I read this book in two sittings it was so good. A story about scrappiness, resourcefulness, and finding meaning through work. This quote will stay with me forever:
"We wanted, as all great businesses do, to create, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. 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."
- He was easy to talk to, and easy not to talk to—equally important qualities in a friend.
- Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.
- I watched in disbelief as she charmed the uncharmable Knights. My protective sisters, my shy mother, my autocratic father, they were no match for her.
- 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.
- Bowerman was forever griping that people make the mistake of thinking only elite Olympians are athletes. But everyone’s an athlete, he said. If you have a body, you’re an athlete.
- Was I adopting their man-of-few-words demeanor? Was I maybe modeling all the men I admired?
- He drove to the kid’s house, knocked at the door, unannounced. The kid wasn’t there, but his parents said Johnson was more than welcome to come in and wait. When the kid got home he found his shoe salesman sitting at the dining room table eating dinner with the whole family. The next day, after they went for a run, Johnson got from the kid a list of names—local coaches, potential customers, likely contacts—and a list of what neighborhoods he might like.
- I wanted to build something that was my own, something I could point to and say: I made that. It was the only way I saw to make life meaningful.
- And like so many teens, he started every sentence with “I.” I think this. I think that. I, I, I.
- 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.
- Around the close of 1972 each man handed his house keys to the other, and now in early 1973 they switched places. Talk about team players. It was an enormous sacrifice, and I was deeply grateful. But in keeping with my personality, and Blue Ribbon tradition, I expressed no gratitude. I spoke not a word of thanks or praise.
- I don’t know if I ever fully understood who we were and what we were doing until I heard myself saying it all that day to Strasser.
- Within minutes I could see this was our man. A true shoe dog.
- He denied, fumed, bargained, got depressed, then accepted. The Five Stages of Jeff. At last he let out a long sigh and said he knew this was a big job, and, like me, he didn’t trust anyone else to handle it.
- Watching that shoe evolve in 1976 from popular accessory to cultural artifact, I had a thought. People might start wearing this thing to class.
- The only person who didn’t join us in these late-night revels was Johnson. He’d typically go for a head-clearing run, then retreat to his room and read in bed. I don’t think he ever set foot in the Owl’s Nest. Or knew where it was.
- And yet, in the midst of those intense discussions, in the middle of one of the most trying years in the company’s history, those Buttface meetings were nothing but a joy.
- My fatherhood style, my management style. I was forever questioning, Is it good—or merely good enough?
- I knew that this, too, would be one of the seminal moments of my life. No matter how it turned out, I didn’t want to let it pass without embracing it, acknowledging it.
- Then I spent the days leading up to our departure reading, cramming on Chinese history. The Boxer Rebellion. The Great Wall. Opium Wars. Ming dynasty. Confucius. Mao.
- We wanted, as all great businesses do, to create, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. 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.
- The cowards never started and the weak died along the way.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. We were disrupting the nation’s entire economic system, he said. It’s simply not right, he insisted, or feasible, that a shoe worker makes more than a medical doctor. Change never comes as fast as we want it.