coached more sub-four-minute milers than anybody, ever.” ( :40)

“She asked if I’d like whipped cream or marshmallows. Neither, thank you, ma’am. My voice was two octaves higher than normal. She tilted her head and gave me a pitying look. Boy, they’re going to skin you alive.” ( :40)

“What must I have thought? Probably this: Life is dangerous. And this: We must always be prepared. And this: My mother loves me.” ( :42)

“recommended surgery, which would mean a lost season of track. My mother had two words for that podiatrist. “Un. Acceptable.” She marched down to the drugstore and bought a vial of wart remover, which she applied each day to my foot. Then, every two weeks, she took a carving knife and pared away a sliver of the wart, until it was all gone. That spring I posted the best times of my life.” ( :42)

“was simple, and I thought rather brilliant. After being rejected by a MY SALES STRATEGY couple of sporting goods stores (“Kid, what this world does not need is another track shoe!”), I drove all over the Pacific Northwest, to various track meets. Between races I’d chat up the coaches, the runners, the fans, and show them my wares. The response was always the same. I couldn’t write orders fast enough.” ( :43)

“udden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves.” ( :43)

“The Bank of Dad, he said, is now closed. He did agree, grudgingly, to give me a letter of guarantee, which I took down to the First National Bank of Oregon. On the strength of my father’s reputation, and nothing more, the bank approved the loan. My father’s vaunted respectability was finally paying dividends, at least for me.” ( :44)

“My “business” was two months old and I was embroiled in a legal battle? Served me right for daring to call myself happy.” ( :46)

“The silence between us was like the silence on the many days she drove me to meets. I was too busy fighting my nerves to talk, and she, better than anyone, understood. She respected the lines we draw around ourselves in crisis.” ( :47)

“There were many ways down Mount Fuji, according to my guidebook, but only one way up. Life lesson in that, I thought.” ( :50)

“good-bye to Sarah and the Easter egg. “Yoroshiku ne.” Nice meeting you. “Where you headed?” Sarah asked. “I think I’m going to stay at the Hakone Inn tonight,” I said. “Well,” she said, “I’m coming with you.” I took a step back. I looked at the boyfriend. He scowled. I realized at last that he wasn’t her boyfriend. Happy Easter.” ( :52)

“Dollar and a half an hour?” She chuckled. And thus my sister became the first-ever employee of Blue Ribbon.” ( :55)

“In fact, in 1965, running wasn’t even a sport. It wasn’t popular, it wasn’t unpopular—it just was. To go out for a three-mile run was something weirdos did, presumably to burn off manic energy. Running for pleasure, running for exercise, running for endorphins, running to live better and longer—these things were unheard of.” ( :58)

“By now I’d passed all four parts of the CPA exam. So I mailed my test results and résumé to several local firms, interviewed with three or four, and got hired by Price Waterhouse. Like it or not, I was officially and irrevocably a card-carrying bean counter. My tax returns for that year wouldn’t list my occupation as self-employed, or business owner, or entrepreneur. They would identify me as Philip H. Knight, Accountant.” ( :61)

“Every Japanese runner in the 1964 Games, Bowerman told me, was wearing Tigers.” ( :65)

“It wasn’t until years later that I realized Bowerman was trying to invent Gatorade.” ( :66)

“Again, it was years before I realized what Bowerman was actually up to. He was trying to invent polyurethane.” ( :66)

“I walked back to my hotel and spent a second night pacing. First thing the next morning I received a call summoning me back to Onitsuka, where Kitami awarded me exclusive distribution rights for the United States. He gave me a three-year contract.” ( :75)

“I took Hollister out for a hamburger, and we got along fine, but he cinched the deal by not even flinching when I reached into my pocket and found I didn’t have any money to pay for lunch. So I hired him to go around the state selling Tigers, thereby making him Full-time Employee Number Three.” ( :80)

“The waitress brought the check and I told Woodell grandly that lunch was on me. I pulled out my wallet and found that it was empty. I asked Blue Ribbon’s Full-time Employee Number Four if he could float me. Just till payday.” ( :82)

“By the tail end of 1967 Bowerman was inspiring many people besides me. That book he’d been talking about, that silly book about jogging, was done, and out in bookstores. A slight one hundred pages, Jogging preached the gospel of physical exercise to a nation that had seldom heard that sermon before, a nation that was collectively lolling on the couch, and somehow the book caught fire. It sold a million copies, sparked a movement, changed the very meaning of the word “running.” Before long, thanks to Bowerman and his book, running was no longer just for weirdos. It was no longer a cult. It was almost—cool?” ( :83)

“Early on, I drummed into my students the primary principle of all accounting: Assets equal liabilities plus equity. This foundational equation, I said, must always, always be in balance. Accounting is problem-solving, I said, and most problems boil down to some imbalance in this equation. To solve, therefore, get it balanced.” ( :89)

“Then it happened. On a cold afternoon in late November, when Miss Parks wasn’t in the office, I was walking toward the back of the office and noticed her desk drawer open. I stopped to close it and inside I saw . . . a stack of checks? All her paychecks—uncashed. This wasn’t a job to her. This was something else. And so ​erhaps . . . was I? Maybe? Maybe. (Later, I learned Woodell was doing the same thing.)” ( :91)

“The next day I returned to the house and again asked Dot for a moment of her time. Again we sat in the kitchen over cups of coffee. “Dot,” I said, “I probably didn’t do a very good job yesterday of explaining how serious I am about your daughter. You see, Dot, I love Penny. And Penny loves me. And if things continue in this vein, I see us building a life together. So I really hope that you’ll reconsider your answer of yesterday.”” ( :95)

“it just made me more mindful. I’d never before said good-bye to a true partner, and it felt massively different. Imagine that, I thought. The single easiest way to find out how you feel about someone. Say goodbye.” ( :96)

“By nature I was a loner, but since childhood I’d thrived in team sports. My psyche was in true harmony when I had a mix of alone time and team time. Exactly what I had now.” ( :97)

“Leaning back in my recliner each night, staring at the ceiling, I tried to settle myself. I told myself: Life is growth. You grow or you die.” ( :105)

“Each of us found pleasure, whenever possible, in focusing on one small task. One task, we often said, clears the mind. And each of us recognized that this small task of finding a bigger office meant we were succeeding.” ( :107)

“I struggle to remember. I close my eyes and think back, but so many precious moments from those nights are gone forever. Numberless conversations, breathless laughing fits. Declarations, revelations, confidences. They’ve all fallen into the sofa cushions of time. I remember only that we always sat up half the night, cataloging the past, mapping out the future. I remember that we took turns describing what our little company was, and what it might be, and what it must never be. How I wish, on just one of those nights, I’d had a tape recorder. Or kept a journal, as I did on my trip around the world.” ( :108)

“That is, his lips were moving. But I couldn’t hear. Life’s a joy? Here’s a toy? Are you Roy? He said it again: It’s a boy. “A—a—boy? Really?” “Your wife did a superb job,” he was saying, “she did not complain once, and she pushed at all the right times—has she taken many Lamaze classes?”” ( :110)

“How I wished I could put that check in my desk drawer and not cash it. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. On my way out the door I stopped. I asked them: “Why are you doing this?” “Because,” Woodell’s mother said, “if you can’t trust the company your son is working for, then who can you trust?”” ( :118)

“Carolyn returned and spread a second series of sketches across the conference table. She also hung a few on the wall. She’d done several dozen more variations on the original theme, but with a freer hand. These were better. Closer.” ( :131)

“Woodell and I and a few others looked them over. I remember Johnson being there, too, though why he’d come out from Wellesley, I can’t recall. Gradually we inched toward a consensus. We liked . . . this one . . . slightly more than the others.” ( :132)

“a dream last night.” I rolled my eyes. “A dream?” “He’s serious,” Woodell said. “He’s always serious.” “He says he sat bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night and saw the name before him,” Woodell said. “What is it?” I asked, bracing myself. “Nike.” “Huh?” “Nike.” “Spell it.” “N-I-K-E,” Woodell said. I wrote it on a yellow legal pad.” ( :133)

“Nope, she was crying. She looked as if she was on the” ( :141)

“verge of another panic attack. “He used . . . ,” she rasped. “What?” I said. She buried her head in the pillows. “He used . . . my toothbrush.”” ( :142)

“I was on the verge of losing it, right on the verge. Then I saw that Johnson and Woodell were already losing it, and I realized that I couldn’t afford to. Like Penny, they beat me to the” ( :145)

“panic attack punch. “Look,” I said, “fellas, this is the worst the shoes will ever be. They’ll get better. So if we can just sell these . . . we’ll be on our way.”” ( :146)

“They started to barrage us with questions. Hey—what IS this? That’s a Nike. The hell’s a Nike? It’s the Greek goddess of victory. Greek what now? Goddess of vic— And what’s THIS? That’s a swoosh. The hell’s a swoosh? The answer flew out of me: It’s the sound of someone going past you. They liked that. Oh, they liked it a whole lot.” ( :146)

“I made my face blank. “Nike? Oh. It’s nothing. It’s a sideline we’ve developed, to hedge our bets, in case Onitsuka does as threatened and yanks the rug out from under us.” The answer disarmed him. As it should have. I’d rehearsed it for weeks. It was so reasonable and logical that Kitami didn’t know how to respond. He’d come spoiling for a fight, and I’d countered his bull rush with a rope-a-dope.” ( :147)

“I cleared my throat. “So . . . in other words,” I said. I cleared my throat again, pushed aside my yellow legal pad. “What I’m trying to say is, we’ve got them right where we want them.” Johnson lifted his eyes. Everyone around the table lifted their eyes. They sat up straighter.” ( :150)

“As they crossed the tape we all looked up at the clock and saw that both men had broken the American record. Pre had broken it by a shade more. But he wasn’t done. He spotted someone waving a STOP PRE T-shirt and he went over and snatched it and whipped it in circles above his head, like a scalp. What followed was one of the greatest ovations I’ve ever heard, and I’ve spent my life in stadiums.” ( :153)

“When sports are at their best, the spirit of the fan merges with the spirit of the athlete, and in that convergence, in that transference, is the oneness that the mystics talk about.” ( :153)

“Night after night, during my six-mile run, I’d wrestle with this situation. I had two guys in the wrong jobs, on the wrong coasts, and neither one was going to like the obvious solution. Each guy loved where he lived.” ( :160)

“Oregon’s basketball coach that year was Dick Harter, while the football coach was still Dick Enright. The popular cheer at Oregon State games was: “If you” ( :165)

“can’t get your Dick Enright, get your Dick Harter!”” ( :166)

“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 colored 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 the 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.” ( :167)

 

PART TWO

 

“He was twenty-four years old. He was the exact age I’d been when I left with Carter for Hawaii. In other words, when my life began. At twenty-four I didn’t yet know who I was, and Pre not only knew who he was, the world knew.” ( :198)

“We couldn’t make enough. Retailers and sales reps were on their knees, pleading for all the waffle trainers we could ship. The soaring pair counts were transforming our company, not to mention the industry. We were seeing numbers that redefined our long-term goals, because they gave us something we’d always lacked—an identity. More than a brand, Nike was now becoming a household word, to such an extent that we would have to change the company name. Blue Ribbon, we decided, had run its course. We would have to incorporate as Nike, Inc.” ( :202)

“home ahead of me. Before leaving Asia, I told him, I needed to make one I SENT GORMAN quick stop in Manila. Personal errand, I said vaguely. I went to Manila to visit a shoe factory, a very good one. Then, closing an old loop, I spent the night in MacArthur’s suite. You are remembered for the rules you break. Maybe. Maybe not.” ( :206)

“I can see myself so clearly at the head of a conference table, shouting, being shouted at— laughing until my voice was gone. The problems confronting us were grave, complex, seemingly insurmountable, made more so by the fact we were separated from each other by three thousand miles, at a time when communication wasn’t easy or instant. And yet we were always laughing. Sometimes, after a really cathartic guffaw, I’d look around the table and feel overcome by emotion. Camaraderie, loyalty, gratitude. Even love. Surely love. But I also remember feeling shocked that these were the men I’d assembled. These were the founding fathers of a multimillion-dollar company that sold athletic shoes? A paralyzed guy, two morbidly obese guys, a chain-smoking guy? It was bracing to realize that, in this group, the one with whom I had the most in common was . . . Johnson. And yet, it was undeniable. While everyone else was laughing, rioting, he’d be the sane one, sitting quietly in the middle of the table reading a book.” ( :211)

“Little wonder that Strasser’s nickname was Rolling Thunder. Hayes, meanwhile, was Doomsday. Woodell was Weight. (As in Dead Weight.) Johnson was Four Factor, because he” ( :212)

“tended to exaggerate and therefore everything he said needed to be divided by four. No one took it personally. The only thing truly not tolerated at a Buttface was a thin skin.” ( :213)

“”You should give Elvin your whole damn company!” Strasser yawned. “You want it? Help yourself. We’ve got ten grand in the bank. “Final offer, take it or leave it.” The agent took it.” ( :217)

“We’ve got some great young players,” they said. “Elliot Telscher may be the best. Gottfried is also outstanding. Whatever you do, just stay away from the kid playing out on Court 14.”” ( :219)

“”Why?” “He’s a hothead.” I went straight to Court 14. And fell madly, hopelessly in love with a frizzy-haired high schooler from New York City named John McEnroe.” ( :220)

“At first. Then came the issues. If a runner didn’t land just right, the flared heel could cause pronation, knee problems, or worse. We issued a recall and braced ourselves for a public backlash—but it never came. On the contrary, we heard nothing but gratitude. No other shoe company was trying new things, so our efforts, successful or not, were seen as noble. All innovation was hailed as progressive, forward-thinking. Just as failure didn’t deter us, it didn’t seem to diminish the loyalty of our customers.” ( :220)

“Sure enough, one day I received in the mail a perfect replica of our Nike Bruin, including the trademark swoosh. Imitation is flattery, but knockoff is theft, and this theft was diabolical.” ( :221)

“The copy read: “Beating the competition is relatively easy. Beating yourself is a neverending commitment.”” ( :221)

“I still didn’t believe in the power of advertising. At all. A product, I thought,” ( :221)

“speaks for itself, or it doesn’t. In the end, it’s only quality that counts. I couldn’t imagine that any ad campaign would ever prove me wrong or change my mind.” ( :222)

“I turned once more to Chuck Robinson. He’d served with distinction as lieutenant commander on a battleship in World War II. He’d built Saudi Arabia’s first steel mill. He’d helped negotiate the grain deal with the Soviets. Chuck knew business cold, better than anyone I’d ever met, and I’d been wanting his advice for quite some time. But over the last few years he’d been the number two man under Henry Kissinger at the State Department, and thereby “off-limits” to me, according to Jaqua. Now, with Jimmy Carter newly elected, Chuck was on Wall Street and available once again for consultations. I invited him out to Oregon.” ( :222)

“Essentially the American Selling Price law, or ASP, said that import duties on nylon shoes must be 20 percent of the manufacturing cost of the shoe—unless there’s a “similar shoe” manufactured by a competitor in the United States. In which case, the duty must be 20 percent of the competitor’s selling price. So all our competitors needed to do was make a few shoes in the United States, get them declared “similar,” then price them sky high—and boom. They could send our import duties sky high, too.” ( :224)

“Sometimes our eccentricity was funny. (A top executive at Foot Locker said, “We think of you guys as gods—until we see your cars.”)” ( :232)

“Few imagined we were broke. Or that our head of marketing was wallowing in a depression. Or that our founder and president was sitting in a giant baseball mitt with a long face. The burnout spread around the office like mono. And while we were all burning out, our man in Washington was flaming out.” ( :235)

“So much heft, he said, at an athletic company? No one laughed. “Maybe it’s your delivery,” I told him, hurrying him along. We went down the hall and bumped into Woodell, whom I’d recently called back from the East Coast. Chang reached down, shook Woodell’s hand. “Skiing accident?” he said. “What?” Woodell said. “When you getting out of that chair?” Chang asked. “Never, you dumb shit.” I sighed. “Well,” I told Chang, “there’s nowhere to go from here but up.”” ( :242)

“Maybe it wasn’t satori, or kensho, but it was instant enlightenment. In a flash. The breakthrough I’d been seeking for years. “Chuck,” I said, “that sounds like . . . the answer.”” ( :245)

“the check. She brought it to me for my signature. We looked at each other and of course we were both thinking about the time I’d written that check for $1 million, which I couldn’t cover. Now I was writing a check for $9 million, and there was no way it was going to bounce. I looked at the signature line. “Nine million,” I whispered. I could still remember selling my 1960 MG with racing tires and a twin cam for eleven hundred dollars. Like yesterday. Lead me from the unreal to the real.” ( :246)

“So, Dad, you remember that Crazy Idea I had at Stanford . . . ? Gentlemen, I represent Blue Ribbon Sports of Portland, Oregon. You see, Dot, I love Penny. And Penny loves me. And if things continue in this vein, I see us building a life together.” ( :253)

“”Gentlemen,” the loud voice said. “We have a deal. We’ll send it out to market this Friday.” I drove home. I remember the boys were outside playing. Penny was standing in the kitchen. “How was your day?” she said.” ( :254)

“By this time next week Bowerman would be worth $9 million. Cale—$6.6 million. Woodell, Johnson, Hayes, Strasser—each about $6 million. Fantasy numbers. Numbers that meant nothing. I never knew that numbers could mean so much, and so little, at the same time. “Bed?” Penny said.” ( :254)

“Because I honestly wished I could do it all over again. I fell asleep for a few hours. When I woke it was cold and rainy. I went to the window. The trees were dripping water. Everything was mist and fog. The world was the same as it had been the day before, as it had always been. Nothing had changed, least of all me. And yet I was worth $178 million. I showered, ate breakfast, drove to work. I was at my desk before anyone else.” ( :255)

 

NIGHT

 

“We’re still seeing Nicholson and Freeman in our minds. But these faces are equally familiar—equally famous. Now we realize. It’s Bill and Warren. Gates and Buffett.” ( :256)

“We stroll over.” ( :257)

“”Hey, look, Buffett and Gates—who’s that other guy?” I smile. As it should be.” ( :257)

“At the moment I’m worth $10 billion, and each of these men is worth five or six times more. Lead me from the unreal to the real.” ( :257)

“After forty years I’ve stepped down as Nike CEO, leaving the company in good hands, I think, and good shape, I trust. Sales last year, 2006, were $16 billion. (Adidas was $10 billion, but who’s counting?)” ( :258)

“After forty years I’ve stepped down as Nike CEO, leaving the company in good hands, I think, and good shape, I trust. Sales last year, 2006, were $16 billion. (Adidas was $10 billion, but who’s counting?) Our shoes and clothes are in five thousand stores worldwide, and we have ten thousand employees. Our Chinese operation in Shanghai alone has seven hundred. (And China, our second-largest market, is now our largest producer of shoes. I guess that 1980 trip paid off.)” ( :258)

“Jordan. Kobe. Tiger. Again, I can’t help but think of my trip around the world. The River Jordan. Mystical Kobe, Japan. That first meeting at Onitsuka, pleading with the executives for the right to sell Tigers . . . Can this all be a coincidence?” ( :258)

“Woodell or Johnson visits. They’ve even formed a discussion group, an informal think tank, to preserve that original sense of innovation. They call themselves The Spirit of 72, which fills my heart.” ( :259)

“Phil, can I see you a moment?” “Of course.” “When I first signed with you,” he says, “I didn’t know all that much about the history of Nike. So I’ve been studying up.” “Oh?” “You’re the founder.” “Well. Cofounder. Yes. It surprises a lot of people.” “And Nike was born in 1972.” “Well. Born—? Yes. I suppose.” “Right. So I went to my jeweler and had them find a Rolex watch from 1972.” He hands me the watch. It’s engraved: With thanks for taking a chance on me. As usual, I say nothing. I don’t know what to say.” ( :259)

“I watch Pete Sampras crush every opponent at one of his many Wimbledons. After the final point he tosses his racket into the stands—to me! (He overshoots and hits the man behind me, who sues, of course.) I see Pete’s archrival, Andre Agassi, win the U.S. Open, unseeded, and come to my box after the final shot, in tears. “We did it, Phil!” We?” ( :260)

“I set down the phone, my mouth hanging open. They’re all like sons, and brothers—family. No less. When Tiger’s father, Earl, dies, the church in Kansas holds fewer than one hundred, and I’m honored to be included. When Jordan’s father is murdered, I fly to North Carolina for the funeral and discover with a shock that a seat is reserved for me in the front row. All of which leads me back, of course, to Matthew.” ( :260)

“In his quest to find himself, he dropped out of college. He experimented, dabbled, rebelled, argued, ran away. Nothing worked. Then, at last, in 2000, he seemed to enjoy being a husband, a father, a philanthropist. He got involved in Mi Casa, Su Casa, a charity building an orphanage in El Salvador. On one of his visits there, after a few days of hard, satisfying work, he took a break. He drove with two friends to Ilopango, a deep-water lake, to go scuba diving. For some reason he decided to see how deep he could go. He decided to take a risk that even his risk-addicted father would never take. Something went wrong. At 150 feet my son lost consciousness. If I were to think about Matthew in his final moments, fighting for air, I believe my imagination could get me very close to how he must have felt. After the thousands of miles I’ve logged as a runner, I know that feeling of fighting for that next breath. But I won’t let my imagination go there, ever.” ( :260)

“Every Nike athlete wrote, emailed, phoned. Every single one. But the first was Tiger. His call came in at 7:30 a.m. I will never, ever forget. And I will not stand for a bad word spoken about Tiger in my presence.” ( :261)

“I know that hospital well. My son Travis was born there, my mother died there, twentyseven years after my father. In his final six months I was able to take my father on a long trip, to put to rest the eternal question of whether he was proud, to show him that I was proud of him. We went around the world, saw Nikes in every country we visited, and with every” ( :261)

“appearance of a swoosh his eyes shone.” ( :262)

“”It’s just business.” It’s never just business. It never will be. If it ever does become just business, that will mean that business is very bad.” ( :262)

“I keep thinking of one line in The Bucket List. “You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.”” ( :262)

“Hours later we were sitting together on the floor, before a table covered with shabu-” ( :262)

“shabu, toasting each other with cup after cup of sake. We laughed, cheered, clinked glasses, and something passed between us, the same thing that passes between me and most of the athletes I work with. A transference, a camaraderie, a sort of connection. It’s brief, but it nearly always happens, and I know it’s part of what I was searching for when I went around the world in 1962. To study” ( :263)

“To study the self is to forget the self. Mi casa, su casa. Oneness—in some way, shape, or form, it’s what every person I’ve ever met has been seeking.” ( :263)

“osmopolitan Hotel. Deal? Deal.” ( :263)

“It might have been okay if he’d just quit. But he went to work for Adidas. An intolerable betrayal. I never forgave him. (Though I did recently—happily, proudly—hire his daughter,” ( :263)

“Avery. Twenty-two years old, she works in Special Events, and she’s said to be thriving. It’s a blessing and a joy to see her name in the company directory.)” ( :264)

“For instance. One of the worst things about a shoe factory used to be the rubber room, where uppers and soles are bonded. The fumes are choking, toxic, cancer-causing. So we invented a water-based bonding agent that gives off no fumes, thereby eliminating 97 percent of the carcinogens in the air. Then we gave this invention to our competitors, handed it over to anyone who wanted it. They all did. Nearly all of them now use it.” ( :264)

“official at the United Nations recently said so: Nike is the gold standard by which we measure all apparel factories.” ( :265)

“Of course, there will always be the question of wages. The salary of a Third World factory worker seems impossibly low to Americans, and I understand. Still, we have to operate within the limits and structures of each country, each economy; we can’t simply pay whatever we wish to pay. In one country, which shall be nameless, when we tried to raise wages, we found ourselves called on the carpet, summoned to the office of a top government official and ordered to stop.” ( :265)

“Another thing I often heard from those same professors was the old maxim: “When goods don’t pass international borders, soldiers will.” Though I’ve been known to call business war without bullets, it’s actually a wonderful bulwark against war.” ( :265)

“Okay, I said, okay, I’d like to meet eighty-six-year-old General Võ Nguyên Giáp, the Vietnamese MacArthur, the man who single-​ndedly defeated the Japanese, the French, the Americans, and the Chinese.” ( :266)

“remember that he wore a dark business suit, like mine. I remember that he smiled as I did —shyly, uncertainly. But there was an intensity about him. I’d seen that kind of glittery confidence in great coaches, and great business leaders, the elite of the elite. I never saw it in a mirror. He knew I had questions. He waited for me to ask them. I said simply: “How did you do it?” I thought I saw the corners of his mouth flicker. A smile? Maybe? He thought. And thought. “I was,” he said, “a professor of the jungle.”” ( :266)

“academic discussions, to continue to learn. It’s always a happy occasion to be walking a campus, but also bracing, because while I find students today much smarter and more competent than in my time, I also find them far more pessimistic. Occasionally they ask in dismay: “Where is the U.S. going? Where is the world going?” Or: “Where are the new entrepreneurs?” Or: “Are we doomed as a society to a worse future for our children?”” ( :267)

“I saw in 1962. I tell them about the rubble and ruins that somehow gave birth to wise men like Hayami and Ito and Sumeragi. I tell them about the untapped resources, natural and human, that the world has at its disposal, the abundant ways and means to solve its many crises. All we have to do, I tell the students, is work and study, study and work, hard as we can. Put another way: We must all be professors of the jungle.” ( :267)

“I slide under the covers, gingerly, so as not to wake her, and I think of others who’ve endured. Hayes lives on a farm in the Tualatin Valley, 108 rolling acres, with a ridiculous collection of bulldozers and other heavy equipment. (His pride and joy is a John Deere JD- 450C. It’s bright school-bus yellow and as big as a one-bedroom condo.) He has some health problems, but he bulldozes ahead. Woodell lives in central Oregon” ( :268)

“He’s one of the best storytellers in the history of Nike. My favorite, naturally, is the one about the day we went public. He sat his parents down and told them the news. “What does that mean?” they whispered. “It means your original eight-thousand-dollar loan to Phil is worth $1.6 million.” They looked at each other, looked at Woodell. “I don’t understand,” his mother said. If you can’t trust the company your son works for, who can you trust?” ( :268)

“When he retired from Nike, Woodell became head of the Port of Portland, managing all the rivers and the airports. A man immobilized, guiding all that motion. Lovely. He’s also the leading shareholder and director of a successful microbrewery. He always did like his beer. But whenever we get together for dinner, he tells me, of course, his greatest joy and proudest accomplishment is his college-bound son, Dan. Woodell’s old antagonist, Johnson, lives slap in the middle of a Robert Frost poem, somewhere in the wilderness of New Hampshire. He’s converted an old barn into a five-story mansion, which he calls his Fortress of Solitude. Twice divorced, he’s filled the place to the rafters with dozens of reading chairs, and thousands and thousands of books, and he keeps track of them all with an extensive card catalog. Each book has its own number and its own index card, listing author, date of publication, plot summary—and its precise location in the fortress. Of course.” ( :268)

“In Europe, I’m told, there are T-shirts that read, Where is Jeff Johnson? Like the famous opening line from Ayn Rand, Who is John Galt? The answer is, Right where he should be.” ( :269)

“rolling in, the money affected us all. Not much, and not for long, because WHE N IT CAME none of us was ever driven by money. But that’s the nature of money. Whether you have it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, it will try to define your days. Our task as human beings is not to let it.” ( :269)

“Who can say how differently everything would have turned out if my mother hadn’t stopped the podiatrist from surgically removing that wart and hobbling me for an entire track season? Or if she hadn’t told me I could run fast? Or if she hadn’t bought that first pair of Limber Ups, putting my father in his place?” ( :269)

“The hundreds—maybe thousands—of bad decisions. I’m the guy who said Magic Johnson was “a player without a position, who’ll never make it in the NBA.” I’m the guy who tabbed Ryan Leaf as a better NFL quarterback than Peyton Manning. It’s easy to laugh those off. Other regrets go deeper. Not phoning Hiraku Iwano after he quit. Not getting Bo Jackson renewed in 1996. Joe Paterno. Not being a good enough manager to avoid layoffs. Three times in ten years—a total of fifteen hundred people. It still haunts.” ( :270)

“God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing. Short of that, 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.” ( :270)

“I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.” ( :270)

“And those who urge entrepreneurs to never give up? Charlatans. 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.” ( :271)

“Tao, I now try to go regularly to mass. I would tell them: Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.” ( :271)

“God. Put it this way. The harder you work, the better your Tao. And since no one has ever adequately defined Tao, I now try to go regularly to mass. I would tell them: Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.” ( :271)


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