The biography of the Nike founder Phil Knight was one the best books I read in a long time. Yes, I do read non fitness or non history related books.
Why? For one reason it is comforting to see that all business owners, be it a behemoth like Nike or a small company like mine, struggle with anxiety-inducing issues such as cash flow, client retention, product failures, and personal disappointments.
Ok, that sounds uplifting, but what can we learn from it and how does it relate to my beach body?
I am glad you asked.
1. Be ready to work hard.
Everyone tells you to follow your dreams and Phil Knight, the running enthusiast who built a running shoe conglomerate, certainly did BUT he worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for decades. Having a dream means nothing without hard work. It is ok to have great goals, but be prepared to work long and hard for them. Nike was not really making any money for 20 (!!!) years, yet Phil and his staff toiled on. Conquering the fitness world is not going to happen by posting a photo on Instagram every Thursday, but by sustained effort for years.
2. You must know your field really well.
Phil was an ardent runner, so he knew about running shoes, but he never stopped learning about new designs, new materials, or new methods of production. Most gym rats lack the most basic understanding of anatomy, diet, and training thereby making it very hard to maximize their potential. If I look at my own training philosophy, I certainly changed over the last decade. When I started out, I held the traditional beliefs that compound movements and heavy lifts are the key to developing a physique, whereas now I understand the tension and frequency are the main drivers.
3 . Get proper schooling as a base and eventual fall back.
Phil Knight had a solid education with an MBA, but still added CPA to his resume in order to understand more aspects of running a company. On the other side of the coin, last year an aspiring bodybuilder told me he was quitting college to prepare for the Long Island Championships (he finished 4th out 5). Do not be that guy. An education will allow you to learn more and faster about your craft as well as make you a more well rounded person.
4. Do not hesitate to ask for advice.
One of the key cornerstones to Nike’s success was that Phil was able to get great advisors on board, people that would supplement his own knowledge. His ex track coach, Bowerman, was one of those crucial figures in taking shoes to a next level. He came up with things such as a higher arch design and spikes.
5. Be prepared for catastrophic setbacks.
Nike was plagued with disasters of almost biblical proportions. Here are a few: several close calls in terms of bankruptcy, shoes that fell apart, shoes that did not fit, shoes that melted, shoes that never came, an FBI investigation, crippling lawsuits by competitors, a $25 million bill from US customs, betrayal on many levels, as well as health issues. In fitness terms: you will not make any meaningful magazine during your first years, you will also not win the Olympia right off the bat, you will get discouraged, injured, and question yourself many times. It is those that push on, that achieve greatness.
6. Everything worth doing is a grind.
There is no overnight success. If you want to create true greatness, be prepared for a long march. For the first 10 years of the companys life, Phil did not draw a salary so do not expect Muscletech to shower you with dollars only because you have abs.
So have a dream, work like mad, know your stuff, ask for help, go to school, be ready for disasters and grind it out.