Year: 2017, 2023 Genre: Memoir
I’ve already read this once in 2017 when it was just released. I loved it.
I wanted to reread, partly because I like reading my favorite books at different stages of life to get different interpretations and more because this is the most relatable “entrepreneurship” book I’ve read so far.
It is a memoir of Phil Knight, cofounder of Nike. I couldn’t say if it is entirely a memoir or a founding story or combination of many.
It focuses on the founding story of Nike, and how it came to be. But, from the point of view of a person who wanted to build a business.
Knight, being an runner himself, wanted his life to give him the same exhilaration as sports gave him.
He started with backpacking through the world. Did some odd jobs here and there, from selling encyclopedias to being an accountant.
Having lived the high life of travelling the world, the everyday life of regular jobs wasn’t exciting to him. In his search for purpose and the thrilling life the running gave him, he decides it has to be entrepreneurship. Since the closest thing he had in his life at that was sports, he ended up with a Sports shoe distribution company for a Onitsuka.
And the story goes on from there and ends right around the time of the IPO. It was largely focused on their start and struggles faced around that and just that.
It had lots of emphasis on different ways the business was almost at the brink of failure. The many struggles they had faced, all of them terminal.
I’m always skeptical of reading memoirs or taking inspiration from other people’s success stories. As the conditions and struggles and opportunities are never the same between two people. Also, retroactively telling a success story has the gift of hindsight and it will most definitely be tainted with some overrepresentation of good decisions.
That said, a) this book doesn’t have any chest-thumping of “see how we did it” kind of moments, or b) doesn’t spew generic advice. It is more grounded in the challenges of his life and the decisions he has taken within the parameters he operated within.
This book has very strong illustrations of the importance of the “drive” in doing things. When picking your own choosing, there’s always going to be roadblocks and bottlenecks and without a strong conviction, it is very hard to get through those.
As often happens to most of us, when you end up acquiring a memorable life experience, you get a yardstick, a benchmark of sorts and it becomes the “time that was”. Everyday life often falls short when pitted against “that time”.
I can’t decide if the “self benchmark” is good or bad as it depends on how you react to the results. Do you strive to elevate life or fall into despair at the lack of power to change things?
It also has showcased the importance of surrounding people who are of the same drive or energy when working towards a common cause. Most of which come from one’s own family.
One surprising thing I found was, with all the business struggles from ancient banking/funding principles they have faced, in the epilogue he thinks that today it is more difficult to start a business than before. I couldn’t get myself to agree to this, but then again I didn’t live through the decade they lived through to compare.
All in all, the book still is very inspiring and it definitely has lots of good lessons for anyone looking to start a business or otherwise.